Geneva Auto Show 2008 Review: Das Show

Martin Schwoerer
by Martin Schwoerer
geneva auto show 2008 review das show

If you’ve ever stood at a Swiss platform and watched a train pull in within seconds of its ETA, you’ll know that this small country knows how to get shit done. The Geneva auto show is no exception. Its precise schedule and small scale make it the crown jewel of car confabs. This year, there was enough greenwashing to scrub the Amazon clean. Where once style, performance and a beautiful babe made show cars sexy, halo cars must now wear a badge proclaiming “Saving the planet one car at a time.” As if.

Of course, a hypocritical herd instinct does not an exciting auto show make. How many plug-in diesel-electric belt-assisted hydrogen-fuel-cell regenerative-braking lithium-ion dual-fuel unrealistically aerodynamic hybrid alibimobiles planned for 2011 were there? Lots. Suffice it to say, GM introduced its fifth hybrid powerplant at the Geneva show, a marginal improvement that’s testimony to the intensity of the PR war waged in the name your home planet.

And let's not talk about non-news such as the Audi A4 Avant. Or the Toyota Urban Cruiser (wasn't there an Al Pacino movie by that name?) which leaps to the top of the ten most boring Toyotas ever made in the history of the world, ever.

Meanwhile, the Tiny-Yet-Sexy niche continues to, uh, grow. We’re talking (comparatively) expensive little things that intend to make you feel good about yourself, the environment and parking (not necessarily in that order). As Paul Niedermeyer pointed out, this is the small car future that the MINI started. Toyota's iQ could take it mainstream. Priced higher than the larger Aygo, it looks great and sips fuel.

Another important trend: the Almost-Disposably-Cheap-Yet-Quite-Crap car. Mr. Tata brought the Nano to Geveva in his hand luggage. It’s an attractive appliance, a sympathetic amoeba on roller skates. Yes it has 12" wheels, but the original Mini had ten-inchers. The €9k-ish Dacia Sandero is of the same ilk. Taking purchasing power parity into account, that’s about $8k net, list. The Nissan Pivo is a bit more expensive and a lot more sci-fi, but if this is the future, include me in.

If you need another sign that Renault-Nissan is bursting with self-confidence, how about the Euro-Zone launch of their American (shhh) Infiniti brand? The FX50 is quite the looker. It’s not the segment buster they need, perhaps, but the FX is a lot more distinctive that the G-cars that’ll battle Bimmer’s best.

The stubby/cheeky Audi A3 Cabrio lives somewhere between laughable and laudable. The Cadillac CTS Coupe may not be the brand builder traditionalists seek (V16?), but it gets nothing but props here. It’s Caddy’s best chance abroad.

I liked the suicide doors on the future Opel Meriva– it's a good sign when a company devotes itself to a topic as prosaic as entry and egress. Surprisingly, the Passat CC is a fantastic improvement on the conventional, frumpy Passat. Honda displayed its handsome, competent Euro-Accords on a blood-red floor. The setting was dramatic, but unnecessary– unless you’re a big fan of The Shining.

Kia's Soul concepts, which intend to emulate Scion in being young & groovy, is interesting, but not quite convincing. The Soul Burner: I thought that was something you ordered at the Indian-food takeaway. The Soul Diva: a bit Paris-Hiltonny, no? The Soul Searcher: this one I liked. Rural and tough-looking, but not macho or in-your-face. Sorta kinda like the Cévennes Turbo-CNG: a futuristic eco-car which rips off the Porsche 356? And the Magna-Steyr Hybrid is the way I like off-road vehicles: less fat, more fun!

BMW showed its X6. It looks a lot less ugly in the metal than on paper, but it still makes about as much sense as broken cuckoo clock. The Skoda Superb is a lot more sensible, although BMW called and they want their Hoffmeister kink back. Volkswagen should consider taking back– and Americans should stop lusting after– the new Portuguese-built Scirocco. It’s a lumpen, fat, graceless, derivative car: an amalgam of Alfa Brera, VW Passat and whatnot.

