There are so many exciting cars premiered at this year’s Geneva International Motor Show (open until March 19), which many claim to be the world’s leading annual expo of its kind, that it’s hard to know quite where to start. But let’s jump in anyway, with the new Ferrari 812 Superfast that was unveiled with customary hullabaloo on the opening day, drawing such notable attendees as Fiat Chrysler boss Sergio Marchionne (dressed, as usual, in nondescript sweater and chinos), the sartorially splendid Fiat heir, Italian national treasure and occasional bad boy Lapo Elkann, and star chef-restaurateur Massimo Bottura.
Successor to the range-topping F12berlinetta supercar – and thus a suitable machine with which to celebrate the near-legendary Italian company’s 70th anniversary (it was founded in 1947) – the Superfast revives a name last used during the mid-1960s. This new two-seat coupe is powered by a front-mounted, naturally aspirated V12 displacing 6.5 litres, which produces 789bhp and 718Nm, the latter at 7,000rpm. This, claims the Maranello-based manufacturer, gives it a 340km/h maximum and 0-100 acceleration of 2.9 seconds. Although traditional in conception and looks – the car’s in-house styling references the glorious, Pininfarina-designed 365 GTB4 Daytona of the late ’60s – and one of only two offerings in the company’s current line-up to eschew turbocharging, this new berlinetta is packed with high-tech vehicle-dynamics systems, including the latest version of Side-Slip Control, an upgraded Virtual Short Wheelbase system and, for the first time on a Ferrari, electric power steering.
Just round the corner and in a ceremony slightly delayed by all the hoopla at Ferrari, McLaren whipped the covers off the 720S, its new supercar contender that replaces the 650S and its various derivatives. As the name suggests, power from a the car’s slightly enlarged (to 4 litres) twin-turbo V8 is boosted to an incredibly impressive 720PS – or 710bhp – with torque similarly up to 770Nm. And that, says the British company, means 0-100km/h acceleration in 2.9 seconds and 0-300 in, wait for it, less than 22 seconds. Building on the design language pioneered by the P1 hypercar and with widespread use of carbon-fibre in its construction, the 720S takes aerodynamics into uncharted territory for a road car, and is as fabulously high-tech and fast as it is dramatic and desirable. McLaren may still be searching for its mojo on the Formula 1 track, but on this evidence its production-car business is on an unstoppable roll.
Until very recently, British manufacturer Aston Martin’s beautiful cars have epitomised the traditional luxury GT – but how things are changing. While its Vanquish S marks a further evolution of its line of front-engine super GT cars, the radically new AM-RB 001 Valkyrie is a stunningly innovative machine for which the epithet supercar seems wholly inadequate. Produced in partnership with Red Bull Advanced Technologies and bringing together the talents of acclaimed Formula 1 designer Adrian Newey and Aston’s creative chief Marek Reichman, this mid-engine missile is to be built in a limited edition of around 100 examples, priced in the region of US$3 million, and aimed at being the world’s fastest road-legal car by offering Le Mans-winning levels of performance (a full racing version is also being developed). It’s powered by a bespoke, naturally aspirated, 6.5-litre V12 built by Cosworth, which is further boosted by a lightweight Kers (kinetic energy recovery system) unit, with maximum output in the region of 900bhp. And as the Valkyrie weighs less than a tonne, that should give it 0-100km/h acceleration in a little more than two seconds and a top speed that hardly bears thinking about.
Among other debutantes at Geneva is one of the most eagerly awaited sports cars in years. We’re talking, of course, about the new Alpine A110, the first production road machine from the celebrated French marque – and Renault subsidiary – in more than 20 years. The mid-engine two-seat coupe, a natural rival to Porsche’s 718 Cayman and the Alfa Romeo 4C, is almost identical to the Alpine Vision concept previewed in various locations during 2016, and should begin to reach showrooms later this year. Employing lightweight aluminium for its platform and upper bodywork, the car is powered by a supercharged 1.8-litre four-cylinder motor that drives the rear wheels through a dual-clutch autobox, and is capable of reaching 100km/h from a standstill in around 4.5 seconds. A higher-output version tuned by Renault Sport is also likely to follow later in the year.
Jaguar Land Rover’s new Velar SUV, which slots into the Range Rover line up between the Evoque and the Sport, draws on the brand’s styling vocabulary introduced earlier in the decade, while beneath the skin there are notable similarities with its Jaguar F-Pace cousin. The people at JLR are adamant, however, that the two cars exhibit very different characters, the Jag being naturally more sporting and the Velar rather more posh and refined, with available extras such as air suspension offering even greater cosseting and a clever terrain response system giving a boost to off-road capabilities (you’ll never use it, but it’s nice to know it’s there). The cabin is certainly plush and the driving position commanding, which is exactly how “Rangey” owners like it.
What else has caught our eye at Geneva? Bentley’s stunning EXP 12 Speed 6e concept two-seat convertible has us thinking for the very first time that going electric might not be such a wretched proposition after all. The equally gorgeous Mercedes-AMG GT Coupe is a futuristic-looking, five-door response to the Porsche Panamera, though the company has given little clue as to its proposed powertrain. And on that note we’re delighted finally to welcome the SportTurismo shooting brake to the Panamera line-up, which we reckon is the best-looking Pana yet.
It’s great, too, to see the latest iteration of Porsche’s 911 GT3 and, next door at Lamborghini, the fastest Huracan yet, the Performante, fresh from its record-breaking run at the Nürburgring Nordschlieffe (which will probably stand for a month before another manufacturer sets a new fastest-ever production-car lap). It’s lovely, also, to behold the combination of white body and pastel ragtop on display at both Rolls-Royce and Mercedes, a trend we’re all in favour of – and even better, we have to admit, to sit down, and take the shoes off after two long days of trudging around and around the Geneva Palexpo stands. So until next year …