SHANGHAI, CHINAIt’s nothing less than the biggest car show in the world held in the biggest car market in the world. With a staggering 23.4 million cars sold last year, the Chinese automotive market has blown by the now-second biggest car market, America, which has been rolling out anywhere from 13 to 18 million cars a year over the past decade. 

And like its more mature counterparts in America, Japan, Korea, and Europe, China is fast embracing two types of vehicles: SUVs and EVs. And they had both in droves in this year’s edition of Auto Shanghai. (China is now the biggest producer of electric vehicles in the world—bigger than all EV companies in the rest of the world combined!)

Here now are some cars that drew the most crowds in the huge four-leaf clover-shaped National Exhibition and Convention Center in the colorful and vibrant city.           

Acura NSX

The Acura/Honda NSX is probably the world’s most famous hybrid supercar, surpassed or equaled only by the LaFerrari. And it’s not even because the NSX concept car was Tony Stark’s ride in the 2012 Avengers film. (The production NSX wouldn’t come out until 2015.) At this point, the current NSX needs no introduction, save that, four years down the production road, it’s still head-turning enough to steal the limelight from Acura/Honda’s EV- and hybrid-laden booth in Shanghai.  

Alfa Romeo Giulia

Alfa Romeo’s debut at the Shanghai auto show is part of the Milanese marque’s plan to resurrect the brand globally. Two variants of the Giulia sports sedan were launched at the show. The flagship, the Giulia Quadrifoglio, sports a 2.9-liter V-6 that generates 510hp and of 600Nm of torque. Coupled with an eight-speed automatic, it sprints from 0 to 100km/hour in 3.9 seconds and runs at a top speed of 307km/h.

About a month before the sedan’s debut in Shanghai, Alfa Romeo started a pre-selling campaign of 350 Giulia Milano limited edition sedans through online shopping site Tmall. All 350 were sold in 33 seconds.

Alfa Romeo C38

The 2019 Chinese Grand Prix held in Shanghai on the same weekend as the auto show marked the 1,000th Formula One race. Naturally it was most apt to have a display of current F1 cars, notably this Ferrari-engined Alfa Romeo C38. Unfortunately, the former Sauber team had a rather inauspicious result in the race: 9th for former world champ Kimi Raikkonen and 15th for Antonio Giovinazzi.   

Aston Martin

It was all about future-proofing the automobile, as far as Aston Martin is concerned. Which is why the British luxury carmaker celebrated the global debut of its first all-electric model, the Rapide E. The marque’s first all-electric model will be built at St Athan in Wales, Aston Martin’s home of electrification. Just 155 examples of the car developed in collaboration with Williams Advanced Engineering will be built. With twin electric motors producing over 610ps and 950Nm of torque, it is the most powerful Rapide model yet.

Bentley

Bentley is celebrating its centenary year with an exquisite range of luxury cars at Auto Shanghai 2019. The Mulsanne W.O. Edition by Mulliner made its Chinese debut alongside the actual impeccably maintained 8 Litre once owned by the Bentley founder himself (and the last car he designed for the marque in 1930). The Mulsanne W.O Edition by Mulliner pays homage to W.O. Bentley. Bringing the brand story up to date, the all-new Bentayga Hybrid, Continental GT, and GT Convertible models were also on display.

BMW iFE.18

Mere weeks after the sixth round of the FIA Formula E Championship season in the Chinese city of Sanya, BMW injected a touch of progressive racing fever into Auto Shanghai 2019 with the presentation of its Formula E racing car at its show stand. The all-electric BMW iFE.18 impresses with its captivating design and innovative powertrain, which was developed using the expertise of the same engineers who came up with the drive system for the BMW i3, and are also working on the powertrains for future electric BMWs. BMW Motorsport and BMW i converged to create the BMW iFE.18, making it a fine testament for the marriage of racing car and production car development.

BMW X7

BMW describes the X7 as the biggest BMW they have ever built. And it looks the part, right down to its gaping twin kidney grilles that look like they can swallow a whale shark. It’s the Bavarians’ contender in the luxurious six-seater or a more commodious seven-seater version.  

Brabus 700 G

Mercedes-Benz sold a whopping 600,000 cars in China last year. They posted an 11.3 percent growth despite the rest of the Chinese auto industry experiencing a 2.6-percent slide in sales—the first time it went on a decline since 1990. China is the only market where you’d see long-wheelbase versions of the C- and E-Class. And with Chinese customers still madly in love with sedans (China is the world’s biggest market for the fabulously extravagant Mercedes-Maybach), the Stuttgarters created an A-Class sedan. But SUVs are exploding in demand in China as well, which is why you’d see the outrageous Brabus 700 G in Shanghai. Brabus, of course, is the undisputed king of customized G-Class wagens—and the big off-roaders didn’t disappoint.

Icona Nucleus

Easily one of the most show-stopping (it will literally stop you in your tracks) vehicles in Shanghai, the aptly named Icona Nucleus represents, well, the nucleus of a possible way to build a Level 5 autonomous (read: self-driving) vehicle in a future that seems to be getting closer and closer. But the Nucleus isn’t new, debuting at the Geneva Motor Show in 2018 and also making an appearance at the Los Angeles Auto Show last fall.

Jaguar I-Type 3

Like BMW, Jaguar is leveraging its motorsports heritage and tying it up to its electric future. The Coventry cat showed off its pure-electric Formula E racer, the I-Type 3. Pushing out 335hp through a bespoke electric powertrain bolted to a super-light carbon-fiber honeycomb chassis, the I-Type 3 delivers, well, electrifying performance on the city streets where Formula E races are held. It’s arguably one of the most beautiful open-wheel race cars ever built.

