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Geneva Motor Show: our picks

  1. Ollie Marriage, Motoring Editor (Follow Ollie on Twitter)

    Blown away as I was by the LaFerrari and Mac P1 (the latter much better in live view than I expected), neither was the prettiest car at Geneva. For me, that honour fell to the Pininfarina Sergio (above).

    What a gorgeous, extravagant piece of design and a fitting way to celebrate the life of the great man, who passed away last summer. I’m sure you want to know numbers and the like and that’s easy enough - underneath it’s a Ferrari 458, but the ditching of any form of weather protection means it weighs 150kg less, so Pininfarina claims 0-60mph in 3.4secs and a max of 199mph. And yes, if you ask nicely, Pininfarina will build you one.

    Moving on. Biggest surprise? Well, the moment I turned a corner and found Noble was a pleasant one. I just didn’t expect them to be there, but they’ve been spending a lot of time, effort and money recently getting the M600 fully homologated for Europe. This has involved a vast, vast number of alterations, including the rounding-off of the edges of the boot badge, lest anyone fall and cut themselves. Somehow. The damn thing’s recessed. But fair play to them, the car’s dynamite and deserves a wider audience.

    Finally, not a car as such, but a moment. The moment, specifically, that AMG used the words ‘Vorsprung Durch Technik’ in its global press conference. ‘Don’t read too much into that’ said AMG boss Ola Kallenius when I interviewed him later. Yeah, right. What possible outcome did you foresee in using that phrase in conjunction with the announcement that you’ll be building more 4wd models (CLS 63 AMG 4Matic will be along shortly) as you push to grow sales to 30,000 per year? Watch out Audi, AMG is coming for you.

  2. Paul Horrell, Consultant Editor

    A slightly strange show this. Like any Geneva, it was supercar Babylon. But it was actually a show without great strength in depth. Lots of hypercars plus the Alfa 4C and the Rolls Wraith, but few interesting new cars for normal people.

    I like the McLaren and Ferrari for their demonstrating that hybrid technology is about efficiency, and it’s OK to choose to spend that efficiency on responsiveness not just on economy. But really how relevant is a galactic 900bhp-plus to my sadly terrestrial driving talent? So they gave me a nagging feeling of being unworthy. So for my three picks, I’m going oddball.

    First the VW XL1 (above). It puts LaFerrari levels of technology into a package that means more. It can be cascaded among other VW cars: I’ve seen the CAD rendering that shows the drivetrain fits directly under the bonnet of an Up!, and we know a four-cylinder version is being scaled up for the Golf, and a petrol-electric edition for the A3. Also any German car with no power steering is OK by me. The lightweight cabin is wonderfully spare and elegant.

    Second choice is another carbon-tubbed mid-engined two-seater, the Alfa 4C. It weighs only 1000kg, which means its little 1.8 turbo is going to propel it with near-supercar vehemence. It looks lovely, and it’s got a big job to do in re-igniting the Alfa name worldwide. We drive it when the warmer weather comes, and I’m sooooo hoping they haven’t dropped the ball with the dynamics. Sorry, but I’m sentimental about Alfa and I’m not apologising.

    Final choice, the Qoros range. Of course I, like any of us, would far rather have a 4C or Porsche GT3 than these boring Chinese hatchbacks, but that isn’t the point. Any European or Asian mass-manufacturer that isn’t given the heebie-jeebies by Qoros is delusional. Straight out of the box this brand has produced cars of staggering maturity. They’ve got better exterior surfacing and interior lushness than anything but the VWs they so evidently mimic.

    Best of the rest? Kia Provo. Is it already time for us to get nostalgic about the turn of the millenium? This thing has the attitude and surfacing of those ‘blobjects’ we loved back in Y2K. Remember Marc Newson’s Ford 021C? Wraith: something of the night there, and so very lush. The Renault Captur, a nicer stab at a mini-crossover than the too-reserved Peugeot 2008 or mildly gawky Ford Ecosport or vanilla-Japanese Suzuki SX4 Mk2. The Pininfarina Sergio concept, bringing the classic little Italian barchetta snappily up to date.

    What made me saddest? The Lamborghini Veneno. Is the standard Aventador’s aero package so rubbish that it needs this comprehensive re-work? Of course not. So the Veneno’s mods must be purely for childish, vulgar display. It hurts my eyes. 

  3. Rowan Horncastle, Online Content Producer (Follow Rowan on Twitter)

    It seems my Geneva Motor Show should’ve been sponsored by DAZ. My three show stars are all whiter than white. Yes, La Red One (I’m still getting used to its silly name), and the lucid lemon-yellow McLaren P1 have got us all excited for the next chapter in the book of motoring. But they’re a bit too obvious, imperceptible to the everyman, and, most importantly, not white enough.

