This year’s Joburg Motor Show had no choice but to be brilliant. After starving for three years, I, along with every other petrol head in the country, had been longing for another show. Being postponed last year thanks to the FIFA World Cup, 2011 has been a big year for the local motor industry. And not least because of what had happened between this year’s show and that of 2008.

Back then, everyone was going green and having a last “hurrah” for the kind of cars that make our spines tingle. Forthcoming legislation would render cars like the insane twin-turbo V10-engined Audi RS6 or the Mercedes-Benz SL65 AMG Black Series redundant, unless something could be done to make the run-of-the-mill volume sellers more efficient. Stuff like the VW Golf BlueMotion of today.

Now, three years down the line and after the recession, incredible new technology has given the world a host of super-economical volume sellers, a host of hybrids and futuristic electric cars that are supposedly set to save the planet. And, thankfully, we are set to receive much of this greenery, including the likes of the new Nissan Leaf (the first all-electric car that will be sold in SA) and the forthcoming BMW 5 Series ActiveHybrid.

But what about the mean, tyre-shredding machines? Well they aren’t going anywhere, and the presence of the all-new BMW M5, Audi’s R8 V10 GT and the new Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG was testament to how manufacturers have been able to produce some incredibly powerful engines recently, which offer efficiency credentials even your food blender can’t.

What was also rather special to see was how the concepts we saw back in 2008 have come to life in their near-carbon-copy production models. The Chevy Beat is gracing our roads now as the new Spark, and the Orlando concept is now also available, albeit a bit less futuristically designed. Perhaps most importantly, the outlandish Land Rover LRX concept has gracefully been revealed as the new Range Rover Evoque, which will be available on the market very soon.

As the 2011 show went on though, each manufacturer had something special in store. The two dedicated media days were the definition of “hectic” and with over 35 launches to attend, we sure had our tasks cut out for us. I even commandeered a Segway i2 for the event, which was not only a great way to save my weary legs from the pain of walking around for two days straight, but also a fantastic experience. It’s quite a strange phenomenon, being able to stand on a two-wheeled platform that doesn’t fall over, and which responds to your body’s every move.

But of course, the launches were what we had been looking forward to all year. Highlights were frequent and many, so I will only mention a few best here. Along with an eye-catching Johnny Depp lookalike, Audi exhibited their e-tron concept as well as the just-launched RS3. BMW’s 1M was there too, along with the new 1 Series, but the show-stopper was definitely the amazing i8 Concept (maybe we’ll catch this one in production form at the 2013 show?).

The GM stand was abuzz with the new Chevy Sonic (about to be launched), Opel’s Astra GTC and new Meriva models and the new Chevy Utility (replacement for the Corsa Ute). The Chevy Miray concept was the most striking car at the show though, and looks like it’s straight out of TRON.

Citroën showed off their new DS5 and DS3 Racing while Fiat had the new Punto on display, along with their Abarth performance brand. Ford brought the new Focus ST and Kuga to show us, as well as the all-new Ranger. Mazda’s new bakkie was also there, in the form of the striking new BT-50.

The Honda stand was large thanks to the ASIMO humanoid robot show, but the new Civic hatch and sedan models were a great distraction from it. A modified CR-Z was also on the stand, along with the other hybrids in the Honda range. Hyundai had their arresting Veloster on a turntable and Kia was proud to show us the forthcoming Optima and new Rio. The Jaguar stand showed off the new XKRS and XFR while the new Range Rover Evoque took a pink centre stage next door.

Lexus’ new GS and LFA were on show alongside the new CT200h and IS350, and McLaren had the only proper exotic stand at the show, with their MP4-12C supercar and Lewis Hamilton’s F1 racer. MINI brought us the new Coupe and the interesting Paceman concept, while MG exhibited their new MG6 Turbo, which is set to relaunch the brand internationally. Mercedes-Benz also had the amazing A-Class Concept on show, as well as the gorgeous SLS Roadster and the new C63 AMG Coupe.

The new Juke was next to the Leaf on Nissan’s stand, while Peugeot’s new 508 and facelifted 308 range accompanied the HR1 concept. Subaru showed their new XV crossover and a hybrid concept, and Toyota’s new Yaris was on display, with the FT-86 concept making scheduled appearances throughout the show.

Volkswagen’s stand was massively busy, with a host of new products including the new Beetle, Golf Cabriolet and a face-lifted Tiguan, along with the Polo R and the Go! concept. Suzuki had the most interesting stand however, with an amazing outdoor ensemble of urban adventure zones. The new Kizashi sport was on proud display, as well as the stunning Swift S-Concept, Splash and SX4 Sedan models.

After three full days of launches, lunches and laughs, this year’s Joburg Motor Show over delivered in many respects. If you missed it I urge you to make plans to get to the next one in 2013 – what a pity we have to wait another two years for it though.

Click here to view our exclusive image gallery of the highlights of the 2011 Johannesburg International Motor Show.

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