Best new cars at the Geneva Auto Show

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on March 12, 2019.
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Last week at the Geneva Motor Show proved nothing if not glamorous. And, like the lady serving US$40 (RM163.58) hamburgers at a roadside diner put it, “Life in Geneva is expensive.” She might have been talking about the burgers, but the statement applies to the cars here, too.

Amid a flurry of quirky electric concepts and people-movers from primarily European brands, big-brand names in the hypercar world — Koenigsegg, Bugatti — have produced multimillion-dollar production-ready cars to bolster their street cred.

Meanwhile, storied brands like Aston Martin and Rolls-Royce, Lamborghini and Ferrari delivered next-generation and upgraded models of sure-fire hits: The Vanquish Concept, the Cullinan sport utility vehicle, the Huracan Evo Spyder and the F8 Tributo respectively.

And two newcomers with long histories — Pininfarina and Hispano-Suiza — joined the fray as well, each bringing electric supercars costing roughly US$2 million and a lot of patience before they are actually built.

Of course, Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche were there too, in full force. Most of theirs even dipped below the six-figure mark.

In short, where the auto shows in Detroit, New York and Los Angeles have felt shallow and empty lately, Geneva was anything but. The show ends on Sunday.

Here is a look at the most interesting things we saw.

 

1) Bugatti La Voiture Noire

Difficult for non-French speakers to say, the name simply means “The Black Car” in French. It is meant to be a modern take on the Bugatti 57 SC Atlantic from the mid-1930s. (Fashion designer Ralph Lauren has famously owned one or two.)

Only one of the new ones was made, and yes, it has been sold, reportedly to Ferdinand Piech, the former chief executive officer (CEO) of Volkswagen Group. It is valued at more than €16 million (RM73.6 million), or US$18 million, with a base price of US$12.5 million.

 

2) Koenigsegg Jesko

Named after the beloved father of Koenigsegg founder and CEO, Christian von Koenigsegg, the Jesko combines 1,280 horsepower (hp) [or 1,600hp when fuelled on biofuel, as customers may choose) with a new nine-speed transmission and a top speed of 300mph (484kph), the company says. Inside is a cabin for two with creature comforts like parking cameras, infotainment, and power-automatic seats. (These are big luxury gets for a car so focused on basic speed.) Look for it to start production in 2021.

 

3) Hispano Suiza Carmen

Based on the 1938 Hispano-Suiza H6C Dubonnet Xenia, and named in honour of the granddaughter of Damián Mateu, the founder of Hispano-Suiza, the Carmen is an all-electric car that has more than 1,000hp and a €1.5 million price tag.

While its numbers are not stellar compared with the super-electric car debuted by Pininfarina, it will still do 0-to-60mph in just under three seconds, with a top speed of 155mph. With 503 brake horsepower (bhp) on each of two motors and a range of roughly 250 miles (402km) on one charge, it still promises top-end performance, reliable electric power, and an unconventional design — all built in Barcelona, Spain. Look for production of the Carmen to start in June 2020. Nineteen of them will be made.

 

4) Ginetta Akula

Not very reserved for a car made by an old British company, the US$532,000 Ginetta Akula screams for attention at any angle. Its V8 engine is mounted in the middle of the car and paired with a six-speed transmission with rear-wheel drive.

Plus, it boasts 600hp and a 200mph top speed. It is all very extreme — legal to drive on the street but made for the track. Ginetta, which is based in Leeds, England, says it will build 20 of them in 2020.

 

5) Ferrari F8 Tributo

This is the new mid-engine V8 from Ferrari, replacing the stellar 488 GTB and 458 Italia models. Among its subtle new styling cues are fresh headlights, big round tail lights and updated aerodynamics. Better yet, it has an exciting clear engine cover on that mid-mounted engine.

Performance numbers are roughly the same as before, with 720hp and 568 pound-feet of torque that get it to 60mph in 2.9 seconds. Top speed is expected to be well over 200mph —after all, the 488 Pista can do 211mph without breaking a sweat. Pricing has yet to be announced, but deliveries begin early next year.

 

6) Pininfarina Battista

This is the first production model from the newly formed Automobili Pininfarina, the car-making entity that shares branding with the classic design house founded in 1930. It is named after the company founder, Battista “Pinin” Farina, and packs a wallop: All-electric with zero emissions; 1,900hp, 0-60mph in less than two seconds, and able to charge to 80% in 40 minutes on a supercharger outlet.

Look for it to join the crew of hypercars from Koenigsegg, Ferrari, Bugatti and Lamborghini that attract the world’s wealthiest connoisseurs. Only 150 of them will be made; half are already sold. Production begins in 2020. Pricing starts at US$2.2 million.

 

7) Lamborghini Huracan Evo Spyder

The 630hp Huracan Evo Spyder continues the excellent Huracan line with a 631bhp 5.2-litre naturally aspirated V10 engine and a 0-62mph time in 3.1 seconds (that is just 0.2 seconds slower than the hard-top model). Top speeds are the same between the coupe and Spyder version as well, at 202mph. The main difference here is that the Huracan Evo Spyder comes with a power automatic top that deploys in 17 seconds.

With myriad traction and stability controls including a rear-wheel steering, all-wheel-drive system and adaptive dampers, plus multiple drive modes for street, sport or track, the new drop-top Lambo promises the kind of extreme driving thrill that only an old Italian exotic brand can give. It is nearly a dying breed.

 

8) Aston Martin Vanquish Vision Concept

As Aston Martin’s first mid-engined supercar, the Vanquish Vision Concept joins the likes of Ferrari’s new F8 Tributo as gorgeous high-performance vehicles sold for what will be highly expensive prices. It is the latest of many concepts and “visions” the recently public automaker has debuted, though few of them have yet to make it to full production. Exact manufacturer’s suggested retail price has yet to be announced, as do many engine and performance specs, but it will contain an aluminium chassis and the same Formula 1-inspired V6 engine found in the AM-RB 003 turbo-hybrid. A production version may be debuted by early next year. — Bloomberg