Although consumers are looking for fuel-efficient vehicles to combat the high cost of fuel, this year's Bangkok International Motor Show features many large luxury vehicles with big appetites for fuel, along with the small and economical vehicles.
Sub-compacts like the new Toyota Vios may prove to be the best-selling models at this year's show, but everybody will be looking at dream cars like the Bentley Continental GT Diamond Series, the BMW X5, the Mercedes-Benz CL500 and the minor-change Nissan 350Z.
The following are some of the highlights of the 28th Bangkok International Motor Show, which runs from today to April 8 at the Bangkok International Trade and Exhibition Centre (Bitec) in Bang Na.
German premium auto-maker Audi is bound to attract a large number of car enthusiasts to its booth, which highlights the new Audi TT Coupe.
The winner of the Most Beautiful Car in the World 2006 award, the TT Coupe is surely an eye-catcher. It comes with a 2-litre turbo FSI (fuel stratified injection) engine that also won the European Engine of the Year award in 2005 and 2006 and is capable of producing 200hp and 280Nm of torque.
Another eye-catcher at the same booth is the Q7 4.2 FSI Quattro, Audi's futuristic SUV.
Powered by a V8 direct-injection engine producing 350hp and 440Nm, the Q7 is capable of accelerating from zero to 100kph in 7.4 seconds and reaching a top speed of 248kph.
The Q7 also runs on the full-time four-wheel-drive system known as "quattro", and made famous by Audi. It also features air suspension, MMI (multimedia interface), Advanced Key, cornering xenon headlights and Audi's Parking System Plus.
The other highlight at the Audi booth is the A3 Sportback 1.8 TFSI, with its 1.8-litre engine able to pump out as much as 160hp and 250Nm.
The BMW booth features six new models: four cars and two motorcycles. The X5 4.8i leads the contingent, followed by the new 3 Series Convertible, the new X3 and the new generation MINI.
The new motorcycles include the G Series (with three variants) and the new R1200 Sports.
The X5 is powered by a 4.8-litre V8 engine producing maximum power of 355hp. The version for Thailand is a five-seater (rather than the seven-seat version available in certain other markets), equipped with new features such as a panoramic glass roof, active steering, adaptive headlights, on-board TV and comfort access as well as automatic air-conditioning with four-zones.
The 3 Series Convertible comes with a 2.5-litre in-line-six engine producing 218hp. This cabriolet is the only model in the coupe-convertible segment and is the showcase for BMW's retractable hard-top feature, which opens or closes in a mere 22 seconds.
As for the motorcycles, the G650X comes in three different variants, each with an absolutely different character. They are the G 650 Xchallenge (hard enduro), G 650 Xmoto (street moto) and the G 650 Xcountry (scrambler).
The new K 1200 R Sport, with a semi-fairing mounted firmly to the frame and bearing the same headlight design as the R 1200 S, is an ideal bike that adds particular advantage at high speeds through its significantly improved wind protection.
British supercar-maker Bentley has three models at the Show, the Continental GT Diamond Series, Arnage T and Continental Flying Spur, the world's fastest four-seater passenger car.
The Continental GT Diamond Series is a special edition first unveiled at Geneva this year to commemorate 60 years of hand-assembled beauty from Bentley's Crewe factory. It is based on a Continental GT and is slathered with an extra coating of luxury, including unique 20-inch wheels, quilted leather and special badging.
Chevrolet is now ready to take on its Japanese rivals and has launched an attack on the Honda CR-V with its Captiva SUV.
The Captiva features three rows of seats accommodating seven occupants and is powered by a 2.4-litre 16-valve DOHC four-cylinder petrol engine that produces 142hp at 5,200 rpm and 220Nm of torque at 4,000rpm.
The Captiva also has all-wheel-drive, Active Torque on Demand, self-levelling suspension and tiptronic transmission.
Other interesting cars at the Chevrolet booth include the Optra CNG (both sedan and estate versions), which can run on compressed natural gas.
