Geneva 2012 Motor Show
Geneva Pizzazz Lightens Europe’s Austerity Mood
Luxury Cars Everywhere; “One Per Cent” Doing OK
New Audi A3 (Just Think Old One) Has Big Implications For VW
Bentley Bulk Catches The Eye, Then Turns The Stomach
“ugly and over-the-top, the key to success for target market; professional sports players across the world, and drug dealers
Austerity might be the gloomy theme on the news every night in Europe, but excess was everywhere at the Geneva Car Show.
Europe’s economy may be buckling and car sales for the masses stumbling, but luxury cars are booming, judging by the number of new Bentley’s, Ferraris, Maseratis and top-of-the-range BMWs and Porsches revealed at the show. The onepercenters are doing ok, that’s for sure. New trends and high technology were on the backburner, as mass carmakers attended to current problems of survival, not what might work five years from now. Sure, there were electric cars, hybrids, and fuel cell cars, but nobody was bragging about them.
Bentley, the British luxury carmaker now owned by Volkswagen of Germany, set the tone when it unveiled its concept SUV. This massive machine was displayed to gauge reaction, before the company decides to hold’em or fold’em. If the project is “go”, it might get a proper name. Journalists, seeing the beast for the first time, seemed to agree that it was ugly and over-the-top, which might well be the key to success among its presumed target market; professional sports players across the world, and drug dealers.
The Bentley SUV has a 6.0-liter twin-turbocharged W-12 engine, but Bentley says it could use a 4.0-litre V-8, or a hybrid petrol-electric motor. The massive grille and huge headlights will be scarier in your rear-view mirror than a Porsche Cayenne. (It’s based on Cayenne engineering). The Cayenne says “get out of my way, I’m rich and important.” The Bentley looks as though it would run right over you. The likely price is probably north of $250,000.
Top sports players will also be queuing up to buy the new Ferrari F12 Berlinetta, with its 740-hp v-12 6.3 litre, petrol direct injection engine. The F12 Berlinetta is the last in Ferrari’s range renewal that started with the 458 Italia, and continued with the four-seat FF, and the 458 Spider last year. Price; about $341,000.
Aston Martin, Maserati, Porsche, BMW
Classier, and even more damaging to the wallet at $540,000 is the limited-edition Aston Martin Zagato, with its V12 6.0-litre 510 horsepower motor. Substitutes and bench-sitters might be tempted by the reasonably-priced Maserati Grand Tourismo Sport at $100,000, a new Porsche Boxster or a BMW 6 Gran Coupe.
Most visitors to the show will be dreaming of winning the lottery and owning luxury cars, but will actually be buying more practical ones. Perhaps the most important car to be launched was the Audi A3. The third generation A3 is crucial to its parent company Volkswagen’s future because it is the first to use VW’s new engineering system of engines, suspensions and parts, which will be used under the skin of about 40 vehicles. This includes the new VW Golf later this year, and VW brands like Skoda and SEAT. True to Audi’s tradition, the A3 looks almost indistinguishable from the previous model. There will be a plug-in hybrid version.
Ford’s B-class MPV eliminates the middle pillar along the side, and has rear sliding doors. Ford has strengthened the doors to combat side impacts.
Fiat unveiled the 500L (for Long), which expands the range to four with this high-roofed MPV. Fiat, with help from its Chrysler subsidiary, is eager to schmooze Americans, and is calling a new version of the minicar, the Fiat 500 America, and said in its presentation at the show that the car will help in the pursuit of happiness. No embarrass genes there. The L version is much bigger and higher than the original 500, and its bland and overweight design sacrifices all its original physical attractiveness in the process.
Mercedes A class
The new Mercedes A class shows styling lessons have been learned because previous versions looked anonymous and dull. The new A class has borrowed styling cues at the front from its more expensive cousins and looks very attractive.
GM Europe revealed the new Opel-Vauxhall Mokka compact SUV version of the Buick Encore. GM Europe couldn’t contain its joy after the Chevrolet Volt’s European twin the Opel Ampera won the 2012 European Car of the Year award.
Peugeot showed off its new little 208, which boasts distinct styling on the surface, and new engineering underneath said to shed much weight and improve fuel consumption significantly.
Swiss firm Rinspeed had a neat solution to electric cars’ problems of range anxiety – bung a little trailer on the back packed to bursting with batteries, or other stuff to make it go further. The Smart Fortwo Electric Drive-based concept has what Rinspeed calls a ‘backpack on wheels’. It can include a combustion engine or range extender, be packed with batteries or powered by a fuel cell. For short journeys, just unhitch the backpack.
Korean manufacturer Kia’s face-lifted C’eed offers improved interior quality said to be positively German and aimed to take sales from the class leading VW Golf.
Hyundai i30 wagon
The new Hyundai i30 wagon looks very nice.
The Volvo V40 looks very dull
The Citigo is a VW Up in disguise
So is the Mii.
Neil Winton – March 8, 2012
*photographs © Paul Cox Photographic