The Geneva Motor Show is one of the most important events in the automotive calendar. The planet's biggest car manufacturers descent on one sleepy Swiss city, eager to show off their latest developments to the assembled press.
Today marked the first of two preview days at the show. It's also the day when most manufacturers release new models, often cars that have been kept secret until the very last moment. Here's the lowdown of the best bits from day one.
The best car
The British have punched well above their weight at this year’s Geneva Motor Show. One of today's highlights – and the epicentre of a huge crowd at Palexpo – was the Range Rover Velar, JLR’s new luxury family chariot.
It’s might be the best-looking SUV at the show, but it’s what’s inside that counts. Offering one of the most advanced interiors ever seen in a car, the Velar takes minimalism to a new level. Most of the buttons have been replaced by touch-sensitive, hidden-until-lit panels that give the cabin a uniquely uncluttered feel.
The Velar is parked neatly between the Evoque and the Sport in the Range Rover lineup, thus neatly occupying a £30,000 gap between these two exceptionally popular models. The brand has been moving steadily upmarket over the past decade – now, following the demise of the iconic Defender, all of Land Rover’s products sit firmly within the ‘luxury’ category.
This includes the new Discovery. We’ve driven this formidable machine, both in the deserts of Utah and the damp Scottish Highlands, but Geneva gave the world another glimpse of the new Disco before it becomes a common sight on (and off) European roads.
The best supercars
Another UK firm causing a commotion in Geneva today is McLaren. The Woking-based outfit launched the 720S, a supercar with a top speed of 212mph, a 0-60mph time of 2.8 seconds, and a price tag of £208,600. Why 720? That’s how much power it has, in metric horsepower. 720PS is roughly 710bhp, meaning the McLaren gets just 10 more horses than the brutish Bentley Continental GT Supersports, Crewe’s 2.7 tonne assault yacht, also revealed today.
If you have a quarter of a million quid burning a hole in your pocket, you might want to take a detour via the Ferrari stand. Today’s unveiling of the Ferrari 812 Superfast has excited almost everybody, not least because it continues the Prancing Horse’s V12 bloodline. This new 789bhp Fezza will hit 62mph in under three seconds, and continue to 211mph on the right road. Sadly, it’ll emit 340g/km of CO2, making it rather expensive to tax.
Aston Martin also announced the name of its latest hypercar – Valkyrie. Known until now as the AM-RB 001, the car – described by Aston Martin as "revolutionary" – was developed in conjunction with Red Bull Advanced Technologies (hence the 'RB' element of the code name).
Best new tech innovation
Volkswagen Group has unveiled what it reckons will be the future of personal transportation. The Sedric – named in contravention of everything we know about acronyms – is a small driverless pod, similar in stature to those found at Heathrow Airport, but with greater levels of autonomy. In contrast to the V12 wail of Ferrari's 812 Superfast, Sedric will waft through the urban landscape silently, powered by electric motors.
Tackling ecological issues from a different angle is Hyundai. The Korean manufacturer’s FE Concept is a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, allegedly capable of 800km between fuel stops – something that Hyundai says is an acknowledgement of hydrogen transport's fledgling infrastructure.
We're big fans of hydrogen and were first to use the UK's only motorway H2 pump. Hydrogen fuel cells can power a car with virtually no emissions other than pure, drinkable water. Realistically, it's this kind of development that the Geneva Motor Show is about – as evidenced by some of the more forward-thinking exhibitors at this year's event, the days of the internal combustion engine might well be numbered.
Quote of the day
Peugeot boss Carlos Tavares on the fears that his company's takeover of Vauxhall could mean thousands on job losses:
“In the event of a hard Brexit, the fact that we have a UK footprint supplying the UK market with significant custom duties all around would be a good thing, don’t you think?”
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