“That’s it,“ declared one loud-voiced onlooker in the early-morning crowd surrounding the Porsche stand. “We’ve seen the show star; now we can go home.”
It was barely breakfast time on the first of the 80th Geneva motor show’s two preview days, but Porsche’s magnificent new 918 Spyder looked so beautiful and desirable - and so close to reality - that it seemed highly unlikely anyone else was going produce a car to trump it. And no one did.
Actually, Porsche showed three hybrid models - “one for the road, one for the track, one for the future” - and boldly claimed it was providing a most positive answer to the central question that had been hanging over fast, expensive, well-bred driver’s cars for years: can such machinery survive in the fast-approaching green era that so many other 2010 Geneva cars were helping to bring forward?
Porsche’s hybrid for the road was the £57,000, V6-plus-electric Cayenne S hybrid, on sale at mid-year. Its hybrid for the track was a 911 GT3 with an F1-style KERS regenerative braking system that will race at this year’s Nurburgring 24 Hours. And its hybrid for the future was the beautiful 918, a car with all the impact of the exclusive Carrera GT launched here a few years ago (and built on the very same carbon chassis). It was officially labelled a concept, but the bosses of Porsche’s main European outposts - such as British MD Andy Goss - were already carrying specially printed “letters of interest” for potential buyers to sign.
Stuttgart’s decision to show cars that really will see the light of day set one of the key trends of this year’s Geneva. Whereas recent shows have been peppered with hopeful proposals, this time we saw the production cars that have resulted from the creative thinking, many of them (unlike the Porsches) small or at least affordable.
Nissan backed up its admired Juke with a new Micra, which looked sensible enough, even if it lacked the outgoing model’s purity. Renault had its new folding-top Wind sports car, which looked every bit the young Parisian lady’s sporty car of choice, except that the underpinnings are pure Twingo RS and the company aims to produce some “tough” Wind versions early in its life to attract male buyers. Citroen showed the DS4 high-rider, an attractive and sporty SUV that further helped to display the breadth of its designers’ creativity. Alfa Romeo unwrapped its Focus-sized Giulietta, surely the best everyman Alfa for at least a decade, and Ford revealed the new Focus itself, both the hatchback and estate. These were highly competent cars, obviously ready for a big market, but they didn’t speak much about the avant garde side of the car business.