Geneva: excess all areas


And so unto the shores of Lake Geneva do those pilgrims we call car constructors draw once more, for their annual gathering in the land of cuckoo clocks, chocolate and private bank accounts. We can see them now: are their heads lowered at the shame of their past excesses? Do they bear upon their shoulders offerings that speak of new found humility and piety, their reformed characters and determination never again to turn away from the path of righteousness and into the arms of Mammon? What do you think?

Next week I shall attend my 26th consecutive Geneva Motor Show and it’s going to require some form of divine intervention if it is not to be the most spectacularly excessive motor show I have ever visited.

To be fair, sightings of supercars in this town are not rare. Last year I recall very well goggling at a brace of McLaren P1 hypercars mounted at eccentric angles half on and off pavements outside ritzy Geneva hotels. But in the Palexpo show hall, it’s not as if one or two manufacturers are bringing their latest, sexiest slices of automotive esoterica to Switzerland. They’re all at it.

Of course the focus will be on Ferrari. It must be infuriating if you’re McLaren or Porsche or indeed anyone else with a fast and expensive car to sell, because there’s nothing like the merest sniff of a new Ferrari to suck showgoers away from every other stand in the building like oxygen in a firestorm. This time Ferrari has the 458 replacement, the 488GTB, and from the photographs at least, it looks fabulous. Astonishingly, for a car that can trace its line directly back to the 195bhp Dino 246GT, the 488GTB now offers 660hp, which is the same at the Enzo hypercar managed a dozen years ago, but with far more torque because its engine is turbocharged, and barely any additional weight. By that reckoning, by 2027, the 488’s great grandchild will be offering the same 950hp as the LaFerrari today. And I’d not bet against it.

Yet statistically at least, McLaren will trump it with its 675LT – the number referring to its power output, the letters evoking the long tail configuration of the last racing McLaren F1 of 1997. But this car is not a rival for the 488, but a limited edition track-oriented special whose power increase over the 650S is nothing like as significant as the 100kg weight reduction it also provides. With 40 per cent more downforce it is likely to be an astonishing proposition. There is also the not small matter of the 1000hp P1 GTR track car McLaren will have on its stand.

We thought we knew what Aston was up to, because it had already announced its 600bhp, Vantage GT3 but then and out of nowhere it decided to drop a bomb called Vulcan on us. Aston is expertly teasing us with silhouetted shapes and tantalising sound tracks without actually telling us anything about the car. That said, it can be safely surmised it’s a normally aspirated V12 hypercar, possibly only for use on the track like the P1 GTR and Ferrari FXX K, and that it will lack their hybrid drives but still pack an approximate 800bhp punch and aim to make up the shortfall by weighing less. Expect a price tag measurable in millions.

Poor old Porsche has only been able to squeeze 500hp from its new 911 GT3 RS, but that will not stop it being one of the most eagerly anticipated cars at the show, not least because the engine fires that afflicted a few standard GT3s meant the RS programme is nine months behind schedule. But it will have to compete for attention with the new Cayman GT4, the first non-911 road car to be developed by Porsche’s motor sport department. It may only have a trifling 380bhp, but it has the potential to be offer a truly landmark driving experience.

I could go on. Lamborghini is scheduled to unveil the lighter, more powerful SV-version of hardly slow Aventador, while Mercedes will unveil its new AMG GT-based GT3 race car and surely say more about the road car that will be derived from it. Audi will show the all-new R8 (though most of its mechanicals have already been seen in the Lamborghini Huracán), Bentley will have a new high-performance concept while even Morgan promises to have a new supercar on its stand.

And what of all the cars you and I could actually afford and which might fit into our lives? Well I believe Skoda is to unveil the new Superb while Vauxhall clearly thinks enough time has passed to exhume the Viva name. It will be slapped on the back of a small city car.

If there are any surprises I shall report upon them this time next week, but for now I must pack up and be off to Geneva, to attend what will likely be the most irrelevant motor show it has ever hosted. And I, for one, cannot wait.


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