There are physically bigger shows (Frankfurt and its roller-skate-friendly hall sizes for instance) and there are shows that arguably have more influence (Beijing probably puts more cars in front of more real customers these days) but there is no other motor show quite so significant as Geneva. All of the major European, American and Asian car makers come to the show, all of them bringing the latest, greatest and most headline-worthy new models to show off on supposedly neutral territory (Switzerland has no motor industry of its own, unless you count bonker couachbuilder Rinnspeed).
Press day kicks off on Tuesday morning, at which point the grey-suited car industry execs will suddenly take on the mien of a group of excitable under-twelves, boosted up on Coco Pops and Red Bull, leaping and shouting en masse to try and grab your attention. To help, here's a stand-by-stand guide of what we know, think and suspect will be at Europe's premiere motor show…
Not much for Alfa to shout about yet, but there is the faint chance that the Italians could pull a fast one and show us something – whether production or concept version – of the upcoming new rear-wheel-drive Giulia saloon. Will they, won’t they? We’ll find out for sure tomorrow morning but if not, it’s going to be something of a bare stand for Alfa – just the 4C Spider (which we’ve already seen) and the Collezione version of the Giulietta hatchback which includes some upgraded interior options and the Q2 electronic differential.
Track cars have become something of an industry obsession, with high-end car makers vying to impress an ever-growing list of wealthy clients who want the ultimate on-track experience from their cars. Aston Martin will show off two cars that operate at opposite ends of this spectrum. The Vantage GT3 is an amped-up version of the existing V12 Vantage coupe, boosted to 592hp and featuring more hard-core suspension and an outré body-kit. It's a road car that you can hoon on the track, which isn't the case for the new Vulcan. Named after the Roman god of fire (or the late, lamented Leonard Nimoy's iconic Mr Spock, or a 1960s Cold War nuclear bomber, – take your pick) the Vulcan is strictly for on-track use only, just 24 will be made and all will feature full carbon construction and a massive 800hp from its 7.0-litre V12. Circa €3-million to you, sir…
Audi always makes a big splash at Geneva and this year it's bringing the new R8 supercar to wow the crowds. Evolutionary it may be in looks, but it's lighter, faster and now comes only in V10 from with wither 540hp or 610hp and, of course, standard quattro four wheel drive. All-electric e-Tron version may also put in an appearance. The 367hp RS3 Sportback hot hatch will also take a bow, as will a second version of the gorgeous Prologue concept car, now expected from two-door coupe into a sleek five-door Avant. A preview of the new A9 range-topper, but also a good hint as to how the new A6 and A4 will look.
We should get to see the full production version of Bentley’s oft-controversial SUV, the Bentyaga at Geneva, although the Anglo-German firm is staying tight-lipped on the prospect of an unveiling for now. Definitely at the show is a facelift for the massively successful Continental GT coupe, which gets slightly sleeker styling and a cylinder-on-demand fuel-saving system for tis massive 6.0-litre W12 engine. We will also see a concept version of Bentley’s proposed ‘entry-level’ model – a smaller two-seater set to compete with Assent’s Vantage and Porsche’s 911.
Lots pf production debuts for BMW at the show, starting with the seven-seat version of the 2 Series Active Tourer, a facelift for the 6 Series and the 1 Series and the addition of the 1.5-litre three-cylinder diesel and petrol engines for the 2 Series. The updated 3 Series is also likely to appear, as well as the M4 Coupe with power-and-economy-boosting water-injection for its mighty 3.0-litre turbo engine.
A real oddity this – Borgward was an often innovative but equally often overlooked German car maker which went bust in 1963. Now, it's being relaunched with an all-new model that, according to Christian Borgward, the grandson of the founder, "ncorporates the values and cutting-edge technologies that Borgward stood for, combined with our ambition, drive and commitment to succeed, I believe we are now perfectly placed to open up this new chapter in Borgward's history." Odd but interesting.
A farewell to the semi-legendary Veyron at Geneva; the last of 450 built has been sold so the La Finale version on the stand will (probably) be the last ever. Will we get a peep at the future of Bugatti, and its proposed 1,500hp hybrid successor to the Veyron? Perhaps…
Citroën's biggest task will be to convince us that its DS luxury brand can stand apart as its own marque. It already does so in China but will European buyers be convinced? A heavily facelifted DS5 hatchback will kick off the process in Geneva, featuring the new range of PSA Group's BlueHDI diesel engines. Elsewhere on the stand will be a big facelift for the sensible-socks Berlingo van-based MPV, which will also get a MacGyver-ish rugged SUV concept version called the Mountain Vibe.
