The very best and worst of Geneva 2020
The show that never was still brought a bevy of cars we want... and want to mock
For a show that never happened, there seems to be an abundance of stars. Yes, the premiere – and premier – motor show’s abrupt cancellation proved little to no impediment to a cavalcade of fresh metal from all corners of the world. But, y’know, mostly Europe. Also, how exactly does a sphere have corners, again? Whoops. We’re already heading off-piste in the first paragraph. Let’s reset.
Anywho, the show might not have gone on, but we’re about to. There’s just too many exceptional debuts – and too much sundry weirdness – for us not to round up the greatest bits of the greatest show that never happened. Yeah, take that, Fyre Festival!Advertisement - Page continues below
Aston Martin V12 Speedster
Do you have a) bucketloads of money, b) a penchant for track days and c) a significant other that isn’t much of a conversationalist? Do we have the car for you! Well, we don’t. Aston does.
With a 5.2-litre V12, split Barchetta seating (a la the Lamborghini Concept S ) and space for two helmets – or four, depending on your character assessment of the driver and passenger – this is clearly meant to be a proper track toy.
But let’s not get bogged down in anything hyper-pricey, hyped or hypercar-ish until we’ve had a chance to pinch the cheeks of the new – all-electric – Fiat 500.
We think it still looks great – probably because it still looks like the first of the new breed that came out in 2007. And because that one looked like the 1957 original. Kind of. If you have a poor estimation of size and scale. But who cares? As we said in our recent divorce proceedings, you just can’t go past good looks.
And now, as we may have mentioned, backed up by city-friendly battery power.Advertisement - Page continues below
As much as it looks like Minority Report if they cast Noddy instead of Tom Cruise, this is actually a heavily reengineered version of the homage-to-Isetta we drove a prototype of years ago. Since then, it’s improved in roughly every way one could conceive of, bar one – bring back the two-tone paint job!
How do you demonstrate that your product is the future of mobility? With styling from 1909, obvs.
But, while it might look like the perfect conveyance for the kind of chap who has a pipe collection and insists on wearing tweed and a flat cap, even in the middle of summer, it’s not the worst idea we’ve ever seen: an electric bike with a 36mph top speed and a 75-mile range, while remaining light and manoeuvrable enough to pedal home should you overdo it on your kopi luwak tasting tour.
Hispano-Suiza Carmen Boulogne
If your memory goes back further than your average voter, you’ll remember that, at last year’s Geneva show, two separate car makers turned up with two very different cars, powered by very different methods, that just happened to have the same badge on the front. So, do we say ‘whoops’ in Spanish or Swiss German?
We don’t know how that little game of I Am Spartacus ended up, nor do we know if they accepted Top Gear’s mediation plan where one could be called Hispano and the other Suiza, and they could, perhaps, in the future, make a car together under a joint moniker, like Suiza-Hispano, or something. Has a ring to it.
What is apparent is that the real Hispano-Suiza stood up, with a hardcore version of the 1920s-meets-2020s EV that... well, we could say wowed us, because ‘wow’ applies to the good, the bad and the ugly alike.
Bugatti Chiron Pur Sport
As epoch-shifting as the Bugatti Veyron was, it apparently wasn’t altogether a driver’s car. Something about the original made-for-Veyron tyres and numb steering. Only proper oversteer-miming journalists ever really called out the world’s fastest Kinder Surprise, but now it’s written down forever – or at least until the slow twilight of our species reaches the inky black of night. But the Chiron apparently solved its handling foibles, becoming a car where, as one Chris Harris said, “the steering that gets you first – stop and consider for a second just how special your steering must be to outswagger a 1,479bhp engine".
But that, apparently isn’t good enough for Bugatti. And now, after smashing through the 300mph barrier on waves of W16 power, it’s now set its sights on dismissing corners like it dismisses speed limits. And credulity.Advertisement - Page continues below
Koenigsegg Jesko Absolut
Yes, it’s a Jesko, and yes, you saw one last Geneva show. And no, we’re not going to make any vodka jokes, so you don’t need to wince through any ‘intoxicating performance’ puns.
This is, without any shadow of a doubt, the very fastest Koenigsegg ever made, and one that should be capable of smashing through the 500km/h barrier – y’know, after it smashed through the 300mph barrier 10mph ago.
Finally, a prophecy that’s actually good news! All that ‘impending doom of rising oceans, floods, fire, droughts and super-hurricanes’ stuff was starting to get a little on the vexing side.
Yes, it’s fair to say we’re fans of the Hyundai Prophecy. Sure, there’s a lot of concept-car nonsense on the inside (and, it seems, in the press release), but take a look at that shape and tell us with a straight face that this isn’t a design that makes your internal bits go all hot and prickly.