    That’s why I was drawn to the Toyota FT-86 Open concept (above): real-world wantage with the roof off. For all that we hark on about the GT86’s cheap thrills and driving capabilities, it’s never been a looker. But the “off with its head!” treatment somehow has made it look a bit more classy and desirable. The scalping has only been done on a conceptual basis, but Toyota is considering it, and that consideration is a GOOD idea. Think about it: the same 200bhp 2.0-litre flat-four ‘boxer’ engine from Subaru up front, a quick six-speed in the middle, and skinny, slippy Prius tyres looking to loose traction at the back. As Stig can testify, the wind in your hair feeling is accentuated when you’re going sideways - so please make it Toyota.

    Next up was the new Porsche 991 GT3. A general rule of thumb is that if a £100,000 go-faster Porsche 911 is left relatively out of the limelight then it’s been a pretty good show, and it’s fair to say the poor Porsche was a bit overshadowed by fantastical exotica of the Veneno, P1 and Son of Enzo. But this is a car to get properly excited about. For the first time it uses the 911’s wider body, it’s got a new 468bhp, 324lb ft 3.8-litre, direct-injection flat six, can hit 60mph in 3.5sec, uses all four wheels to steer, and most controversial, is only available with a PDK gearbox. But there’s a cool feature where you can de-clutch like a manual by simultaneously pulling both gear paddles, which sounds excellent fun.

    Finally, I wanted to pick VW’s awesome eco streamliner - the XL1 - as my final car. But the one on the stand was red, not white. So I’ve stumped for the white van of the future: VW’s E-Co-Motion Concept. It looks like a cross-fertilisation experiment between a French Bulldog and a Stormtrooper’s helmet where, during the allogamy process, wheels and a modular underfloor drive unit comprising of a battery, motor and gearbox were sprouted. It’s aimed at the white van man who recycles his egg McMuffin wrapper, as it’s purely electric. We all know those VDub tuning lot like playing around with VAG vans, and this one looks like an awesome canvas to play with. It’s way off reality. But it’s white. And this year, it seems, that’s all that matters to me.

  4. Sam Philip, Senior Writer (Follow Sam on Twitter)

    Forget the McLaren 12C and the Ferrari LaFerrari LaFerrari. Forget the pastrami-slicer Lamborghini Veneno and the mass-suicide-doored Rolls Wraith. Selecting Geneva’s three finest cars is a simple, clear-cut decision for me, and here they are:

    1) Mansory’s ‘Stallone’ F12
    2) Mansory’s ‘Aero II’ Cayenne
    3) Mansory’s convertible G-Wagen

    In fact, maybe awarding gold, silver and bronze isn’t entirely clear-cut. It seems tough that Mansory’s full-carbon Aventador and Mansory’s matte-black golf buggy must miss out on medals, but this is a serious business, and tough decisions must be made.

    Sure, less far-sighted commentators may herald Alfa’s commitment in pushing the 4C project to production, or the engineering brilliance of VW’s XL1. But can either company truly hold a candle to the mighty Mansory, a firm for which the answer to the question ‘Seriously, is this too much?’ is always ‘Hell no! And have you considered covering that in CHROMED LEOPARD SKIN?’ It regards heinous excess as a civic duty rather than a fault.

    What other company would look at the peerless Ferrari F12 and think, ‘You know what would make this car even better? A freakish chin-spoiler to make its front end resemble the chap from the Pringles logo! And why not name it after a melty-faced Eighties Hollywood action hero’? And what other company would have the insight to realise the venerable Mercedes G-Wagen, after so many years of plodding along in boring, fixed-roof guise, could be given a new lease of life as a cabriolet?

    There’s a (slightly) serious point here. As the VW Empire released another few dozen worthy-but-predictable MQB-platform profit-churners - Skoda Octavia estate, Golf GTI, Seat Leon SC - it was easy to worry that the wilder, weirder corners of the motoring world were being sanded smooth, that profit margins and globalisation were driving eyebrow-raising creations to extinction. Moreover, through the relentless drip-feed of teaser images and leaked info, even before Geneva opened its doors we all had a fair idea how the Ferrari LaLaLa and Wraith and the rest were going to look, and how fast they might be. As Twitter tightens its iron grip on the motor industry, auto show reveals are becoming ever less revealing, with genuine what-the-hell-is-that show-floor shocks at a premium.

    But Mansory, for better or worse, always serves up surprises. OK, so those surprises tend to be more ‘Dear God, Fido, what have you left on the kitchen floor?’ and less ‘A weekend away at the Monza Grand Prix? Darling, you shouldn’t have!’, but innovation must be rewarded in whatever form it arrives.

    For Top Gear, as you know, always wishes to see the boundaries of automotive endeavour stretched to - and often beyond - their limits. In the last couple of years, we have feared the world of dubious-taste tuning might be on the decline, what with, y’know, the global financial crisis and the fall from fashion of conspicuous consumption. But it’s good to see that there are enough, ahem, aesthetically adventurous millionaires left out there to sustain firms like Mansory - or, at least, that firms like Mansory haven’t yet realised that even aesthetically adventurous millionaires don’t dare to buy grotesque, bodykitted Cayennes any more.

