Located conveniently in the center of Europe and on neutral ground, the Geneva Motor Show is arguably the most important show on the continent. High volume and specialized manufacturers travel to the Swiss city every year to unveil their latest vehicles. Due to the relatively little space available in the ‘Palexpo’ exhibition center, the displays are limited in size and high quality is ensured.
We were on the show floor on both media days and have compacted all the info and impressions gather in the following report and 260-shot slideshow
Really going green
As at every major motor show in recent years, the environment took center stage again at Geneva. With the ever rising cost of fossil fuels there now is a real demand for more frugal machinery. Not surprisingly the new generation of ‘green’ machines does not use a hybrid drive system, but instead much more efficient versions of the traditional internal combustion engine in both petrol and diesel form. Additionally the increase of size and weight of cars has finally stopped; one of the key words of the Mercedes Benz press conference was ‘lighter’. These new generation ‘green’ cars, shown on the stands of almost every major manufacturer carry type names like Efficient Dynamics, Blue Motion or Blue Efficiency. Not only are they more efficient, they also produce considerably toxic exhaust gasses and easily meet the upcoming, much stricter emission rules.
Of course this does not mean that the quest for alternatives for the internal combustion engine has ceased. The most interesting ‘zero emission’ car in Geneva was quite surprisingly produced by Morgan, a company that is one of the last we expected to use such a modern solution. The British manufacturer’s regular production cars are deeply steeped in tradition and still share design cues with the pre-WWII Morgans. They broke that tradition with the ‘LIFECar Concept’, which uses highly advanced technology developed jointly by private research centers and universities. The very sleek and light two-seater uses a fuel cell to supply the power to four electric motors; one for each wheel. One of the best tricks up the Morgan’s sleeve is the use of the motors for braking as well. During retardation around 50% of the energy is stored in ultra capacitors and can be used for acceleration. In comparison the Prius manages to capture just 10% of its braking energy. Around two years in the making the LIFECar cost a staggering £1.9m to build. If there is sufficient demand, Morgan suggested it will investigate what it would cost to build a production version.
One of the best tradition of the Geneva Motor Show is that it attracts all the exotic manufacturers and more importantly many of the Italian design houses. Unfortunately financial problems prevented Bertone from joining us, but the remaining ‘carrozzerias’ were present in force.
Giugiaro / Italdesign celebrated their 40th birthday in great style with the Quranta concept car. It was lined up alongside three of the company’s most famous designs, including their very first, the Bizzarrini Manta. The Quaranta actually shares some styling cues with that 1968 show car and nevertheless looks thoroughly modern. Underneath the carbon fibre skin sits an equally advanced Toyota hybrid drivetrain that drives all four wheels. The performance also fits right into the 21st century with a 0-60 time of 4 seconds and an estimated top speed of 250 km/h. It does not quite stop there as Italdesign has fitted a truly breathtaking interior in the Quaranta with a central steering position, which again was inspired by the Manta.
There is also very little old-fashioned about the Pininfarina Sintesi, which represents the Italian company’s ideas for a four seater of the future. The shape of the exterior was penned to minimize drag and is very efficient and slightly unusual as a result. The very comfortable passenger compartment can be accessed with great ease through a massive aperture created by the tilting doors. The Sintesi comes complete with a modern power train consisting of a fuel cell and electric motors in every wheel.
Compared to their Turin based rivals, Zagato of Milan still operates very much like a coachbuilder of old. In recent years they produced limited production models based on Aston Martin, Ferrari and Maserati chassis. This year they expanded to Bentley, giving the Continental GT a full make-over. The two-tone coupe on show at Geneva incorporates many of the familiar Zagato themes, including the trademark ‘double bubble’. Although the Zagato spokesperson would not confirm a production number, but the five suggested by us apparently came close. They will have a second all new car on display in less than two months time during the concours d’elegance at Villa d’Este.
Power and performance
In stark contrast to the green trend, this year’s show also saw the introduction of a variety of very powerful high performance cars. Topping all was again Koenigsegg with the CCXR Edition model that packs a 1018 bhp despite being designed to run on E85 fuel. Christian von Koenigsegg also revealed his bold plans for this year; he plans to break the 400 km/h barrier and the production car lap records on the Hockenheim and Nordschleiffe tracks.
The Italians also stole the show in this ‘category’ with new offerings from Maserati, Alfa Romeo and Lamborghini. Despite their very different exteriors, the new Maserati Granturismo S and Alfa Romeo 8C Spyder are actually very similar. Both use the same 4.7 litre V8 engine and they rank very highly on the desirability chart. At Lamborghini a new version of the Gallardo was unveiled. Dubbed the LP560-4, it replaces the original car after a five year and 7100 car production run. Compared to its predecessor power is up by 40 bhp and yet emissions and consumption are reduced by a staggering 18%. Despite some detail changes to the exterior design, the two-seater coupe is still easily identifiable as a Gallardo.
Now that Spyker has sold its Formula 1 team, the Dutch niche manufacturer can once again focus on what should be their core business; building cars. That the company has turned a page was made very clear by the all new C8 Aileron; for the designers have moved away from the basic styling elements introduced way back in 2000. The Aileron comes with a slightly longer wheelbase and the option of an automatic gearbox. A drop top version will be unveiled later in the year at Pebble Beach.
Apart from the aforementioned high profile releases there were of course dozens more debuts. To go into detail of all of them would take too much time, but we would like to mention a few. At Volkswagen and Lancia the return of familiar names was celebrated; the Scirocco and Delta respectively. Nissan’s luxury brand Infiniti made its European debut after being active exclusively on the North American market for almost two decades. Former Pininfarina chief designer has set up for himself and showed two strangely attractive sportscars. The extravagant Frank Rinderknecht continued with his streak of highly unusual concept cars with the sQuba, which can be used on land and both on and in the water.
At the early stages of the first press day we were not really impressed by the releases at this year’s Geneva Motor Show, but as the day progressed we quickly moved away from our first impressions. More than ever before the 2008 show was a mix of the bold, the beautiful, the cutting edge and the outright crazy. In each category there were prime examples. Perhaps we were affected by the company’s 40th birthday celebrations or our longtime admiration for Giorgietto Giugiaro’s superb designs, but we picked the Italdesign Quaranta as our favourite car of the show. With its modern, yet retro wedge shape, ingenious packaging and fabulous interior, Italdesign could not have picked a better anniversary model.