9 of the coolest cars from the Frankfurt Auto Show (and 1 hellacious truck)

Auto show season is upon us, and the 2013 Frankfurt show was quite a kickoff. Since this was their home show, the Germans were out in force with production cars like the BMW i8 and Porsche 918 Spyder, and concepts like the radical Audi nanuk quattro.

If there was an overall theme to the 2013 Frankfurt Auto Show, it would be “green.” Nearly every car that was unveiled there featured some form of green technology; plug-in hybrids and EVs were particularly numerous.

Actually, a second theme might be “cool.” Regardless of what was under the hood, there were plenty of great cars in Frankfurt. Here are 10 of the best.

audi nanuk quattro conceptAudi nanuk quattro concept

What do you get when you combine a mid-engined sports car with and off-road vehicle? This is Audi’s idea of a “crossover.”

The nanuk quattro’s styling looks like a combination of an R8 and a Dakar racer, and Audi says the nanuk quattro is just as capable off-road as a normal supercar is on it.

Power comes from a 5.0-liter turbodiesel V10, which produces 544 horsepower and 737 pound-feet of torque. That prodigious power gets the nanuk quattro to 60 mph in 3.8 seconds and on to a top speed of 189.52 mph. Yet it still gets 30.16 mpg on the U.S. test cycle. Talk about the best of both worlds.

Audi Sport quattro concept overheadAudi Sport quattro concept

Audi brought not one, but two fantastic concept cars to Frankfurt. Instead of inventing a new type of car, the Sport quattro references a classic Audi from the past.

The original Sport quattro was launched in 1983 and helped establish Audi’s reputation as a maker of performance cars. It’s all-wheel drive system and 306 hp inline-five engine made it a winner on the rally circuit.

The new Sport quattro would make a pretty good rally car, too. It has a plug-in hybrid powertrain, consisting of a 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8, an eight-speed Tiptronic transmission, and an electric motor.

Total system output is 700 hp and 590 lb-ft. Audi says the Sport quattro will do 0 to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds and reach a top speed of 190 mph.

2013-brabus-b63s-based-on-the-mercedes-benz-g63-amg-6x6-2013-frankfurt-auto-show_100439630_lBrabus B63S 700 6×6

First, there was the Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG, then the Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG 6×6, and now the Brabus B63S 700 6×6. Mercedes’ converted military vehicle keeps getting crazier.

Brabus loves to take stock Benzes and turn them into insane performance machines, and that M.O. apparently applies to everything Stuttgart makes.

The B63S has the same 5.5-liter twin-turbocharged V8 as the “regular G63 AMG 6×6, but it now produces 690 hp and 708 lb-ft. It’s also got massive 37-inch tires. The only question is: Where are the machine guns?

BMW-i8-drivingfront4BMW i8

Probably the most anticipated new car debut at Frankfurt, the BMW i8 was originally shown as a concept in 2011. Two years later, the real deal is here.

The plug-in hybrid sports car looks virtually the same as that 2011 concept, and that’s a good thing. It’s powered by a 1.5-liter turbocharged triple and an electric motor. Combined, they produce 362 hp and 236 lb-ft.

In maximum attack mode, the i8 will do 0 to 62 mph in 4.4 seconds and reach an electronically limited top speed of 155 mph. If drivers make the most of its 22-mile electric-only range, BMW says the i8 will do 113 mpg on the European combined cycle.

The i8 goes on sale early next year for about $135,000. 

Ferrari 458 Speciale front three quarterFerrari 458 Speciale

The Speciale is a hardcore version of Ferrari’s already stellar 458 Italia supercar. Following in the footsteps of the 360 Challenge Stradale and 430 Scuderia, its singular focus is performance.

Behind the headrests is the same 4.5-liter V8, now producing 597 hp and 398 lb-ft. Ferrari says the Speciale is the most powerful naturally aspirated V8 road car it’s ever built.

