Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Taipei Car Show 2013-2014

Let's start the show rolling with the biggest positive surprise at the Taipei Car Show: the Honda NSX concept. Hadn't seen it before, probably because I'm not that interested in Japanese cars in general, even though I spent most of my life driving various generations of Honda Civics. Another Japanese surprise follows further down.

For the first time ever, the Italians came to the show, or at least Ferrari and Maserati. You know the Ferraris, including the FF, so I only shot the Maseratis, including the Ghibli in its Taiwanese premiere.

Spyker is a rare Dutch treasure. They nearly broke the house by buying Saab, but here they are in Taipei.
As one of the most popular foreign car brands in Taiwan, Mercedes was strongly represented with models ranging from the A-class to the huge GL SUV. The emphasis was on the AMG line, though.

Eye to eye with the CLS Shooting Brake.

 The SL 63 AMG, rear and front.
 The Porsche Boxster. The Porsche Macan was guest of honor, but that meant it was locked up in a small room and you had to line up for half an hour if you wanted to see it. Not worth the effort, since it looks too much like the Cayenne.
 BMW also had a strong lineup, including the i3, which is already known from so many pictures. I loved their taillights, in this case a 3-series.
 Bentley, a brand with cars that cost at least half a million US dollars a piece in Taiwan. You still see them more and more.

 The Bentley Mulsanne, worth more than 750,000 US dollars.
 McLaren's first appearance in Taipei.
 Another one of my favorite German brands, Audi, with the R8 Spyder, aka Iron Man's car.

 The taillight of the Audi A8, sorry S8, to break the rhythm a bit.
 And finally, the other Japanese surprise: the Lexus LF-LC.

Conclusion: one of the best Taipei car shows ever. The brands that were absent either don't sell cars in Taiwan (GM, Chrysler, Fiat, Renault, Seat, Kia - which returns next year) or chose not to be there (Lamborghini, Rolls Royce). Everybody else was there: VW, Skoda, the Japanese from Toyota to Subaru and Daihatsu, and even Korea's ugly duckling, Ssangyong.
I also looked around for model cars, with Mercedes and Audi having excellent choice, but at inflated prices: about 70 USD for models so tiny I didn't even play when those when I was five, and more than 200 USD for the serious models, so I didn't buy anything.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Luc Besson and Scarlett Johansson in Taiwan

Scarlett Johansson is in the picture above. Don't you believe me? I know it's difficult. I had to stand away really far before being allowed to take a picture, yet the TV crews had it even worse because they stood away to the right, completely unable to see anything interesting. What you see is the front entrance of the Grand Formosa Regent Hotel in Taipei, Taiwan, where French director Luc Besson is shooting his latest: Lucy. More about that later.
Just in front of the hotel, you can  see black screens. To the right of the righthand screen stand a blonde woman and a man with a yellow cowboy hat. Yes, I just about saw them with my naked eyes, but on the picture, even if you zoom in hard, it's just a blur. The two were talking, the woman turned and wanted to go away, but the man pulled her back. They took several takes to complete this scene, and I have every reason to believe the blonde was Scarlett Johansson.

Most of the morning of Monday, October 21, 2013, was taken up by shooting a taxi scene though. Taxi coming up to the front entrance, passengers getting out, people in business suits walking away from the hotel. At first, I didn't realize this was a scene from the movie - until I saw the same 3 cabs turning back and coming up again, and the same passengers running down to board the cabs driving up to the front entrance again. A funny detail: a guy spouted water on the cabs before they drove up to the hotel, presumably to give the impression it had just rained.

The front of the Grand Formosa Regent, for at least two decades one of the top hotels in Taipei, even though the Taiwanese capital's epicenter has now moved east to Taipei 101. By the way, Besson's crew is also supposed to film over there, but the schedule is as tightly kept as the actors. It was virtually impossible to get anywhere near the scene, and 'heavies' checked first whether not too much would be visible to outsiders.
As promised, the story: 'Lucy' is about a foreign woman - Scarlett Johansson - living in Taiwan who is forced to smuggle drugs. One time, she takes one of those drugs - and obtains special powers. Sounds a bit like Limitless with Bradley Cooper. Morgan Freeman is apparently also starring in 'Lucy,' but he doesn't have any scenes in Taiwan. Besson's crew will stay around the Grand Formosa Regent for four days, the news is.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

New Mercedes S-class reaches Taiwan

When carmakers launch a new model in Asia, they usually pick glitzy shopping malls or dull trade fair halls for their promotional activities. Mercedes Benz in Taiwan went a whole lot further for the 2013 S-class last Wednesday. It turned the usually bare plaza in front of Taipei's Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall into a 'lake,' be it one not deep enough to drown even a lizard. The 'island' in the middle featured a drum band and seats for the guests.
When I first passed there at noon, I already managed a close look at the top car models: the S500, the S350, the hybrid S400. The design of the new S-class didn't leave me breathless. I think Mercedes is under threat of falling prey to the same problem that has plagued Audi: too many cars looking too similar. The headlights of most Mercedes models these days, from A-class and CLA to M-class, look all the same.
Fortunately, the taillights of the new S-class saved it for me. When I went back to the site during a short dinner break, the show was in full swing with purple and red lights reflecting in the undeep pool. I went straight for the cars parked at the back, which fortunately had their own lights on but were kept out in the dark away from the big reflecting flashes which make getting nice pictures at regular car shows so difficult.
I have something for taillights, especially the ones on recent BMW models, but the new S-class is not too bad either in that respect. Just enjoy the pictures down here.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Mercedes or Bentley?

Went to a shopping mall to see the new Mercedes E-class coupe, but it was already gone. Instead saw this brand new red Bentley Continental GT worth 3 times as much as the Mercedes S-class standing behind it.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Taipei Car Show 6: Porsche Panamera 2

For all the Porsche fans I offended with my previous post, here's another dose of happiness: the same Panamera 4S as seen from the front. Sort of proves my point that all Porsches look very much the same, but hey, if that look is nice, why not. It kept the brand alive, which is more than you could say for Saab.
Surprisingly, the bankrupt General Motors daughter was quite strongly represented at the Taipei Car Show.
Totally absent were: the rest of the GM House of Horrors including Opel, all Italian car brands you can think of, Renault and Citroen from France.
Present: China's Chery whose cars I had never seen before, Taiwan's new Luxgen brand with the minibus and the even newer SUV, South Korea's Hyundai with a car that looked like a cheap Chinese Mercedes S-class ripoff, and of course all the big Japanese and German guys. Europe's car of the year, the tiny Volkswagen Polo, had just one modest yellow version present. Still, a well-spent morning at the Taipei Car Show. But next time, include the Italians.

The Taipei Car Show 5: Porsche Panamera

I'm one of those simple people who think all Porsches are alike and their looks never changed in 30 or 40 years.
The Cayenne was the first sign that something was happening in Porscheland, an SUV or a Porsche on stilts.
The next find: a Porsche for people who want to sit in the back of a car. The Panamera. With a car like a Porsche, you probably want to sit behind the wheel.
Let's hope the merger with Volkswagen only gives them good ideas, not Baby Porsches.

The Taipei Car Show 4: Mercedes F700

I'm not one for concept cars but here is one I've been hearing a lot about for a long time: the Mercedes F700, no doubt a model for any future S-class or for the successor to the Maybach superMerc.

It looks a bit Alien and Predator at the front with the heavy grille and the Man with the Iron Mask type headlights, but it's still a car worth mentioning. Even if I had the money, I wouldn't be buying it though. If I had the money, I'd probably be looking at one of their convertibles which were not at the show, such as the CLK and SLK.