2014 Geneva Motor Show: The Top 20 Debuts
Though winter shows few signs of abating in some parts of the world, the month of March still provides reasons for optimism. This is particularly true if you’re a car buff, for the global auto industry gathers every March in Geneva, Switzerland for the Geneva Motor Show, one of the marquee events on the international calendar. As always, this year’s show is eyebrows-deep in noteworthy debuts, but the following 20 are the ones that caused our eyebrows to arch more than usual.
Still hemming-and-hawing over whether or not you should buy a McLaren P1? Well, 375 other people have made your decision for you; they’ve collectively already bought the whole production run, meaning no British hybrid hypercar for you, boyo. But McLaren isn’t going back to being the MP4-12C-and-nothing-else company; instead, it’s fattening the product portfolio with the 650S, a sort of MP4-12C with extra bacon. Unlike Porsche, Ferrari and their ilk, which make you pay more money for more performance but also fewer mod-cons and everyday tolerability, McLaren has managed to crank up the 3.8L twin-turbo V8’s power (to 641 horsepower) and the bodywork’s downforce at speed (by a claimed 24% at 150 mph) while actually adding creature comforts in the cockpit (Bluetooth, satellite radio, and an adjustable steering column to name a trio of toys). And like the 12C, the 650S will be available in coupe and folding-hardtop Spider guises.
Volvo Concept Estate
Let’s pretend you’re in charge of a car company, and you want to blatantly pander to automotive journalists. What kind of concept car do you build? A brown shooting brake (a.k.a. a sporty two-door station wagon), of course, and that’s exactly what Volvo has done by creating the Concept Estate. No, it isn’t rear-wheel-drive with a diesel engine and manual transmission (at least, we don’t think it is; Volvo hasn’t discussed the powertrain), but it does preview Volvo’s new multimedia user interface that’s centered around a monolithic, Tesla-ish touchscreen in the middle of the dashboard. Here’s hoping a successor to the iconic 1800ES that looks at least similar to this thing is just over the horizon, as well.
Ferrari California T
There’s nothing really wrong with the current Ferrari California, aside from the rather frumpy styling. And good-but-not-great performance. And the overwhelming feeling that its target demo is reality TV star/”companions” of extraordinarily-doting sugar daddies. Okay, so maybe it does have some issues, but there’s good news: Ferrari appears to have addressed most of them with the California T. Why T? For turbo, mang: A twin-turbo 3.9L V8 (borrowed, with modifications, from the Maserati Quattroporte) replaces the present model’s unboosted 4.3L V8 and makes a bit more power (552 horsepower), a metric crap-ton more torque (557 lb.-ft) and uses noticeably less boom juice (a claimed 15% rise in fuel economy) than the old lump. Throw in chassis tweaks and decidedly less porcine styling and you have a car that people who, you know, appreciate the company’s rich engineering and racing heritages might actually go out and buy…for themselves!
Audi TT Quattro Sport Concept
Audi chose the Geneva Motor Show to reveal its new third-generation TT (which really is new, despite what a quick glance might tell you), which will come with a turbocharged 2.0L four-banger in two states of tune (230 horsepower in the regular TT and 310 horsepower in the TTS, plus a 184 horsepower 2.0L turbodiesel that almost certainly won’t come to the U.S.). However, Audi also chose Geneva to premiere an industrial-strength concept version called the TT Quattro Sport Concept. It too is powered by a turbocharged 2.0L inline-four, but in this application it’s being fed 26 lbs. of boost(!) and is making 420 horsepower. Officially, this hopped-up coupe is just a concept, but we wouldn’t be terribly shocked to see some elements of this car show up on a production TT-RS in a couple years’ time.
Jaguar XFR-S Sportbrake
Our love of ‘roided-up station wagons is pretty well documented, and the latest manufacturer that has decided to indulge that love is (somewhat surprisingly) Jaguar. The XFR-S Sportbrake takes all of the XFR-S sedan’s hardware – namely the top-spec version of Jaguar–Land Rover’s supercharged 5.0L V8 rated at 542 horsepower – and plonks it down in the XF Sportbrake body shell (which is a damn-fine looking body shell, all things considered). Naturally, because none of the lesser mid-size Jaguar wagons (Jaaaaagons?) are sold over here, this most unhinged example won’t be, either. At this point, we’re almost completely desensitized to the repeated subjection to station wagon deprivation; but that doesn’t make it okay to keep on doing this to us, auto industry…
Koenigsegg Agera One:1
For decades, one of the holiest grails in the supercar world has been a power-to-weight ratio of one horsepower to move every one kilogram of weight. And Koenigsegg is apparently the first manufacturer to crack the code with the aptly named Agera One:1. This more-limited-than-usual edition (Only six will be made.) of the mighty Agera blasts off with 1,341 horsepower from its 5.0L twin-turbo V8, but its altitude stays sub-orbital thanks to automatically adjustable underbody flaps, automatic rear wing, and all sorts of other aero goodies. But even with all those extra appendages, Koenigsegg says the car’s theoretical top speed is 273 mph. Sweet Odin’s beard that’s fast!
