2016 Geneva Motor Show - Only the Best and Brightest

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

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]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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15 of 46 comments
  • Hummer Hummer on Mar 01, 2016

    " surprising 7.9 inches of ground clearance" My ruler must be off today, I'm not impressed. Else wise I see a lot of small engines and one expensive car with a decent sized engine, whole lotta meh.

  • Davefromcalgary Davefromcalgary on Mar 01, 2016

    Only 10 more hp than base for an Abarth version seems pointless.

    • See 12 previous
    • Corey Lewis Corey Lewis on Mar 02, 2016

      @heavy handle I suppose I only really paid attention to their glasses. The watches have always looked cheap, and I don't think I'd want to be seen wearing a vulgar Gucci watch. I'd rather have a Dunhill - but they don't make those anymore.

  • Lostjr Sedans have been made less practical, with low rooflines and steeply raked A pillars. It makes them harder to get in and out of. Probably harder to put a kid in a child seat. Sedans used to be more family oriented.
  • Bob Funny how Oldsmobile was offering a GPS system to help if you were lost, yet GM as a company was very lost. Not really sure that they are not still lost. They make hideous looking trucks, Cadillac is a crappy Chevy pretending to be fancy. To be honest, I would never step in a GM show room now or ever. Boring, cheap ugly and bad resale why bother. I get enough of GM when i rent on trips from airports. I have to say, does anybody at GM ever drive what everyone else drives? Do they ever then look at what crap they put out in style fit and finish? Come on, for real, do they? Cadillac updated slogan should be " sub standard of the 3rd world", or " almost as good as Tata motors". Enough said.
  • Sam Jacobs I want a sedan. When a buy a car or even rent one, I don’t want to ride up high. I don’t want a 5-door. I want a trunk to keep my stuff out of sight. It’s quieter, cars handle better, I don’t need to be at the same height as a truck. I have a 2022 Subaru Legacy Touring XT, best car ever, equipped as a luxury sedan, so quick and quiet. I don’t understand automakers’ decisions to take away sedans or simply stop updating them — giving up the competition. The Camry and Accord should not be our only choices. Impala and Fusion were beautiful when they were axed.
  • Spamvw I think you need to remember WHY the big 2 and 1/2 got out of the car business. Without going political, the CAFE standards signed into law meant unless you had a higher gas mileage fleet, you couldn't meet the standards.The Irony is that, the law made sedans so small with low roof lines, that normal people migrated to SUV's and Trucks. Now we get worse mileage than before.
  • TheEndlessEnigma Somehow, Toyota, Honda, Hyundai/Kia and Mazda are able to build sedans in North America AND turn a profit on those sedans at the same time.