Geneva used to be a place for imagining wondrous and not-so-real motor cars. The annual motor show was a stage for fictional products and fantastical scenarios. Nowadays realism appears to have taken hold. Most show cars are previewed under embargo weeks in advance; some are intentionally leaked leaving little room for suspense. Walking the soulless Palexpo halls, the setup feels a touch archaic – as if echoing the traditional combustion engine that still powers most of these cars. Maybe it is time to rethink the motor show model.

This is not to say all the products displayed here are to be dismissed. This year’s motor show sends a clear message that electric driving in all forms and shapes, from entry to supercar level, is a reality and it is imminent. It is also refreshing to see a confidence in the design of these sustainable products with some carmakers showing an intellectual, measured approach – finding interesting, visually compelling solutions to help direct an industry tentatively navigating its way to a new era of mobility. This alone makes Geneva worthy of the trip.

Tesla agitated traditional carmakers when Elon Musk showed the possibilities of electric technology – his cars refuse to compromise on design or performance, altering the landscape of electric cars. Now Jaguar’s I-Pace sets out to continue this dialogue. This is the marque’s first pure electric product. It is also an attractive, practical, performance car. It will certainly challenge the publics’ image of electrification.

Check out the seven best concept cars from Geneva Motor Show 2018 here – expect flying vehicals and AI masterpieces...

Speaking with Jaguar’s creative director Ian Callum at the show, while the company will continue with combustion engine cars, he feels there is an opportunity to ‘take a ground on this and become an electric car company,’ he says. ‘With I-Pace, we have made a stance and a declaration, and we should continue on this.’

The performance electric car genre was explored elsewhere too. Porsche showed its intentions with Mission E Cross Turismo while sister company Audi’s E-Tron Prototype is a fully-functioning performance electric car, and Volkswagen’s Vizzion concept joins the progressive I.D. electric car range.

Motor show halls are always a clash of the brutal and aesthetic. The selection of extreme sports cars on display this year didn’t disappoint either. McLaren revealed the Senna GTR concept as the most powerful machine from Woking this side of a Formula One, Ferrari displayed the powerful 488 Pista, and Lamborghini a rather fierce looking Huracán Spyder.

At the adjoining Bentley stand, the Bentayga Hybrid SUV was on display alongside Phillippe Starck’s home battery charging dock. While the Rolls-Royce pavilion performed as a testimony to the marque’s unparalleled bespoke skills with yet more highly-crafted customised products on display. We were particularly drawn to a commissioned Phantom with a textile sculpture by London designer Helen Amy Murray for the interior ‘gallery’, and the Spirit of Ecstasy clad in rose gold.

Here’s our choice of the best in-production and near-production cars

BMW Concept M8

Ahead of the debuts of the production 8-Series coupé and convertible later in the summer, BMW used the occasion of Geneva to present the exotic Concept M8 Gran Coupé, a performance saloon study car with the fashionable coupé styling, long wheelbase and short overhang. The yellow lights are a tribute to Le Mans. Adrian van Hooydonk, BMW Group creative director says Concept M8 Gran Coupé ‘embodies the next stage of our vehicle design language.’ It also previews a later, four-door version of the 8 Series due in 2019.

Jaguar I-Pace

Jaguar’s first pure electric vehicle explores a more sustainable design theme for the marque. The I-Pace proportions reflect the battery-electric technology powering the car for this cab-forward profile instead of the typical long Jaguar bonnet. Much of the design is dictated by aerodynamics to achieve a drag coefficient of just 0.29. The low bonnet is therefore curved in a way that allows air to flow seamlessly across; there is a sweeping roofline and squared-off blunt rear, while flush door handles help direct air away from the volume of the car. ‘The electric powertrain offered us unprecedented design freedom,’ says design director Ian Callum. ‘We have produced a concept car for the road.’

The face takes on a more conventional turn to continue the contemporary Jaguar theme. The grille design maximises airflow through the integral bonnet scoop and over the windscreen onto the roofline to reduce drag. Airflow for battery cooling and the climate control system passes through the grille and active vanes in apertures in the front bumper, which open when required. Inside the car, the TFT digital display is joined by a couple of tactile rotary controls to feel more like a fighter-jet cockpit.

The I-Pace is powered by a 90kWh lithium-ion battery promising a range of almost 300 miles, while the combination of all-wheel drive, 400ps and 696Nm of instantaneous torque gives this clean performance car impressive acceleration, reaching zero to 60 mph in just 4.5 seconds and with 80 per cent charging promised in just 40 minutes.

Callum says on the next e-project he would be more confident, revealing, ‘the next generation of this car will be a bit more rakish, a bit more radical.’ On sale now, from £63,000.

Lexus UX Urban

Lexus is firmly aiming for younger buyers with the latest UX. Designed for urbanites seeking easy manoeuvrability in the city, this compact crossover is the smallest vehicle in the expanding SUV family, sitting below the NX. It continues the current Lexus design theme including evolving the distinctive spindle grille with a block-shape mesh pattern. The cabin is spacious and airy with the upper deck of the instrument panel appearing to be extending out and beyond the windshield, and an optional material trim inspired by washi paper. A UX 250h hybrid model will also be available, pairing the same 2.0-litre engine as the normal model with battery power. On sale from 2019.

