The Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupé
I’ve been to many motor shows in my time, but never in the UAE. So I’m approaching this year’s show at the International Convention Centre in Dubai, hoping it’ll be more low key than Geneva yet
much more alive than the last UK show in 2008, which was so poorly supported by manufacturers and public alike that it was ditched indefinitely.
The Middle East is a very important market for almost every motor manufacturer, however, so their support is almost guaranteed. And the market is still young enough for pessimism and jaded apathy not to have set in with the buying public. There’s a proper buzz about this show and it’s quite contagious.
Entering the first of two large exhibition halls (SS1), what greets visitors is a glamorous, brightly lit arena of car heaven. There are shiny cars and extravagant displays wherever you look, and one of the biggest displays – and perhaps the biggest story – is at the Chevrolet area. For the first time ever, the Dubai show will host an international unveiling, this being for the Chevy Trailblazer seven-seat SUV. The body-on-frame truck actually looks somewhat svelte, a tribute to the Sao Paolo, Brazil-based designers who were also at the event. It will be built first in Thailand and then also in Brazil and should appear in the UAE late next year. John Stadwick, the head of GM Middle East, is excited to soon have it in his lineup.
"I think the global reveal here just shows the commitment GM has for the Middle East, especially with this Trailblazer. It has been our best-selling vehicle prior to 2008, more than 15,000 units a year. It’s been five years in the making with a $2 billion dollar investment, and our biggest concern is are we going to be able to produce enough."
Of course a motor show wouldn’t be a motor show without the glamour vehicles. On the Jaguar Land Rover stand there are two disguised cars: the quite extraordinary C-X75 hybrid supercar and the funky looking DC-100 Land Rover concept – the C-X75 is scheduled for production and the DC-100 is a good bet to make it, too. That’s apart from a brace of Evoques and Jaguar’s new Sport and Speed variants of the luxurious XJ, XKR-S and XFR. As a show of strength and a confident future, this will take some beating.
Aston Martin has been pretty quiet here of late due to changing its dealership structure but that’s set to change with the opening next year of a splendid new showroom in Dubai, a stone’s throw from the newly-opened McLaren facility. Aston has the V12 Zagato sharing space with the Vantage S, a Virage Volante, a Rapide, a DBS and a couple of Cygnets "just to test the waters". Personally I hope they eventually sell the diminutive runabout here – it’s cute and as well appointed as a Chanel handbag.
McLaren, as mentioned, is new to Dubai and this is the first time many have been able to cast an eye over its MP4-12C (despite our hopes, it still hasn’t been given a proper name) supercar. It’s another winner in the making, even if it does look a bit bland compared to what’s just a minute’s walk away. The company also revealed its Special Operations bespoke programme; not only can you get the colour and seats to your liking, but McLaren will work with a client – who has enough cash – to actually make a different body for the car, in case you want to spice it up a little.
Over on the Ferrari stand there’s a stunning white FF, as well as the new 458 Spider, which blew our socks off last month on the international launch. I get the feeling that the order books will be filling nicely but there’s a real shock next door at Maserati. The gorgeous GranCabrio Fendi special edition (basically it has some leather trim with lots of Fs embossed on it) on display has attendees dribbling but it’s sharing stand space with a car that divides opinion like no other Maserati: the Kubang. A Trident-wearing SUV, the Kubang is, in fairness, less unattractive in the metal than photos suggest – not that it’s pretty, you understand.