GENEVA is the first big show of the year – so here is our pick of the key cars that’ll be in your showrooms soon!
Deputy editor Richard Aucock said: ‘Geneva sets the scene for the coming months – and, judging by the state of the market at the moment, you’d think makers’ heads would be down.
‘But I’ve been speaking to them and it’s not all doom and gloom. They know what is in their vaults and we had enough hints to suggest that when the upturn comes, car buyers are going to be in for a treat.
‘Green cars obviously dominate, but that hasn’t meant supercars have been sidelined either. Here’s what the next year has in store for you.’
The biggest new car of the show is Mercedes’ vital new E-Class. It’s a massively important car for the German manufacturer, which will sell in droves. The archetypal ‘German taxi’, Mercedes will be keen to avoid the quality grumbles of the old-shape model, which gave UK dealers so many unhappy customers. That’s why Mercedes has taken so long, and invested so much, in developing it…
Engines will include V6 and V8 units, topped by a 388bhp 5.5-litre V8. But the best sellers are likely to be the four-cylinder models, particularly the diesels. The E250 CDI has 204bhp and 369lb/ft of torque – with, thanks to BlueEfficiency technology, exceptional fuel economy.
Over at Volkswagen, it’s a vital new car launch in the shape of the Polo. We’ve already got a feel for it – the platform is the same as in the excellent new SEAT Ibiza – and the familiar VW understated quality of design is much in evidence with this car.
High tech will feature, including DSG gearboxes and special direct-injection engines. The interior will be high-quality, although the SEAT will still offer a better level of equipment.
VW’s sister company Skoda also had an all-new car – the Yeti small crossover. Skoda’s rival to the Nissan Qashqai, it’s likely to be cheaper, and is even more distinctive. The model offers the option of four-wheel drive, and dealers will welcome the hip young customers it will hopefully attract.
It’s an all-new BMW Z4 for Geneva – and all-change! The latest Z4 finally gets a Mercedes SLK-style folding hard-top roof, as BMW aims to take its popular two-seat roadster even more upmarket.
The new machine is clearly an evolution of the current car, with a bigger body featuring a matured set of the famous sharp-angle lines. It retains its rear-drive, of course, with a monster set of engines available up front.
More controversial was the 5 Series Gran Turismo concept. A huge ‘crossover’, it’s as long as a 7 and as tall as an X5. A rival to the Mercedes R-Class? Maybe – but BMW dealers will be hoping not in terms of sales…
Our new favourite car seems to be the Aston Martin DSB Volante. We loved the coupe on our Road Test of the Year. Now, it’s a definite shoe-in for the wow-central Volante drop-top. 517bhp V12, 191mph, 60 in 4.3 seconds and, yes, all of the gorgeous good looks still in evidence.
Rolls-Royce also pulled the covers off the 200EX. The ‘baby’ Rolls is based on the big BMW 7-Series, but unmistakably a Rolls-Royce. It has rear-hinged ‘coach’ doors, a lavish cabin, and a price tag circa £200,000. This car has a big V12, but could it, in time, emerge as Rolls-Royce’s first-ever diesel?
Vauxhall goes electric
Could this be the most significant car of the show? Vauxhall dealers will be getting a version of the Opel Ampera, in the usual Vauxhall-Opel manner, some time in 2011. It’s not a hybrid, though. It’s an E-REV – that’s extended range electric vehicle. An electric motor alone powers the car for 40 miles, until the batteries are depleted. Then, an engine takes over.
As most people’s journeys are less than that, this means there’s more than enough engine-off, emissions-free daily driving for the majority. Then what? You plug it in to recharge the batteries: the engine doesn’t do this, unlike as with a conventional hybrid. Results? 176mpg, 40g/km of CO2. We reckon it’s the future, finally making electric cars viable.
It also gives GM a future, especially as the maker has appealed for nearly £3bh in funds – immediately. From anyone.
Lots of people carriers…
A people-carrier triple whammy at Geneva was headlined by the model that invented the sector – Renault’s Scenic. Using a version of the platform seen in the latest Megane, it will in time get some highly economical engines. For now, the interest is in the tidy, crisp looks. A current best-seller, the high-tech new gadgetry will be sure to bring welcome buyers to Renault dealers.
Peugeot has taken a different approach with its first compact SUV. The crossover 3008 has been designed more in the manner of the Nissan Qashqai, which has proven to be a smash-hit for the Japanese maker. Peugeot will be hoping for similar success with the chunky, tidy 3008.
MINI, watch out. You’re already facing competition from the lovely Alfa Romeo MiTo – and now, here’s an unexpected new rival. The Citroen DS3. The first model in the French brand’s new ‘premium’ line, unveiled here, it’s a concept that we have no doubt will make production. It’s probably based on a version of the C3 platform and, in time, will be followed by DS4 and DS5 variants. Can the brand reinvent itself and increase profit margins for dealers at the same time? It will be interesting to find out…
Oh my. Porsche unveiled its fantastic new 911 GT3 – and how we swooned. Yes, it looks exceptional, with hardcore pumped racer focus. It harks back to Porsche’s roadgoing motorsport heritage, with mad colours, tasty wheels and just the right amount of spoilers.
But, under the rear hood is a 435bhp 3.8-litre flat-six. This helps it do 60 in 4.1 second – oh, and 194mph. Good job stability control is available, for the first time on a GT3. More intriguing still is PADM. What? Porsche Active Drivetrain Mount. Engine mounts that ‘stiffen’ when your driving turns sportier, thus (apparently) making the 911 even more rigid and dynamic. Whoa…
by RICHARD AUCOCK
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