The Geneva Motor Show is a mini automotive universe that provides vital clues on what to expect in the world of motoring. Here’s our take on the best from the neutral territory of Switzerland.
The night before the covers come off the many show cars at Palexpo, the venue for the Geneva Motor Show, the action gets underway during a very high profile VW Group Night. It’s attended by the likes of Ferdinand Piech, VW Group’s visionary Chairman & grandson of Dr. Ferdinand Porsche, Wolfgang Porsche, Chairman of Porsche & son of Dr. Ferdinand Porsche, the head of the German Automotive Industry Association, head of the Geneva Motor Show itself, famous racing drivers from years past, such as Jacky Ickx, famous drivers from their current line-up, such as Mark Webber, and, of course, the many VW brand heads, not to mention Chairman of VW AG, Martin Winterkorn.
The brand heads are tasked with previewing, in a very short time, what they aim to present to the world at the Geneva Motor Show the following day. VW does this twice a year, prior to the most important European motor shows, so they’ve got it down to a fine art.
The first to hit the stage is Stephan Winkelmann, CEO of Lamborghini. And he has something very important to showcase at Geneva – the jaw dropping Lamborghini Huracan. In addition to the fact that the Huracan is probably the most beautiful supercar in the world today, it packs some pretty impressive numbers as well. Unlike the flock of recent hybrid supercars, the Huracan sports an old-school naturally aspirated V10. And, once you hear it fire up, it’s all the better for it. The 5.2 litre V10 produces 610 horses via a dual-clutch transmission. 100km/h comes up in just 3.2 seconds, and 200 comes up in less than 10. And while the powertrain may not be a hybrid, the chassis is – a hybrid of aluminium and carbon fibre that is. And while the Huracan has been developed to be more usable everyday, like all Lambos it gets its name from a 19th century fighting bull that remained unbeaten in the arena – so don’t expect it to be a complete pussycat on the road. See our interview with Stephan Winkelmann for more.
Next up was Dr. Vahland, Chairman of Skoda, who debuted one of the most beautiful concept cars at Geneva – the Skoda Vision C. In lime green, the Vision C looked pretty extraordinary – if not a little over the top. You couldn’t help but wonder how much the Vision C was inspired by the Audi A7 though. That aside, if the sharp creases and svelte lines of the Vision C reflect the future of Skoda design, more power to them!
Next up was the new TT from Audi. And while most people felt that the all-new TT didn’t look new enough, I thought it looked right about perfect. With a front end that’s derived from the Audi Quattro concept, it does look a lot more aggressive than before. But the real changes are in the cabin. It features Audi’s Virtual Cockpit that debuted at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas earlier this year. The new TT has a fully configurable 12.3-inch TFT screen in the instrument cluster that allows the driver to see vehicle data and infotainment displays seamlessly while driving. It really is a very impressive instrument cluster with great resolution, and Audi has made extremely good use of each of those 12.3 inches. The only trouble is that the MMI screen has been removed from the centre console, so your passenger can no longer make selections for music, for instance. Another cool feature in the new TT is the circular air vents that not only look like jet engines, but are actually quite functional as well – plus they house readouts and controls in concentric circles at the centre of the vents themselves. And while all of this may sound complicated and over-the-top, it’s actually quite usable and doesn’t take a lot of getting used to.
Bentley showed its fastest car ever – the Continental GT Speed, which produces 625bhp and 820Nm of torque. Porsche, meanwhile, brought on stage their last Le Mans winner – the 1998 911 GT1. The 919 Hybrid, meanwhile, was unveiled the following day at Palexpo – and it looks to be a very impressive machine indeed, as you would expect for Porsche’s return to top-flight endurance racing. It has a 2.0 litre V4 that produces in the region of 500 horsepower with the help of a pair of energy recovery systems – one from the brakes, and another from the turbo (much like F1). Like all the endurance racers for this year, it’s been developed with the ethos of ‘maximum power and maximum efficiency.’ I, for one, can’t wait to see the 919 go head-to-head at Le Mans with its distant cousin – the Audi R18 e-tron, which made an appearance at the Group Night in an ominous shade of matte black. Game on!
The Volkswagen brand showcased its latest concept, the T-Roc compact SUV. The T-Roc not only demonstrates the versatility of VW’s MQB platform, but its sculpted lines and new light signature also hints at a more aggressive design language for the VW brand.
The final machine to take to the stage before Martin Winterkorn’s address was the Golf GTE – which, as the name suggests, is a plug-in hybrid version of the legendary GTI. It produces a total of 200bhp, and even has a push-to-pass button. It also sips just 1.5 litres of petrol for every 100 kilometres – efficiency levels that give it a 1,000 kilometre range. The idea behind models like these is to make electric mobility exciting – and that was the central theme for the evening.
Martin Winterkorn closed the evening by hinting at the sheer might of the VW Group, by pointing out that 10.2 billion Euros had been spent last year on R&D – of which the majority was spent on environmentally friendly technology. Not only are they making their cars more efficient, but their factories as well – in fact, they’re already half way towards achieving their goal of making all their factories 25% more efficient. With the biggest fleet of eco-friendly cars in the world, the VW Group was listed as being the most environmentally friendly automaker in the world in 2013, according to the Dow Jones Sustainability Index.
Winterkorn foresees the industry undertaking the most fundamental change since the inception of the automobile. With lifestyles changing faster than ever, digitization is changing the way we live and work. Vehicles will become mobile computers, and so VW is embarking on an extensive cooperation with Google to help answer some of the questions that Winterkorn believes will cut to the very core of the industry. The brightest minds in the Group have been tasked with finding solutions to the challenges that we’re facing.
