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The Age / Tech - Game

2018 Geneva motor show wrap

The Geneva motor show is usually a celebration of the finer elements of motoring - style, technology, performance and exclusivity intersect in the financial heart of Europe. The boutique event is physically one of the smallest shows on the automotive calendar, though what it lacks in size is easily accounted for by a sensational array of metal and carbon fibre from manufacturers desperate to snare the motoring world’s attention.

Out-there concepts

Few cars capture Geneva’s spirit quite like Aston Martin's Lagonda concept. The British brand sprung a surprise by announcing plans to revive the Lagonda name as a spin-off brand for electric vehicles.

Set to go into production in 2021, Lagonda machines will rival the likes of Rolls-Royce as ultra high-end luxury machines featuring first-class materials and bold design work. 

The brand’s concept car shunned traditional luxury car staples such as wood and leather, combining ceramic tiles, carbon fibre, wool and silk in a bold manner that won plenty of attention from well-heeled onlookers. 

Aston Martin's Valkyrie AMR Pro is the most extreme car to be sold to the public. Photo: Supplied

Renault took an entirely different approach with the Ez-Go concept, channelling the French spirit of liberté, égalité and fraternité with an autonomous pod shaped for a future where many people may not have the opportunity to own personal vehicles. If the Lagonda is a private plane tailor-made to individual tastes, then Renault’s robo-taxi is a jumbo jetliner intended to make on-demand driverless transport accessible to mass populations concentrated around urban centres.

Hyundai channelled Franco-Swiss thinking with its HDC-1 Le Fil Rouge concept pointing towards a common styling thread - “the red wire” - for future models. The full-sized four-door coupe appears to be an Audi A7 or Mercedes-Benz CLS rival on the surface, but in reality is more likely to be rendered as an evolution of Hyundai’s “fluidic sculpture” design ethos found on more humble models such as the Tucson and Sonata. 

Electric future

The opposite is true of Volkswagen’s ID Vizzion, a concept car pointing towards a premium electric sedan to rival the likes of Tesla’s Model S. Set to join a reborn electric Kombi, compact hatch and SUV in an electrified showroom, the ID Vizzion channels the spirit of VW’s discontinued Phaeton flagship as a tech-centric flagship for the brand. 

Related Content

  • Toyota unveils Supra race car concept
  • Ferrari 488 Pista leaks online
  • Aston Martin reveals track-only Valkyrie AMR Pro
  • Porsche reveals Mission E Cross Turismo
  • Sunday 7: Most anticipated cars of the Geneva motor show

Porsche’s official line surrounding the Mission E Cross Turismo is that the high-riding electric machine is a futuristic concept car, even if there is clear production intent behind the model. Riding on elevated suspension similar to a Subaru Outback or Audi Allroad wagon, Porsche claims the battery-powered follow-up act to its original showstopper of 2015 can take a full charge in 15 minutes, giving it 400km of range made possible through wireless induction.

Powered by electric motors pumping out a total of 440kW, the Cross Turismo can reach 100km/h in less than 3.5 seconds - making it slightly slower than Tesla’s benchmark machines. Porsche counters that by saying its performance will be consistent and repeatable in the real world, while offering the sort of driver-focused dynamics people expect from the brand.

Like its German cousins, Audi’s latest e-tron concept is a thinly disguised production vehicle, one likely to serve as an electric cousin to the brand’s mid-sized Q5 SUV. Around 250 examples of the smart-looking crossover will take part in a global test program before the car reaches showrooms in 2019.

Around the corner

Subaru continues to tease us with muscular, sharp-looking “Viziv” concepts pointing to future models inevitably watered down by practical concerns. This week’s effort surrounds a replacement for the Levorg, a practical machine that could have been a red-hot WRX wagon but doesn’t deliver what we hoped for from the brand. That could change if the Viziv Tourer Concept is any indication - its chiselled carbon-fibre guards house fat wheels with racing tyres, and a gaping bonnet scoop hits at proper power going to all four wheels.

BMW fans don’t need to use their imagination when taking in the Concept M8 Gran Coupe, a thinly disguised pointer to the brand’s new flagship range. Set to be powered by a twin-turbocharged 4.4-litre V8 shared with the new BMW M5, the M8 GC will challenge the likes of Audi’s RS7 and the new four-door Mercedes-AMG GT for the hearts, minds and wallets of executive express customers who aren’t ready to buy sensible hybrid models.

The same is true of Skoda’s Vision X, which will soon go into production as a rival to the Mazda CX-3 and Toyota C-HR. Sharing its underpinnings with VW’s T-Roc baby SUV, Volkswagen will have to race its Czech mates to be the first to introduce the crossover to Australia, where city hatchbacks such as the Polo are falling out of favour with local buyers.

Toyota confirmed the worst-kept secret in motoring, formally announcing the return of its Supra performance car as a bigger brother to the 86. Taking the form of a race-inspired concept car ready to tackle Le Mans, the Supra show car points towards an affordable performance coupe built on the same platform and BMW’s upcoming Z4.