    We must, of course, give honourable mention to the other pioneers that helped to make the Geneva show floor a more diverse-retina challenging place: Hamann’s purple-pink Range Rover will live long in our hearts, not to mention stomachs, while Brabus - despite a very tasteful updated Merc 280 SL - continued to do things with carbon fibre that contravened most EU Health And Safety Guidelines.

    But for pushing car design to places it has never been - and, in truth, ought never go again - no company can touch Mansory. Pray raise your diamante-encrusted, carbon-fibre goblets to the Swiss sultans of swagger!

  5. Tom Ford, Associate Editor (Follow Tom on Twitter

    Rolls Royce Wraith (above)

    I know this car was polarising – there was a fair bit of mickey-taking
    around the show stand – and I know that it isn’t pretty, or
    particularly useful, or any of the other qualifiers that people use to
    define ‘best’.

    But what it is, is bold. Unapologetic. Ballsy. A posh hot rod. It’s got
    624bhp and 590lb ft. It does 0-62mph in 4.6. The interior made me
    smile, and the exterior made me stand and stare for a good long while.

    Ok, so I don’t think that the two-tone in such contrasting shades
    worked particularly well, but that was Rolls making a point, and easily
    fixed. In short, I looked at this car and decided that it would be the
    kind of thing you’d decide upon, spend ages speccing, and then keep for
    the rest of your natural life. It would have a name. You would fall in

    Kia (Generally)

    This marked an arrival for Kia, for me. On the stand they had plenty of
    great-looking cooking models which you’d recommend in a second, a
    couple of very smart hot hatches (the Pro_Cee’d and GT), and an
    interesting little concept car. They called the small orange and green
    supermini the ‘Provo’, but that’s a story for another time. So the core
    proposition here was solidity, and professionalism. What it said to me,
    most of all, when looking at the Pro_Cee’d and deciding that I’d really
    like to have a go, was that the Koreans aren’t coming anymore. They’re
    already here.

    VW XL-1

    Amongst all the supercar hype was the XL-1, which was just as
    brilliant, just a little less shouty. I’m not a huge fan of super-eco,
    but here is a car that makes parsimony look like it might be a whole
    heap of fun. And it made me realize something; if you want people to
    embrace light-footed eco-cars, reward them by making vehicles that look
    like earthbound spaceships. Give people surprise and delight, and they
    will respond. Make it cool, and they will come.

  6. 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.

  7. Charlie Turner, Editor-in-Chief 

    La Ferrari (above)

    Ok, so it was always going to be the obvious choice, but my star of the show was La Ferrari. As the twitterati were bemoaning Ferrari’s naming conventions, I fought my way though the crowds onto the stand for a closer look. Supercars should leave you drooling, and La Ferrari delivered jaw-dropping moment after jaw-dropping moment as it rotated on the stand in front of its new found fanbase. Job done on that score, then.

    Having pored over the exterior I then jumped into the driver’s seat. With the seat bolted to the carbon tub, you adjust the pedals and steering wheel to find the perfect driving position. As the door thunked shut and the noise of the show disappeared, I was left to consider how utterly sublime this car might be to point at a distant horizon. We can’t wait to turn that motorshow dream into reality in a few months. But on first acquaintance, it appears Ferrari has created not only the star of the show, but quite possibly the most stunning supercars of all time.

    Lamborghini Veneno

    Controversial choice this one. With the Gallardo beginning to show its age and the Aventador criticised for not delivering dynamics to match the aesthetics, some would argue that Lamborghini have more important things to be concentrating on. Sorry, wrong. In the world of VW corporate blandness Lamborghini is apparently positioning itself as the agent provocateur of the group. And we at TG love them for it. In a motorshow littered with concept cars that never move and will be rolled off the show stand and into a warehouse to gather dust, the Veneno is a piece of automotive mentalness that we should applaud. All three have already been sold, don’t forget, and this is a 790bhp of Aventador-based reality. Love it or loathe it, our world would be poorer without whatever they’re putting in the water at St Agata.

    FT86 Open Concept

    From the ridiculous to the sublime? Regular readers of Top Gear will know how highly we rated the GT86 as the antithesis of the supercar. Its ability to make acceptable speed engaging in a world where unbreachable grip strangles the life out of most cars saw the GT86 crowned the 2012 Top Gear Car of the Year. The FT86 Open Concept takes all of the good bits of the GT86 (197bhp four-cylinder boxer engine, Prius tyres and rear wheel drive) and adds more sky. Ok so it’s put on a few pounds and features an interior that looks like an unhappy accident between DFS and Ikea, but with engineers saying that the ‘86 was engineered from the outset with a cabrio in mind, we could finally be looking at a practical drop-top that Top Gear can get excited about driving.

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