We know what you’re thinking: “What the heck is he doing putting a little bitty econobox we’ll never see in America on this list?” Well, here’s the thing: The third generation Renault Twingo represents a case of “what’s old is new again” for the French juggernaut in that it features a rear-engine, rear-drive layout like such classic mainstream Renaults as the 4CV, Dauphine and 10. So in addition to being super compact and super economical, the new Twingo (which is now a five-door hatch rather than a three-door) should also be SUPER DORIFTO! And because Renault worked with Daimler on this project, you’ll be seeing this platform under the next generation of Smart, as well.
Volkswagen Golf GTE
Volkswagen’s hot hatch back catalog reads like an Exxon-Valdez-sized spillage of alphabet soup: GTI. GTD. G40. G60. SLC. R32. 16V. VR6. And now another acronym has invited itself to the table: GTE, as in “Grand Touring Electric.” But the Golf GTE isn’t 100% electron-powered; it’s a plug-in hybrid, mating a 148 horsepower 1.4L turbocharged inline-four gas engine with a 101 horsepower electric motor (fed by a 8.8 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack) to yield a combined 201 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft of torque. The overall performance figures won’t light your hair on fire (0-62 mph in 7.6 seconds and a 135 mph top speed), but what it can do in EV mode is rather impressive (31 miles on a full charge and – or, more realistically, or – an 81 mph top speed). Sadly, like so many of the rides that roll into the Palexpo every March, the Golf GTE is not destined for U.S. showrooms.
Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge Concept
If the Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge Concept looks familiar, that’s because it actually debuted at Detroit in January. However, it did so as a “roller,” sans engine and drivetrain. Infiniti has now resolved that situation…resolved the crap out of it! Under this sport sedan study’s hood beats the twin-turbo 3.8L V6 heart of the Q50’s supercar corporate cousin, the Nissan GT-R. The better part of 560 horsepower and 443 lb.-ft of torque is then dispatched through a 7-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel-drive system. There are no firm plans for production at the moment, but we’ve got to believe the brand’s director of performance – who happens to have won the last four Formula 1 world championships – is lobbying for it.
Opel Astra OPC Extreme
GM’s European outposts – Opel and Vauxhall – have produced plenty of high-po hatchbacks over the years, but none of them have been as scorching as the Opel Astra OPC Extreme (which will be called the Vauxhall Astra VXR Extreme in Britain). With over 300 horsepower from a 2.0L turbo engine, 220 lbs. less weight and more downforce from a buff body kit, this ultimate Astra is the front-drive econobox analogue to track-ready sports cars like the Ferrari 458 Speciale and Porsche 911 GT3. Unfortunately, unless Buick executives decide they need a hot-rodded hatchback in the brand’s U.S. lineup, it ain’t coming here.
MTM Volkswagen Amarok V8 TDI
We’re such fans of the Volkswagen Amarok pickup that we made absolutely sure it was on the list of our five favorite forbidden truck and SUV fruit. But as much as we pine for it in stock form, what would it be like with an engine boasting twice the cylinders and more than twice the displacement? Thanks to MTM, we don’t have to wonder; the VW/Audi experts have managed to stuff an Amarok crew cab with a hopped-up version of the 4.2L turbodiesel V8 available in Euro-spec Touaregs, A8s and other large VW Group vehicles. The resultant jambalaya is a 404 horsepower, 686 lb.-ft black mamba of a motor vehicle that will purportedly hit 62 mph from rest in 6 seconds flat and max out at 138 mph. Glorious.
Rinspeed XchangE Concept
Many people consider the Tesla Model S to be the car of the future…today. But the folks at Rinspeed have made a Model S it calls the XchangE Concept even more futuristic by making it able to drive itself. A steer-by-wire system allows the steering wheel to slide in front of the driver, front seat passenger or the center of the dash. Both sides of the dash feature tablet docking stations, while the front bucket seats can be turned around to face the rear seat. And the rear seat folds down to reveal a 32” 4K TV, turning the XchangE into a self-guided mobile theater. We love the act of driving, but seeing all the infotainment possibilities that autonomous cars open up on display, we’re starting to realize our love might not be as deep as we thought.
Alfa Romeo 4C Spider
Of the new cars arriving for the 2014 and 2015 model years, few have us geeking out more than the Alfa Romeo 4C. But even though the marvelous mid-engine coupe hasn’t landed in America yet, it’s already getting an open-top sibling: The Alfa Romeo 4C Spider. The 240 horsepower 1.75L turbocharged inline-four and 6-speed DCT are shared with the enclosed version, but that car’s solid roof is replaced with a removable fabric panel that rests between the windshield frame and a carbon fiber roll hoop tying together a pair of flying buttresses. Alfa says the ragtop doesn’t surrender to the coupe on the performance front (despite being 132 lbs. porkier) and as a bonus, the Spider is fitted with more conventional (read: handsomer) projector beam headlights, rather than the coupe’s “tarantula eye” units. Production is set to commence early next year, hopefully with U.S. deliveries beginning in time for that summer.
