The 2016 Geneva motor show will give us some pretty big hints as to the rest of the motoring year to come. Kicking off on March 1st, it will be the first time that Volkswagen has been out in European public since the breaking of the diesel-gate scandal, so the reaction to its executives and its new models will be interesting to say the least. As a show, it will also probably be a pretty good litmus test as to how much the paying public still cares about electric and hybrid cars at a time when fuel is running at around €1 a litre. And it may just give us a hint as to how nervous car makers are for the immediate future of their order books. With so many wobbles and worries in the world economy (China, Brexit, Syria, Trump…) will the cars be bombastic or apologetic? Outgoing or insular? Whatever the answers (and follow-on questions) which lie in wait, here’s what we know so far of what’s going to star in the shadow of the Alps…
The big draw on the Alfa stand will be the reveal of the ‘cooking’ versions of the Giulia. We’ve seen the 500hp V6 Cloverleaf model already, but now we get to see the fleet-friendly diesels and petrols. And what excuses will Alfa now give for the model’s continued delays? It should have been on sale by now but reportedly failed crash tests have meant a return to the drawing board. There will also be a mild (very mild) facelift for the underrated Giulietta hatchback and we might just get a peek at Alfa’s upcoming first-ever SUV, the Stelvio.
Renault’s revived sports car brand will come to Geneva with its gorgeous Vision Concept, which looks as if the classic seventies A110 never left production, but just evolved, 911-style. Expect the full technical details (1.8 turbo engine, sub-5.0sec-0-100kmh run) and confirmation that this is in all but name the actual production model.
The new DB11 is Aston’s big spin of the roulette wheel - the replacement for its lynchpin DB9, the DB11 looks curvier and more classical, and packs a new 5.2-litre turbo V12 engine with a reported 600hp. Expect a super-luxury interior and plenty of carefully tucked-away Mercedes components (Mercedes-AMG now owns five percent of Aston) and, just possibly, word of an entry-level V8-engined version too.
Small on the outside, the Q2 crossover will be big news for Audi. While the world needs another small 4x4 like it needs a hole in the head, the Q2 will doubtless go on to be a huge seller for the company, and will likely spawn hot SQ2 and plugin e-Tron versions too. Alongside it will be the hot and fast RSQ3, the new S4 saloon and estate, a V6-engined version of the R8 sports car and a glimpse, most likely in concept form, of the next-generation A6.
The updated Mulsanne limo will star on Bentley’s stand, and it includes a 537hp, 1,100Nm (!) Speed model, still drawing power from a classical 6.75-litre turbo V8. There will also be tweaks to the Flying Spur saloon to show off, plus probably some news on the Bentayga 4x4 front - will we see diesel and hybrid versions in Geneva this year?
An early contender for star of the show, Bugatti's hyper-fast Veyron replacement, the Chiron, will finally be revealed. Signed off and paid for before the diesel scandal hit its VW parent firm, the Chiron could well be the fastest road car in history. Bugatti is thought to be targeting 1,500hp from a hybrid-boosted 8.0-litre, 16-cylinder engine and a top speed of 464kmh.
Lots of electricity on the BMW stand this year - not least thanks to the new plugin hybrid iPerformance lineup which has now expanded beyond the 330e and 225xe to include both X5 and 7 Series plugins. There'll also be the mighty V12 M760Li, a bright-red colour scheme option for the i8 hybrid supercar, a likely unveiling of the new Z4 sports car (to be called Z5 this time around) and, probably, a look at what's in store for the new 5 Series saloon.
Citroen & DS
Citroen will bring along its barmy e-Mehari electric convertible SUV (amazingly, it’s not a concept) as well as both production and concept versions of its SpaceTour van-based MPV. There’ll also be some special edition C4 Cactus models (including one made with sports wear company RipCurl) and you can expect to see some movement on the new model front for the luxury DS brand. We know that Citroen has a new C4 hatchback in the works, but it may want to keep the powder dry on that one until the Paris motor show in September.
Ferrari’s big news is the GTC4 Lusso, a major update of the existing FF model which retains its four-seat, four-wheel-drive layout (and it’s quasi-shooting-brake body) but which bumps up power to 690hp from its screaming 6.3-litre V12 engine.
