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Striking five-door models at the Frankfurt Motor Show 

Having now experienced Frankfurt, anybody who’s attended the auto show in Toronto can be excused for thinking it’s big. The complex that houses its Motor Show covers 2.5 million square feet or 33 football fields.

  • Nissan Gripz - front
  • Frankfurt2015 Infiniti debut-main
  • Toyota Prius 2016 - front
  • Toyota CH-R Concept
  • Lexus GS F
  • Mazda Koeru - smoke
  • Subaru Levorg
  • Honda Project

FRANKFURT: Anybody who’s attended the auto show in Toronto can be excused for thinking it’s big.

Spanning both sides of the downtown railway lands, Metro Toronto Convention Centre isn’t puny, and walking back and forth between the north and south buildings can be a slog.

But you won’t hear me complaining, having now experienced Frankfurt.

The complex that houses its Motor Show covers 2.5 million square feet or 33 football fields. It took only a couple of hours, gathering last-minute photos, to log 6.2 kilometres on my iPhone.

Day 1 would have been double that.

The main hallway between buildings uses a series of moving walkways to help shift the masses, and was so long I couldn’t see its end. And with 210 world premieres and 1,103 exhibitors, there was no shortage of stops along the way.

Thankfully, I only had to cover the Japanese automakers – or I’d still be there.

NISSAN

Nissan Europe’s chairman Paul Willcox recounted how, 40 years ago, the company took its nimble 240Z sports coupe, and re-engineered it for desert rallies in Africa.

“This was perhaps Nissan’s first crossover, and it had proved its mettle time and time again.”

Fast forward to 2015, where Nissan unveiled its Gripz concept that demonstrates, according to Shiro Nakamura, senior VP and chief creative officer, “how a crossover can evolve to become a performance car.”

Gripz is striking, with its deep cuts, dramatic sculpting and massive wheel arches. It is capable of both offroad and city driving, and has the profile of a sports car, but with a raised ride height and more rugged underpinnings.

Under the hood is Nissan’s Pure Drive e-Power, which uses an efficient gasoline engine to power the electric motor borrowed from the LEAF EV.

Could it be an eventual replacement for the Juke? Not with an expensive carbon fibre frame and those 22-inch wheels. And Nissan is tight-lipped about any such possibility, but no doubt this design study could take its compact crossovers to the next level.

INFINITI

Staying true to the original concept car, Infiniti Q30 is now a production model coming to showrooms next spring or early summer.

It is built upon the same platform as the GLA, and shares a turbocharged 2.0-litre engine – but it’s not a rebadged Mercedes.

The Q30’s curvy sheet metal is exclusive to Infiniti, as is the interior – not to mention the assembly and engine/suspension tuning, which will give this compact luxury hatchback its own identity.

With its lowered stance and agile driving dynamics, the Q30 will appeal to the buyer who enjoys motoring, but still needs the practicality of a hatchback. It will be sold here with front-wheel-drive.

TOYOTA

The all-new 2016 Prius was unveiled a week earlier in Las Vegas, but rolled out again in Frankfurt. Dr. Johan van Zyl, CEO of Toyota Europe, cited not only their dominance in alternative energy vehicles (3.5 million Priuses sold worldwide), but that hybrid is the preferred technology.

“Hybrid is the practical way towards green motoring – no need for plugs and no worries about usage or range,” he said to a packed floor.

Prius, which has defined the segment since debuting in 1997, has benefited from a complete makeover. Longer, lower and wider, it’s now sleeker and more athletic, and with none of that “granola” styling you either loved or hated.

It is powered by a new drivetrain that employs smaller, lighter components, higher-density batteries, and a petrol engine with increased thermal efficiency for better fuel economy. It is scheduled to arrive early 2016.

Also appearing was Toyota’s C-HR concept, a curvaceous compact hybrid crossover with massive wheels, a radically high beltline and narrow-slit side windows.

They’ve updated it from three doors to five since the 2014 Paris Motor Show. This signals a shift towards commercialization, with a production-ready model coming to Geneva in March.

RELATED: Europeans at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show

LEXUS

Toyota’s luxury marque showed off some enhancements to their mid-size, luxury GS sedan lineup. This includes a redesigned front end with a bolder spindle grille, along with revised tail lamps and rear bumper.

Also updated is the 3.5-litre V6 that now delivers 311 hp and 280 lb/ft of torque.

My eyes, however, were on the more potent GS F. Not to be confused with the F Sport package, this high-performance variant gets the same naturally aspirated 5.0-litre V8 found in the RC F. It delivers 467 hp and 389 lb/ft of torque, and will be coming to Canada later this year.

MAZDA

Coupe-like crossovers were popular in Frankfurt, and Mazda introduced its own flavor in the sculpted and steeply raked Koeru design concept.

The word Koeru in Japanese means to “exceed,” and in that sense they are hoping to go beyond existing stereotypes in this segment. The concept not only features Mazda’s swoopy Kodo styling, but also adopts the latest Skyactiv technologies.

SUBARU

At the Subaru stand, Levorg ‘sports tourer’ was revealed to the European market. It is a compact AWD wagon that, in terms of size, slots between Outback and Impreza.

The engine is a horizontally opposed, 1.6-litre turbo four cylinder that delivers 170 hp and 184 lb/ft of torque, starting at 1,800 rpm. Transmission is a six-speed Lineartronic CVT with manual mode.

The look is angular and aggressive, with a large hood scoop that hints at its sporty DNA. Yet it is still family friendly with 522 litres, enlarging to 1446 litres with the rear seats dropped.

There are no plans to bring Levorg to North America, which is too bad as we need more of these wagons.

HONDA

Their most important vehicle – the Civic – received a complete overhaul for 2016, referred to as the most ambitious in their 43-year history. We’ll have more word on it soon, as the vehicle debuted last week in Los Angeles (not Frankfurt), and will be previewed locally by Canadian journalists.

Nonetheless Honda presented something a little different in its Project 2&4 concept, a single-seat, open wheel track car that stemmed from a worldwide design competition.

It is powered by a 999 cc V4 engine from the RC213V MotoGP bike, and its body was inspired by the RA272 Formula 1 car from 1965.

Project 2&4 weighs only 405 kg, so with 212 hp and 87 lb/ft of torque (and a redline of 14,000 rpm) it should be blazingly fast.

And fun, but don’t expect to see it in Honda showrooms anytime soon.

RELATED: 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show Exotics

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