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Geneva show: the winners and losers
Wow, the Geneva show felt confident this year. Maybe there are better barometers of the state of Europe’s car industry than over-polished cars on an exhibition hall floor, but as an indicator we’re finally clear of the post-financial crisis doldrums, Geneva offered a pretty clear message: fast is back.
Supercars, hot hatches, GTs: whichever way you looked there was something new, shiny and seriously self-assured.
For a start, it was a surprise to have some surprises. So many of a motor show’s big ‘reveals’ are in fact previewed weeks in advance - witness the Ferrari 488 and Focus RS - but the Bentley Speed 6 and Aston DBX concepts landed without warning.
The EXP 10 Speed 6, to offer its full name, was far more convincing than a toe-in-the-water design study has any right to be, looking utterly ready to enter production. If Bentley truly is vacillating between pursuing a small sports car or another SUV, we know which way we want them to go.
The Aston was, admittedly, a little rougher round the edges: perhaps unsurprising given how quickly it was stitched together after Andy Palmer assumed the helm at Gaydon. I thought it looked rather smart. Others disagreed. But surely no one would argue it’s a more pleasant vision of Aston’s inevitably SUV-flavoured future than the dreadful Lagonda concept of six years ago?
But the VW Group led the way, its end of the Geneva hall positively groaning under glorious, fast metal. It was no shock that Europe’s biggest motoring empire went big on its home show, only how restrained its offerings made the show stands of Merc and BMW look - biblically-winged AMG GT3 racer honorably excepted.
The pair of fast Porsches - 911 GT3 RS and Cayman GT4 - proved no one in the world is building better sports cars than Stuttgart right now, and made you worry for Lotus’s future, despite Norfolk’s finest rolling up with their new-ish Evora 400.
Audi’s R8 was professional if predictable - with the exception of the all-electric e-tron version, which should prove once and for all whether we truly have entered the battery powered era, while Lambo’s certifiable Aventador SV is exactly what Lambo should be doing: all wing and strake and excessive power.
Even the VW empire’s more mundane offerings were annoyingly slick. From Skoda’s new Superb - the name seems less presumptuous with each generation - to the sharp-edged Seat 20V20, there was barely a bum note from any one of the VW brands. You can safely assume many chastened senior execs in the boardrooms of Peugeot and Citroen this week. Alfa and Fiat, too, were notable for their lack of anything significantly new.
Renault, at least, managed to conjure some excitement in the shape of the implausibly named Kadjar and less implausibuly named Clio RS 220, which frustratingly retains that double-clutch gearbox. Renault reckons it’s better now. Couldn’t they have found a manual from somewhere?
And the other Europeans? Well, Ferrari’s 488 GTB looked even better in the metal - designer Flavio Manzoni admitted the initial press pictures didn’t do his newly turbocharged V8 sports car justice - with new Maranello boss Sergio Marchionne making encouraging noises about (a) keeping V12 engines and (b) steering clear of SUVs.
Koenigsegg went frankly bonkers, unveiling both the 1800bhp, single-speed Regera and 1160bhp Agera RS in a veritable detonation of horsepower, whilst also hinting at a future four-door hypercar. Not to be outdone, fellow small-volume, big-power upstart Pagani promised us a hardcore, and convertible Huayra.
The high-horsepower epidemic seemed to have spread beyond Europe, too. That Honda’s production Civic Type R didn’t look quite as malevolent as its preceding concepts seemed to disappoint some, but really: it’s a 306bhp, 167mph hot hatch. Between Civic and NSX, Honda’s finally hauling itself out of its decade-long OAP doldrums.
Infiniti could take some lessons. Enough of the interesting concepts, chaps. Get on and build some interesting cars. Kia’s planning to, vowing to bring its rather nice Sportspace concept to production.
“Is there anything slow on the Ford stand?” a press officer from a rival manufacturer asked me in apparent despair. And true, between the new GT revealed back in January, of course, but now confirmed for a production run of 250 cars at ‘Aventador money’ and the pugnacious, four-wheel drive Focus RS, it looks like we’re entering another golden age of fast Fords.
So to all those who worried, after the slump of 2008 and subsequent eco-hand-wringing, that the era of interesting performance metal was over, fear not: Geneva proved that fast cars are alive and kicking in all shapes and sizes.
What was your Best In Show?