The Geneva Motor Show rolls out each year much like the Academy Awards — plenty of glitz and glamour, limited diversity, and most of the attendees are from the high end of the market.
This year’s show has seen a lot of range-topping models and an underlying theme of reinvention, which isn’t surprising given the current state of flux in the automobile industry. Utility-minded body styles are continuing to draw buyers away from traditional coupes and sedans, while electricity continues to grow as an alternate propulsion form.
Geneva also serves as a launching pad for vehicles bound for the New York International Auto Show, which takes place at the end of March.
A Volkswagen you’ll probably never drive
Volkswagen took this opportunity to introduce the Phideon, a prestige luxury sedan bound only for the Chinese market.
Designed to be the best VW can offer, the sedan comes with standard all-wheel drive and is powered by a turbocharged 3.0-liter direct-injection V6, though a front-wheel drive version with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo will bring the model downrange a bit.
While its stated goal is to appeal to chauffeured Chinese executives once it goes on sale in the third quarter of 2016, there’s already whispers that the Phideon might serve as the template for a resurrected Phaeton some beyond that date.
Despite the glamorous event, VW couldn’t step away from its ongoing diesel emissions scandal. The company’s marketing chief was forced to admit the company still has a target on its back after a press conference was interrupted by a wrench-wielding protester with a sense of humor.
This Spider has legs
Fiat handed its 124 Spider over to the Abarth Racing Team to wring better performance out of the Mazda Miata-based roadster.
The 124 Spider Abarth returned with a mechanical limited-slip rear differential, a suspension tuned for cornering ability, a Record Monza exhaust system and a 1.4-liter turbocharged engine massaged to deliver 10 extra horsepower (170, up from 160). Torque remains the same at 184 pounds-feet.
Buyers opting for an automatic will receive a performance-tuned Sequenziale Sportivo gearbox with paddle shifting, and all buyers can choose from five paint colors inspired by famous 1970s European rally races.
The Spider Abarth goes on sale in Europe this September, though there’s no word yet on when the model will cross the Atlantic.
American forces enter Europe
Chevrolet has crafted a new Corvette that honors the model’s very brief racing history while giving buyers access to gear sourced from the pricier Z06.
The 2017 Corvette Grand Sport is powered by the same 460 horsepower 6.2-liter LT1 V8 engine found in the Stingray, but can be optioned with the Z07 performance package, in addition to suspension upgrades, a heavier-duty cooling system and beefier brakes borrowed from its bigger brother.
Chevrolet will offer a number of packages to allow owners to personalize their Grand Sport, once the model goes on sale later this year, both in North America and Europe.
If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em
Almost every ultra-luxury automaker is working on an SUV right now, and if they aren’t, they’ll likely wish they had.
Maserati came to Geneva with its very first utility vehicle in tow: the Levante. Looking something like a Quattroporte that can haul far more stuff, the Levante joins a crowded field that’s becoming even more competitive since the likes of Jaguar and Bentley joined the fray (Porsche started the trend, and Lamborghini is on the way).
The Levante — which, if you didn’t know already, is named after a warm sea breeze — is available with a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 making either 350 or 430 horsepower, or a 3.0-litre turbo diesel that makes 275 hp.
This warm breeze is expected to hit buyers, very appropriately, by spring.
Go anywhere, do anything, live your life
Audi says the upcoming Q2 compact utility vehicle is designed around your lifestyle and signals the brand’s new design direction.
It’s small but spacious, high-tech but rugged, and efficient above all else, reads the corporate literature. Available in European markets initially (no word on North American sales yet), the Q2 comes with a three gas engines — a 1.0-liter turbocharged three-cylinder, 1.4-liter turbo four and 2.0-liter turbo four — as well as three four-cylinder turbo diesels.
The manual and dual-clutch automatic transmissions are both seven-speed units, and all-wheel drive is offered on higher-end models.
The lightweight vehicle has a surprising 7.9 inches of ground clearance (making rock-crawling with the kids an option), and comes with automatic emergency braking and electronic nannies that can take over the task of parking or navigating through low-speed traffic.
The Audi of the future comes first to Europe this fall. Time will stand still in North America in its absence.
A Toyota all the cool kids will talk about
Teased just a couple of days ago, the 2017 Toyota C-HR is the model that started life as a Scion concept vehicle.
It’s too late to save that brand, but the production-ready C-HR now resides in the Toyota stable. Smaller than a RAV4 and far funkier, the C-HR will be available in Europe with a hybrid drivetrain employing a 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine, and mated to a continuously-variable transmission.
A smaller-displacement gas-only drivetrain is also available on that side of the pond. What isn’t available in Europe is a 2.0-litre engine of undetermined power that’s sure to be offered in North America.
Details are still lacking with the C-HR, but perhaps Toyota representatives will have more to say at the New York show later this month.
[Photos courtesy of the manufacturers]