Geneva Motor Show: our picks
Top Gear’s expert panel pick their three favourite cars from the biggest motor show… in the world
Posted: 11 Mar 2013
Jason Barlow, Editor-at-Large (Follow Jason on Twitter)
You can Easyjet into and out of Geneva in a day, and the Palexpo show venue is walking distance from the airport. Once you're in, it's also the easiest international show to actually do in a day, with all the main action contained in conjoined halls. I say, do it: 2013's show has the lot, and your feet will thank you for not dragging them to Frankfurt.
You can also say you were there when Ferrari and McLaren went head-to-head, unleashing once-in-a-generation hybrid hypercars whose tech is so far-out that I genuinely struggled to keep up with one of Maranello's top engineers during a debrief. You can only nod sagely so often before your bluff is called. They say rocket science isn't actually that tricky, but LaFerrari - and the P1 for that matter - are mind-bending. It seems likely the driving experience will be just as other-wordly. I need to organise a physics crammer.
But forget about them (and forget about the Lamborghini Veneno, which is what Lambo should have done). Geneva is always a great showcase for the Italian coachbuilders, of whom Pininfarina remains the giant. The company's driving force Sergio passed away last year, his towering personality and humanity diminished by the passing of time and the deeply felt loss of his son Andrea in 2008. So the Ferrari 458 Spider-based Sergio concept car had an extra emotional resonance, as well as being a fabulous looking thing in its own right. If I was stupidly rich, I would order one. While everyone else in the luxury world is banging on about bespoke design, this is the real thing, and Pininfarina will build it for you.
Parallel to the new cars, the big Geneva story was in the gradual Applification of the car business. Tesla's Model S is primarily driven by a zero-emissions all-electric narrative, but its interior touch-screen is massively impressive, and the overall build quality and execution better still. Elsewhere, Volvo announced a partnership with Spotify to stream music via a 3G or 4G phone or dongle, and activated by voice control. Maybe not such a big deal to car people, but check out the internet buzz on the story and you'll see where this is heading. Harman Kardon, meanwhile, was demonstrating its Quantum Logic 3D audio system, which, however you choose to have your music delivered, sounds almost unbelievably good. A nod, too, to the Rolls-Royce Wraith's GPS, which now reads the road ahead and picks the appropriate gear for you: amazing and terrifying in equal measure. Media people talk about convergence: in Geneva, there was stuff converging everywhere you looked.
I also had a short test drive in a Range Rover Evoque fitted with a nine-speed transmission, the first application of ZF's ingenious new system. It has four overdrive gears at the top, and a lower first gear, the obvious aim being to reduce emissions and improve economy (by 10 per cent, with stop/start). I dislike this trend for multi-ratio 'boxes, but it was smooth, slurred through the gears imperceptibly, and seemed well-matched to the Evoque. New software mapping doesn't leave the driver adrift in an inappropriate gear. It'll appear in 2014 model year Evoques, from this September.
Finally, the Kia Provo (above). Neat car but, as a Northern Irishman, I feel duty-bound to point out that, even from a company whose names are often ridiculous, name-checking a terrorist organisation is not their wisest move.