This isn’t one of those damning-with-faint-praise moments where we say something like “this is the best-looking Hyundai ever”. This is one of those moments where we say “we don’t give a good golly-damn which badge is on this car; we’re already saving our pennies.”Advertisement - Page continues below
The electric future, it seems, is surging on ahead, regardless of cobalt shortages or the prospect of having to mine ocean trenches just to get the rare-earth metals needed for electric car batteries. For now, carbon emissions are the name of the game, and Volkswagen is playing a fiercer match than anyone.
Sure, they’re behind the eight-ball when it comes to Tesla, but so is everyone, and VW is not one to discredit when it pertains to come-from-behind victories.
But let’s stay as snark-free as possible as we discuss... a new small crossover. Oh, for f...
The four-seat Koenigsegg Gemera’s three-cylinder engine makes 600bhp, which runs from a mid-engine position to the front wheels. No, this isn’t your brain on drugs; this is just the deepest corners of the performance envelope that Koenigsegg is pushing. And it just gets crazier from there.
With each layer, the Gemera reveals another set of brain-frying world-firsts that have pretty much won us over entirely. Let’s whisper this next bit, but is a three-cylinder hybrid the most desirable Koenigsegg ever?
Waaaaiiiit a damn minute – don’t try to slide old cars by us! Even if we adore them as much as our own children (don’t worry, the little buggers can’t read yet, so this won’t hurt their feelings), the fact remains that these. Are. Old. Cars.
Oh, a new version, you say? What’s new, then? There’s a plush, posh one and one’s… yellow? Um. You’d better explain yourself.
Porsche 911 Turbo
Good grief, we’d gone almost a whole week without talking about a Porsche 911. Key parts of the TG office have started to atrophy, from the Sparco racing boots up.
Thankfully, we can arrest this frankly awful situation here and now, with the new 911 Turbo, which looks as though a regular 911 has backed into an entirely more serious 911. No, really, look at it – from the door handle forwards is constrained. Everything behind? Barely contained.
No prizes for guessing, then, that it’ll shift like half-price Powerball tickets.
Hang on a minute... has BAC been cribbing from Alpine’s playbook? We’ve seen this car before as well!
Oh, we see. It’s doing that quintessentially British thing and making slow, careful adjustments and improvements over the life of a low-volume sports car. And also turbocharging it so it now has a better power-to-weight ratio than a McLaren F1.
What’s that? It’s time to appropriate and fundamentally misunderstand some famous lyrics? Well then, meet the new boss, same as the old boss.
Yes, it’s page one, entry two on the Trite Motoring Cliches Handbook – right after ‘Alfas always break’ and before ‘BMWs are driven by upwardly grasping middle managers’ is the old chestnut: ‘Audi design is always the same’.
Except… well, chaps, come on. It really does look the same, doesn’t it?
The McLaren... well, anything made in the last five years, to be honest, is exactly twice as fast as what you’re expecting. And three times as impressive in person as in photographs.
Which really only leaves one road for the 765LT. And you’d better believe it’s shot up that path at roughly half the speed of sound. Yep, the 765LT is a 720S that’s lighter, more powerful and more pounded into the pavement with various aero devices and winglets. It looks absolutely mad. It also looks like it has the kind of performance that could scare a decently sized man.
Hey, anyone else remember when we could make fun of McLaren for being too technical and number-crunching? Yeah, they were simpler times, weren’t they?
Bentley Mulliner Bacalar
Remember when Mulliner first started up? Bull twaddle, sunshine – Mulliner’s been around since the rich used to leave London in the summer to get away from all that nasty Cholera. And suffragism.
Yes, from a time that people still get misty-eyed for, even though it was objectively awful in every way, to today, which is much, much better, but subjectively awful in most ways, we find Mulliner, purveyors of all things custom to all people with cash straining at the seams of their wallets.
And if you needed any more evidence that we’re living in the second gilded age, look no further: Mulliner’s back as a custom coachworks.
But, for those of you who are only minted, and not hyper-mega-minted, don’t fret: they’re still ready to load your standard series Bentley with all kinds of custom bits.
Skoda Octavia vRS
Well the times, they certainly are a’changing. Twas a time when your average Skoda Octavia vRS sported a diesel engine, or perhaps something nicked from an old Golf GTI. No longer, cyclists and sensible young dads – this one’s gone hybrid, with a full 85kW of electrical assistance.
Upsides? Prodigious, diesel levels of torque and a zero to 60 sprint in less than 7.5 seconds. Downsides? Still wishing you were driving a Golf R, probably.
BMW Concept i4
It might look like a tapir halfway through eating a BMW badge, but we’re assured that this is very much a car that BMW would like you to buy in the future, once it gets out of concept form and into its FINAL FORM.
Which, we assume, is some variety of African elephant.
Dacia Spring concept
Dacia: famous for simplicity, parsimonious prices, the phrase “Good news!” and having Chris Finch from The Office help them with their advertising.
