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German luxury in the spotlight at Frankfurt car show

When it comes to the Frankfurt Motor Show, German luxury brands spare no effort to make a splash. Just for the show, which opens on Thursday, BMW is building a large test track, and Audi is putting up an entire temporary building. And these companies will have plenty of major redesigns to show off.

"The German automakers will show off their wares in the grandest setting possible in an effort to one-up their rivals and neighbors," said analyst Tim Urquhart of IHS Automotive.

What they're showing off will include BMW's redesigns of its biggest sedan and smallest SUV. Audi will debut a makeover of its strong-selling A4 small sedan. And Mercedes-Benz will have a redesign of its C-class coupe.

Among other brands, Bentley and Rolls Royce -- both German-owned -- will introduce elegant but low-volume new models. Bentley will show the Bentayaga SUV (pictured above). And Rolls will display a new convertible called the Dawn.

Here's a closer look at the redesigns and new models from the Germans (including subsidiaries) and from one Japanese carmaker:

Audi. One of Audi's entry-level models, the A4, gets a complete redesign. The new A4 uses a mechanical system from Volkswagen, its corporate parent. The new version is longer outside but weighs less due to partial use of aluminum. It's roomier in the interior and has several options for higher-MPG engines.

Audi also will show a concept version of the Q6 e-tron, an electric car that eventually may compete against the Tesla Model X.

BMW. The big, flagship 7-Series sedan has had a makeover. It's slightly longer but nearly 300 pounds lighter. New technology includes a touchscreen that also responds to hand gestures and an advanced parking assist system.

BMW 740i BMW

Mercedes-Benz. Mercedes will showcase the introduction of the convertible version of its top-of-the-line S-class. Known as the Cabriolet model, it will feature a 5.5-liter turbo V-8 in the S63 version. The company says this convertible will go from zero to 60 MPH in 3.9 seconds.

At the lower end, Mercedes has updated its C-class coupe. With restyled lines and swept-back headlights, it will be on the market in 2016.

Two legendary British names now under German ownership will also generate some excitement with completely new models. Bentley, a subsidiary of Volkswagen, is debuting its Bentayaga SUV. Bentley already has pre-orders for 4,000 of them, according to IHS Automotive.

Rolls Royce. The BMW subsidiary is introducing its Dawn convertible. The Dawn is in the same design family as the Wraith sedan and will be powered by a 6.6-liter V-12 engine.

Among companies with no German connection, Lexus will be on hand with its redesigned RX, the fourth generation of its big SUV.

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