10 Highlights of This Year’s Geneva Motor Show
By Thomas Bey
Auto shows span the planet throughout the year, but they’re fundamentally similar. Manufacturers show off their best new models and often reveal concept cars to showcase future technology and design trends. Enthusiasts embrace it all, whether they’re seriously in the market or just want to see their dream cars in person (often with fashion models posing alongside). Cameras click endlessly. Kids climb all over the cars while corporate staff look on uneasily. Good times.
Yet for all the similarities, Geneva’s Motor Show is a standout. Beyond the sheer magnitude of the venue, this is one of the most critical events to automakers and tuners. They go all out to ensure their cars are well-received by the media and the public. With so many elements and personalities under Palexpo’s roof, the event itself takes on a vibe just as interesting as the cars within it. If you missed out, check out our impressions of the Geneva Motor Show highlights.
10. Preview Night
Some Geneva Motor Show highlights happen in advance of the show itself. Before the typical auto show opens to the public, journalists get the run of the place. And before that, automakers host their own offsite events. These invitation-only pre-parties are like runway modeling shows, only with cars as the stars, interspersed with comments from corporate execs. Guests then attempt a delicate balance of interviews, hors d’oeuvre indulgence, camera work, note taking and networking. Factor in the element of location and you begin to wonder if the Motor Show will be anticlimactic. Fortunately, it isn’t.
9. The Italian Job (with English Subtitles)
A perennial Geneva Motor Show highlight is seeing the marques absent at home. Take Lancia, for example. With word of a new Stratos concept vehicle in development, we were hoping for a peek at the car, despite no official mention in press material. Turned out they weren’t lying. But one vehicle present, the Lancia Voyager, looked suspiciously similar to an American mainstay. Upon closer inspection and quick check of the VIN (built in Canada), suspicions were confirmed: it was a Chrysler in an Italian suit.
8. Ferrari Furor
That’s not what the Ferrari FF name means (it’s shorthand for Ferrari Four). Still, the anticipated $300,000 successor to the 612 Scaglietti is no less controversial. Like the 612, the all-wheel drive FF has a V-12 under the hood, seats four surprisingly well in its sumptuous cabin and has polarizing style outside. Most of the grumbling is directed at its derriere, as it’s somewhat of a hunched hatchback. We happen to like it and find it more appealing than the California’s tail (though we’d still opt for a 458 Italia or 599 GTB Fiorano, given a very generous credit line). With a wait list already at 18 months, FF certainly doesn’t mean Ferrari Flop.
7. Ice Fetish
Extreme climate testing is part and parcel of vehicle and component development, but ice capades have been unusually public lately. You’ll recall Mitsubishi’s ad campaign showing Outlanders flung around on ice in pursuit of world records. Interesting, but not the stuff of Geneva Motor Show highlights. That honor would be Bentley’s, as they showed off the Continental Supersports Convertible that rally racer Juha Kankkunen took up to 205.48 mph across a frozen Finnish bay earlier this year. In turn, the record-setting feat was commemorated with the ISR edition, of which only 100 are being produced. An Audi RS6 promptly shot to 206.05 mph on ice in Finland a month later, though it wasn’t a case of Volkswagen Group-sibling rivalry; Nokian Tires conducted that event.
6. Paint it, Matte
Here’s a Geneva Motor Show highlight that was dull. Matte-finish cars aren’t new; it’s an import tuner trend with roots in postwar American hot rods– the latter recreated today as “rat rods.” High-end automakers are catching on, so now we have “ratatouille rods.” Alfa Romeo, BMW, Maserati, Mercedes-Benz and others featured cars painted this way in Geneva. Sometimes it played, other times it failed. There’s no certain car or color for which it’s a perfect match, but standing out is pretty much guaranteed. Whether it expands as an option on US-bound models remains to be seen. We can only hope it’s never made for minivans.
5. Tuners Mess with Perfection
Drivers don’t commission tuners to mute their high-end rides. They go for even greater exclusivity and/or performance; we get it. Sometimes it works great, as was the case with Novitec’s Ferraris. But there comes a point when the whole thing goes Dr. Moreau-like down a slippery slope of tampering in the automotive gods’ domain. The Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG (pictured here) seemed to be the official overkill specimen at Geneva, making us cringe far too often. Call us sentimental, but we don’t see the iconic 300SL Gullwing’s spirit carried through in pink and excessive carbon fiber bodywork.
4. Concepts and Supercars Thriving
Major auto shows like Geneva are a kind of litmus test for the auto industry’s overall mood. Judging by the bold concept cars shown, optimism appears alive and well. BMW’s Vision ConnectedDrive Concept suggests efficiency and driving pleasure can play well together. Rolls-Royce’s electric 102EX Concept assures us ultimate luxury won‘t become extinct. As for Renault’s Captur Concept, it just reminds us the French always have a feel for the far-out.
Supercars were just as plentiful, another good sign of automakers‘ confidence. Not to be outdone by the aforementioned Bugatti, Ferrari and Lamborghini; Geneva Motor Show highlights included debuts of the Gumpert Tornante, Koenigsegg Agera R and Pagani Huayra–plus it gave us a chance to hear the official pronunciations of each.
3. The Italian Job, part II (still with English Subtitles)
Last decade’s Jaguar X-Type sedan and wagon failed to topple Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class sales. Is it time for another go? Jaguar’s parent Tata Group Motors thinks it’s at least worth consideration and had Italy’s Bertone develop their take on a new contender. Known as the Bertone Jaguar B99 Concept, the production philosophy would be about lower volume and higher luxury than German rivals. It also digresses somewhat from the design philosophy in Ian Callum’s XJ and XF treatments, to which we’re admittedly partial. Time–and especially, public feedback–will tell whether this Jag joins the (pride).
2. Happy Anniversary, Jaguar
Far less controversial than the Bertone Jaguar B99 Concept was the Jaguar XK XKR-S (pictured, top of page), with the original E-Type Coupe nearby. And we do mean the original; it was the actual car revealed here in 1961. Fifty years later, the XKE still entices and deserves to be on enthusiasts’ must-drive bucket lists. Fittingly, we spotted several E-Types slinking through Geneva traffic later that day participating in a rally. In that respect, it was a two-time Geneva Motor Show highlight.
1. VW Group Looks Forward and Back
The Volkswagen Group was firing on all cylinders, giving us plenty of Geneva Motor Show highlights. Audi’s A3 Concept looked great as a sedan. Bentley’s aforementioned Continental Supersports ISR was as cool as the ice it crossed. Bugatti displayed three Veyrons, which was quietly stunning in its own right. Lamborghini was also stunning, though not quiet, with its Aventador debut. A recreation of Ferdinand Porsche’s 1900 Semper Vivus gas/electric hybrid complemented the marque’s newest, the Panamera S Hybrid (both pictured above); while the 911 Black Edition was a dignified finale for the 997 series. Seeing US-absent car brands Seats and Skodas in person was a treat as well. Last but not least, Volkswagen debuted the next-generation Tiguan and added to our wish list with its Bulli Concept; channeling Microbus spirit and style without being cutesy or too retro.