Expect the production Supra to feature a turbocharged six-cylinder engine, entertaining rear-wheel-drive dynamics and a sub-$80,000 sticker when it arrives in Australia.

Real talk

Toyota expects the Supra to sell in small numbers in Australia, serving as a halo model as opposed to a contributing factor to its sales dominance. The opposite is true of its new Corolla, which broke cover in Geneva as the Euro-spec Auris. Sharp new looks and updated powertrains join improved driver aids and a longer body with more passenger room in Australia’s best-selling passenger car, which arrives locally in August.

While Australian Corolla models miss out on an advanced 2.0-litre hybrid drivetrain and reworked CVT transmission offered in Europe, Lexus will bring both in its new UX SUV.

Positioned as a rival to the BMW X2 and Audi Q2, the UX is intended to attract first-time buyers to Australia’s luxury arm. Petrol and hybrid versions will offer front and all-wheel-drive traction across a choice of trim lines when the UX hits local showrooms in the first half of 2019.

Range Rover took a completely different approach with the new SV Coupe, targeting its most loyal - and wealthy - customers with a two-door version of its flagship SUV. Limited to 999 examples, the 416kW machine shares only its bonnet and tailgate with the standard Range Rover, with reworked styling contributing significantly to price tag set to sit north of $500,000.

Collectors keen to spend a little less might be tempted by Ford’s Mustang Bullitt. 

Powered by a 5.0-litre V8 tuned to make 354kW of power, the limited-edition machine features retro styling inspired by the automotive star of Bullitt, featuring Steve McQueen.

If Ford celebrated its past in Geneva, Holden fans could find their future on the Peugeot stand. There, the French marque unveiled its new 508 sedan, a machine that could replace the Opel-sourced Insignia currently offered as the Commodore in Holden showrooms. Peugeot’s PSA parent company acquired Opel and Vauxhall in 2017, expressing a desire to rationalise ranges and use Peugeot platforms for future models. 

That’s not necessarily a bad thing - the 508 is a beautifully presented machine both inside and out, with attention to detail and cabin fit and finish far exceeding Holden’s current offerings.

Kia also unveiled key models for its future in the Ceed and Ceed Sportswagon that point to a new Cerato for Australia. The South Korean brand’s Hyundai i30 cousin will feature improved safety and connectivity, along with a fresh spin on Kia’s ‘tiger nose’ grille.

Track specials

If Kia has a problem getting people to notice the Cerato in the real world, which was doubly the case at Geneva. the show is home to all manner of extreme machines, including trackday specials offered by five of the most exclusive manufacturers on the road. Lamborghini’s new Urus SUV was pushed out of the spotlight by the brand’s new Huracan Performance Spyder which took centre stage.

Building on the Nurburgring lap record-setting performance of the Performante coupe, the drop-top offers better access to the aural fury of a naturally aspirated V10 engine mixing fuel, air and fire in the most magnificent way possible. Lambo owners may also be attracted to improved visibility for the top-shelf Huracan, as it is definitely a car to seen in.

Few cars can claim to rev harder than a Huracan at full flight. Porsche’s 911 GT3 RS is one of them, shunning turbochargers in favour of a free-spinning six-cylinder engine capable of reaching 9000rpm. The iconic marque’s track-focused 911 is a favourite among enthusiasts, prompting lengthy waiting lists from those prepared to spend around $500,000 to get hold of the updated model.

Money alone isn’t enough to get you behind the wheel of Ferrari’s 488 Pista - you’ve got to be a member of la familigia, too. Ferrari’s weapon used version of the 488 brings 530kW of power and 770Nm of torque, harnessed by F1 and Le Mans-inspired aerodynamics and electronics intended to make it the most track-ready Ferrari on sale today.

We know it will be fast. Ferrari also promises that will be invigorating to drive, with a better sound and more responsive handling which should make the Pista an addictive experience.

Trackday junkies tired of road-car compromises could consider the McLaren Senna GTR, a car the British brand promises will be its fastest circuit-lapper short of F1 contenders. McLaren’s Senna is already the most focused road car in its history - the GTR cranks that up to 11 with more power, more downforce and more financial commitment from owners prepared to spend well more than $2 million for something that cannot be driven on the road. 

You could double that figure for the most extreme car at Geneva.

Aston Martin’s Valkyrie is the brainchild of genius F1 designer Adrian Newey, who sculpted one of the most visually arresting and singularly purposeful cars ever conceived for the road. Like McLaren’s GTR, the Valkyrie AMR Pro is a track-only version of an already extreme road car, one that combines outrageous downforce with more than 800kW coming from what Aston chief Andy Palmer eloquently describes as “a big f—- off engine”, and a complete disregard for racing rule books.

Aston Martin arguably stole the show at Geneva with a Valkyrie and Lagonda duo representing performance and luxury bookends few brands can match.

At least until next year.