Best Cars of the 2018 Paris Motor Show

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KIA PROCEED WAGON FRONT SIDE VIEW

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"Few but important" might be the best way to sum up the 2018 Paris Motor Show. It was slim on participants and global unveils, but the automakers who did come to play brought a big bat and ball.

The roster this year was headlined by Mercedes-Benz with world premieres of the A-Class, B-Class, GLE SUV, and the EQC, the first production model from the new EQ electric vehicle brand. And BMW used Paris to introduce the next generation of its most recognizable nameplate: the 3 Series.

And being Paris, much square footage was devoted to the Renault, Citroen, and Peugeot brands, which are most entertaining and always have us wishing some could sneak their way across the pond.


2020 MERCEDES-BENZ GLE

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The 2020 GLE grows enough to add an optional third row and gets upgraded materials, two 12.3-inch screens, and enough artificial intelligence in the new MBUX user interface that when it sees you lean over to look for something, it turns on the overhead light for you. The U.S. has a choice of the 3.0-liter turbocharged I-6 with a 48-volt mild-hybrid system or the 2.0-liter turbo-four, both with a nine-speed automatic transmission. Optional air suspension lets you adjust the height at each wheel individually. E-Active Body Control active suspension helps you jiggle your way out of deep sand, and a curve control system helps you lean in like you would on a motorcycle. The GLE goes on sale early next spring, and a plug-in hybrid with an electric range of 62 miles will follow a year later. The U.S. can choose a five-, six-, or seven-seater. And CEO Dieter Zetsche says a GLE coupe in the future is "promising speculation."


2019 BMW 3 SERIES

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This is the core of the BMW brand, and the seventh generation seeks to regain the driving dynamics that made it a benchmark for sport sedans. The look hasn't changed much, but attention went into responsive steering, balance, and a suspension with intelligent dampers and a limited-slip differential. It now joins the many vehicles on the CLAR architecture, which enables connectivity features such as Intelligent Personal Assistant. There are also more autonomous drive features for hands-free driving as long as the camera confirms your eyes are on the road and you're ready to take over if needed. The 2019 330i and 330i xDrive with a 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4 should be in U.S. dealerships in August, followed by the 2020 M340i and 340i xDrive a year later. The 330e plug-in hybrid, with a range of 37 miles on electricity alone, will come in 2020. The 3 Series also drops the manual transmission; an eight-speed automatic is standard. But we could see a manual in a few years on a new M3. The U.S. also won't get the wagon or any diesels.


2020 MERCEDES-BENZ EQC

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This is the first production model from the EQ brand created for the lineup of electric vehicles to come. Mercedes opted for a compact crossover, a popular segment, to get its electric motors running. There's an electric drivetrain at each axle, giving the EQC all-wheel-drive capability while generating 402 hp and 564 lb-ft of torque for a claimed 0-60 time of 4.9 seconds. The EQC has a conventional interior—it doesn't scream electric vehicle beyond the blue and chrome trim inside and blue striping on the wheels. Range is still being finalized but will be in the 200- to 240-mile range. The EQC goes on sale in the U.S. in 2020.


SUZUKI JIMNY

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Suzuki needs to return to the U.S. market so we can have the new Jimny, a two-door, five-passenger baby Jeep with a five-speed manual, four-wheel drive with a two-speed transfer case, and a spare tire on the back. The little 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine only makes 100 hp and 95 lb-ft of torque; that won't cut it in the U.S., but off-road doesn't get any cuter. This rugged off-roader hasn't been updated for nearly 20 years, and Suzuki hasn't been in the U.S. market since 2012.


KIA PROCEED

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This beautiful little red wagon won't come to the U.S., but we wish it would with its pretty silhouette. Inside are soft black suede seats with a red skunk stripe up the middle, and the door features an intriguing red stitching pattern.


2019 MERCEDES A- AND B-CLASS

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We only get the A-Class in the U.S., but it's a big deal because it's our first time. And who knows—maybe someday the B-Class crossover will cross the ocean, as well. We only get the A 220 sedan initially, with a 2.0-liter turbo I-4 and seven-speed dual-clutch transmission in a body said to be the most aerodynamic in its segment. Europe ups the fun quotient: They get the AMG A 35 with a 302-hp, 295-lb-ft turbo-four to shunt it to 62 mph in 4.7 seconds. The A 220 arrives to dealerships late this year. We might get an AMG in the future, but it will more likely be the A 45.


FERRARI MONZA SP1 AND SP2

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The Monza SP1 one-seater and SP2 two-seater roadsters were crowd-pleasers in Paris. Both are powered by an 810-hp 6.5-liter V-12, which Ferrari says will hit 62 mph in 2.0 seconds. The limited edition models are the first of the new Icona series. About 500 will be built and will cost more than $1 million each.


LAND ROVER SERIES I REBORN

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The Land Rover stand at the Paris Motor Show displayed a restored 1948 Series I with an 80-inch wheelbase. It had three seats across the front and a pair of two-passenger bench seats along the sides of the back of the SUV. The vehicle is powered by a little 159cc four-cylinder engine.


CITROEN C5 AIRCROSS PHEV CONCEPT

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The C5 Aircross is pretty much production-ready and is Citroen's foray into an electrified future. It's an attractive midsize crossover as well as plug-in hybrid. The PHEV will be able to travel 31 miles on electricity alone. Each taillight contains four separate rectangular lights for a distinctive look.

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