Well, the brightest minds across the industry unveiled some pretty spectacular machinery at Geneva once again this year. Providing stiff competition to the Huracan in the lust worthy looks department was the Maserati Alfieri concept. To say that it looks mean would be an understatement. Penned, and unveiled by, legendary Pininfarina designer, and now chief designer for the Fiat Group, Lorenzo Ramaciotti, the Alfieri aims to breathe life back into a renewed Maserati line-up. And like the Lambo, this is also powered by an old-school powerplant – a 4.7 litre naturally aspirated V8 producing 460 horsepower. The Alfieri is virtually production-ready and will be built on the Ghibli platform. But the Maserati Levante crossover will hit the market before the Alfieri – with the crossover slated for launch next year.
A car that ditched its naturally aspirated V8 was the Ferrari California T. It now has a 3.9 litre turbocharged V8 that is not only more powerful, but also more efficient. This also makes it the first Ferrari to be turbocharged after the iconic F40 in the late 80’s.
Another car that’s switched from an NA engine to turbo power is the BMW M3. And while that was expected, what’s more interesting is the M4 nomenclature for the two-door model – which looks far more aggressive than the four-door M3. But it wasn’t just aggression that was on display at the BMW stand, there was plenty of practicality as well, since the company unveiled its first ever front-wheel drive model – the 2 Series Active Tourer, which BMW says is extremely versatile and customer oriented. This front wheel drive mini MPV is built on the UKL1 platform, which also underpins the brand new Mini. Well, that at least means that this brand new BMW should still be fun to drive.
Another car that ought to be a lot of fun to drive is the new Renault Twingo. This is a brand new small car with a twist – a la Nano. You see, this is a rear-engined, rear-wheel drive city car. It looks and feels extremely funky inside and out, and the packaging is so clever that you almost have to hunt for the location of the engine. And while its turbocharged 900cc three cylinder engine should provide for a fair amount of fun, I, for one, can’t wait to see what Renaultsport does with the new Twingo – I smell Renault 5 Turbo successor!
Speaking of successors, Hyundai debuted the second generation of its Genesis luxury sedan. It also showed the Intrado concept, which is a crossover powered by a hydrogen fuel cell. Both these Hyundai’s are important for us because they herald Hyundai’ Fluidic Sculpture 2.0 design philosophy under Peter Schreyer – who now takes over as design head for both Hyundai and Kia.
Another brand to showcase a new look at Geneva was Ssangyong, with the XLV (eXciting Lifestyle Vehicle) concept. The broad straight lines are a departure for Ssangyong, as it looks to the future with a slew of new vehicles under development with the backing of Mahindra. A production version may be a few years away, but it gives us something to look forward to from Ssangyong.
And there was a more direct Indian presence at the show, in the form of Apollo and Tata. Apollo used the Geneva Motor Show to unveil its brand new line of premium SUV tyres known as the Apterra H/P, which were developed at their global R&D centre in the Netherlands. Tata, meanwhile, showed off some of the models that were shown at the Auto Expo a few weeks ago – namely the Nexon concept, and the production ready Tata Bolt hatch and Zest sedan.
Tata-owned Jaguar Land Rover, meanwhile, had a lot of new announcements – not least of which was their brand new motor show stand that was designed by Jaguar and Land Rover chief designers, Ian Callum and Gerry McGovern. Jaguar also had another big announcement up its sleeve, as it finally shared the name and shape of its much-awaited BMW 3 Series fighter. The car will (quite logically) be named the XE, and will (as we already know) be built on a brand new aluminium architecture that was used to build the C-X17 crossover concept. The XE will be powered by a brand new range of four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines know as ‘Ingenium,’ which is the Latin word for engine. Land Rover, meanwhile, announced its intention to create a family of Discovery vehicles. In future, the Discovery will likely gets a brand new aluminium architecture – which will enable it to spawn adventure SUV’s in all shapes and sizes.
Right across from JLR was Volvo, which seems to have well and truly emerged from the ashes of its three-year transformation. In China, Volvo has seen a 50% growth in the past 6 months. As a result, they’re now back to being profitable – so they can focus on future products. To that end, Volvo showcased a stunning estate concept inspired by the P1800 from the 60’s. As their new design language is taking shape, and very impressive it is too, they’re also focusing on connectivity in the cabin. Apple’s CarPlay will be an integral component in the new range of Volvo’s, which will not only make it easier to sync and use your iPhone, but also allow you to avail of a range of Cloud based services to make your everyday life easier.
Chinese ownership certainly seems to have bolstered this Swedish brand. But the Chinese are not interested in simply resurrecting European marques, they’re also interested in building new ones from scratch – and Qoros is a case in point. Qoros debuted the 3 sedan at the Geneva Motor Show last year, and it saw a lot of people sit up and take notice. Well, after this year, many more people will be taking them even more seriously. The 3 sedan has gone on to become the first Chinese-made vehicle to achieve 5-stars in the Euro NCAP crash tests. This year, they also introduced the 3 hatchback, which is targeted specifically at Europe. Qoros hopes their focus on size, comfort and features, such as Qoros Cloud, will enable it to break into well-established markets. As Qoros executives say, “The world doesn’t need ‘another’ carmaker, but a ‘different’ one.”
Geneva is a great place to spot trends in the automotive universe. For instance, airbag wheels are getting smaller (thankfully), dashes are turning digital, connectivity is becoming essential, niches are becoming mainstream, and design is getting bolder. We can’t end, however, without thanking our Italian partners – Quattroruote – for ensuring that autoX was very much present on the Geneva show floor as well.
So, au revoir it is – until next year…