Geneva International Motor Show 2010 – Review

Motor industry bigwigs on parade at Geneva repeatedly told us that this is THE show to be at, not least because ‘neutral’ Switzerland means no single nation can dominate the automotive flavour. Germans, French, Italians, British… all get an equal chance to display their most ingenious, most creative, most desirable wares.

So where do we start? Roughly alphabetically, perhaps, with Aston Martin’s new Rapide causing a stir among the pundits, all keen to try the rear seats for size. The general consensus: size-wise, the Porsche Panamera offers a more practical solution for four-up travelling – but there’s no doubt that the Rapide wins hands-down on style. Also attracting attention was the limited-edition, purple-black DBS Volante personally specced by Ulrich Bez – and hence known as UB2010; while feelings are as ever mixed when it comes to the little Cygnet city car, at last unveiled in the metal. There are no mixed feelings in the Classic Driver office, however: and we’ve written a separate story to prove it.

Geneva International Motor Show 2010 – Review Geneva International Motor Show 2010 – Review

Moving through the alphabet we reach Audi, whose new wares were focused on low-emissions technology. The electric drive e-tron versions of its cars are fast becoming an entire model range, with Geneva seeing the A1 e-tron city car – or, as Audi would have us call it, ‘Mega City Vehicle (MCV)’. Meanwhile, the A8 hybrid concept on show boasted two propulsion units – a 2.0 TFSI and an electric motor, developing 245PS in total.

B is for Bentley, BMW and Bugatti. Bentley was another premium marque paying much heed to alternative fuels, announcing that its FlexFuel technology (whereby petrol and E85 bioethanol can be used in any proportions, from a single tank) has been extended right across the 2011 Continental range. That includes the new Supersports Convertible with its remarkable W12 6-litre engine, displayed on the Bentley stand alongside the all-new Mulsanne. What a joy that despite the necessary attention to environmental issues, there is still room for such a glorious flagship of unadulterated luxury and performance. The world would be a poorer place without it; and, indeed, without the remarkable shooting brake, designed by Carrozzeria Touring Superleggera on a Continental GTC chassis, which we’ll be covering in more detail next week.

Geneva International Motor Show 2010 – Review Geneva International Motor Show 2010 – Review

The BMW stand at Geneva gave many the opportunity to see the new, sixth-generation 5 Series up close for the first time; but the Bugatti stand surprised us. While visitors could ogle several examples of the Veyron, including an ‘expanded’ chassis revealing the awe-inspiring strength of the gearbox, there were no examples of the four-door Bugatti 16 C Galibier concept – although it had been on show at a private event in Geneva the night before; and it’s one of those cars that looks far, far more impressive in the flesh than in pictures. “We don’t want to put it on general show until we know whether we’re going to produce it or not,” was Bugatti’s answer to our question.

Accelerating on through the alphabet, we backed off to admire the new ‘anti-retro’ Citroen DS3 – a rival for the MINI but with typically French charm (that will seal the deal for you, one way or the other); and then it was flat-out to the Ferrari stand, where even the 458 Italia had to compete for attention with the new Ferrari 599 hybrid in matt green (matt satin paint was definitely a theme for Geneva 2010 – it seems that ‘matt is the new metallic’). We’ll be looking at this hybrid technology in a separate feature – along with one of the few, true surprises of the show… Porsche’s mid-engined 918 Spyder with plug-in hybrid technology. This concept sports car joined the 911 GT3 R Hybrid race car and Cayenne S Hybrid on the Porsche stand; as well as, of course, the more traditionally engined new-generation Cayenne we covered recently in Classic Driver.

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Scrabbling back up the alphabet after that slight interruption, we reach Jaguar... and the unveiling of its latest evolution of the supercharged XKR coupé. This is the fastest XK ever, now that the electronically limited top speed has gone up from 155mph to 174mph, and it looked good alongside the luxurious, highly acclaimed new XJ that we’ll be driving next week. Next came Lamborghini, which had an even lighter, even more powerful new version of its ‘already lean’ Gallardo LP 560-4. This latest model – the LP 570-4 Superleggera – has lost 70kg and, with its 570PS, can rocket from 0-62mph in 3.4 seconds.

On the home straight, we lift off for the Mercedes stand, where the new E-Class Cabriolet sat next to the F 800 Style concept – a new four-door coupé with (for the concept only) sliding rear doors: see our separate news story. And still on ‘M’, we agree that the new MINI Countryman looks better in real life than it does in the promotional videos playing non-stop in the background. The familiar MINI styling is still there, but in a much chunkier form to suit the crossover segment.

Geneva International Motor Show 2010 – Review Geneva International Motor Show 2010 – Review

As we cross the finish line, there’s just room to mention two marques at opposite ends of the spectrum: Rolls-Royce, where the bodywork of the Ghost demonstrated the true meaning of perfect paint. And finally Smart – the launch pad of so many city-car ideals that once seemed bizarre, but are now commonplace. It was on the Smart stand that we found Rolf Sachs, who has taken the unpretentious little city car and applied his design philosophy to “give it a soul”. Click here to read our interview with him…


Text: Charis Whitcombe
Photos: Nanette Schärf

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