Electric cars: famous for being complicated and pricey, the phrase “Tesla rival” and having everybody argue about if they’re actually good for the planet or not.
We will absolutely leave that iron in the fire for now, but we’re pretty pleasantly surprised with Dacia’s first EV. Of course, it’s a crossover, but that’s just Dacia being sensible again and reading the market. The important thing is, being a Dacia, it’ll be cheap.
Morgan Plus Four
Hey kids, ever wonder why Morgan called its first car the 4-4? Well, it’s because it had four cylinders and – get this – four wheels! Its engine was from Coventry Climax – a fantastic name for an engine builder, by the way – and had just 34bhp.
The +4 addressed this shortcoming with a bigger, more powerful engine in the same basic chassis. And, because the automotive world is fickle, a slew of engines have powered +4s, Plus 4s and Plus Fours ever since – Standard, Triumph, Fiat, Rover, Ford and BMW.
But wait... what’s the difference between a +4, a Plus 4 and a Plus Four? Allow us to explain. And also talk about entertaining stuff, too, like the addition of a 255bhp BMW four-cylinder.
Pininfarina Battista Anniversario
Ever look at a Pininfarina Battista, turn over its 1900 horsepower, 1,700 lb ft, sub-two-second zero to 60 sprint and 217mph top speed and thought, ‘Mmm. A bit weak’?
Er, yeah, us too, us too. Thankfully, then, Pininfarina has tweaked and tuned its incomprehensibly quick hypersuperdupercar to make it even faster. How? Well, you know this playbook by now, surely – less weight, more downforce. What, you were thinking more power?
No, as much as it sounds like something Hermione Granger would say while waving a wand about, this is apparently a car, not an incantation.
And yes, it’s a Cupra, an entirely distinct brand, and definitely not a Seat crossover with rose gold bits on the outside and Volkswagen bits on the inside.
Alfa Romeo Giulia GTA
Oh, yes, now we’re talking. The GTA name doesn’t just get bandied about, you know. Well, apart from that one time it was.
But what we’d really, really like to impart is that, for the first time in 50 years, you will be able to buy a rear-wheel-drive Alfa Romeo GTA that, crucially, sticks to the precepts inherent in the Gran Turismo Alleggerita name. And if that doesn’t immediately set your heart on fire and simmer your arteries in the process, we can’t imagine what will.
It wouldn’t be a Geneva show without Mansory’s... er, ‘bold’ reinterpretations of high-end cars. And it wouldn’t be a Top Gear article without some snide remarks about their efforts. But... there wasn’t a Geneva show.
Come on, do you really think such a trifling thing as the cancellation of the world’s first and foremost motor show could stop Mansory from showing its creations to the world? And do you really think we’re going to pass up the chance to make judgement calls on the results?
Volkswagen Golf GTI MkVIII
And here we have it – the car you’ll probably actually buy. Possibly because it’s reserved and subtle about its performance. Possibly because it’s a Golf, so, ergonomically, it’s a sure-fire win. Or possibly because Volkswagen hasn’t stuffed up a GTI in more than 15 years.
This Evoque-with-extra-angles character is the Renault Morphoz. And although there’s quite a bit meeting the eye, what with its LEDs as drapery motif, there’s still more to it than meets the eye. Yes, this car transforms.
But don’t fret – you won’t have to put up with any Michael Bay-esque low-angle pans or excessive explosions. The Morphoz can extend its length when you need to carry extra passengers, to accept a supplementary battery pack for long-range touring, or if it sees a really pretty Megane.
Brabus 800 Adventure XLP
Um. Give us a minute. Call it a fetish or whatever, but we. Dig. Portal axles. This could have been powered by a two-cylinder engine that ran on old margarine and we’d still be up for a go. The idea, then of 789bhp of AMG V8 under the bonnet means a) those portal axles must be flipping tough and b) it probably won’t run on margarine. Also, c) this will not make you many friends among the Extinction Rebellion set.
DS Aero Sport Lounge Concept
It appears that, just like the 1980s, angles are the new curves. Case in point: DS’s new concept, which has faint hints of Tesla Cybertruck about its flanks. Let’s see if anything else from the Eighties is here. Turbos on everything? Yep. Crackpot despots in charge? You betcha. A return to glorious New Wave music? Nope. Sorry. You’d sooner see this go into production as is than get a resurgence of the Eighties’ crowning glory. We’re going to put on some Tears for Fears to console ourselves.
Mercedes-AMG GLA 45
Oh good, we were wondering when the 58th spin-off of the A-Class would arrive. And we need wonder no longer – it’s the one you lot seem to love more than bank holidays: the GLA 45.
So, if you like your premium-branded, high-riding hatchbacks with colossal excesses of power (and it seems you really, really do), then have at it. We wash our hands of you.