French carmaker Citroen puts emphasis on its C4 three-door hatchback with its panoramic glass roof.
The C4 comes with a 1.6-litre 110hp engine and features a "functional fixed centre", which means that the control buttons on the steering wheel do not turn with steering movement. However, the bi-xenon headlights turn with cornering while other standard features include six air bags, ABS brakes with EBD and EBA and an electronic stability programme.
The C4 is also the winner of a Golden Award from WADA (Wheels Automotive Design Award).
Another interesting model at the Citroen booth is the unique Xsara Picasso, a 2-litre five-seater mini-MPV.
Strangely, the highlight at the Ford booth is not an automobile but a computer game.
Visitors get to check out the "Ford Focus WRC Simulator", to get the ride of their life without ever leaving the show.
The Simulator, which Ford showcases around the world at the
auto industry's biggest events,
was imported from the UK. It
puts volunteers in the driver's seat of the Ford Focus WRC car (winner of the World Rally Championship in 2006) to experience first hand the excitement of professional WRC racing.
The simulator has the exact specifications of the real Ford Focus rally car, and the action is simulated with Sony Play Station software and specially installed sensors that provide the visual, audio and varying physical effects of a real racing experience. Drivers bold enough to get behind the simulator's wheel have their performance and time recorded, so winners are determined.
Honda is not introducing anything new except for the CR-V that was launched recently. However, it is adopting a motor-sports theme.
On display are two Formula 1 cars, the first coming from 1964 while the second is the 2006 version.
There is also a Jazz One Make Race car along with production models like the Civic, Accord and CR-V.
Pickup giant Isuzu may not have a wide range of products, but its D-MAX trucks are among the most popular in the market.
The Isuzu booth showcases two Isuzu D-MAX trucks that have been dressed up in two different styles, the D-MAX Hilander and D-MAX Rodeo 4WD.
The Mu7 SUV also gets special cosmetic treatment.
Jaguar's highlight is the S-Type 2.5 V6, which features a six-speed ZF transmission, and the XJ Series.
Korean auto-maker Kia is still banking on the Picanto city car, with its 1.1-litre engine, while other exhibits include the 11-seat Grand Carnival, Carens V Estate and Sorento Sport X.
British 4x4 specialist Land Rover is getting out of the mud and on to the tarmac with the Range Rover Sport 4.2, fitted with the Stormer body kit, which makes it look much more aggressive.
It's hybrid time, and Toyota is not wasting any time in highlighting its hybrid technology.
The Lexus RX400h is the world's first luxury hybrid. It is powered by a 3.3-litre V6 petrol engine plus high-torque electric motors to offer superb all-wheel-drive performance in any conditions. With as much as 268hp and 3,500ft-lb of torque while taking off, the RX400h has superb acceleration as well as fuel economy. Acceleration from zero to 100kph takes only 7.6 seconds, and fuel consumption is only 12.3km/litre, equivalent to a compact passenger car. The fuel economy is 50 per cent better than the RX300, which is powered by a normal petrol engine.
Other Lexus models include the LS460, GS300 and IS250.
German luxury auto-maker Mercedes-Benz will again steal the limelight with another world debut, this time the right-hand-drive version of the CL500.
Powered by a 388hp V8 engine with 530Nm of torque, the CL500 is capable of accelerating from zero to 100kph in 5.4 seconds and reaching a top speed of 250kph (electronically limited).
Mercedes-Benz will also launch the S300 L, which is a long-wheelbase version of its flagship model.
There are also two special models at the Mercedes-Benz booth, the CLK-GTR and the SLK 55 AMG.
The CLK-GTR is based on the GT car used in the FIA GT Championship in 1997 and 1998, which was won by Mercedes-Benz AMG in both years. The regulations required that each manufacturer taking part in the championship build 25 road versions of their GT cars, and the CLK-GTR displayed at this year's show is one of them, but it is the only right-hand-drive model, making it unique. It is privately owned,
has never been used
and is for sale, for about
¤2 million (Bt93.21 million),
Mazda's highlight is not for sale, but the CX-7 SUV, which is designed specifically for the North American market, will surely get a lot of attention from visitors.