Ferrari also put the Speciale on a diet, dropping the curb weight from 3,274 pounds to 2,843 pounds. It also added special aerodynamic aids to balance downforce and drag.

The result is a car that can do 0 to 62 mph in three seconds, flat.

Lexus LF-NXLexus LF-NX concept

Yes, this is a Lexus, not an urban assault vehicle from the future.

The LF-NX is part RX, part LFA, and part Road Warrior. Its styling is especially jarring considering that it’s a Lexus, and a compact crossover, a type of vehicle usually driven by people who don’t want the entire Starbucks parking lot to cower in fear. 

Styling aside, the details of the LF-NX are much more mundane. It previews the 2015 NX, a production compact crossover that will likely be based on the Toyota RAV4, and will be Lexus’ rival to the Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class and BMW X1.

The concept version has a hybrid powertrain consisting of a 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle four and an electric motor. It sounds like the same powertrain Lexus uses in the ES300h and IS300h.

The LF-NX is definitely a sheep in wolf’s clothing.

Mercedes-Benz Concept S-Class CoupeMercedes-Benz Concept S-Class Coupe

The Mercedes-Benz CL-Class was one of the most underrated cars ever. It had all of the luxuries of the flagship S-Class, but didn’t make people assume that its owner was a dictator, Wall Street operator, or some other type of evil person. 

Perhaps to get the big coupe a little more attention, the new CL has been renamed S-Class Coupe. It’s everything the name implies.

That car was previewed at Frankfurt by a concept, and hopefully not too much will change on the way to production. The styling has an elegance recent Mercedes models have lacked, yet it doesn’t look boring.

The interior is trimmed in calfskin and a special “black diamond” metallic material. There’s also a MoodGrid music system that automatically compiles playlists for the driver.

Opel Monza concept rear three quarter doors openOpel Monza concept

Frankfurt is the home event for German carmakers, meaning even General Motors’ European division had to come up with something good.

The Opel Monza is named after a line of Opel coupes from the 1970s and ‘80s, and would make a great addition to the lineup today.

It’s dramatic skin is draped over a plug-in hybrid powertrain, featuring a 1.0-liter triple powered by compressed natural gas (CNG).

Open those roof-hinged doors, and you’ll find a futuristic dashboard that uses LED projection tech to produce one seemless display; no gauges or center stack touch screens here.

The display features 3D graphics and three settings to filter information, keeping drivers from getting overwhelmed by their magic dashboards.

porsche-918-spyder-front34Porsche 918 Spyder

Porsche finally unveiled the production version of its 918 Spyder plug-in hybrid supercar at Frankfurt. Like the BMW i8, this car has been previewed and teased many times, building much anticipation about seeing the final product.

The 918 is powered by a race-inspired 4.6-liter V8 and two electric motors; one helps power the rear wheels, the other drives the front wheels. Total system output is 887 hp and 590 lb-ft.

With all that power, the 918 will do 0 to 62 mph in 2.8 seconds, but it can also cruise for 18 miles, at speeds of up to 93 mph, on electricity alone. That’s something rival hybrids LaFerrari and McLaren P1 can’t do.

That’s why Porsche says the 918 will achieve 85 mpg on the European cycle.

However, all of that capability comes at a price, specifically, $845,000.

2013_volvo_coupe_concept_00b_1-0829Volvo Coupe Concept

Volvo is looking for a new direction, and this rakish coupe just might show it the way.

The styling is bold yet distinctly Volvo, two qualities the Swedish carmaker needs to get noticed. More substantially, the Coupe Concept is based on Volvo’s new Scalable Product Architecture (SPA), which will underpin several future models.

Under the hood is a plug-in powertrain, including a 2.0-liter gasoline four-cylinder engine that is both turbocharged and supercharged, along with an electric motor. Combined, they produce 440 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque.

Fast Volvos aren’t unheard of, but that doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be more of them.

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