Renault Twingo ZE
It’s finally happening: car makers are releasing small, city-friendly cars with small, city-friendly electric drivetrains. No need to lug around heavy batteries, no need to strip the world bare or rare-earth metals, no need to choke the air of densely packed European cities with fumes when there’s a better option available.
There’s just one problem: you can’t have it.
So, has anyone else noticed that Volvo and Polestar are just nailing their designs at the moment? It’s as clean and crisp as a lime soda after getting hit in the face with 100 gallons of Atlantic seawater.
Funny we should mention the ocean, actually; the Precept recycles fishing nets and plastic bottles – huge contributors to sea plastics – for use in its seats and carpets. And that’s just the start of its eco ambitions...
VW Touareg R
What you’re looking at is the most-powerful Volkswagen that you can buy. So, it’s some kind of V10-powered leviathan, as per the old R50? Hardly. It’s a flipping hybrid.
Yes, a hybrid, which does feel a little bit like offering a wet wipe to clean up after the Deepwater Horizon, considering the sheer scale of this thing and the small matter of a turbocharged, 336bhp V6 that still resides under the bonnet.
OK, it’s handsome, in a reserved way. But that’s not what the old DS stood for, is it? Yes, we know we’re going to have to go back to the cliche playbook again, but whatever happened to the avant-garde thinking, wilful difference and a singular focus on outlandish technology that set Citroen’s flagship apart from everything else on the road?
We asked the DS 9. It responded with a Gallic shrug. And that’s how to use a cliche.
Aston DBX by Q
Aston has a... Q Division. Oh, like Bond. Right. So that means it has an invisibility cloak. Or it turns into a submarine. Or at least some Parker pens (that are secretly grenades) in the glovebox.
Er, no. What it does have is about as much carbon fibre as a season of Formula One. No, seriously – there are 280 layers of the stuff, just for the centre console.
Oh, hi there. Just reminding you that we currently live in days that science fiction writers could only dream about. This is a 3D printed car. A machine didn’t cut, or weld, or glue this in any conventional sense; rather, a man pressed print and, we assume, went for the longest coffee break in history. It takes our printer about a minute to print an A4 sign that just says ‘Don't feed the Stig’, so a whole car probably took a while.
Long enough, it seems, for Czinger to come up with a 2.9-litre, twin-turbo V8 with an 11,000rpm red line and 937bhp. Come on, not even Gene Roddenberry could come up with this stuff.
Behold! The humble van. It’s not a Citroen with corrugated steel sides, so it’ll be no good at a Hackney food market. It’s not boxy, autonomous or electric, either, so it’s no good for a glowing, self-aggrandising press release about how Volkswagen cares for the environment and the glittering future we can look forward to.
Nope, just a van, just one with a camper version included on the spec sheet. And now it gets a decent amount of attention in the TG office. And while some of us prefer hotels, with bars, room service and cushy beds, others are of that strange disposition where they love to go out into the freezing cold somewhere so they can sleep in a hammock and drink almost corrosively strong tea out of enamel mugs. Horses for courses, isn’t it?
The new E-Class might seem as predictable as a fight at a football match. But, unlike a football match, there’s a whole lot of cleverness going on underneath the surface. The adaptive cruise control, for instance, will modify your speed based on online traffic reports, and the blind-sport monitoring works, even after you’ve turned the car off, so you don’t clobber a cyclist with your door when you get out.
While the i20 may seem as interesting as a discussion on the relative merits of Blu-Ray vs HD-DVD, we have a little surprise for you: we’re getting a hot hatch version, presumably called the i20N. And equally presumably, we’re looking at 200bhp or so, as well as the same sort of N Division tweakery that made the i30N such a debut smash. It could also have been because it was offered in baby blue, which is the very best of all colours to paint anything.
The i20N is a while away yet, but this is the hatch it’ll be based on. So, which tired joke would you prefer – OAPs or rental car?
Honda Civic Type R editions
As tough and ultimately thankless jobs go, ‘making the Civic Type R’ subtle has to be right up there with umpiring, nursing or being a house servant. Or parenting, which appears to be all of those things.
You’ll see, then, that the Civic Type R, even in its most demure Sport Line, is about as subtle as a sledgehammer. The Jekyll to this Hyde, of course, is an even more garish one, that looks to be painted the same hue as the old Civic Jordan.
Also, BRB, looking at how much Civic Jordans go for these days.
Yes, we know it’s a crossover, a marriage of hatch and SUV that could only be less palatable if it were between blood relatives, and we know it’s a Kia, which is not the first brand you think of when it comes to ‘luxury’ or ‘presence’ or anything that isn’t ‘value’. But head over to our article on it, check out the pics and then tell us honestly: how good does its interior look? Did this just happen while we were sleeping or something, or did we just see Kia take its first leap into properly premium territory?