Geneva Salon 2012

Cars

Of course there were supercars. This is the Geneva motor show, home of the breed, and it wouldn’t be complete with half a dozen new ones. Some you can buy, if you happen to have six or even seven figures in loose change for an impractical two-seat car, and some you really can’t: one-off styling exercises that (mostly) deserve to be built, but never will.

The star of this year’s Geneva show falls into the former camp. The Ferrari F12 Berlinetta (Below) is the fastest, most powerful road-going Ferrari ever, with 730 horsepower and a top speed of 211mph. Despite a price tag expected to be around £250,000, Ferrari showed the car to 450 clients before its Geneva unveiling and 80 per cent bought on the spot.

By contrast only one Lamborghini Aventador J will ever be made, commissioned by one supercar freak at a cost of nearly £2m because the standard Aventador was just too common. Lambo brought it to the show because bespoke personal commissions like this are now big business for the supercar industry’s big names, but the hoo-ha they made over it seemed a bit excessive for a one-off; they just didn’t want to be forgotten after Ferrari.

It’s a mark of the scale of the VW group that the Lambo was just one of four outrageous cars it was launching. Bugatti revealed easily the fastest, most powerful open-topped production road car ever made, its new Vitesse version of the Veyron using the 1184-horsepower, sixteen-cylinder engine from the closed-roof Bugatti Super Sports, the world’s fastest production car.

Giugiaro, now owned by VW, showed the Brivido, which even the international jet-set can’t buy. Geneva usually sees the great Italian automotive design houses revealing stunning but one-off concept cars, and this effort from Giorgetto Giugiaro joined gorgeous one-offs from Pininfarina and Carrozzeria Touring. Gull-wing doors provide proper supercar kerbside theatre, but there’s a frugal hybrid engine under that outrageous bodywork.

Bentley, also a VW brand, showed easily the most controversial car of the show. Officially it’s a concept car, but with its six-litre, 600bhp W12 engine the EXP9F will be the world’s fastest, most powerful SUV when the production version goes on sale in 2015 at around £135,000. The reaction online was instant, and not favourable; few seemed to object to Bentley building an SUV, but everyone seemed to object to the lumpen, graceless styling. An early rethink is on the cards.

But this year’s Geneva show wasn’t just about multi-cylindered, multi-syllabic exotica. It also had a surprising number of affordable new launches, from the well-resolved Jaguar XF Sportbrake estate and the new Porsche Boxster at the pricier end, to the small-but-premium Volvo V40, Mercedes A-class and Audi A3, to the who-let-you-in Fiat 500L, Kia Cee’d, Ford B-Max and Peugeot 208.

Is Geneva going soft? Giving in to the forces of austerity and environmentalism? Not yet: the number of new cars launched there this year which you and I can actually afford is more to do with coincidence than conscience. But this year my favourite car of the show was one of the cheapest: the production version of the Renault Zoe (above), which at £13,650 after a government grant will be the cheapest electric car on the road. With its sweet, perfect styling and no tailpipe emissions it’s the polar opposite of that crass Bentley, and might just make a Swiss billionaire or two think twice about buying another supercar. But you can be sure there’ll be more next year.

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