Of all the motor shows in all the convention centres, the one in Geneva is best. Maybe it's because Switzerland is neutral territory for auto makers, not like Detroit or Frankfurt or Tokyo. Or maybe it's because Geneva has historically been a tax haven for the ultra-rich. Either way, the Geneva Motor Show – which runs from March 9-19 – always brings out the most spectacular new cars.
This year's show is shaping up to be a big one. From new supercars, to a ridiculous drop-top SUV, to hot hatchbacks, to the first new car from Alpine in 22 years, here are some of the big debuts we expect to see at the 87th Geneva International Motor Show:
Calling your new flagship the 'Superfast' is more than a little on-the-nose, but Ferrari hasn't been known for its subtlety. The new coupe looks mean. It's called the 812 Superfast, and replaces the F12 Berlinetta in the lineup. It may also be the last Ferrari with a naturally aspirated, non-hybridized V-12 engine. As last hurrahs go, it's a good one; the new 6.5-litre V-12 is said to produce 789 horsepower.
Lamborghini isn't likely to let Ferrari steal the show, so we'll see a lighter, faster version of the Huracan. If the standard one is PG-13, consider the Huracan Performante rated R. Lamborghini released 'spy' photos of it testing at Imola, Italy. Expect more power, more carbon-fibre, some clever aerodynamics and a truly massive rear wing.
McLaren is an upstart compared to those two Italian dynasties, but the British brand continues to churn out new cars faster than either of them. In Geneva, it will unveil its first second-generation model. The 720S will replace the 650S as the mid-range model in McLaren's lineup. It features a new carbon monocoque and a new 4.0-litre twin-turbo V-8.
The showstopper, however, will come from Mercedes. At the Detroit show in January, AMG boss Tobias Moers told us he will unveil a new hypercar called Project One in Geneva. Built to celebrate the 50th anniversary of AMG and Mercedes' recent dominance of Formula One, it'll have a street-legal version of the hybrid engine from the F1 car and a price tag of around $3-million.
If that's a little too rich, Honda will unveil the new Civic Type-R, a faster, driver-focused version of Canada's best-selling car. If any car on this list has a rear-wing to rival the Lamborghini Performante, it'll be this little Honda. But hang on, didn't Honda already reveal the Type-R? Well, no, the version we saw on the show circuit last year was a concept, although we don't expect the production version to look wildly different. Honda should give us power and performance specs in Geneva. Best of all? Unlike the previous version, the upcoming Civic Type-R will come to Canada.
Ford's Fiesta ST is an under-appreciated hot-hatch, one we actually prefer to its bigger brother, the Focus RS. The all-new ST downsizes from a four-cylinder to a 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine while maintaining the same 197-horsepower output. Ford hasn't confirmed yet if the new model will come to North America.
It's a similar story at Audi. We know the little RS3 sedan – with a 400 horsepower, five-cylinder engine – is coming to Canada. In Geneva, Audi will reveal the four-door RS3 Sportback (read: hatchback) version, but it's unclear if it will come to Canada.
Porsche is finally – finally! – going to unveil a production version of the Panamera wagon first shown as a concept in 2012. It'll be called the Panamera Sport Turismo, and prices will start at a heady $109,700. Porsche has a nasty habit of making stunningly beautiful concept cars that turn into less-than-stunning production models. (Original Boxster, anyone?) From the early photos it doesn't look like that's the case this time. In other Panamera news, the new flagship of the lineup will be a hybrid. The Turbo S E-Hybrid adds a battery-electric system to compliment the V-8 engine for a total of 680 horsepower. A welcome sign of the times.
Mercedes continues to roll out its new-generation E-Class models. Geneva will see the launch of the Cabriolet with a folding cloth roof. Meanwhile, in Munich, BMW has given a mid-life refresh to its 4 Series models, including tweaked styling and sportier suspension. The M4 coupe and convertible will get also minor upgrades.
After years of teasers and concepts, Alpine is rising from the ashes. Its new A110 coupe is shaping up to be a formidable rival for the Porsche Cayman and Audi TTS. Renault is reviving the French Alpine brand which is best known for the 1961-1977 A110. The new car is a similarly small, lightweight mid-engine coupe and it looks spectacular. Here's hoping it somehow comes to Canada through the Renault-Nissan alliance.
It wouldn't be an auto show without more new SUVs. There are too many to list here, but Volvo, Range Rover and Maybach will all have new models.
The Volvo XC60 will be all-new, and is our first look at the next-generation of compact cars from Volvo. The Swedish company is in the early stages of re-inventing the brand and revamping its lineup with financial backing from Chinese auto maker Geely. The current XC60 is priced at $42,000 and the new one should cost a similar amount, in order to fit into the lineup under the XC90.
Land Rover is launching the all-new Range Rover Velar, bringing the number of different SUVs in the lineup to six. It seems unnecessary, but someone in Coventry must have come up with a solid business case to justify the Velar. It'll slot into the lineup between the Evoque and Range Rover Sport.
Last, but not least, is the Mercedes-Maybach G650 Landaulet. It's the ideal vehicle if you're a wealthy young Emirati into falconry. The military-grade G-Class chassis will get you into the desert, and the ultra-lux Maybach interior will ensure comfort. Then the cloth roof folds down, natch, so you can launch your falcon. If that's not your cup of tea, the new G650 is also ideal for glamping and safaris.
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