Fiat will be getting back into the family car game with the all-new Tipo in Geneva. We've already seen the four-door saloon (and it's been impressive enough to already be picking up some awards) but this is the crucial-for-Europe reveal of the five-door hatchback model. The 124 Spider sports car will also be making its European debut and we can expect to see developments on the 500x front too with more versions and special editions.
While Ford has been making some big noises recently about becoming an app-based mobility solutions provider, it's still a car maker and in Geneva it'll be underlining its new commitment to 4x4s and SUVs. Alongside a heavily updated Kuga crossover, we can expect to see concept versions of either a jacked-up, 4x4 Mondeo estate (in the Audi Allroad style) or similar treatment for the Focus estate. Or possibly both. Expect to see a Ford Fiesta ST Plus too - not a full-on RS model, but a harder and faster hot Fiesta.
Honda's critical new Civic will make its European debut, in thinly-disguised concept form, in Geneva. Expect to see styling much-toned-down from the current model, as Honda looks to court more conservative buyers, with a lot of cues taken from the US-market Civic - for the first time in ages, both US and Euro Civics will share a common platform. The new Clarity fuel cell car, Honda's rival to Toyota's Mirai, will also be at Geneva.
Hyundai's big Geneva news is its three-way-split Ioniq hatchback, which you'll be able to buy as a hybrid, a plugin hybrid or a full electric car. Thanks to a six-speed dual-clutch transmission, Hyundai says the car is more driver-focused than a Toyota Prius, and it's targeting very low emissions - 0g/km for the all-electric model (of course, with a 255km one-charge range), 32g/km for the plugin and 79g/km for the hybrid.
Jaguar's big noise at the show will come with a literally big noise - it's the 575hp F-Type SVR, which can crack 330kmh and which should have enough acoustic power to bring the Geneva show house down, again literally. The F-Pace SUV will also be a show star again, finally about to go on sale, and we should see some hints as to what Jaguar has planned in the line of both electric cars (the E-Pace all-electric version of the F-Pace) and a replacement for the big XJ saloon.
It’s a major show for Jeep. The 4x4 brand has become a big global seller for its owner, Fiat, and is targeting an expansion to more than 2-million sales a year. While it’s going relatively well in Europe at the moment, it’s still a small market for Jeep compared to the US and its products often don’t get good critical reviews. Will that all change with this new model? It’s a Qashqai-sized crossover with family car running costs and the promise of some proper Jeep mud-plugging ability if you go for the Trailhawk 4x4 model. Probably to be called Compass or Patriot, will it be enough to convince European buyers that Jeep is a viable brand now?
In spite of its European successes, Kia is still often seen as a US-centric brand. Perhaps not any more after Geneva, as it will introduce a fuel-sipping hybrid (the Niro crossover, which shares its mechanical package with the Hyundai Ioniq) and the estate version of the rather good new Optima saloon, the SportsWagon. There'll be a plugin hybrid version of the Optima too and a look ahead to the next-generation Rio.
The Lambo brand may not be 100 years old, but its founder, Feruccio Lamborghini, would be if he were alive today. To celebrate his birthday, Lamborghini will build just 40 Centenario supercars - based on the Aventador, insanely fast and, even at more than €2-million a piece, already sold out. We should also get to see the production version of the Urus off-roader and it will be a chance to quiz new Lamborghini boss Stefano Domenicalli (yes, the former head of the Ferrari F1 team) on the future of the firm.
We’ve already seen the Lexus LC500h hybrid coupe at a pre-Geneva event, but it will be a star of the show nonetheless, what with its dramatic styling and low-carbon, high-grunt V6 hybrid powertrain. We should also get to hear more of Lexus’ plans for a big hydrogen fuel cell saloon to replace the current LS limo and potentially get to see what’s coming for the next-generation CT200h compact.
Maserati badly needs a hit right now. Strong early sales of its saloon lineup of Ghibli and Quattroporte have tailed off a lot and the revival of the great brand have stalled somewhat. Will a big SUV be the answer? Well, it worked for Porsche with the Cayenne, and this Levante SUV, long anticipated, is hitting some of the same ugly-beautiful marks as that original Porsche 4x4. So far, we know that it will get 3.0-litre V6 petrol turbo and V6 turbo diesel engines, and we'd expect to see a mighty V8 engine in the mix somewhere too. Enough to tempt you out of your Range Rover?
