TTAC was all set to depart for Switzerland to cover the 82nd Geneva Motor Show when tragedy befell us. My usual suite at the Hotel d’Angleterre (with a view of Lac Léman) was occupied by one B. McAleer during press days, and upon arriving at the airport, our corporate-owned Falcon 7X was padlocked, the plane saddled with a lien from a Columbus-area guitar dealer alleging non-payment by an employee of our fair publication. Nevertheless, we will be covering the show somehow. Here’s what to expect from all the big players.
Audi: The four-ringer brand will have a number of debuts at Geneva, and all of them will be locked to keep out the tract-house dwelling riff-raff. On the performance end, an A1 Quattro, featuring all-wheel drive and Volkswagen’s venerable 2.0T engine will debut, but production will be limited to 333 units it’s supposed to have 250 horsepower and cost $71,000 USD, so it will never come to North America. Also expected to never make it here are the RS4 Avant and the TT-RS Plus. What we may get is the new A6 allroad wagon (a bit of a longshot) and the new Audi A3, which will get its debut one year after the A3 concept sedan launched in Geneva. Despite slotting under the current A4, it’s about the size of the B5 A4, the car that saved Audi from obscurity in America.
BMW: The theme of BMW’s stand should be “brand dilution”, since everything on display is essentially an exercise in lifestyle branding or buzzwords. Most nauseating at the BMW 6-Series Gran Coupe, which is an utterly pointless exercise in the very German field of occupying every possible niche (really, it’s halfway between a 5-Series and a 7-Series and looks indistinguishable from anything else in the lineup), followed by the M-Performance cars, which are kind of cool in a euro-diesel way, but also spit in the face of the once great M brand. A facelifted X6, new four-cylinder diesels for the 3-Series and an M135i Concept, based on the euro-only hatchback, will also compete for attention. The 116d EfficientDynamics, with its ultra-low emissions diesel and start-stop system is very cool.
Chevrolet: The Cruze station wagon debuts just in time for a mild facelift and some new engines for Europe, including a 1.7L diesel engine.
Dacia: The Dacia Lodgy is a boring car with some interesting implications for the industry. Dacia cars are replacing lower-end Renaults in certain markets (notably England, as well as other developing countries). Some observers in France aren’t too happy, since they are watching a famous marque get supplanted by a once-destitute Romanian automaker, while cushy factory jobs in France (protected by powerful unions) are being shipped to former colonies like Morocco, where wages are a fraction of what they are in France.
Ferrari: The F12berlinetta will make you feel like a man. The female-oriented California goes on Atkins, loses 66 pounds and gains 30 horsepower. That’s performance improvements we can believe in.
Fiat: The 500L debuts; not such a significant car in Fiat’s other markets (where the lineup includes the much-loved Panda) but a big deal for North American dealers who are starving for another product larger than the 500.
Ford: The B-Max MPV debuts alongside a Fiesta ST (powered by a 1.6L Ecoboost 4-cylinder), the new Kuga (aka our 2013 Escape) and the Tourneo, a replacement for the Transit commercial van.
Honda: The new CR-V, optimized for the European market, will bow.
Jaguar: The XF Sportbrake will take on the BMW 5-Series and Mercedes E-Class wagons, but only in Europe and select world markets. The car has not been homologated for North America and will only feature diesel engines.
Kia: Kia’s Volkswagen Golf rival will hopefully be the next Forte in North America – the Cee’d has won praise from many magazines in Europe, and the new car looks even better than its Hyundai i30 twin.
Land Rover: Ugh.
Lexus: The RX gets a Predator-like facelift for 2013 to match the rest of the lineup.
Lotus: A super-secret roadster, possibly based on the Evora will debut. Armchair industry mavens will no doubt moan about the loss of “brand identity”.
Maserati: A new special edition GranTurismo Sport replaces the GranTurismo S, which is yet another plaything for hairy-chested types to throw away after two years.
Mercedes-Benz: A new A-Class and a new SL63 AMG will debut – the A-Class details are still murky, while the SL63 jettisons the demonic 6.2L V8 in favor of the more efficient 5.5L twin-turbo V8.
MINI: The Clubvan commercial van and a John Cooper Works version of the Countryman S ALL4 will debut.
Mitsubishi: An all-new Outlander will launch, much to the delight of nobody, as Mitsubishi attempts to fend off clergymen attempting to administer the Last Rites – and bankruptcy.
Nissan: Two concepts, one designed to replace the Note mini-MPV, and another dubbed the Hi-Cross, will debut at the Nissan booth. Little has been revealed so far.
Opel: A big performance for GM’s Sick Man of Europe, with no less than four debuts. The Astra OPC, aka the Verano that Buick fans dream about, will debut in 3-door hatchback form, packing a 2.0L 280 horsepower turbocharged 4-cylinder, the same engine used in the Buick Regal GS. Also launching are a twin-turbo diesel Insignia, the Mokka crossover (aka the Buick Encore) and an electric bicycle.
Peugeot: The 208 hatchback will debut in barely disguised “concept” form. The power and equipment levels look similar to most major compacts, but the big news is that the 208 is as much as 380 lbs lighter than the outgoing 207.
Porsche: The all-new Boxster, with electro-mechanical steering and 991-esque styling gets its first public showing.
SEAT: Volkswagen’s bastard child will show off its new range of re-badged VW iron; the Mii city car, with its pop-out rear windows and 140 inch overall length, will be on display as a cheaper version of the Up! The new Toledo, essentially a re-badged Jetta, finally sheds its awkward hatchback proportions for the three-box shillouette of previous generations. No word on how Israeli cab drivers, the Toledo hatchback’s biggest fans, will react.
Suzuki G70: Now re-named from the super-awkward “Regina” to the alphanumeric “G70″, this concept is a little gawky but far more interesting than anything sold by Suzuki right now.
Volkswagen: A little known fact – VW’s impressive debut schedule is merely a front to force assembled journalists listen to a long, detailed and pedantic press conference outlining various industry minutiae. This, much like Ferrari’s F1 team, is the company’s true passion, while auto sales are an afterthought. To that end, VW will show off the production 5-door up!, three up! concepts, the new GTI cabriolet and the CrossCoupe concept, which now features a diesel engine.
Volvo V40: Despite the initially tepid reception, once the media and enthusiasts learned of the V40’s 250+ horsepower turbocharged 5-cylinder engine, the tide of opinion rapidly changed. A start-stop system, regenerative braking and a whole host of safety features make this one pretty enticing as a sort of 21st century hot hatch.