In Pictures: Automakers get adventurous in Paris

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Adventure in Paris

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In addition to being a world fashion capital, a theme seen throughout the Paris Motor Show was that France is a breeding ground for adventure. The French Alps have served as an incubator for some of today's craziest sports, such as wingsuit flying and speed flying. Perhaps that's why the Paris show had the largest serving of adventure vehicles that we've seen since Overland Expo. Special edition 4x4s, burlified mini SUVs and concepts straight-out named "Adventure" were seen throughout the show's various halls.

Roundtrip Paris to Moab ticket, courtesy of Jeep

Jeep dazzled Europe with a few special packages, with the most interesting of the bunch easily the fully "Moparized" Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon "Stealth." Starting with the burliest Wrangler four-door package, Mopar adds a set of 37-in tires on 17-in rims, a raised ride kit, off-road Rubicon X bumpers, fender flares, rock rails, a vented performance hood and an LED light bar, along with visual enhancements throughout.

The 200-hp (149-kW) turbo diesel Rubicon Stealth has an absolutely beastly presence right up until you pull open its half doors and step inside a rather posh interior dressed in vintage-style leather. After giving the Stealth the full once over, it took a moment to remember we were on the floor of Porte de Versailles expo center, not on the painted sandstone of the Easter Jeep Safari.

Outside of the rear nook that Jeep carved out for the Stealth, it had a variety of other highly capable special packages, including the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT Red Vapor. The fastest, most powerful Jeep ever receives a shock of bright red paint offset by black chrome-finish 20-in "Goliath" wheels. The special series Grand Cherokee also has a new Active Noise Cancellation system built to pipe the titillating rumble of the 468-hp (349 kW) 6.4-liter HEMI V8 into the cabin.

Peugeot previews its Dakar return

Believe it or not, the Wrangler Stealth wasn't the biggest, baddest off-roader at the Paris show. That honor went to the all-new Peugeot 2008 DKR rally car that's currently training for its big 2015 Dakar debut. We had looked at the structural and powertrain details in the past, but Paris was the first time we laid eyes on the vehicle out in the real world. It's as impressive in person as it is on paper.

The 2008 DKR is a drastically modified rally version of Peugeot's 2008 SUV, with a muscular body towering over top a set of 37-in Michelins. The two-door body has mini overhangs, gutted wheel arches and flared out side vents. Underneath that action-ready body, a mid-rear 3.2-liter twin-turbo V6 diesel churns out 340 horses (254 kW) and 590 lb-ft (800 Nm) of torque. Despite its "ultimate 4x4" look, the 2008 DKR's engine output is directed to the rear wheels only, allowing the Peugeot-Total team to capitalize on several advantages of 2WD, including lighter overall weight. Cyril Despres, Stephane Peterhansel and Carlos Sainz will be the lucky pilots that get to put the DKR to the test in January.

Ssangyong pops the top on the XIV-Air

Korean manufacturer Ssangyong was one of the manufacturers with a concept labeled "Adventure" (which you can learn more about in the accompanying gallery), but what really drew us in was the XIV-Air concept. A much more convincing take on the convertible crossover than the likes of the axed Murano CrossCabriolet or Range Rover Evoque Convertible, the XIV's stronger, squarer proportions are opened up by a T-top. The concept includes a Smart-link infotainment setup and automated driving technologies, such as lane keeping assist and adaptive cruise control. A 1.6-liter engine drives the wheels through a 2WD/4WD system.

Land Rover sports up the Discovery

Land Rover used the Paris show to debut the new Discovery Sport, the first member of the new Discovery family and Land Rover-proclaimed "world's most versatile and capable premium compact SUV." The Discovery Sport wasn't necessarily the highlight of Land Rover's show collection (we preferred the black-and-white Defender), but it sure popped on the marque's off-road simulator wetted down by a drizzling rain curtain.

The new Sport is powered by a range of gas and diesel turbo four-cylinders, including a 240-bhp (179 kW) 2.0-liter gas unit. While the Discovery Sport is a family friendly 5+2 SUV, it maintains Land Rover's emphasis on off-road utility, with 25/31/21 approach/departure/breakover angles, Terrain Response technology, and 600-mm wading capabilities. You can read more about it in our in-depth preview.

BMW premieres the second-generation X6

Part SUV, part fastback sedan, not convincingly either one, the BMW X6 has nonetheless carved out a nice little niche for itself in the crossover segment, selling around 260,000 units since its 2008 launch. The second generation of BMW's "sports activity coupe" has a more athletic look with broadened muscles and emphasized aerodynamic features. The big news is the addition of a rear-wheel-drive sDrive variant to go along with the xDrive AWD models. US X6 models are equipped with 300-hp 3.0-liter TwinPower Turbo inline-six and 445-hp 4.4-liter TwinPower Turbo V8 engine options, both working with BMW's eight-speed Steptronic transmission. The 2015 X6, which can be enhanced with the addition of an M Sport package, will hit the US market later this year starting at $60,550 after destination fee.

Microcar sends the SUV to the shrink machine

The Fiat 500X was the big news in the minicar utility vehicle segment, but we kind of preferred the M.GO Highland from French marque Microcar. Specifically, we liked the Highland that was all decked out with a roof basket, off-road lighting and winch. We're not so sure that we'd venture out into hot, hellish backcountry in such a micro utility vehicle, but its "shrink ray-zapped Land Rover" look was a cool change of pace at the show. According to Microcar's Austrian website, the tiny Highland is powered by buyer's choice of several two-cylinder diesel engine options with around 0.5 L of displacement.

Venturi showcases different styles of off-roaders

While the lion's share of adventure vehicles and concepts at the Paris Motor Show were of the gas/diesel-engined SUV variety, French company Venturi showed a different side of off-road adventure. The 407-hp (303 kW) all-electric America dune buggy was one such vehicle, and the remainder of its booth highlighted a multifaceted, global approach to vehicular adventure. Venturi has undertaken challenges in some of the world's most demanding locales, including the Bonneville Salt Flats, Africa and Antarctica.

Hanging from one of the booth walls, Venturi had its VBB-3, a 3,000-hp (2,237 kW) electric land speed record streamliner that just set a new world record in the electrics over 3.5 tons category. Venturi's Antarctica polar rover didn't appear within those walls, but the picture of it there piqued our interest enough to check it out. A very different type of off-road adventurer, the Antarctica is a tracked electric vehicle designed to take on the extreme conditions of the southernmost continent. The twin-motor vessel is being developed as a means of emissions-free scientific research transport. According to Venturi's website, it will be tested in a cold region of Europe before being deployed in Antarctica in 2015.

We've included photos of these vehicles and a variety of others in our gallery.

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