Geneva is the king of motor shows, at least in the minds of weary visitors who relish the short stumble from show floor to departure gate and the (relatively speaking) compact scale. The entire industry is contained beneath one roof at the city's Palexpo centre, with no space for vast corporate pavilions or far-flung satellite exhibitions. This year, the mood was generally buoyant, certainly amongst the upper end of the market. There's a new broom being wielded in many stables, with new production models and radical new concepts demonstrating confidence in the future. Offerings from the volume market were a bit more lacklustre; current fashions in body design are flattening the variations between brands and there are no radical technological breakthroughs to celebrate. Yet Geneva also has a reputation for corralling the weird and unusual and this year it didn't disappoint. From the legions of high-end tuning companies, getting ever bolder in their transformation of luxury cars into extravagantly unique, largely taste-free creations, to the revival of the once-mighty Borgward brand (although no actual product was shown), the electric innovation of the Quant F and Quantino and the collaborative concept assembled by Rinspeed.
Most big brands had a relatively quiet show, with Volvo's XC90 attracting a lot of attention, along with Audi's new R8. The real show stars were both British; Bentley exhibited its conceptual vision for a new small sports car, taking the brand into new markets with a design that combined aero-influenced bodywork with an interior that evoked the modern flourishes of Carlo Mollino. Production is almost a certainty, but probably not before 2017. And then there was Aston Martin, riding on a wave of new investment, a new CEO (Andy Palmer) and fresh enthusiasm for new product. Alongside the raucous Vantage GT3, elegant Lagonda Taraf, and bespoke Vulcan supercar there was a surprise in the shape of the DBX, a strong hint that even a traditional sports car firm like Aston needs to embrace the global appeal of the luxury crossover if it wants to stay at the top of its game. Our pick of the show follows...
Morgan Aero 8
Time seems to stand still for Morgan, which is still content to make its Plus 4 and Plus 8 models in much the same way as it has for over fifty years. However, back in 2000 the original Aero 8 took the Malvern-based brand into the modern era, although the sweeping lines and curves had a very obvious genesis in the manufacturer's past. That car was launched in this very spot at Geneva in 2000 and the new Aero 8 follows the tradition. Featuring an all new chassis, suspension and hood, tucking neatly into the car rather than sitting on top of it, it's unmistakeably a Morgan. Jonathan Wells, the company's Head of Design, is keen to 'narrow the gap between the Aero and the classic brand.' Overseeing a compact 10-strong R+D team, Wells notes that 'all of our good ideas make it all the way to production'. With typical classic proportions and plenty of power, a Morgan is an old school experience for the modern era: exactly what its loyal customers want. 'We let the bodywork celebrate the fact this is an open top car. It's like a yacht deck,' says Wells,' you sit inside, rather than on top.'
2015 is shaping up to be the year Aston Martin made a decisive break from the past. The company’s first Geneva car was the Vantage GT3, a screaming, track-focused version of the venerable V12. Alongside it, however, was an even more extreme machine. The Aston Martin Vulcan comes with even more superlatives stuffed beneath its carbon fibre bodywork, starting with the price. At £1.8m, the Vulcan eclipses its predecessor, the One-77, as the most expensive Aston Martin ever made. Just 24 Vulcans will be laboriously hand-built at Aston’s HQ, each tailor-made for a lucky customer. Most importantly of all, the Vulcan is designed as a track car only, and the purchase price (around £1.8m) includes one on one sessions with a full race team at a range of tracks around the world. Finally, there was a rabbit in the hat in the shape of the DBX, a fresh take on luxury GT travel that was both a genuine surprise and a genuine departure for the company. With tough, go-anywhere wheels and ride height mated to a sleekly elegant Aston Martin body, the DBX looks set to conquer the less-than-stellar roads and highways of Russia and the Far East.
Audi Prologue Avant
The Audi Prologue Avant concept showcased the ultimate evolution of the company's current design language, and ended up looking rather conservative. The forms suggests the estate car of the future, with a sloping rear that harks back to the original Audi 100 Avant of the early 1980s.
Audi R8 CoupéAudi had a clutch of new cars although you wouldn't have known it from their relatively muted presentation. As showcased in our March issue, the new R8 doesn’t represent a radical diversion from Audi’s original supercar. Under the skin, however, it’s a decidedly different matter. As before, the R8 is essentially a sister car to its equivalently-sized Lamborghini; if you don’t fancy overblown Latin attitude, chances are you’ll prefer the stealthy Teutonic approach to extreme performance. The biggest change is the adoption of all-V10 power, except for the flagship e tron model which marks the marque’s first step into pure electric cars.
Volkswagen Sport Coupé GTE Concept
The Volkswagen Sport Coupé GTE Concept is a bit of a mouthful, but the car it adorns displays VW's usual calm reservation. Elegant without being ostentatious, bold without being brutal, the sleek plug-in hybrid concept points the way towards a future mass-market saloon, carving out VW's territory between its sibling brands Audi, SEAT and Skoda.
Mercedes GLE 63 AMG
When they're not innovating, car companies like to follow suit. Mercedes' GLE is a case in point, a crossover/SUV/Coupé that's chasing the tail of BMW's similarly brash but hugely successful X6 model. The latest variant of the GLE is this inevitable AMG-tuned version, which turns up the wick to meet the BMW X6M head-on.
Mercedes Maybach S600 Pullman
Another Geneva debut saw the stately shape of the Mercedes S600 Pullman roll onto the stage. Combining two great names from the German marque's history - the recently revived Maybach sub-brand with the 'Pullman' appellation given to its longest and most luxurious models since the early 1930s - the S 600 is a mighty new flagship. The stretched rear seats four in utter comfort, while the chauffeur can be screened off for privacy.
