Geneva Auto Show '07: Saving the Planet One Batmobile At a Time

Martin Schwoerer
by Martin Schwoerer

Driving through Switzerland makes you feel like a million bucks (the annual salary required for comfortable residency). In early March, the Alps are still covered in snow, but the sun’s warm enough to shelter a scribe savoring a steaming cup of coffee and slice of rueblitorte by the shores of Lake Geneva. The fresh air! The dictators’ money! The tidiness! And then it’s time to contemplate the effects of global warming and enter the hallowed halls of Geneva’s seventy-seventh International Auto Show.

The Toyota FT-HS Concept is a hybrid. OK, it’s a hybrid hybrid, a Synergy-driven car combining the blood-drawing creases of Ford’s old Edge design language and the wraparound glamour of the vaguely art deco cinematic Batmobile. As a Cadillac flack might say, it’s art and science fiction.

The FT-HS isn’t just another “gotta have one/ain’t gonna happen” pistonhead tease. The car raises an important question: why can't more cars have wheels that look like exotic flowers?

Keeping to the theme of keeping the planet cool (hot?) for humanity, the Honda FCX Concept is a confidently competent future barge. Or is that competently confident? In any case, the hyrdogen fuel cell powered FCX finally makes the creative leap from SUV nosecone (a la Civic) to whale mouth. Honda proves once again that they are the masters at blending high tech and high touch, what with an interactive floor that uses lighting to indicate changes in cabin temperature.

How come the French have enough time (or the inclination) to eat cheese before coffee AND after lunch? And how is it that Italians manage to convince everyone else to struggle to speak their native language, instead of them struggling with their English like everybody else? And can the British ever learn to get down with their bad selves?

The CX-F is Jaguar’s S-Type replacement concept (i.e. the ready to be gelded, denuded and watered down version). It’s swoopy, sporty and strong; with a hint of Quattroporte and a clean Lexus LF-A aftertaste. It’s also utterly serious minded, a slap in the face of pace and grace. I’ll take two (for obvious reasons).

Honda’s Small Hybrid Coupe breaks the usual Batman concept car template for a nostalgic trip to Tron. While the car’s design has nothing to do with Honda’s corporate image, it will do Honda’s corporate image no harm– if only because its rear window is an ode to the old CRX and its gigantic wheels relieve Honda tuners’ SUV wheel envy.

The strangely spaced Walter de’Silva says the new Audi A5 is one of his best designs. The Italian originator of the German brand’s big mouth bass look has devised a coupe that’s elegant, understated, grown-up yet young and thrusting. It’s the perfect Jaguar, best imbibed with a bold cab.

Maserati finally trades its dorky coupe for something altogether more desirable– in the same sense that Adriana Lima might make a nice bit of arm candy for the Oscars. The GranTourismo coupe is twice as sexy in the flesh as it is in the photos, in the same sense that Adriana Lima looks more fetching across a dinner table than in a catalogue.

Being within sniffing distance of the world’s best numbered bank accounts, the Geneva auto show is the spiritual home to small carmakers who brew that heady mix of sleek sheetmetal and monster engines. The Swedes at Koenigsegg threw their hand-built CCX-based CCGT (Competition Coupe GT) FIA-homologated GT1 racer into Geneva’s alphanumeric soup. True to the show’s theme, they also promised a bio-fuel powered CCXR. Make that the BFP-CCXR.

The Dutch-built Spyker C12 Zagato may forfeit the rocket-inspired name game, but the VW-engined coupe proves that scissor doors are still an excellent way to liberate tasteless enthusiasts from their drug money discretionary income. The Zagato takes Spyker’s nascent design language and throws it into the wood chipper. When a supercar starts to look like a TVR Chimaera– a car designed by the [then] company’s owner’s dog– there’s bound to be trouble down the mine.

Meanwhile, mine owners won’t mind the Bentley Brooklands. Oblivious to the whole planet saving thing, the German-owned English carmaker is emerging from their highly lucrative Phaeton phase to launch a more traditional gas-guzzling Bentley behemoth.

The Brooklands boasts “classic British proportions”– a claim which does nothing for the self-esteem of Britain’s female population. To propel this Balmoral-on-wheels, The Bentley Boyz pulled out all the organ stops. We’re talking a 530hp 6.75-litre V8 with so much torque the company feels compelled to list it in Newton meters (1050Nm). Very PC, I’m sure.

Back into the gloaming as a young girl strolls past the show without even glancing in its direction. What did the Swiss Miss miss? A show dedicated to environmental responsibility, stuffed fulll of toys. How great is that?

