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Frankfurt show highlights

The 2013 Frankfurt show.

Innovation, many hybrids and all-electrics, some high-powered models and a couple of striking retro-inspired coupes are the highlights of this year's Frankfurt motor show. Throw in some staged antics and the world's biggest car show becomes even better.

Volvo set the pace with an unveiling of its Concept Coupe, a technologically advanced number of exceptional grace reminiscent of its iconic P1800 of the 1960s. It embodies what Volvo calls its 'human centric experience' and apart from a host of safety electronics, has the new 2.0-litre four-cylinder motor that will soon replace the brand's five and six-cylinder engines.

The engine has turbo and supercharging plus a plug-in electric motor, resulting in V8-like performance, but with minicar fuel consumption. However, the classy coupe is not scheduled for production in the near future. Instead, it marks the capability of Volvo's new architecture and elements of its design will feature on all future models, starting with the new XC90 in about a year.

Frankfurt was also used to display a growing trend towards compact premium SUVs. Mercedes-Benz showed its cute new GLA-class SUV with new generation 4matic all-wheel drive, and Infiniti unveiled its Q30 concept, which it said was in a unique class, being a blend of coupe, hatch and crossover. A surprise was the appearance of F1 racing camp Sebastien Vettel, who said he helped sort the Q30's handling.

Minutes later, Lexus trumped that by having a couple of giant animated creatures, seemingly from outer space, whip the covers of its new LF-NX, another smallish Crossover concept. It, too, had a hybrid powertrain and despite an enthusiastic description of how it's brushed metal finish made it look as if carved from a single billet of solid metal, it was just plain ugly.

Then there were the glam cars: Ferrari, Maserati, Jaguar, BMW, Aston-Martin and lots of specially-bodied creations from Brabus and similar outfits, scores of Fiats and Smarts, Hyundais and Kias and about 50 more brands. Spread through about a dozen vast halls, they added up to sore feet and bewildered looks as people did their best to absorb the techno and visual overdose of tomorrow's dream machines.