The DS brand was formerly part of Citroen but has now been spun off its parent company into a separate, mass-luxury offering. We question the wisdom of trying to build a brand off the back of a car designed in the 50s and side-stepping the following half century of cutting edge big Citroens (GS, CX, XM, C6, etc.), but the French marque is determined to make a go of it. Alongside a revitalised DS5 the brand showed the DS Divine concept, first seen at Paris last year.
Ferrari 488 GTB
The Ferrari upgrade path is well established, with a new flagship sports car arriving pretty much every five year. The new 488 GTB replaces the much-loved 458, with a more extreme look and, naturally, more power. Expect to pay well over list price if your name is not down for one of the early cars.
Lamborghini Aventador LP 750-4 Superlocei
Undaunted by its rival's latest machine, Lamborghini calmly introduced an update to its flagship Aventador. The LP 750-4 Superveloce places the emphasis on saving weight to gain performance, with the traditional Italian flair and drama thrown in.
McLaren 675LTMcLaren announced limited production of the 675 LT ('long tail'), the latest variant of the 650S and another example of a high-end sports car builder sub-dividing their product offering into a range of increasingly specialised niches. Lightweight is once again the name of the game, and the 675 is more aggressively styled than its stable mates. An all-new 'Sports Series' of smaller mid-engined cars is due to be unveiled in the next few weeks.
Porsche 911 GT3 RSPorsche have a well-established upgrade path, and each new generation of the evergreen 911 gets steadily more and more extreme until the limits of physics and technology are reached. Geneva 2015 saw that summit attained with the GT3 RS, the ultimate lightweight, competition-focused 911, as different from the base models as you could imagine. Compared to its mid-engined supercar rivals, the £130,000 GT3 RS is a veritable bargain.
Porsche Cayman GT4
Not to be outdone by its bigger sibling, Porsche's Cayman also got a performance upgrade. The GT4 unleashes the potential baked into this awesomely capable car from the start; it was only hobbled by the fear Caymans could cannibalise 911 sales if it was deemed swifter and better to drive. Time has helped mark a distinction between the two and Porsche feels confident enough to let the Cayman GT4 into the spotlight.
Frank Rinderknecht is the glue that binds auto innovation together. Every year the designer corrals suppliers from all over Europe to contribute to a signature concept car. This year it was the turn of the Rinspeed Budii, essentially a BMW i3 with a monumental make-over. Scanners, IT, audiovisual, suspension systems, communications devices, and much, much more have been crammed into the compact hatch back, intended as a showcase for both autonomous driving and the future of being entertained behind the wheel.
The curiously named Quant is making a bid to become Europe's Tesla, even though the Liechtenstein-based company still seems a few years from production. That's because the Quant F and Quantino 2-seater (joining last year's original Quant E concept) utilise an entirely new propulsion system that uses batteries powered by charged liquid - flow cells - that can be refuelled in a network of charging stations.
Italdesign Giugario GEAItaldesign Giugario traditionally show a bold, elegant concept at the Geneva Show and 2015 was no exception. The GEA is a vision of a future luxury autonomous vehicle - galling for chauffeurs, perhaps, but taking a permanent driver out of the equation frees up the interior for work, rest and play. It helps too that the rest of the GEA is styled with Giugario's characteristic verve.
Spania GTA Spano
One of an ever-increasing number of bespoke supercars on the market, the Spania GTA Spano is, as its name suggests, Spanish. Intended for strictly limited production, this swooping two-seater won't trouble the likes of Ferrari and McLaren but will certainly be a rare trophy for the right kind of collector.
Pininfarina Ferrari Sergio
First shown back in 2013 to pay homage to the legendary designer Sergio Pininfarina who had died the previous year, the Ferrari 458-based Sergio was back in 2015 with a carefully limited production strategy. Just six will be made, all presumably snapped up by Ferrari collectors who will relish the fact the car now carries the factory's blessing and can wear the coveted prancing horse badge.
Rolls-Royce Serenity Phantom
It's safe to say that no other car on display at this year show contained as much embodied labour as the Rolls-Royce Serenity Phantom. Some 6000 hours of craftsmanship were required to create this special order Phantom, lined in hand-painted, hand-stitched Chinese silk. Created at the behest of a long-standing client who wanted the car to mark a special occasion, the silk interior harks back to the lavish Rolls-Royces built for Indian maharajahs in the early 20th century - 'back when the chauffeur had to make do with sitting on leather,' Giles Taylor, the company's Design Director notes. Subtle painted trim is added to the white exterior making this a mobile museum piece unlike any other.
Sports car manufacturer Koenigsegg has a tiny fraction of the market in comparison to their rivals at Porsche, Ferrari and McLaren. By while the big three spent 2014 parading their hybrid hypercars to the world, the Swedish designers were hard at work creating the Regera. A masterful fusion of petrol and electric power, the Regera promises to be swifter than all its rivals, delivering a combined output of around 1800bhp, over twice that of the Porsche 918.
You wouldn’t peg Denmark as home to serious sports car manufacturing, but Zenvo is a small company with big ambitions. Their first car, the ST1, has had a rocky road to production, and the 850,000 euro price tag has resulted in only two deliveries so far. The Geneva show saw a substantially updated car, with better quality and a new gearbox, so hopefully those cheques will be easier to write for the remaining 13 in the limited run.
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