Lexus RC F GT3 Concept
The FIA’s GT3 formula for production-based racecars is red hot around the world right now, including here in the States, with both the SCCA Pirelli World Challenge and the IMSA Tudor United Sportscar Championship allowing GT3-spec sports cars a place to race (though TUSC does require some minor modifications, and both series mandate spec tires). One of the few big names that hasn’t thrown its hat into the ring is Toyota…until now, by way of the Lexus brand and the new RC F supercoupe. The production model’s rear-drive layout and 5.0L V8 are present and accounted for, but the huge fender flares, front splitter and rear wing are new additions. We’re puzzled as to why Lexus is even bothering to call this a concept, since it has already confessed it will begin delivering RC F GT3s to customers early next year.
Vauxhall Adam S
If you live in the U.S. and want a hip, stylish A-segment supermini, you’re choices are limited to the Fiat 500 and…well, that’s it. Naturally, it’s a very different story in Europe. And one of the segment’s rising stars is the Opel/Vauxhaull Adam, named after Opel founder Adam Opel. Now there’s a peppier Adam S on offer, with a 148 horsepower 1.4L turbo inline-four providing the kind of spunk you’d expect from a car with a hefty rear wing, 18” wheels (fronting 16” brake rotors in front, 15” rotors in back) and other go-fast goodies. Sigh…
Mansory Rolls-Royce Wraith
The Rolls-Royce Wraith – essentially the fastback 2-door hardtop version of the Ghost sedan – isn’t exactly in danger of becoming ubiquitous, but leave it to Mansory to distance a megabuck car even further from the cold, khaki jaws of the mainstream. The German tuner’s take on the ravishing Rolls coupe certainly isn’t as gag-inducing as many of its past efforts, but that doesn’t mean it skimped on the bespoke bits, both inside and out. And for good measure, the Mansory crew also upped the output of the 6.6L twin-turbo V12 to 730 horsepower and 738 lb.-ft of torque, as well as raising the electronic speed limiter to 186 mph. Not quite supercar numbers, no, but it is a super car.
Maserati Alfieri Concept
Maserati seems to be in the midst of its biggest lineup expansion in a long time, having just added the Ghibli mid-size sedan and its first SUV being just over the horizon. But there may be still another new model family in the brand’s future, if the slinky Alfieri Concept is any indication. Riding on a 9.5” shorter wheelbase than the current GranTurismo but rocking the same 460 horsepower 4.7L V8 (and not, as one would expect, one of the Quattroporte’s and Ghibli’s turbo mills), the Alfieri resides much closer to the sports car end of the spectrum than it does the grand tourer end. Though some of the details are pure auto show flights of fancy, on the whole this striking design looks suspiciously production-ready…
Honda Civic Type R Concept
Even though the Honda Civic Type R has never been available on this continent, pretty much every sport compact aficionado is familiar with it. We don’t expect things to change the next time around, which is particularly galling in light of the “concept” for the next-gen hottest Honda hatchback seen here. The switch to forced induction is disappointing (though hardly surprising, given current automotive and geopolitical trends) for fans sky-high redlines and an atmo scream that launched a meme, but can you really argue with 276 horsepower from a turbocharged 2.0L four? We don’t think we can. Besides, the Japanese icon’s sports car, IndyCar, touring car and coming-next-year Formula 1 engines are also force-fed.
When box-stock Porsche sports cars aren’t sporty enough, leave it to Ruf to thoroughly up the ante. The new RCT – short for “Ruf Carrera Turbo” – serves up a handsome body kit with flared rear fenders and a ducktail rear spoiler, among other things. The turbocharged 3.8L flat-six produces 525 horsepower, which is only slightly more than the same-size powerplant in the latest 911 Turbo (and 35 less than the 911 Turbo S). However, the RCT offers two noteworthy options Stuttgart’s 991 Turbo doesn’t: Rear-wheel-drive and a manual transmission. Hot diggity!
German supercar maker Gumpert – the Audi-powered, whipped-with-an-ugly-stick and hopped-up-on-goofballs Apollo – succumbed to financial woes a couple years ago. But now it’s back with new investors and a new model that recalls the Audi Sport Quattro Group B rally rockets that company founder Roland Gumpert worked on during his time with the Ingolstadt firm. Called, fate-temptingly, the Explosion, this front-engine, AWD coupe is set to ship with a turbocharged 2.0L four making 420 horsepower. Prices are projected to start at around $144,000. It’s significant that Gumpert is (apparently) back from the brink, but not as significant as the other outlandish car name possibilities it opens up for other low-volume manufacturers.