How long is it since we can honestly say the Brits ruled the Geneva motor show? Must be decades.
But this year, all talk was about the allure of the brand new ultra-low volume Aston Martin Vulcan, the complete surprise of an extraordinary Aston DBX crossover concept – aimed as squarely at well-heeled women as men – and a Bentley EXP 10 Speed 6 sports car that shattered all the rules about the Crewe manufacturer being a maker of slightly portly luxury saloons and coupés.
The trouble for the record number of reporters on hand was that at Geneva this year you had to be able to imagine yourself in the billionaire bracket, which was a bit of a stretch for most of us. First away was Bentley’s EXP 10 Speed 6, named for safety after the controversy of the recently announced Bentayga name for the forthcoming SUV.
Despite the remark by company chief Wolfgang Durheimer that this was an example of his company playing to its strengths – rather than stealing Aston Martin’s lunch – there was no resisting what many felt was the car’s excessive similarity to the DB9 (via DB7). It was as if Ian Callum, who designed both Astons, had been doing some moonlighting. The car looked slightly rushed and slightly drab in safe-again British Racing Green, but there was no doubting the “rightness” of the direction it signalled for the company.
The Aston Martin DBX looked right, too, playing to the modern need, among big-bucks buyers, to buy convenience in machines with style and panache. It took a minute or two to get used to its tallness, but thereafter it looked well proportioned and in character. There is little doubt that it will be built, but apparently a little taller and as a four-door. Speaking of four-doors, around the corner from its main stand, Aston also showed its finished Lagonda Taraf saloon, now aimed at the world, not just the Middle East. It looked honed, chiselled, spacious and sensational.
McLaren joined the Brit throng, first with its 40-off P1 GTR track car – sold only to existing P1 owners – and 675LT (for long-tail). Even more importantly, chief exec Mike Flewitt discreetly signalled the impending arrival of McLaren’s slightly cheaper Sports Series range, currently codenamed P13 but believed to carry model names that will begin with ‘5’. Lotus had the new Evora 400, exuding build quality like a new Lotus never did before, and Morgan had its renewed Aero 8, whose super proportions and details finally swept away memories of the cross-eyed original that appeared for the first time on this very stand in 2001, and disappeared from the company’s range in favour of the Aeromax in 2010.
The super cars kept coming: Ferrari had its seductive new 488 GTB, a comprehensive restyle for the 458 with a doubtlessly superb 3.9-litre biturbo engine, while the most extraordinary version of the second-gen Audi R8 was the all-electric e-tron that can put away a 0-60mph sprint in 3.7sec, but most importantly has its range doubled to about 280 miles, a range viable enough to attract progressive fast car lover. And Koenigsegg (Swedish for ‘crazy’) showed a brutish but stylish new car called Regera – a plug-in hybrid no less – with 1500 horsepower on tap from a power train that combined three electric motors with a 1000bhp petrol turbo V8. The acceleration forecast was zero to 250mph in under 20 seconds, which had people wondering about the Swedish word for ‘insane’.
Among more affordable cars, JLR was prominent with the new small XE, plus a careful facelift for the Evoque (sales keep rising so they certainly didn’t want to scare anyone) and a whole slew of end-of-run classic Defenders which were new to the Continentals and under close examination all day. Oh yes, and Vauxhall showed its cheeky new five-door Viva (alongside Opel’s weirdly named Karl) which will start in our market at £7995 and be available on a £99/month PCP. Vauxhall also had its Corsa VXR, which we’ll see in May.