McLaren really has gone, in road car terms, from nothing to challenging the likes of Ferrari and Lamborghini in just a few short years. For Geneva it will have a one-off send-off to the hyper-fast P1 hybrid supercar, decked out in blue carbon fibre with a visible weave, plus an MSO (McLaren Special Operations - the firm’s bespoke orders outfit) version of the 675LT Spider. Plus there’s an updated version of the entry-level (terms are relative) 570S, which now has a big hatchback rear end, and claims to have as much luggage space (350-litres) as a Ford Focus hatchback.
Mercedes will be busy giving its all-important new E-Class its European show debut (although we did get all the meaty details in Detroit in January) and will probably give us a look at the estate version too. There’ll also be a new C-Class cabriolet (cloth roof and four seats), the ‘coupe’ version of the GLC SUV and an heavily armoured ‘Guard’ version of the S600 Maybach limousine. Expect to also see a major electric car concept as Mercedes gears up to start offering a 500km-range rival to the likes of the Tesla Model S and forthcoming Audi Q6 e-Tron quattro.
Mitsubishi may well show us a new concept car which will give an indication of where it's going with the next-generation Colt/Space-Star/Mirage small car, and it will have a pair of design studies based on the current L200 pickup and ASX crossover, which are basically accessories-catalogue specials. And a new Pajero? It's still two years away but we might get some hint of what it will look like in Geneva.
I’m calling it now - Morgan’s EV3 is going to be the star of the Geneva motor show 2016. We’ve already seen the car in concept form, and it’s basically the little two-seat, open three-wheeler model with the two-cylinder Harley-Davison motorbike engine removed and an electric motor and batteries put in its place. Dear old hand-made Morgan is hardly the car maker you’d expect to be innovating on the electric car front, but it’s been working hard these past few years on electric and alternative fuels (thanks in part to a hefty grant from the UK government) and the EV3 is the first production fruit of that research. Weight and performance are said to be basically identical to those of the bike-engined model.
Nissan will show off its updated Leaf electric car in Geneva, which now boasts a 250km range from an upgraded 30kWh battery, as well as a new wireless inductive charging system, which the company says could speed up charging times and increase the take-up of pure electric cars. There will also be a pair of concepts based on the X-Trail and Qashqai, one made in Europe and one in Japan, which will explore the idea of such models being fitted with high-end, premium-style cabins and options. Is Nissan getting ready to launch a rival to Ford's Vignale lineup?
It's a big Geneva show for Opel. We'll get a first look at the Ampera-e, a European version of the Chevrolet Bolt electric car which boasts a 300kmh one-charge range. There's also a heavily updated Mokka compact crossover and the funky little GT coupe concept - an Opel rival to the Mazda MX-5 which is, sadly, very unlikely to go into production.
The mad Italian-Argentinian supercar maker will have its Huayra BC at Geneva - all 240hp, V12 of it with a 0-100kmh time of 3.2secs and a top speed way beyond 350kmh. The BC stands for Benny Caiola, a property tycoon who first encouraged Horacio Pagani to start making his own cars. Oddly, the styling seems to suggest that Pagani is desperately trying to make the Huayra look as much as possible like its old, original Zonda…
Peugeot will have an updated and facelifted 2008 compact crossover to show off, which now includes the option of a sporty GT-Line bodykit (as does most of the rest of the current Peuegot range). It will also have its van-based Traveller MPV on show (along with a super-luxury version kitted out with comfy seats and a gigantic Samsung touch-screen TV in the back) and we could well get a peek at the upcoming new 3008 crossover too.
Porsche will try to prove to the world that a four-cylinder engine can be as appealing as a six-cylinder one with the launch of the flat-four turbo versions of the 718 Boxster and 718 Cayman, and we’ll get yet another 911 variant too - but this one is intriguing. The 911 R is still a bit of a mystery, but it’s reputed to have less power than a GT3 RS (circa 400-450hp) and actually has narrower tyres with slightly less grip, for a more involving driving experience. We may also get a first peek at Porsche’s plans for a plugin hybrid 911 too, as well as a first reveal of the all-new Panamera saloon.
