In recent years, motor shows have been demure affairs, previewing a motoring future littered with straight-laced eco-conscious cars that filled enthusiasts with dread…
…And make no mistake, those vehicles – crucial as they are to a responsible motoring future – again filled the massive halls of this year’s Geneva Motor Show. But lurking between them were production and concept cars that place the driver’s pleasure points front and centre. And they’re not necessarily the evil implements their wild styling and outrageous performance figures suggest. Some incorporate hybrid powertrains that promise to lessen their effect on our environment. Others use lightweight and downsized engines to equal the performance of yesteryear’s supercars without spewing tons of carbon dioxide into the air. Here, we profile the nine stars from Geneva that are prime examples:
The Concept stars
Mercedes-AMG GT Concept
The most powerful car on this list is also the only one with four doors and previews Mercedes-Benz’s future sports-car technology. Under the strikingly penned GT Concept’s suave lines is a conventional 4.0-litre V8 engine with twin-turbochargers. But it’s been mated with an electric motor that – combined – feeds 600kW to all four wheels. Why is it important? Two-fold: a production model will follow next year; and the GT Concept can decouple its front axle and run solely on electric power, emitting very little harmful gases into the atmosphere.
The following line should banish any doubts you might have that our driving future is filled with autonomous cars: ‘Ever dreamt of owning a car that offers complete peace of mind with full awareness of its surroundings?’ That’s French carmaker Peugeot talking about its Instinct plug-in-hybrid shooting brake concept car. Through a combo of self-driving tech and its integration into the Internet of Things cloud it can, for example, switch on your home lights when you approach or completely take over driving duties by stowing the steering wheel and pedals. Thankfully, a ‘Drive’ mode will ensure the pilot remains in control, and Peugeot promises he or she will have loads of fun behind the wheel.
Like most Ferraris, The 812 Superfast promises to become ultra collectable
The name isn’t exactly ambiguous, is it? Billed as the ‘most powerful and fastest’ series model in Ferrari’s history, the 812 Superfast retains its predecessor’s sublime 6.5-litre V12 engine but it’s been stroked to deliver a staggering 588kW – or the same figure as the V12 used in Ferrari’s hybrid hyper-car, the LaFerrari (who comes up with these names?) Matching the Lambo’s sprint time to 100km/h, the Superfast has longer legs and hits 340km/h before the V12 calls it quits. Ushering in a new design language for the brand (and a new colour called Rosso Settanta to celebrate the Prancing Horse’s 70th birthday), the 812 Superfast looks set to replicate the success of the 4.9 Superfast of the 1950s. In fact, like most Ferraris, the 812 Superfast promises to become ultra-collectable. Case in point: three classic Super-fasts recently sold in the US for about $3 million… Each.
The hair-raising production stars
Audi RS5 Coupé
It may have lost a whopping 1.3 litres in displacement and two cylinders on its engine but the latest RS5 is both quicker and cleaner than the outgoing model. If that isn’t progress, sign me up for a bike-share scheme. Swiping its new 2.9-litre V6 engine, which has its two banks of cylinders split by a pair of turbochargers from Porsche’s striking Panamera, the RS5 two-door takes a mere 3.9 seconds to reach 100km/h, a figure that would have given bragging rights to a supercar a mere five years ago. Let’s not forget this is a midrange coupé based on the humble A4 sedan.
The newest Lambo has no problem living up to its evocative name. Setting a new lap record for production cars at that temple to driving, the Nürburgring Nordschleife racetrack (in the process besting the previous record holder, the Porsche 918 Spyder hybrid hyper-car), the Italian company’s engineers have performed black magic on nearly every component of the Huracán to trim overall weight to that of a family hatchback. But no family hatchback has an engine like this. The Performante’s naturally aspirated, 470kW 5.2-litre V10 fireball sited behind the cabin thrusts the latest Raging Bull to 100km/h in a staggering 2.9 seconds, while hellishly expensive carbon-composite brakes bring it to a standstill from that speed in just 31m. Top speed? Oh, a so-so 325km/h.
