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Frankfurt show full of the wild and woolly

A biweekly roundup of automotive news, good, bad and just plain weird: Frankfurt: Maserati SUV revealed With kids back at school and cloud cover in full effect, the dog days of summer are officially on the wane.
Mazda unveils its CX-5 at the Frankfurt show, the first vehicle to boast Mazda's new Kodo design language and Skyactiv technology.

A biweekly roundup of automotive news, good, bad and just plain weird: Frankfurt: Maserati SUV revealed

With kids back at school and cloud cover in full effect, the dog days of summer are officially on the wane.

Luckily for gearheads, that means it's time to hit the onramp for the car show season and there's few bigger than the Frankfurt Auto Show for big reveals and wild n' woolly concepts.

Leaving aside the unlikely flights of fancy, one of the more important cars to take a bow at Frankfurt is a new Maserati SUV. Now, fans of the trident badge will be wondering what a sportscar manufacturer is doing trying to build a big, heavy SUV .

. . just as fans of the Porsche sportscar brand wondered the same thing when they revealed the Cayenne.

The history on the Cayenne is already written. It upset the purists, but the SUV's strong sales created huge reserves of cash that Porsche funnelled into R&D to make the 911, Boxster and Cayman even better. Plus, if you've ever driven a Cayenne in one of its higher trim levels, you'll know that it's not just surprisingly capable in bad weather but screamingly fast. The new ones are even quite attractive. In a way.

So perhaps this is the SUV that lets Maserati expand from an exotic coupe and a curvaceous four-door to a full lineup that goes toeto-toe with the German marques. It's called the Kubang, and (sotto voce) it's underpinned with Jeep bits! Mind you, it's a pretty-looking rig, and while they un-ironically appeared to have named it after an underhood explosion - kabang! - it's bound to be a sales success.

Also, for some reason, it's stuck in my head as the name has the same cadence as the song from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: Oh, you, Maserati Kubang, Maserati Kubang we love you. . . .


Speaking of SUVs that could save a brand, Mazda took the camouflage off its cute-ute CX-5 and showed it in the flesh - so to speak - for the first time in Frankfurt. We've seen sketches of the little crossover, and it marks two big milestones for Mazda: it's the first allSkyactiv vehicle, and the first boasting Mazda's new Kodo design language.

Frankly, it looks great, and having had the opportunity to drive the Mazda Skyactiv mules some weeks ago, I'm happy to report that it's going to drive with that certain Mazda flair Canadians have come to love.

What's more, the CX-5 should be impressively competitive in terms of fuel-economy due to the developmental break-through of Mazda's lean-burning high-compression gasoline engines. You can also look for decent increases in power output.

The real news here for skinflints is that Mazda has committed to bringing a diesel version of the CX-5 to our shores, and let me tell you, that little stump-pulling engine is unlike any diesel you've driven before. It wouldn't be out of place in a Miata, it's so much fun.


Enough with the curtains dropping on cars you can actually buy, how about some high-tech unobtanium . . . from Kia?

That's right, the Koreans strike again with a beautiful concept, a rear-wheel drive coupe-styled sedan with a turbo-charged V-6 producing slightly less than 400 h.p.

Wait, I'm sorry: did you say "Kia"?

Yes. Yes I did.

It's borderline unfathomable as to how quickly both Hyundai and Kia have leapt forward in terms of design and performance since their blue-collar disposa-mobiles of even five or six years ago. Since then we've had the Optima with either stonking turbo mills or gas-sipping hybrids, the funky Soul, the sprightly Koup, and the good-looking Sportage, which is an out-and-out rocket with the turbo-four under the bonnet.

With the GT Concept, Kia moves the goalposts even farther on with a stunning design that might as well be the next Aston-Martin. Some of the conceptual bits we won't see (fendermounted rear-view cameras, glass-covered instrument panel), but the overall design language is a blueprint for Kia's future.

Will Kia build a highpowered rear-drive sports sedan? Opinion seems to lean towards "No," but then again, hop in your time machine and show someone from 2001 an Optima just to watch their head explode when you tell them it's a Kia. Frankfurt: Volkswagen Up! hammers the exclamation point home

Back before it became a byword for hot-hatchbacks like the GTi, efficient diesels in the TDI range, and swoopy stuff like the Passat CC, VW was literally "Volkswagen," the People's Car. Well, VW, the People haven't got any Cash any more.

Not to worry, because here comes Vee-Dub's new city car, the Up!. No, that's not double-punctuation, the Up! is so excited to be here that it actually incorporates an exclamation point into its name. I know, I know, but just wait until we get to the

model lineup. . . .

The Up! is actually quite a smart looking little ride, and with seating for four and a efficient 59 h.p. and 74 h.p. three-cylinders, it's a practical city runabout. Now, you won't be able to get the Up! here for some time, but with Scion bringing over the iQ, and the Smart Car still kicking around, there's a market segment for it.

When we do get the Up!, be ready for some headacheinducing sales brochures.

So far, VW has launched the Up!, High Up!, Up! Black, Up! White, and the Buggy Up! concept. It's like a Rex Morgan comic strip.

Vancouver: Lamborghini Aventador launches

You needn't travel halfway around the world to see the covers pulled off a stunning example of exotic design. In fact, right here in Vancouver, Lamborghini revealed a gleaming example of their latest V-12 supercar, the Aventador.

It's a fantastic machine: Zeus come to earth as a white Cretan bull again. The Aventador looks like it's travelling at the speed of sound just sitting there, and with a characteristic V-12 bellow, it's pure Lamborghini.

Unfortunately, it also costs $409,000, AND they don't have enough to sell, so the chances of Yours Truly getting behind the wheel to give you a driving impression are smaller than the chances of the proverbial snowball in heck.

Lamborghini, if you're listening: the good people of the North Shore need to know what the Aventador is like to drive. You will find them gracious and discerning clientele, but they also are cautious and sensible buyers, and require a thorough review.

I'm available to provide an in-depth assessment at any time.

Follow Brendan on Twitter: @ brendan_mcaleer, or submit your own auto oddities to