Martin Schwoerer
Martin Schwoerer

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  • Martin Schwoerer Martin Schwoerer on Mar 08, 2007

    Sorry for responding late to everybody! Just got back from Geneva last night; I had some business to do in France right after the show and internet access is not always a given in the provinces, unless you pay through the nose for 3G wireless... In kinda chronological order of commentary: - Paul, Chuck, Jersey, Glenn, Sean: thanks for the kind compliments! I am glad you could accept that this was an effort to not write about everything in Geneva, but to get the essence of what's happening. - Jay: sad you couldn't make it. I hope it is not irksome to say you missed out on a super dinner -- the Patara is as good as ever. I did not really see the M3; everytime I tried to take a closer look, a photographer pushed me aside. Rude guys. - Shaker: I missed out on the Demon, being on a self-imposed deadline that coincided with its unveiling. From the photos I have seen it is cleaner and more befitting its target demographic than the Crossfire. - Dream50: yes you are right, and "veteran concept" is a term I like. I actually already saw the Honda in Frankfurt last September. It is such a self-confident and forward-looking study that Honda couldn't help showcasing it again, and I couldn't help writing about it. - About the general discussion re: Concept cars. I agree that they are often pointless examples of designer one-upmanship. I particularly dislike what I call Concept-car clichés: innovations that will never make it to market because they are unengineerable, such as missing B-beams, 24-inch wheels, or scissor doors. However, one of the great things at an auto show is to see practical concepts with which car companies display what they intend to do in 2-5 years time. You hear the managers discuss them in hushed voices, you see the engineers climbing under them to get an underskirt peek, and you get a glimpse of the future. Great stuff! Of course, there are lots of real, new cars at Geneva I could talk about. Starting with SherbornSean's question, I saw the Twingo, which is a timid effort, yet probably a good buying proposition. Twingo Mk1 was a revolution and a revelation; Mk2 is much more competent and slightly sad. Other opinions-in-nutshells about new Geneva cars: - Mazda 2: clean, stylish and individual from the outside; generic and depressing from within. - Ford Mondeo: the guy at the press conference said the trick would be to to get people to drive it, cause they would then love it. Judging from appearances, it won't be an easy trick. - Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupé: the ugliest A-beam ever. - Peugeot 207CC: much better than the 206CC. No longer a car to be ashamed of. - VW Golf station wagon: after almost two years, is this the best they could do? - Citroen C-Crosser, Peugeot 4007: the "Mitsubishi kiss of death" goes to yet another car maker. - Brilliance BC5 and BS4: with the help of Italdesign, they're getting there. Not real cars yet; big "yet".

  • Anonymous Anonymous on Mar 08, 2007

    z31: Yes, it does, in crude form. You need only pump it out of the ground and run it through a distillation column. Nature did most of the work for you over the last 200 million years. 10:1 energy returned on energy invested, on average. Making hydrogen via electrolysis and then burning it returns less than 1:1 EROI. Kps summarizes the issue excellently later in the commentary. pfingst: Yes, I have more hope for bio-diesel approaches, provided we're not burning food (as in the ethanol debacle). It's still a case of treating our own waste product and reconsuming it, but reusing otherwise wasted material always holds promise.

  • ToolGuy Friendly reminder of two indisputable facts: A) Winners buy new vehicles (only losers buy used), and B) New vehicle buyers are geniuses (their vehicle choices prove it):
  • Groza George Stellantis live off the back of cheap V8 cars with old technology and suffers from lack of new product development. Now that regulations killed this market, they have to ditch the outdated overhead.They are not ready to face the tsunami of cheap Chinese EVs or ready to even go hybrid and will be left in the dust. I expect most of their US offerings to be made in Mexico in the future for good tariff protection and lower costs of labor instead of overpriced and inflexible union labor.
  • MaintenanceCosts This is delaying an oil change for my Highlander by a couple of weeks, as it prevented me from getting an appointment before a business trip out of town. Oh well, much worse things have happened.I also just got a dealership oil change for my BMW (thanks, loss-leader prepaid plans!) and this didn't seem to affect them at all.
  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X Gonna need more EV fuel.
  • Lou_BC There's a company in BC that has kits for logging trucks and pickups. They have "turn key" logging trucks too. What they market is similar to what Ram wants to sell. The rig runs on batteries and a generator kicks in when depleted. On the West Coast logging in the mountains they found that the trucks run mostly on regen braking. The generator doesn't kick in much. Going up mountain, the truck is empty.