The biggest budget brand in Europe will celebrate its 10th anniversary under Renault's ownership with a concept, which will presumably be used to give us a clue as to the future styling of its model range. What's the betting it's most square and sensible?
It's going to be a supercar-heavy show this year at Geneva, as all of the major car makers at last exit the play-if-safe panic rooms they entered as the recession descended. With the global gloom more or less lifted, everyone's back to making massive-horsepower hip-high wedges. Ferrari will attract some serious attention for its 458 replacement, the 488 GTB. Now with turbo power (a twin-turbo 3.9-litre V8 with 670hp) and arguably even better looks, this will be benchmark for the rest of the supercar brigade to match.
Will we see any evidence of Fiat's expansion plans? A new Punto hatch perhaps? It's possible, because all Fiat has confirmed it will bring to Geneva so far is a 50o Vintage edition that looks ever-more retro with baby-blue paint and lots of contrasting white bits. And, wait for it, alloys that look like proper old-school hubcaps.
Yup, even Ford is getting in on the snake-hipped supercar game at Geneva '15. The astonishing looking GT with which it shocked the crowds at Detroit earlier this year will cross the Atlantic, and Ford may well use Geneva to confirm its worst-kept secret – that the GT will form the basis of a return to the Le Mans 24hrs for the Blue Oval, which dominated the famous race in the late sixties. With a more European bent, it's also showing off the 323hp, 4wd Focus RS, a car which rather surprisingly won't have the hot-hatch limelight all to itself at the show…
…because it will have to contend, both in the show and on the road, with Honda's new Civic Type-R. Sticking with front-wheel-drive, Honda has now confirmed that the hottest-ever Civic will develop a whopping 310hp from its new 2.0-litre turbo engine. If you happen to have a handy Autobahn, it will also top 270kmh. Wild styling comes, not surprisingly, as standard. It's a sports-heavy show for Honda too, on the eve of its F1 return with McLaren, with a first European showing of the gorgeous (and impressively high-tech) new NSX, plus rather more practical debuts of the new HR-V crossover and the new Jazz supermini.
Hyundai is in the midst of something of a new model blitz, with facelifts of the i40 and i30 making their public debuts at the show (including a 190hp hot-hatch version of the i30) plus a three-door 'coupe' version of the i20. In terms of all-new models, we'll also get our first look at the Tuscon, the replacement for the strong-selling ix35 SUV.
Will we see some sign of Jeep's gestating Range Rover competitor, the Grand Wagoneer? If not, there will be a concept-ish version of the Renegade showing off Jeep's new infotainment system and some special edition Wranglers to tide us over.
The big XJ saloon gets a mild facelift and an update, which is all Jaguar has confirmed for Geneva so far. However, an all-new, all-aluminium XF is in the works and it's unlikely that Jag will let Geneva pass by without some showing of a concept or preview of its all-important 5 Series rival. Even if that doesn't show up, the current XF will get a final hurrah with an R-Sport Black edition.
Hyundai's sportier sister brand is using Geneva to show off its new 1.0-litre 120hp three-cylinder petrol turbo, the engine which it hopes will tempt buyers away from more expensive-to-build diesels when it goes on sale in the Cee'd later this year. The Cee'd is also getting an update with gently revised styling inside and out, while the Sportspace concept is a clear look at how the next Optima saloon will be styled, as well as the fact that it will have an estate version for the first time.
Land Rover's big Geneva debut is the heavily facelifts Evoque, which gets a new front end, updated interior (with the slick new InControl infotainment system) and, most importantly, the new Ingenium 2.0-litre diesel four-cylinder engine which dramatically cuts the car's Co2 emissions and fuel consumption. The same unit has just averaged 65mpg in a Jaguar publicity event driving a new XE saloon from London to Berlin, so it should prove much more economical than the Evoque's current 2.2-litre diesel. There will also be a sighting of the somewhat controversial Evoque convertible, which Land Rover has today officially confirmed is going into production.
Let Ferrari, Audi and Ford get away with stealing all the Geneva limelight? No, that's not the Lamborghini way. Take the existing V12 Aventador supercar, boost its power to a massive 760hp, strip around 100kg of weight out of it and slap an iconic SV badge on the back? Yes, that's the Lamborghini way.
