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Paris Auto Show Highlights

Paris Auto Show

The Paris Auto Show (Mondial de l’Automobile, if we’re being fancy) opened this week, and while the bulk of debuts shown there will be Euro-centric, there are a several vehicles with U.S. relevance appearing for the first time. Let’s take a peek.

Volkswagen Golf

The Golf debut may not move the U.S. curiosity meter as much as, say, a fullsize pickup or midsize sedan, but it is VW’s most significant model worldwide, and each new generation is a big deal for a company gunning for #1 in the world.

The seventh-generation Golf joins the Weight Watchers trend of improving economy and performance by trimming heft. The use of high-strength and ultra-high-strength steel for the body structure, lighter seats, even a lighter A/C unit contribute to a 220 pound weight loss compared to the previous Golf. This despite an increase in length and wheelbase of over 2 inches.

Styling is once again evolutionary, so no one will have any trouble recognizing it as a Golf. The new Golf is expected in the U.S. as a 2014 model.

MINI Paceman

MINI has been working hard at expanding their reach into other segments of the auto industry. Witness the subcompact crossover Countryman and the 2-seater Coupe and Roadster. With the Paceman, it does a bit of segment-busting. Essentially a Countryman minus the rear doors, the Paceman is...what? A 2-door subcompact crossover? We haven’t seen one of those since the Suzuki X-90.

However you wish to classify it, it’s an attractive piece. The door subtraction, sloping roofline, and new taillights give the Paceman a sleeker, sportier presence than its stablemate. The rest of Paceman, drivetrain, interior, etc., closely mirrors the Countryman.

So if you want something the hews more closely to the iconic MINI style but offers more space and available AWD, the MINI Paceman fills that void.

Range Rover

Land Rover has designed an all-new version of their top-of-the-line Range Rover, and they, too, are seeking efficiency via lighter weight. The 2013 Range Rover sheds an impressive 700 pounds. If you’ve ever driven with 3 hefty passengers, you know how much of a difference 700 pounds makes in vehicle dynamics.

How did they accomplish this? The Range Rover is the first SUV ever with an all-aluminum body. Ditching that much steel for lightweight aluminum makes the difference.

The styling evokes the previous Range Rover, but much sleeker, with a touch of Evoque thrown in.

Wagons You Can’t Have

The American obsession with SUVs and crossovers has made “station wagon” a dirty word among automakers in the U.S. Which is a truly a shame. The station wagon was the lifeblood of the American travel experience, and no other body type offers a better combination of efficient hauling and compliant road manners.

Ford showed the wagon version of its Mondeo (known here as the Fusion) while Mazda formally introduced the Mazda 6 wagon. Both are gorgeous. The sedan versions of these models have upped the ante for midsize style, and their wagon guises hold up their end of the bargain quite nicely. Makes us want to spend all our time hauling stuff.

But, alas, they are not destined for America. You’ll need to content yourself with a Ford Escape or Mazda CX-5.