BYD– isn't that how they pronounce "bird" in the Bronx? In this case, it stands for Build Your Dreams, Chinese style. Of course, Geneva was full of catchphrases. Maserati had "Excellence through Passion." Bentley left the caps lock on, promising "RELAXING EXILARATION," "DRIVEN BY YOUR DESIRES" and "THE SEDUCTION OF YOUR SENSES.”

VW officially unveiled their new global mantra: Engineered Like No Other Porsche in the World. No, wait. It was “Das Auto” or “the car.” This must piss-off Pontiac, who now insists that Pontiac is Car. (This reminds of Garp’s father in The World According to Garp, who lost letters as he lost his life.) No matter what you call it, the main message coming out of Geneva is that small is beautiful. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Click here to view Pixamo gallery of the Geneva Auto Show

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  • Detroit-Iron Detroit-Iron on Mar 09, 2008

    "Toyota Urban Cruiser (wasn't there an Al Pacino movie by that name?) which leaps to the top of the ten most boring Toyotas ever made in the history of the world, ever." To leap to the top of the most boring cars that Toyota has ever made, it must be a car so boring that it can be used as a weapon in the War on Terror. "Ahmed, take this Urban (yawn) Cruiser and, uh, (yawn) uh, go and blow (yawn) up the, uh, American, uh, (snoring)...."

  • CeeDragon CeeDragon on Mar 09, 2008

    I usually see eye-to-eye with most TTAC editorials but this one left me puzzled.

  • Zerocred So many great drives:Dalton Hwy from Fairbanks to the Arctic Circle.Alaska Marine Highway from Bellingham WA to Skagway AK. it was a multi-day ferry ride so I didn’t actually drive it, but I did take my truck.Icefields Parkway from Jasper AB to Lake Louise AB, CA.I-70 and Hwy 50 from Denver to Sacramento.Hwy 395 on the east side of the Sierras.
  • Aidian Holder I'm not interested in buying anything from a company that deliberately targets all their production in crappy union-busting states. Ford decided to build their EV manufaturing in Tennessee. The company built it there because of an anti-union legal environment. I won't buy another Ford because of that. I've owned four Fords to date -- three of them pickups. I'm shopping for a new one. It won't be a Ford Lightning. If you care about your fellow workers, you won't buy one either.
  • Denis Jeep have other cars?!?
  • Darren Mertz In 2000, after reading the glowing reviews from c/d in 1998, I decided that was the car for me (yep, it took me 2 years to make up my mind). I found a 1999 with 24k on the clock at a local Volvo dealership. I think the salesman was more impressed with it than I was. It was everything I had hoped for. Comfortable, stylish, roomy, refined, efficient, flexible, ... I can't think of more superlatives right now but there are likely more. I had that car until just last year at this time. A red light runner t-boned me and my partner who was in the passenger seat. The cops estimate the other driver hit us at about 50 mph - on a city street. My partner wasn't visibly injured (when the seat air bag went off it shoved him out of the way of the intruding car) but his hip was rather tweaked. My car, though, was gone. I cried like a baby when they towed it away. I ruminated for months trying to decide how to replace it. Luckily, we had my 1998 SAAB 9000 as a spare car to use. I decided early on that there would be no new car considered. I loathe touch screens. I'm also not a fan of climate control. Months went by. I decided to keep looking for another B5 Passat. As the author wrote, the B5.5 just looked 'over done'. October this past year I found my Cinderella slipper - an early 2001. Same silver color. Same black leather interior. Same 1.8T engine. Same 5 speed manual transmission. I was happier than a pig in sh!t. But a little sad also. I had replaced my baby. But life goes on. I drive it every day to work which takes me over some rather twisty freeway ramps. I love the light snarel as I charge up some steep hills on my way home. So, I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Passat guy.
  • Paul Mezhir As awful as the styling was on these cars, they were beautifully assembled and extremely well finished for the day. The doors closed solidly, the ride was extremely quiet and the absence of squeaks and rattles was commendable. As for styling? Everything's beautiful in it's own way.....except for the VI's proportions were just odd: the passenger compartment and wheelbase seemed to be way too short, especially compared to the VI sedan. Even the short-lived Town Coupe had much better proportions. None of the fox-body Lincolns could compare to the beautiful proportions of the Mark was the epitome of long, low, sleek and elegant. The proportions were just about perfect from every angle.