Lexus is planning a rival for the likes of the Mini and Audi A1 and will kick off the process with the LF-SA concept car. To be honest, the SA looks quite extreme – more moon buggy than small hatch – so it could be both a hint at the look of a small Lexus, and also a look towards a potential new small crossover to sit below the NX in the Lexus range. Meanwhile, the hot 470hp GS-F sports saloon with its V8 petrol engine will get its first European outing.
Lotus seems on the road to recovery at the moment, under the leadership of former Peugeot boss Jean-Marc Gales. It's bringing a heavily updated Evora 2+2 sportscar to Geneva, now with a 400hp version of its Toyota-sourced supercharged V6 engine. There are also rumours of a mystery new Lotus arriving at the show. A new Elise? A production version of the oft-promised new Esprit? Or, oddest of all, an actual Lotus crossover? Such a car has been rumoured…
Yet more wedge-shaped exotica from Woking. McLaren is celebrating the 20th anniversary of its epochal Le Mans 24hrs win with three cars – a 650S painted to look like the winning F1 GTR of 1995, a new 675LT with a longer-rear deck, less weight and more power than the 650S which pays homage to the '97 F1 GTR long tail and a GTR version of the P1, designed for track use only and featuring a a full 1,000hp from its V8 hybrid drivetrain. It's even been painted to echo the Harrods-sponsored F1 GTR that Derek Bell drove at Le Mans in 1995.
Mazda's big news at the show will be a European debut for its handsome new CX-3 compact crossover, a rival to the Nissan Juke and Renault Captur. It will also be showing off updated versions of the 6 saloon and CX-5 SUV, plus bringing the new MX-5 to Europe for the first time.
You want luxury? Mercedes can give you the massive, pillow-filled S600 Maybach Pullman – all 5.4-metres of it and 1st Class train-style four-facing seats in the rear. You want fast? How about the GT3 race-spec Mercedes-AMG GT, all 600-odd-hp of it and, with its retro-fifties grille and road-going version to give the Porsche 911 GT3 a sound thrashing. You want rugged? How about the G500 4x42 – a tall, pretty-much-indestructible version of the long-lived G-Wagen that uses AMG's 4.0-litre turbo V8 engine and many components from the nutter-spec six-wheel-drive AMG63 6x6.
The XR PHEV II concept is where Mitsubishi is going with the next-generation ASX crossover; sharper looking, hopefully sharper to drive and featuring a version of the Outlander's critically-acclaimed plugin hybrid system that develops 163hp and emits just 40g/km of Co2.
Morgan will bring the third-generation of its melding of classic wood-and-brass construction mixed with modern aerospace and lightweight aluminium techniques to the show – it’ll be displaying its new Aero 8, which hitherto has used BMW’s 4.4-litre V8 engine. Will it switch to the M3’s new 3.0-litre twin-turbo engine? If it does, it also seems to have even more thirties styling, with a swooping rear deck that brings to mind classic Cords and Delages.
Opposite ends of the scale from Nissan – the GTR-LM race car that will take it back to the front rank at the Le Mans 24hrs this year, and features a massively powerful V6 hybrid engine and, wait for it, front wheel drive! Plus, the Sway, a sharp-looking concept car that gives us a good idea of what the new Micra, due next year, will look like. It’s so different from the current and previous Micras that the rumour is Nissan will drop that long-used name.
Fast and sensible from Opel at Geneva; the new 207hp Corsa OPC hot hatch will make its debut at Geneva, as will the Karl – Opel's new city car which takes on the likes of the Hyundai i10 and VW Up later this year. Potentially rather more important than either car is the official European arrival of OnStar, GM's fully-linked-up infotainment and telematics system.
Peugeot’s strong-selling 208 supermini gets a revamp for Geneva, with mildly updated styling on the outside and improved cabin quality within. There’s also a new GT version for those who want GTI looks without the cost or insurance loading, and a hotter GTI by Peugeot Sport, which adds the 30th Anniversary GTI’s firmer suspension and trick differential to the list.
Will we finally get to see the new Panamera, the car that threatens to make Porsche’s oft-derided four-door actually pretty? It’s possible, but definitely appearing are the hard-core 911 GT3 RS, which gets a whopping 500hp from its 4.0-litre flat-six and the new ultra-sporty Cayman GT4, which uses a 380hp flat-six and which has been tweaked and fettled by Porsche’s motorsports division. The 911’s new turbocharged flat-six range may also take a bow at the show.