It is the first of three all-new Mazda vehicles that are being designed and engineered specifically for North America.
The five-seat CX-7 is a refreshing departure from the fleet of traditional SUV's currently sold in the US. It is produced entirely on Mazda-derived platform architecture. Referred to as "part SUV and part sports car", the CX-7 has been hailed as delivering the spirit of the Porsche Cayenne and the Range Rover at an affordable price.
Its power comes from a 2.3-litre MZR engine capable of delivering 238hp and 350Nm of torque through an automatic six-speed transmission.
Another attraction at the Mazda booth is the MX-5 RHT, which now comes with an electric roof that opens in 12 seconds.
There are no new models at the Mitsubishi booth, although current models get special treatment, such as the Space Wagon GLS Limited Black Edition and other special versions of the Triton pickup and Lancer sedan.
Apart from the new Navara pickup that the company hopes will bring it back to popularity, Nissan is showing off its new sports car, the minor-change Z350.
Thanks to redesigned front and rear ends, the Z350's looks have been freshened up dramatically. The VQ35HR engine has been tuned to develop 313hp, with power delivered through a five-speed automatic gearbox.
As well as the Navara and Z350, Nissan is showing off the Murano SUV as well as the Tiida passenger car.
French carmaker Peugeot is highlighting its 207 Sport, which is available with a 1.6-litre engine producing 150hp, while transmission is either a five-speed manual or four-speed auto. There is also a diesel version of the 207 that offers excellent fuel economy and drivability.
Peugeot also has its 307CC and 407 ST on display.
Czech auto-maker Skoda has two products at the show, the sedan and wagon variants of the new Octavia TDi.
Ssangyong from Korea is displaying several models, including the Actyon MPV, the diesel-powered Kyron SUV and the Stavic MPV.
The B9 Tribeca, a seven-seater SUV, will attract visitors to the Subaru booth while the Impreza WRC will draw rally fans.
The Subaru booth also features the Legacy 2.5 GT station wagon and 2.5R sedan, as well as the Forester MPV.
Small-car expert Suzuki is highlighting its APV (all-purpose vehicle) and the Swift hatchback.
Toyota has waited for this show to launch its final two Vios models, the S-Limited and G-Limited trim, which come with additional features like rear disc brakes and a smart entry system with push buttons.
There is also a limited-edition version of the Corolla Altis and the Fortuner, fitted with sporty accessories.
The Corolla gets black-lens headlights and rear lights, full aerodynamic kit, 16-inch black alloy wheels and a DVD player with a seven-inch screen.
The Fortuner Smart, on the other hand, comes with 18-inch wheels, TRD shocks and springs (24mm lower) and black/beige leather upholstery with Kevlar trim.
Thairung is introducing a new model, the TR Adventure II, based on the Isuzu D-MAX and the TR All Roader, based on the Chevrolet Colorado.
The Swedish auto-maker, having suffered a slump for lack of new products, is set to recover with the introduction of the C30 at this year's motor show.
The award-winning C30 sports hatchback is available with eight engine choices, but the car displayed at the show has a turbocharged 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine developing 220hp.
The highlight of the Volkswagen booth is the Caravelle Highline, available in both petrol and diesel variants. The 3.2-litre V6 petrol engine produces 235hp while the 2.5-litre TDI engine produces 174hp and 400Nm.
The new Caravelle comes with both exterior and interior changes. They include projector headlights, chrome front grille, new seat upholstery, wood trim, a 19-inch LCD screen with a 5.1 Dolby Surround audio system, cordless headphones, a USB port for iPod players, portable GPS and a reversing sensor with video.
Volkswagen will also show a special version of the Passat 2.3.
The Luxury LS 460 is a wonderfully comfaortable car fitted with all mod cons, althoough not necessarily the most fun vehicle to drive.