The British Motor Show has proved a damp squib in recent years, but a move to Excel, away from the prison hall environment of the NEC in Birmingham, has managed to breathe new life into the show.

Part 1 - Supercars assault London

The British Motor Show has proved a damp squib in recent years, but a move to Excel, away from the prison hall environment of the NEC in Birmingham, has managed to breathe new life into the show.

On the bank of the River Thames, Excel provided unique opportunities, like the chance to fire golf balls at a near impossible target out the back of the BMW Plaza - adding to the river's already chronic pollution problems and depth charging fish as hopeless journalists hacked away with all the finesse of a drunken butcher.

There were other equally pointless distractions, including a choreographed display from Vauxhall. Had they donated the money to charity instead, they could probably have wiped out a small nation's problems, all of them, but they blew it all on dancing cars instead. Still, it looked pretty cool.

Side shows apart, it's a busy event overflowing with sportscars, not least the all-new Jaguar XKR. The all-aluminium XK rocked our world when it came out earlier this year, so the supercharged version, put simply, is going to rock.

It comes with redesigned bumpers, bonnet louvers that have long been a Big Cat trademark, aluminum-finish grilles and side air vents and new wheels. The front end has always been the weak point in the XK's design and the squared effect provided by the new bodykit is an improvement, but it's still not right and that's a shame as side-on this car is easily the sexiest in its class.

The main interest though will be in the supercharged engine - now with 420 bhp, providing 0-60 mph in 4.9 seconds with an electronically limited top speed of 155 mph.

However those looking for the extra spoils of the R badge will have to pay £67,495 for the privilege, but that's still cheaper than its less powerful sibling - the Aston Martin AMV8. You'd still want the Aston, but the Jaguar looks the better car on paper.

While the Jag is sleek and elegant, like a black and white movie star, the Caparo T1 is sexy in the style of Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu and Shakira in some kind of whipped cream wrestling match.

Designed by a pair of McLaren engineers that worked on the F1 team and both the F1 and SLR road rockets, with the involvement of legend Gordon Murray, this car was always going to be good. But their vision, a formula car that works just as well on the road as it does on the track, looks like a Japanese fighting fish on wheels.

The Caparo has twice the power-to-weight ratio of a Bugatti Veyron, tipping the scales at less than 500kg as it does. It's powered by the 2.4-litre, 550bhp V8 that is currently in active service in GP2 - the F1-feeder series. It'll rev to 10,500, which in this machine is likely to sound like the world coming to an end, and it will hit 60mph in 2.5s. That's superbike fast, and in low downforce trim it will hit 200mph with ease.

Caparo, a gigantic engineering concern, has bought the company, but has left the design team to their own devices. That's a good thing, the T1 that made its debut at the show looks exactly like the sketches, and the inline seating arrangement, vents everywhere and even the wing mirrors in the wheel fairings look stunning.

We just can't wait…

Arash Farboud has been busy, too, after bringing us the Farboud GTS and selling the project on to Chris Marsh. Now, having licensed his surname, he brings us the Arash AF10 - well sort of.

The mock-up model was finished the night before the show and the rough edges were clear to see. But anybody that reads the spec sheet of the upcoming model will swiftly forget that the show car wasn't quite right. The seven-litre powerplant that powered the Corvette at Le Mans will knock out 550bhp and the back of your head as it flies to 60mph in less than 3.4s and on to the pre-requisite 200mph+ top end.

A carbon-fibre chassis and bodywork means it will keep the weight down and at £172,000 it should be something of a bargain.

The MB EOS was also in attendance and the project is developing nicely. There'll be a prototype ready to test soon and the Exigence of Speed is sure to be a hit when it finally comes time to drive. Michael Blaize is another ex-F1 man with a thorough understanding of aerodynamics and the front end's open stance is an entirely new approach to the supercar design process.

It too has the GP2 V8, and clearly Mechachrome, the company behind it, is looking to make inroads into the performance road car market. In the back of the EOS, it's going to make a major impact.

Back in the realms of the real world, almost, BMW brought its much-vaunted BMW M6 Convertible. Now we've all heard more than enough about this 507bhp, five-litre engine and seven speed transmission, but the drop-top M6 is an interesting concept. The M6 had a carbon-fibre roof to reduce weight yet retain the structural rigidity. A soft top adds weight and should provide as much balance as a drugged up, one-legged ballet dancer.

I suspect this will be a major disappointment when it comes to the drive, but then there will be enough wedged up folk that want the premier car and the wind blowing through their hair. They will know so little about driving dynamics it's a wonder they can sign their name on the cheque. But they will, and that's all that BMW will really care about.

And there was another supercar there, made entirely from wool. Lauren Porter's Ferrari, a cross between a Testarossa and a 355, took 10 months and 12 miles of yarn to create. Apparently it helps challenge the preconceptions of male symbolism and female craft, we just thought it was a far better Christmas present than an ill-fitting sweater.

WorldCarFans is more than familiar with the Noble M15, having blasted round Bruntingthorpe test track in the M15 development mule and taken you inside the first production car before it even ran. The good news is that Lee is taking to heart the advice he received and has looked at the rear again, coming up with this matt black version for the show.

Now if nothing else this shows ordering your car in black would clear most the criticism aimed at the fussy vent detailing. Lee is also having another go at the interior, unofficially that is, and with any luck that Focus steering wheel will go back to Ford. What won't change is the performance: 185mph, 0-60mph in well under 3.5s and one of the best chassis we've ever been near, let alone inside.

Noble by name, Noble by nature, this is already one of the sportscars of the year in our humble opinion...

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