Geneva motor show 2015: Lunchtime roundup

Time for a breather and a catch up at Europe’s most important motor show

 

Right, this is as good a time as any to stop, nibble the corner of a sandwich and take stock of what we’ve seen and what we know so far at the Geneva motor show.

Wow.

I’ll say that again; wow.

You see, since the financial crisis of 2008, we’ve become used to major international motor shows being rather stolid affairs, all about hybrids, batteries and corporate-social responsibility. Well, not this year. In 2015, the denizens of Geneva seem to have stepped through a time-tunnel and come out somewhere in the seventies, such is the profusion of high-end, high power supercars and concepts on display.

Swedish nutterists Koenigsegg may have taken the high-power headline with the Regera hybrid supercar and it’s staggering 1,782hp output but the odd fact is that this insane piece of vehicular theatre has been a mere sideshow.

I predicted yesterday that Ferrari’s 488 GTB (a turbocharged replacement for the 458) would take the majority of the Geneva headlines but I was wrong – in fact the bulk of the attention has been on two concepts, both with an Anglo-German flavour.

Bentley was first out of the traps last night, with the EXP10 Speed 6 concept. A light, lithe and low tow-seater, it’s the anthesis of the firm’s forthcoming big and bulky Bentayga 4x4 but it’s a preview of where Bentley will go next. Right down the neck of the Aston Martin DB9 and Ferrari California it seems. The concept, with its striking styling and gorgeous, high-tech interior, got an almost universal thumbs up. Engines will apparently range from the current 4.0-litre turbo V8 down to possibly a turbo V6. It’s also likely to share its structure with a new Porsche coupe which is already in absentia being referred to as a new 928.

Aston Martin was next spring a big surprise. Its DBX concept is a preview of the company’s first ever SUV, a market that it has notably thus far missed out on. Part coupe, part 4x4, the DBX is also all-electric; powered by a stack of lithium ion batteries and features such other high-tech add-ons as drive-by-wire steering. For a small company, these are big ideas and it seems to suggest that Aston’s relationship with Mercedes will become ever closer.

It’s amazing to think of it but such incredible high-end cars as Lamborghini’s new Aventador SV and Porsche’s latest 911 GT3 RS have already been somewhat sidelined by these two attention grabbers. In any other year, these would be the poster boys.

The Aventador is a classic Lamborghini – take what’s there and make it faster and louder. Weight goes down by 50kg while power from the classic naturally aspirated V12 engine climbs to a whopping 740hp.

There’s more proof over at Porsche that you don’t need turbos for more power. The 911 GT3 RS features a 4.0-litre flat-six engine developing 500hp, making it the most powerful non-turbo 911 of all time. It could also be the last non-turbo 911 – next year, Porsche’s iconic sports car moves to all-turbo engines in the interests of efficiency, so this track-focused road-rocket could well be the last hurrah for a 911 that breathes only through its air filter.

Also flying the natural aspiration flag is dear old Morgan, which has totally reworked its Aero 8 sports car to feature new styling (and a removable hard-top which it refers to as a ‘fighter cockpit’ roof) plus a revised interior which features such un-Morgan things as an infotainment system. Power still comes from a grumbling, crackling BMW 4.8-litre V8.

Elsewhere, and in possibly more sensible frames of mind, the plugin hybrid once again was king. Audi showed us a big Q7 e-Tron which combines diesel and electric power for an impressive claimed 50g/km of Co2, while Mitsubishi claimed 40g/km for its plugin hybrid XR PHEV II concept (for which read; the new ASX) and its 160hp drivetrain.

Nissan has a stirking looking small car concept, called the Sway on its stand which apparently is the new Micra, due in 2016, while Renault’s Kadjar crossover aims to out-Qashqai the Qashqai by using the chassis and engines from, erm, the Qashqai. Still, it’s a handsome looking thing and will almost certainly become Renault’s best-selling car when it goes on sale later this year. Renault also announced a more powerful RenaultSport Clio hot hatch and more range for its Zoe electric car – up from around 200km to a more useful 250km.

Speaking of compact crossovers, Mazda also brought along its new CX-3 to the show, which will take on the likes of the Nissan Juke and Peugeot 2008. Seat also at last showed that the likes of the Qashqai will not have things all its own way – it showed a striking new crossover concept called the 20V20 which will go on sale next year. It’s expected to be just the first of a range of Seat crossovers as the Spanish brand works its way back to profitability.

Hardly sensible but certainly more attainable than an Aventador SV is Honda’s Civic Type-R. Following years of teasing and drip-feeding information, we finally go to find out that its has a whopping 310hp and can circulate the Nurburgring Nordschleife in less than eight minutes – staggeringly fast for a front-drive hatchback. Not only will it make a healthy foil to the new 323hp Ford Focus RS (making its European debut at the show alongside the astonishing Ford GT mid-engined supercar) but it also could be the tip of a Honda revival iceberg. It sat alongside the new NSX supercar on the stand, and just in front of the new HR-V compact crossover and an all-new Jazz supermini that’s even more spacious and practical than before. Honda’s F1 comeback may be proving troublesome so far, but it looks to at last be getting its on-road house properly in order, mixing exciting high performance models with sensible mass-appeal cars.

Over at Korean twins Hyundai and Kia there was, as ever, much to talk of. Kia’s Sportspace concept estate not only hints at a new Optima but also confirms that the Koreans can make a car of such beauty as to be worthy of Alfa Romeo. Hyundai’s new Tuscon brings much of the pleasantly brash, American style of the larger Santa Fe to a smaller segment, and was also used to preview a new diesel plugin hybrid setup and a beefier 48-volt electrical system. Hyundai also had facelifts of the i40, i30 and ix20 on display while Kia had a revised Cee’d with a new 1.0-litre turbo engine.

Electronics of course are taking up much talking space. While showing off the new Touran MPV and a concept that points towards a seriously sexy new Passat-based CC four-door coupe VW’s boss Martin Winterkorn called for a better European electric car infrastructure while saying that Apple getting into the car business would only be a good thing, as it would interest car-shunning youngsters.

Meanwhile Opel, alongside its new Karl city car and a hot Corsa OPC, rolled out its European version of the US-centric OnStar connected infotainment system. Combining sat-nav, wifi, emergency assistance and entertainment in one package, OnStar (and systems like it) could eventually become a more important option to more buyers than a bigger engine or alloy wheels. It goes on sale in August.

Then it was back to the supercars. Aston Martin’s staggering 800hp Vulcan trackday special, McLaren’s 675 LongTail version of the 650S and a track-only 1,000hp P1 GTR (decked out in 1995 Harrods McLaren Le Mans colours). Ford dropped yet more hints that the GT supercar (hilariously referred to in Ferrari-swiping style as the LaFord on a big poster outside the main show hall) would go back to Le Mans in 2016 to celebrate the Blue Ovals’ first win there in 1966. Audi’s new R8 showed up with 610hp but not its ground-breaking all-electric e-Tron version which might have helped it gain some more column inches. Maserati meanwhile confirmed that it would introduce plugin-hybrid versions of the Ghibli and Quattroporte saloons and the upcoming Levante SUV. Oh and Ferrari launched some car called the 488 GTB.

That overshadowing of the 488 is just indicate of how big a show this Geneva event is. With the global car industry at last truly shaking off the shackles of recession, there is a cornucopia of performance and innovation on show that would have been impossible to even dream of in recent years. Put it this way – Bugatti’s announcement of the end of production of the amazing Veyron, and the fact that it’s working on 1,600hp successor, passed by with barely a mention. A compact Bentley and an electric off-road Aston Martin were just the tip of the excitement iceberg.

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