Obscene horsepower, prices and colour schemes and speeds so grim the reaper would feel sick are all par for the course in the halls just down the road from Dusseldorf.

The Essen Motor Show has been abandoned in droves by the manufacturers, although Audi, VW, Citroen and Subaru did fly the flag for the marques. VW even used home soil to provide the world debut for the rather sexy VW Passat R 36. Now admittedly it's more of the kind of sexy you'd attach to a mate's mum in those dark moments of private thought rather than the latest teen queen. But by giving the Passat the full works the VAG group has shown it's not afraid of infighting. And that's a brave strategy that deserves every bit of credence we can give it. If all conglomerates set their babies to war this way then we'd have many more stunning cars on the road. This one has 300bhp, four-wheel drive and a 155mph top end, plus all the refinements you'd expect from a car positioned as a budget alternative to the Audi S4, and I'd like to say on the record I think it will be a stunning drive. But even though we give props for supporting the show with the most powerful ever Passat and the 3.2-litre Audi TT roadster, Essen isn't about the VAG group. Essen is about the tuners and that makes it one of the most spectacular gatherings of machines on this planet. Obscene horsepower, prices and colour schemes and speeds so grim the reaper would feel sick are all par for the course in the halls just down the road from Dusseldorf. The press room may have been near-empty compared to the thriving hordes in Paris just a few hours up the road, but if I'd only been to one show this year, I'd want it to be this one. Inevitably tuned variants of German marques took most the floor space, as if they got up early and laid out towels across all the poolside chairs. Over at Eibach, however, Britain stormed in and upset the equilibrium with the almighty Aston Martin AMV8 HP400+ Confusingly, it actually has 425bhp, almost 50 more than the stock car, and will now rocket to 60mph in 4.7s, which is more than enough for the 'baby' Aston. Huge new wheels and a carbon-fibre aero kit, together with 19" wheels inspired by the DBR9 race car, complete the look and the interior hasn't been forgotten either. There were plenty of faster cars at the show, but the HP400+ had me crawling for a drive… As did Ralph Niese, simply by drawing my attention to the beast on TechArt's stand. Yes their 911 Turbo is nice, has 580bhp and will provide all the entertainment even a rear-drive devotee could handle. With a 0-62mph time of 3.46s and a top end somewhere in the region of 212mph, it should take a full-on solar eclipse to put a car like that in the shade, which is more or less what TechArt has come up with. Forget the Cayman GT, their first quick attempt to tweak the mid-engined instant legend. No, the widebody is 8cm broader than the standard Cayman S upon which it is based and simply full of running. Fitted with a 3.8-litre powerplant that's good for 375bhp once its been blown out to 3.824 litres and put through the requisite top-end rebuild, it also comes with other cute tricks like a revised PASM system that provides adjustable damping control, as well as height, at the flick of a switch inside the cockpit. It will hit 60mph in 4.9s and tops out at 189mph thanks to Porsche's gearing that cannot be messed with, but the corners will define the TechArt Widebody, and on the right road this car should moisten the lips of every man, or even woman… Elsewhere, Sbarro provided the good, the bad and the plain wrong within 10 metres of each other. The good? That's the three-litre, 500kg lightweight racer unveiled for the first time. The bad, well that would be the vicious little Citroen C1 with a rally-car gait and 12-bore exhausts. And nobody gets a prize for guessing it's the absolutely insanely ugly Ferrari 360 Modena conversion that wins the wooden spoon of the whole show. That torch may yet be passed, as there are other contenders, but it's hard to imagine a greater affront to the collective psyche than that pink, bewinged creation that lay like a steaming present left by the dog in the middle of the living room. Stay tuned for Part II and a comprehensive photo album of the Essen Motor Show.

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