7 Knockout Cars From the 2014 Paris Motor Show

Visitors to the 2014 Paris Motor Show are getting a proper dose of dazzle in the world capital of style. There have been green car innovations and practical automobiles to behold since press previews began, but they’ve proven no match for the exotic sports cars of France, Germany, and Italy (not to mention Japan). In fact, it would be difficult to get the attention of Porte de Versailles visitors without falcon wings, suicide doors, or a V10 engine. Seemingly, all come standard.

The supercar arms race among the premier automakers is what defines this latest edition of the event that began in 1898 as the world’s first auto show. Details on practical crossovers and electric vehicles are officially tabled for later. Here are seven absolute knockouts from the 2014 Paris Motor Show.

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1. Citroen DS Divine

Citroen launched the DS brand with “a clear-cut ambition: to return the French automotive industry to the ranks of the premium carmakers.” That is one lofty goal, but the French automaker came to Paris with guns blazing. In the Citroen DS Divine, visitors get a look at a hot hatch with a shimmering gray exterior and “floating diamond” design in the grille.

There are three choices for interior designs, but the gullwing doors, chrome accents, and swooping roof line are guaranteed to drop more jaws than anything inside this concept car. Then there’s the 267 horsepower that will allow the DS Divine to burn many of its competitors. If Citroen wanted to shake up the image of its company, it succeeded with this concept.

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2. Volkswagen XL Sport

While other automakers are doubling down with massive powertrains, Volkswagen hit the brakes and went for the ultimate in lightweight structure and aerodynamics to get a car flying down the highway. The result of this experimentation is the extraordinary Volkswagen XL Sport, a car capable of hitting 168 miles per hour with just 197 horsepower and 99 pounds-feet of torque.

VW pulled off this feat by powering the XL Sport (styled after the ultra-green XL1) with the two-cylinder engine Ducati uses in its superbike, the Superleggera, and hitting a drag coefficient of 0.258 in its 1,962-pound body. Oh, and it has gullwing dooors in case that isn’t sexy enough. No one is Paris saw this car coming.

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Volkswagen

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3.Peugeot Exalt

There was no way Peugeot could go quietly at the Paris Motor Show. Though it has already had a moment in the sun at Beijing, the slick saloon that is the Exalt concept hybrid is casting a long shadow on the automaker’s home turf. Featuring bare-steel bodywork, a low-slung stance, and a sweeping profile, the Exalt has pizzazz down to its 20-inch wheels. Between the gasoline and electric motors, it is capable of 340 horsepower. Peugeot added a “Shark Skin”grain structure to improve the drag coefficient in the Paris model. Another bonus is the electric scooter in the Exalt’s trunk.

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4. Infiniti Q80

There aren’t many cars that surpass the Infiniti line in terms of pure style, and the automaker’s Q80 Inspiration hybrid concept car keeps the tradition going. This time, Inifniti said the idea was “to disrupt the premium sedan category…with elegance, style and emotion.”  It’s easy to see the general shape of the Q50 and Q70 in the front half, but there is a whole other dimension in the low roof, extended body, and exquisite suicide doors. Sure, the eagle-wing headlights might be a flamboyant flourish, but the Inspiration Q80 will leave critics in the dust with 550 horsepower on tap in its hybrid powertrain.

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5. Lamborghini Asterion

What is an auto show without a new Lamborghini? Don’t even think of staging one, we say, so it’s a good thing there is a 910-horsepower Lambo in the mix at this year’s Paris spectacle. The automaker “started” with the 5.2-liter V10 (good for 610 horses) and tossed in three electric motors to hit that massive powertrain quotient.

Want to go 199 miles per hour in the Lamborghini Asterion? No problem. Hitting 60 miles per hour won’t take more than 3.0 seconds of your time, either. If you want to feel kinship with that Prius driver in your rear-view mirror, you can celebrate the 31 miles of all-electric range the Asterion “hyper-cruiser” offers.

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6. Nissan Pulsar Nismo

Nissan isn’t just making hay with its premium brand in Paris. The Pulsar Nismo hot hatch concept is winning over fans by the boatload in the City of Lights with its performance styling and 250 horsepower on tap. Is this a performance car waiting to be unleashed on the Nürburgring? Nissan officials have hinted it may shoot for the front-wheel-drive record on the legendary track, but for now it’s just a speedy hatch on display at a major auto show. The racing part will come later, and it may be facing the Honda Civic Type R on display in Paris when it happens.

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ERIC PIERMONT/AFP/Getty Images

7. Mercedes AMG GT

Why even bring family sedans or commuter compacts to an auto show? Everyone is going to head straight for the Lamborghinis and cars like this one, the Mercedes AMG GT S. Associate Press reports from the Paris Motor Show say the Mercedes stand has been mobbed with people wanting a look at the supercar aimed at knocking the Porsche 911 et al down a peg. This car has a little retro in its athletic profile, but the new 4.0-liter bi-turbo V8 under the hood is pure futurism.

The AMG GT S produces 510 horsepower and can blast from zero to 60 miles per hour in 3.7 seconds.Those are the type of specs we expect from an AMG supercar. As for the fuel economy quotes of 30 miles per gallon, that we did not expect. Call the EPA.

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