Having invented the MPV twice (with the Espace and the original Megane Scenic) Renault is having another go at re-defining family motoring with the new Scenic 3. Based on the same platform as the new Megane (which goes on sale this summer) the third Scenic gets sleek, pod-like styling, but extra ride height and a wider rear track to try and make it appeal to the SUV generation. Alongside it will be the neat-looking new Megane Estate and a possible RenaultSport version of the dinky Twingo city car.
Seat will finally have its Ateca SUV on the stand at Geneva, as it makes its long-promised first foray into the family crossover market. There'll also be a 330hp Leon Cupra one-make race car on show.
Ever fancy a Skoda SUV but thought that the current Yeti was too small? Well, your prayers have been (partially) answered as Skoda will have its VisionS concept SUV on show - think of it as a big, seven-seat rival to the likes of the Hyundai Santa Fe and Kia Sorento, and it’s also likely to become Skoda’s first part-electric model as it’ll get the same GTE plugin hybrid module as its distantly-related VW Tiguan cousin. The production model, likely to be called Kodiak (or possibly Kodiaq) will arrive before the end of this year.
Ssangyong has been quietly getting on with tweaking and updating its model range to bring it up to scratch with rivals and the upshot is that the current Tivoli crossover is actually not bad at all. Just as well, as Ssangyong is now setting about making it bigger, with the Tivoli XLV - a stretched, seven-seat version for those who really miss the old Nissan Qashqai +2. The same new 1.6-litre diesel engine will form the core model for Ireland. Ssangyong will also show a concept called SIV-2, which previews a Hyundai Santa-Fe-sized model, which it refers to as 'premium.' Really? We'll see…
We do like a nice Subaru around these parts, and it's just a shame that the brand is hamstrung in Ireland by the strength of the Japanese Yen compared to the Euro. Subaru will have a concept version of the next-generation XV crossover in Geneva (expect chunky styling and a plugin hybrid drivetrain). The current XV is an expensive, but underrated and talented car. More of the same?
Suzuki will have a major facelift of its S-Cross SX4 model - its rare-on-the-road Qashqai rival. We quite like the current SX4, so we're a bit dismayed to see that early photos seem to have it fitted with an odd, eighties-Buick-style grille and lights. Perhaps the final version will look rather better. Here's hoping.
Toyota’s big star will be its production C-HR crossover, still likely to be called Auris Cross and a rival to the ubiquitous Nissan Qashqai. Only the second car (after the new Prius) to be launched on Toyota’s new global car platform, it’s a critical new model for Toyota as it seeks to dramatically expand sales in Europe. And it’ll be sporty enough that Toyota is planning to take one racing in this year’s Nurburgring 24hrs… Alongside it on the stand will be the new ProAce van and MPV, and a heavily updated version of our favourite ever Toyota - the HiLux pickup, which gets new styling and a new 2.4-litre diesel engine.
Geneva will be a critical event for Volkswagen, as it’s the first big European show since the diesel scandal broke last September. That being the case, VW is coming out swinging hard with new and updated models and a possible new high-performance icon. That icon will be the Golf R420 - a 420hp, 4WD super-Golf that’s being created as a celebration of the 40th birthday of the legendary Golf GTI. Expect to see some special anniversary editions of the more normal GTI as well. It will be joined by an updated Up city car which features gently revised styling and a new 90hp 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo (which incidentally VW says is as fast as the original 1976 Golf GTI…) and, most crucially, an all-new compact crossover concept, still un-named, but likely to take the Tiguan Sport badge. It’s VW’s rival for the Nissan Juke and will be closely related to the BUDD-e electric MPV shown in January. Does that mean it’ll be all-electric? Given the diesel debacle, don’t be surprised if it is.
Following a 2014 that was a record for both sales and profits, don’t expect Volvo to be resting on its laurels. Geneva will see the full public debut for the gorgeous V90 estate and we’ll probably get a peek at the 4x4 V90 Cross Country as well. There may also be a concept that will hint at what we can expect from the next-generation V60 and S60, and the updated V40 (with its new XC90-style headlights) will definitely be there.