Jaguar i-Pace

Riding on China’s wave of SUV and electrics is the Jaguar i-Pace. It’s a pure-electric version of Jaguar’s Pace-series SUVs. It’s quick (0-100km/h in 4.8 seconds) and can travel 470 kilometers on a single full charge. It’s no less than the 2019 European Car of the Year, the 2019 World Car of the Year, the 2019 World Car Design of the Year, and the 2019 World Green Car, among many, many others. Heck, it’s the most multi-awarded production car in modern history. Must be good.

Lamborghini

A stunning lime green Lamborghini Huracan Evo Spyder takes center stage in Shanghai. It’s a 640-hp 5.2-liter V10-powered hair dryer that will restyle your hair with an acceleration of 3.1 seconds from zero to 100km/h and a top speed of 320km/h. The Huracan was more than ably backed up by a mean-looking Aventador and Lambo’s truly intimidating Urus SUV.

Lexus LC 500h

While the Lexus LC 500 (the standard model, not the vibranium-equipped one used by the Black Panther) is powered by a 5.0-liter V8 mated to a 10-speed automatic, the LC 500h is a hybrid powered by a 3.5-liter V6 working in tandem with two electric motors for a total system output of 472hp. The engine and motors are coupled to a unique transmission, which consists of a four-speed automatic embedded inside a continuously variable transmission (CVT). This “dual” transmission provides stepped access to the torque generated by the electric motor, and functions similarly to a 10-speed automatic transmission.

Lexus LM

It’s the Lexus of minivans.  The LM is based on the Toyota Alphard (and shares its 3.5-liter V6 drivetrain), which is already the most luxurious minivan on the market. It has the biggest iteration of the brand’s signature spindle grille we’ve seen yet—putting Lexus on pole position for the Biggest Grille on a Luxury Car award.

There’s plenty of luxury on board, including a 26-inch screen, a Rolls-Royce-inspired umbrella storage bin, a chiller compartment, and a choice of two reclining rear seats that replace the standard two rows of seats. Also available is a Lexus LM 350h variant, which is a hybrid with a 2.5-liter inline-4 petrol engine working in tandem with an electric motor. Front-wheel drive is standard and all-wheel drive is available.

Lotus Evora GT4 Concept

Using the same lightweight aluminum, extruded, epoxy-bonded-and-riveted high-stiffness chassis as the standard Lotus Evora, the Evora GT4 Concept incorporates the latest motorsport safety systems and technologies.

The Evora GT4 Concept has a 450hp/510Nm 3.5-liter V6 supercharged engine mated to a sequential 6-speed racing transmission, and coupled to Numatics paddle shift system and a Torsen limited slip differential. It has a top speed of 273km/h.

It employs the same front clam layout as the Evora GT430 road car, but adds removable canards, in-mouth brake ducts, as well as louvers positioned on top of each front wheel arch to reduce pressure above the wheel. The car’s rear also uses the same setup as the road car, but adds a composite, four-vein diffuser, and an adjustable, carbon-fiber wing. The car’s instrumentation has also been uprated to including a six-inch TFT color screen, incorporating data logging and critical issue text alert.

McLaren

More than a thousand McLarens have been sold in China since the brand made its official debut in this same show back in 2013. With sales growth in China running at 100 percent in 2018 from last year, even more cars from Woking are expected to prowl the streets of China in the coming months and years.

Making a stunning arrival on to the McLaren stage in Shanghai are the 720S Spider and 600LT Spider, two McLarens never seen in China. This will be the third time that McLaren Automotive has exhibited at the biennial Auto Shanghai, where five McLarens were on display.

The premiering Spiders will be joined by a 720S Coupé from the Super Series, and, representing the Sports Series, a 570S Coupé and a 600LT Coupé. The three cars showcase MSO Defined paint and interior options from the McLaren Special Operations’ range of bespoke customization, which include limited-run models that incorporate authentic Chinese craftsmanship and designs exclusively for the Chinese market.

Mini Clubman

The Mini Clubman has been on sale in its current form since 2015, and is showing off a mid-life refresh in Shanghai. The British hot hatch sports subtle styling updates in line with those bestowed upon its Cooper siblings last year, trim revisions, and minor upgrades to the interior options list.

Porsche Cayenne Coupe

Making its Asian premiere in Shanghai is Porsche’s sexier and more rakish version of its bestselling Cayenne SUV, the Cayenne Coupe. Featuring a sloping fastback roofline and an almost 911-like side window shape, the Cayenne Coupe is for those who want more style, even at the expense of rear headroom. But damn if it isn’t a big, off-roadable 911! And it has all the vaunted toys and performance of the Cayenne—and adds an active rear spoiler ala Panamera.

Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-hybrid

China still being a strong sedan market, Porsche rolled out no less than three variants of its Panamera executive sedan. This Turbo S E-Hybrid Executive model is the flagship of the Panamera line, and showcases no less than the German firm’s Le Mans 24 Hours endurance race-winning hybrid technology.   

Rolls-Royce

China has played a significant role in Rolls-Royce’s 2018 success story; becoming Rolls-Royce’s second-largest market. It is anticipated that the market will, at some point in the not-too-distant future, become Rolls-Royce’s single largest (and also the youngest-aged) market. The Phantom, which is Rolls-Royce’s pinnacle product, sells more in China than anywhere else in the world.

Rolls-Royce arrived at Shanghai with a breathtaking line-up, showcasing the near-infinite Bespoke possibilities of the brand. The Phantom Extended Wheelbase featuring the Privacy Suite took center stage for the first time in China, together with the Cullinan, Ghost, and the edgy and menacing Wraith Black Badge.