The 86th Geneva Motor Show 3-13 March
It’s possible to completely lose your marbles at Geneva Motor Show.
I came close this year.
It wasn’t just that Malvern-based sports car maker Morgan has teamed up with whisky maker Balvenie, and were handing the stuff out willy-nilly.
It was the fact that a Rolls-Royce representative explained to me that the very particular shade of red on a very particular Phantom is called Steve, after the Chinese billionaire Stephen Hung, the man behind a billion dollar Macau-based hotel.
In 2014 he ordered 30 Phantoms for £14 million, all coloured Steve, which can best be described as perhaps the most extrovert red you could dream up.
It’s not cherry and it’s not burgundy, nor ox blood, nor scarlet, nor Ferrari, nor pillar box.
It’s as if it’s backed by a mental shade of orange that leaks through. Geranium crossed with coral is the best way of summarising it, and there’s no substitute for seeing it in the flesh. We were allowed to peak around a corner at the car but not touch it.
I queued up to take my turn. The Frenchman next to me said, “It’s very beautiful,” to which I discretely murmured, “It’s certainly very red.”
From Rolls-Royce, I crossed over to Mercedes. The headline act is the new, 10th generation E-Class, but it is so similar to the S-Class that you could be forgiven for not noticing. I nearly tripped over one.
I did notice the Business Car Manager 2016 Best Value SME Company Car, however, the Mercedes C 350e PHEV Sport Auto Saloon, and several siblings. This is where Geneva shines.
You go out into the city and you find all manner of exquisitely clean, well-kept older BMWs and Mercs still looking gorgeous well into their automotive dotage.
Back on the Merc stand there were a whole series of beautifully specced C-Class saloons (the French term for saloon, ‘berline’ is another deliciously French, luxurious word), and I was reminded just what a lovely-looking car the C-Class is.
It’s curvaceous and the boot folds down and over and is happy with itself. Meanwhile, the interiors are top-notch, and thankfully Mercedes is rapidly moving away from the protruding ‘iPad stuck to dash’ look, with a traditionally styled cockpit that envelopes one big screen.
That could definitely be taken as one theme of the motor show, the real world arrival of plug-in hybrid tech
Later in the day, I trailed after the Mercedes High Command as they did a friendly-rival walk around the adjacent BMW stand.
Their interest seemed to lie in BMW’s new iPerformance badge, which is being applied to all the new plug-in hybrids that have mushroomed from nowhere – anything that ends in ‘e’ and which comes with a second fuel flap on the passenger side wing – which turns out to be the plug-in bit allowing roughly 20 miles of electric-only driving.
A summary comment from a BMW rep: “We just can’t build them quickly enough.” That could definitely be taken as one theme of the motor show, the real world arrival of plug-in hybrid tech.
Where Mitsubishi has led, in the UK at least, with the Outlander PHEV, is now being stormed by mainstream and premium offerings that dramatically undercut even diesels on running costs and taxes, not to mention refinement.
In the same electric groove, I can report that the back end of the new Toyota Prius looks better in the flesh than it may in pictures – depending on your tastes of course, a debate that directly carries over to the hectic bottom of the new Honda Civic, a deliberate attempt by designer Daisuke Tsutamori to produce “a bad guy” instead of a “good guy,” as he puts it.
It’s not ready yet but when it is, the new Civic will be made in the UK. It’s bigger than the current Civic and wonderfully brawny in the nearly-Type R guise in which it was served up at Geneva. I predict success. The fact that Brabus have produced a Brabus Tesla is another moment to note. Electricity is even leaking across into the tuning scene.
Geneva offered up lots of cross-overs and SUVs, of course. The Audi Q2, Seat Ateca, Maserati Levante and Toyota C-HR all confirm that this segment is just rising and rising. The new Seat Ateca starts off with a 1 litre TSI engine and looks as sharp and lovely as any crossover, and only weighs 1,280 kgs – amazing.
Over at VW, meanwhile, the same, 1 litre turbocharged engine, but in a lower state of tune, now slots into a revised up! and matches the original Golf GTI for horsepower and speed (90 bhp and 0-60 in ten seconds).
The all-new VW T-Cross Breeze looked uncannily like a young brother to the equally all-new Range Rover Evoque convertible. Along with Citroen’s e-Mehari, we seem to suddenly be on the brink of a new generation of soft-top SUVs and fun vehicles.
Burning up in the constant heat of the show spotlights, I was served ice cream by Mazda: thank you Mazda.
Vauxhall basked in the glow of winning European Car of the Year for the new Astra, but lots of journalists thought the award might have gone to the rather beautiful and impressively cavernous Volvo V90, the (arguably better-looking) estate version of the new S90.
Already on a car high, it was time to indulge the utterly bonkers side of Geneva that wins the petrolhead vote every year. BMW launched a new 12-cylinder leviathan, the long wheelbase M760Li xDrive, but that was merely for starters at Geneva.
For supercar craziness, look no further than the new Aston Martin DB11, a snip at £155,000 and a massive moment for the company. Wait a minute, no, try the Lamborghini Centenario (all forty sold at £1.4 million each).
No, wait again, try the Pagani Huayra BC at £2 million a go (all forty sold). No, wait again, try the Bugatti Chiron, at £1.9 million a pop and capable of 280 miles an hour. One Arab tycoon has apparently ordered six for his family.
We haven’t even mentioned Bentley’s new Mulsanne, Jaguar’s smoking hot F-Type SVR, or Lexus’ notably pretty LC 500h. Possibly the daftest idea was Swiss tuner Rinspeed’s Etos concept – a ‘fun coupe’ that comes with a Drone landing pad on the boot.
I guess for me, though, if I had had the choice of anything at the show that I could imagine actually driving in London, I suppose it would have fallen to a fierce debate between Porsche’s new 718 Boxster, and more eccentrically but perhaps also wonderfully, Morgan’s electrically propelled Three Wheeler.
Not to mention a limited edition 80th Anniversary Morgan 4/4, the longest running production model car in the world, in complete defiance of just about everything, and completely lovable for it.
But can I have one in Steve?