Renault's big news for Geneva is its Kadjar crossover, the Qashqai rival that's actually based on the Qashqai itself and uses the same engines and oily bits. It's destined to become Renault's biggest seller. Slightly further down the sales list, but of great import to all true enthusiasts, is a revised RenaultSport Clio which gets updated suspension and engine. The Zoe electric car is also set for an update, which will hopefully include some extra range from its batteries, while we should also get to see a Playstation Gran Turismo-inspired Alpine concept which should give us an idea of the direction being taken by Renault's revived sporting brand.
Qoros could yet be the most important company you’ve never heard of. The Chinese-Israeli car maker has been quietly producing some better-than-decent cars of late, and while we’re still waiting for right-hand-drive talks to start, the 3 City SUV that will be shown in Geneva looks right on the money for those wanting a smart, affordable compact crossover.
We’re unlikely to see anything of Rolls’ recently-confirmed first-ever SUV (which is working under the code-name ‘Cullinan’ after the largest gem-quality diamond ever found) at the show, but there will be the Serenity concept – a Phantom-based one-off featuring a fully-silk-lined cabin with restful colour schemes. Should provide a bit of relief from motor show hustle and bustle… There’ll also be a convertible version of the Wraith coupe.
It's the big one for Seat – its CUV (or, in plain English, its crossover rival to the Qashqai) is finally here and will be seen for the first time at Geneva. Don't expect a final production version, it's most likely to be shown as a thinly disguised concept, but it won't be far away from what will land in dealerships at the end of this year.
Will Skoda bring a concept version of the new Yeti along? The new Yeti, after all, shares all of its components with the Seat CUV, so the two will have been developed in tandem. Or will the VW overlords proclaim that this is Seat's turn? Either way, Skoda will have its handsome new Superb and a sportier (230hp plus clever front diff from the Golf GTI Performance Pack) Octavia RS to show off, as well as the sporty-looking (but not driving) Fabia Monte Carlo.
Ssangyong's Tivoli could be a turning point for the under-performing Korean brand. It's a new compact crossover, a rival to the likes of Kia's Soul (from which it cribs more than a little bit of styling) and the Nissan Juke. It's probably the best-looking Ssangyong yet, so if that can be backed up with a decent interior and competitive engine, the Tivoli could yet need to be reckoned with.
What the heck is a Levorg? It's basically an Impreza-based estate (or Sports Tourer if you will) and Subaru will be bringing it along to Geneva. Why not just call it Impreza Sports Tourer? Beats us… The rather handsome new Outback 4x4 crossover will also put in an appearance and there's a mild update for the Forester SUV.
Having gotten over its brake-pedal recall for the recently launched Celerio, Suzuki will be casting a more hopeful eye to the future with two concepts – the iK-2 small hatch, which looks very much like a tilt at a next-generation Swift and the iM-4 SUV, which looks to us as if it could finally be a replacement for the late and mostly lamented Jimny.
Toyota has been very sotto voce about its Geneva plans thus far. As far as we know, all that the still-world's-number-one car maker will bring to Switzerland are facelifted versions of the Avensis and Auris. Both get new engines (with the BMW-sourced 1.6 diesel and a new 1.2-litre turbo petrol being the most significant additions) and revised suspension and cabins that are supposed to give them the tools to take on fresher opposition. Will we see something a little more dramatic? We just don't know, yet…
Keen to take that No.1 title away from Toyota, VW will have a busy Geneva. There will be the Golf GTD estate (sadly not due to come to these shores), a new Caddy van and a high-riding, 4WD version of the Passat called Alltrack, There’s also the all-new Touran MPV and an update for the larger Sharan seven-seater (another VW destined not to come to Ireland). There’s also a very strong likelihood that we’ll see a concept version of the new Passat-based CC four-door-coupe, as well as a possible reveal of the new Tiguan SUV.
Volvo will of course be making a big noise about its all-important new XC90, which goes on sale very shortly, while it will also be giving European debuts to the XC60 saloon and estate with their high-riding suspension and all-wheel-drive. But what of word of the new V90 estate and S90 saloon? Volvo’s got its hands full with XC90 work at the moment, but it’s possible we might see something of those cars.