The 2018 Paris auto show delivered a handful of surprises for American car enthusiasts, albeit attached to each was mostly weighty.
This year’s most significant reveal for U.S. buyers certainly came from Mercedes-Benz—although which one is debatable. The new 2019 BMW 3-Series was the year’s biggest newsmaker, but what didn’t show was nearly as important.
Here’s our list of surprises, in no particular order of importance:
BMW has a lot to prove…
The 2019 BMW 3-Series finally landed after a long season of teases and testing, rumors and speculation. For buyers in the U.S., the 2019 M340i ditches its manual transmission for an 8-speed automatic and the newest 3er may not have an available manual transmission outside of the M3—if it even shows there.
The 3-Series doesn’t offer any new groundbreaking tech or powertrains—at least not yet. “Purists” left the room a long time ago and switched to the 2-Series, so what’s left is a tech-heavy sedan that may have an interesting plug-in powertrain due next year. If the rollout for the 5-Series taught us anything, it’s that the 330e could very well be the new entry-level 3-Series.
…and the Z4 has even more
The revived BMW Z4 showed in the flesh in Paris and attracted just as many eyeballs as the new 3-Series. The Z4 bowed weeks ago, but it was the first appearance in Europe for the two-seat roadster and its interior attracted far more eyeballs than the exterior.
The collaboration with Toyota had many wondering if BMW’s powertain can save a somewhat compromised interior layout designed to serve two masters.
We know BMW’s turbocharged inline-6 is strong, but is it tough enough to carry weighty expectations for that droptop?
Small changes make a big difference…
The refreshed 2019 Lexus RC made its auto show debut in Paris. Despite just a small update to the coupe’s exterior, it gets new life.
The revised headlights and taillights are now better integrated into the car’s shape—the last version had detached always-on LEDs that looked like an afterthought—but the air of the car is now as a long-legged grand tourer.
Being a GT may have been a better mission for the RC anyway. Its fire-breathing V-8 in the RC-F was entertaining, but the coupe’s weight and slow automatic transmission kept it from running with the C63 and M4.
…the Porsche Macan is proof, too
The revised 2019 Porsche Macan now more closely resembles the new Cayenne, inside and out. Along with the taillights that span the rear liftgate, the new Macan has Porsche’s updated infotainment integrated into its redesigned dashboard.
The center console around the shifter is the same, though—no Cayenne parts to be found—but the Macan seems to better tow the company line and set the Taycan, which is coming soon.
Wing, hear our prayers
Yes, we know that we’ll get a Mercedes-AMG A35 sedan. No, we don’t care.
The AMG A35 hatch that showed in Paris finally proved that a hatch with a wing doesn’t automatically have to be annoying. The A-Class hot hatch is impressive in its subtlety—and performance. We have high hopes for its 302-horsepower 2.0-liter turbo-4, and higher hopes for the faster A45 due later.
The R8 GT won’t play around
Audi Sport’s customer race car program is a turn-key wonder.
It allows well-heeled buyers to walk in the door, sign the papers on a GT3-ready racer, and be backed up by all the engineering know-how and factory support that fills a three-story trophy case. All you need to give them is hundreds of thousands of dollars, fill the tank yourself, and show up on race day.
For this mean-looking thing that showed up in Paris, we’d pump our own unleaded, too.