Porsche Mission E Cross Turismo

The pure-electric Mission E Cross Turismo concept study car joins the upcoming Mission E saloon in Porsche’s anticipated electric car family. It has four doors and four seats; the low-cut front bonnet visually relates to the 911, while overall package is inspired by the compact Macan crossover. Elements are translated from the Mission E saloon including the distinctive headlamps with four-spot LED daytime running lights, vents and body creases.

Like the E saloon, the car uses two permanent magnet synchronous motors offering some 600 horsepower, zero to 62 mph in less than 3.5 seconds, and a battery range of around 250 miles. Porsche is gauging public opinion with this ecological crossover saying the car ‘presents a picture as to what a Turismo model with features of a crossover utility vehicle could look in series production’.

McLaren Senna GTR

Following the announcement of the Senna supercar in the Ultimate Series, McLaren Automotive has revealed the Senna GTR concept at Geneva. This offers an extreme take on the road car to be the fastest non-Formula One machine created by the marque. For the GTR, the Senna’s twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 has been reworked so it now produces some 814 horsepower – up from the standard car’s 789. McLaren describes the drive as ‘race-style transmission’.

Ferrari 488 Pista

The track-focused 488 Pista mid-engine supercar is based on the marque’s standard 488 GTB with some modification and re-sculpting to improve aerodynamics and speed. This includes a new bonnet and front splitter, a large air intake sculpted into the bonnet to help air flow and at the rear the car is fitted with a large carbon-fibre diffuser.

This is one of Ferrari’s fastest road cars – power on the 3.9-litre twin-turbocharged V8 of the standard 488 has been boosted from 661 to 710 horsepower which, alongside some weight reduction, means this supercar can go from zero to 62mph in just 2.8 seconds while achieving a top speed of 211mph. On sale now, from £204,000

Range Rover SV Coupé

The Range Rover SV Coupé is the latest product to emerge from Jaguar Land Rover’s bespoke Special Vehicle Operations department in Warwickshire. Based on the Range Rover but with two doors and a swooping coupé roofline car, the SV further explores the marque’s interior craft skills offering novel materials within the automotive world, including bespoke tailored fabrics from Kvadrat.

‘SV allows you to amplify things,’ says Gerry McGovern, creative director at Land Rover. ‘This SV Coupé is very exclusive and very rare. Our Range Rover customers want to put their twist on their cars, although in this case most have opted for our curated design choice.’

Made in limited 999 numbers, the Range Rover SV Coupé celebrates the marque’s 70th anniversary year. It follows another limited-edition special project the Defender Works V8, unveiled earlier this month. Order books are open now, from £230,000.

Hyundai Kona Electric

Hyundai and Kia are offering electric versions of their popular SUVs in the form of this Kona Electric and the Niro Electric – both made in limited numbers to gauge the electric market. Debuting at Geneva the redesigned Santa Fe, the Kona Electric will be available in two versions with ranges of 186 miles or 292 miles per charge. The short-range teams a 39.2 kWh lithium-ion battery pack with an electric motor for 132 horsepower, while the more powerful has a 64.0 kWh battery pack, and makes 201 horsepower with both models promising 291 lbft of torque. On sale July 2018, from £30,000.

BMW X4

By 2020, BMW would like to be the world’s leading premium marque. This was the message delivered at the Geneva Motor Show with the company promising some 20 new and revised models by then starting with the X4, then the X2 and all-new X7 as well as extending the progressive electric i range to include the i4. Categorised as a sports activity vehicle – for it is a hybrid of coupé design with SUV promises – this second-generation X4 production car follows a similar design theme as the smaller X3. ‘We are going to make our design more distinct and focused,’ explains creative brand director Adrian van Hooydonk, ‘to offer clean modern exterior design with slim wide tail-lamps.’ On sale July 2018, from £41,000.

Audi A6

This is the upcoming A6 production car, on show at the Audi pavilion in Geneva alongside the pure-electric E-Tron crossover prototype. This is the executive saloon’s first re-design in six years and it follows the theme set out by the A8 and A7 Sportback to be polished and technical – the grille extending in width and height to take up a good portion of the car's fascia, while the LED tail lights extend the width of the car. All cars come with mild hybrid engines. Audi will reveal full details of the much-anticipated E-Tron in August. On sale June 2018, from £35,000.

Volvo V60

Volvo shared the allocated Geneva pavilion space with Polestar, the marque’s new electric sub-brand – one side designed in classic Scandinavian light natural wood, the other clean, dark and technical exhibiting the brand’s sole model the Polestar 1 hybrid making its European debut here. Volvo’s main exhibit was V60 estate, a roomier, high-tech premium redesign of the previous model. The petrol and diesel options will be joined later in the year by the T6 and T8 plug-in hybrid engines. On sale September 2018, from £31,000.

RM 11-03 McLaren

McLaren Automotive used the occasion of Geneva to reveal the RM 11-03 McLaren automatic flyback chronograph. This advanced technological watch has been created in collaboration with Swiss watchmaker Richard Mille as part of a ten-year relationship between the two companies. Elements on the watch observe some of the styling cues found on the exterior and interior of McLaren cars, while the highly technical and lightweight materials used to build this wristwatch, including carbon-fibre, are reflective of what constructs the high-performance super cars. Only 500 are planned with first refusal given to the 500 McLaren Senna owners. On sale now, from £137,000.