Attendees take photographs of an Automobili Lamborghini SpA Aventador S luxury automobile as it stands on display on the second day of the 87th Geneva International Motor Show in Geneva, Switzerland. (Photographer: Luke Macgregor/Bloomberg)  

This Year, Geneva Motor Show Goes Beyond Halo Cars and Concepts

(Bloomberg) -- Next week, Switzerland will be the center of the car world.

While automakers have become increasingly picky as to when and where they show their latest wares, they continue to land unfailingly at the Geneva Motor Show, which this year will runs from March 8-18 at the city’s Palexpo center. And whereas the Los Angeles and New York car shows have focused heavily on “mobility”—autonomous driving, electric- and hybrid energy, pod-like creations that aren’t exactly cars—Geneva remains the premier venue for debuting exciting, expensive automobiles that consumers will actually want to drive, regardless of price or efficiency.

This is the place to test brand identity—or come up with a new one. Exhibits A and B: Volvo’s new performance line, Polestar, will show off a sexy coupe, and Jaguar will expand its excellent sedan fleet with a sporty wagon. Even the typically off-road-focused Range Rover will show a four-person “coupe” hand-built from its special operations division. (More on those later.)

“Geneva is a grand vision show,” says Michael Harley, the managing editor of Kelley Blue Book. “There’s a lot of news, a lot of buzz, a lot of excitement. The fashion world has Paris. The car world has Geneva.”

Whether it’s a glitzy halo car, a concept model, or a limited-edition product, brands choose the event to showcase the cars they most want to be known for in the coming year.

The Jewels in the Crown

Generally, extreme supercars generate the most hype for brands, and—for the fan boys—at this show. For 2018, McLaren will show the 789-horsepower Senna, its most powerful road-legal car to date. (The company has already sold all 500 units of the $1 million supercar: “That’s the thing with Geneva,” Harley points out wryly. “By the time they hit the stand, many of the cars are already sold-out. Deliveries start later this spring.)

Hennessey will bring the even-more-expensive $1.6 million Venom F5 from Hennessey Special Vehicles. This one is primed to break records: It weighs less than 3,000 pounds and has more than 1,600 horsepower. The company debuted it to a select group at the SEMA show in Vegas months ago, but this will be its launch on the international scene. The target top speed, say company officials, is more than 300 miles per hour. Rival Bugatti will bring its 2019 Chiron, the $2.6 million coupe, with a new options package that includes additional colors, trimmings, and carbon-fiber accents. (Can you feel the hype? Mechanically, the Chiron is the same car underneath as it was last year, but at least it’s not yet sold-out, so you still have a chance to own one.)

Bugatti and Hennessey, who each make far fewer than 1,000 cars worldwide annually, will also face a new contender to that top-speed title: an obscure company called Corbellati. The family-owned brand has announced it will show a 1,800-horsepower V8 “Missile” hypercar that will be able to touch 311mph. It’s easy to say things on a piece of paper without having to back them up in the real world, so skepticism should remain high about that claim. Then again, that’s exactly what the Geneva show is for. And if Corbellati does pull off 311, it’ll have the other two beat.

Elsewhere in this elite peer group, Ferrari will show a special-edition 710-hp 488 it’s calling the Pista; this is Ferrari’s most powerful V8 to date. Pista means “track” in Italian, which is fitting: The lightweight coupe goes from zero to 62 mph in 2.85 seconds, while its top speed is 211mph. Lamborghini is trying to build excitement around what it’s bringing, which will be a major update to an existing model, although a spokesperson declines to disclose specifics. And Aston Martin will bring the all-new Vantage, along with the DB11 Volante and Coupe.

The Big Names in Luxury

Along with such six- and seven-figure flash, the luxury brands with higher production figures—and slightly more affordable price points—will also bring plenty of treats.

BMW will show a first-ever-seen concept vehicle, probably the M8 Grand Coupe. (This is similar to the shark-like 8-Series it showed in Frankfurt last year.) It’s also debuting a next-generation X4 crossover, which was re-developed in partnership with Toyota. For its part, Toyota will be showing a successor to the classic Supra sports car that the Japanese automaker produced from 1978-2002. (Toyota has yet to confirm what it will call the car.)

Mercedes is bringing the new production version of the AMG GT, an exciting four-door spin on its signature AMG GT coupe. (Here, we have it again—a company testing how far it can push the boundaries: “Coupe” used to refer only to two-door vehicles.) The show will also be the first time we see the AMG G63, the newest iteration of Mercedes’s rugged G Wagen, as well as a totally new C Class sedan and station wagon.

A direct competitor to the Mercedes E-Class and BMW’s 5-Series, Audi’s forthcoming A6 sedan will be lighter and better-tuned than the current car, with styling cues from the handsome A8 and A7 models.

Porsche will show its aggressive new 911 GT3, a $187,500, 523-horsepower coupe that is 0.1 seconds to 60mph faster than the previous model. (The new one can hit that mark in three seconds flat.)

As mentioned above, Jaguar’s new XF “sport brake” should offer competition to such things as the E-Class wagon from Mercedes, the Panamera from Porsche, and Audi’s famous wagon variants as well. Sister company Land Rover will show the SV Coupe from Range Rover, a limited-edition, four-seat vehicle with just two passenger doors, hand-built by Rover’s “Special Vehicle Operations” unit. And if the production-ready, 600-horsepower Polestar 1 coupe looks as good as the images leaked back in October, even Jaguar’s always-sexy, $60,000 F-Type may have a new challenger for the title of sexiest, most affordable sports car on the market.

Don’t Forget Electric

Not surprisingly, it’s the SUVs that will showcase the latest electric technologies; for all its gas-guzzling supercar glitz, Geneva isn’t exempt from the pressure toward hybridization and electrification that is changing the automotive industry. And SUVs do continue to be the most profitable segment of the automotive market at the moment. To wit: Jaguar has a sure show-stopper with its new I-Pace electric SUV, aimed directly at Tesla’s Model X, the current electric SUV darling.

Hyundai will premiere a battery-powered version of its small Kona crossover, while Lexus will show the production version of the UX it showed in 2016 in Paris. Lexus hasn’t disclosed what engine variants it’ll offer with the small crossover vehicle, but since it’s based on the same platform that underpins the Prius, a hybrid version is likely.

There has even been speculation that Bentley will show a hybrid version of the Bentayga SUV, which would be the first of its kind for the brand.

If that’s true, it will be the perfect combination for the car world’s most prestigious, moneyed show: big, bold, expensive—and with an eye toward the future. 

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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