Causing Ferrari countless nightmares back in Modena, British outfit McLaren has made staggering progress in the mere six years it’s been churning out series-production cars. The latest salvo, the 720S – part of the brand’s Super Series range of models – is lighter but faster than the outgoing 650S, and introduces a reinterpretation of the Woking-based company’s design language, which is allegedly rooted in aerodynamic principles. Though, judging by the bug-eyed front-end, some of its designers dabble in entomology… Another prime example of the advantages of downsizing, the new 530kW V8 4.0-litre engine is easily more powerful than the one in the Lambo, but is a city-car-engine-sized 1.2 litres smaller. Ready for more ridiculous figures? Here we go: 100km/h in ‘less than three seconds’, a 341km/h top speed and the ability to come to a complete stop from 200km/h in just 4.6 seconds. Let’s hope the driver behind concentrates when a 720S stomps on its stoppers.
Porsche 911 GT3
Bucking the trend for turbocharged engines coupled with robotised gearboxes, Porsche believes old school is cool with the new, lightweight GT3. Slung out back is a motorsport-derived 368kW 4.0-litre engine hooked up to a six-speed manual gearbox converting power to the massive rear wheels. Adding to the racing car aesthetic are racing bucket seats that trim weight further, as well as rear wheels that can turn in the same direction as the ones in front to aid stability at high speeds, or face the opposite way at more sedate velocities to heighten agility. Local order books for the GT3 have opened but if you’ve got the R2.75-million required to add your name to the list, jump to it, as Porsche will import limited numbers.
The humble production stars
Alpine is back! The Renault subsidiary has many a nostalgic follower, but last produced cars under its own name in the 1970s. With the frisky A110, which resurrects a name last used in the 1960s on a vehicle that set the rallying world alight, Alpine (pronounced ‘Al-peen’) joins the ranks of Mazda and Alfa Romeo in offering a relatively low-cost sportscar that promises driving thrills aplenty. Installed behind the driver is a lithe 1.8-litre engine with a massive turbocharger that allows the A110 to crest the benchmark 100km/h sprint in a mere 4.5 seconds. But, thanks to an aluminium-intensive body structure, mass has been kept to a minimum. And that will allow the Alpine to curb its fuel consumption without impacting driving enjoyment. Isn’t that the rosy future of the automobile?
TaTa Tamo Racemo
From the unlikeliest of automakers, Tata – that Indian builder of family-friendly fare, taxis and trucks – comes this wildly styled, butterfly-doored little sportscar. Under its new experimental sub-brand Tamo, Tata’s Racemo (another questionable moniker) has a compact 1.2-litre engine with some 138kW. And that’s plenty when the vehicle promises to weigh not much more than a ton thanks to a new sandwich floor structure called MOFlex. What’s more, gamers can add the Racemo to Forza Horizon 3 thanks to a partnership between Tata and Microsoft. Cool.
Clockwise from top right: Agent provocateur Alpine returns to the sportscar fray with the dainty A110; Gallic pride abounds on the A110; the Tata Tamo Racemo’s interior looks like a game station, unsurprising considering its already available in Forza Horizon 3
Opposite, clockwise from top left: The new slickly styled Range Rover Velar neatly slots in between the Evoque and Sport models in terms of price and size; Volvo’s XC60 prioritises safety features and chic Swedish minimalism; for everyone else, there’s the new Ford Fiesta ST … which will probably be more fun to drive than any of these other cars
Fancy four-wheel drive?
Land Rover and Volvo both used Geneva to unveil new SUVs that will soon clog the streets of Sandton, Sea Point and the South Coast. The Range Rover Velar and XC60 each promise exceptionally frugal running – the former with its 2.0-litre Ingenium engines; the latter using a range of Drive-E ultra-optimised powerplants – semi-autonomous driving ability and indulgent interiors with the latest in infotainment, comfort and safety technology. Expect the Velar to reach our shores before year-end, with the XC60 hot on its heels.
Hot hatch homeliness
Head spinning from all the remarkable power, performance and price figures? Enter the Ford Fiesta ST, a family- and pocket-friendly five-door with only three cylinders (one of which can be deactivated to increase efficiency) but plenty of punch, electric sound enhancement of the engine and the latest tech toys such as a tablet screen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. It arrives early next year.
Text: Terence Steenkamp