Palexpo De Genève: a vast convention centre just ten minutes walk from Geneva airport and for a few manic March days of the year, host to some of the most important new motorcars in the world.
Yes, it’s Geneva International Motor Show time again. In fact, even though we’re only just into March, the sweat soaked suited and booted palaver that is GIMS has already been and gone for another year.
In some ways and for some manufacturers it was a big one. A once in a decade show. For others, it was just another big party where attendance for the sake of seeming current is obligatory.
But what defines a show as vast as Geneva? It’s rather obvious isn’t it. The big debuts. The definitive stuff.
2011 saw the Pagani Huayra and Lamborghini Aventador set new benchmarks in power output for a supercar.
Geneva 2013 saw the collective return of Porsche, McLaren and Ferrari to the hypercar arena with the latter using the show to debut LaFerrari.
Geneva 2016 now sees the return of two of the biggest premium performance car icons of the past 15 years: Aston Martin and Bugatti.
Both saw their last “all new” car debut over ten years ago within the same walls. Both have suffered as interest in outgoing models has dwindled in recent months and years, as rivals usurp them both in terms of objective performance and subjective desirability. Both, most importantly, have shown an outstanding return to form at this years show.
First up, the Chiron ( ‘She Ron’, not ‘Ky Ron’, apparently). The headline grabbing Bugatti, as if a new Bugatti could do anything else, has stolen the spotlight at this years show.
The car is a lovely thing to behold, if a bit familiar. Its dimensions are as deceptively petite in person as its predecessor, but the glitzy new lights up front, emboldened intakes up the side and overhauled bottom make for a significantly more expensive looking device.
Underneath, the powertrain architecture remains: 8 litres, 16 cylinders in a W formation and four turbos. It’s been overhauled, yes, with the latest in turbo tech’ and a new injection system, but the Chiron is very much its fathers son. Then again, the Veyron wasn’t exactly totally antiquated upon its departure this time last year, was it.
The Chiron is purported be a completely new steer, too, with a much more lively driving experience than its famously rather inert forbearer. Although topping “only” 261mph (limited), the 1500bhp Chiron is also touted as a future record holder once tyre technology permits the buffers to be lifted.
Say what you will about the big bugs, you can’t deny that their ability to whisk their pilots along at the thick end of 250mph without breaking a sweat and in sumptuous luxury is something to marvel at. The Chiron will undoubtedly carry that torch with ease.
If the Chiron is carrying a torch, then the Aston Martin DB11 is bearing a cross. Even though it’s succeeding some of the most beautiful automobiles to ever grace tarmac, the DB11 doesn’t shrink from the challenge. It entertains that ethos of over-styling which is fashionable in automotive design at the minute, but only in bending it into nothing more than exquisite detail.
DB11s new bejewelled headlights, long chiselled wing vents and contrasting roof strakes may look fussy sat next to the timeless DB9, but every try-hard looking competitor in the performance GT arena fades into the background when sat beside it. DB11 is yesterdays gentleman spy in an up to the minute Damier Louis Vuitton three piece.
That metaphor does DB11 little justice, though, as underneath, unlike many of Astons offerings, it really really isn’t yesterdays performance car. An all new aluminium platform, a future proof 600bhp 5.2 litre twin turbo V12 and bang up to date interior design and interface make it a once in a generation Aston: one that is genuinely objectively competitive.
Now the cross that the DB11 has to bear is thus: being a profitable product for a company that has been in profit about five of its one hundred odd years of business. We think it’s got the shoulders for it.
What else? Porsche saw fit to take GIMS16 as another opportunity to further privatise petrol heads passion for analogue pork with the delicious yet painfully rarified 911 R.
Take one 500hp atmospheric 991 GT3RS power plant, a bespoke six speed manual gearbox and a retuned Porsche Motorsport 991 architecture and you have the best investment this side of a Docklands new development.
To add insult to the injury of Joe Bloggs car enthusiast never being within reach of it, it was displayed beside the 718 (that’s Seven Eighteen) Boxster and its controversial new four-pot turbo power plant. To be fair, that manual in the R is rumoured to be seeing service in the next GT3, but for now most of us are out of the loop.
More VAG madness as Lamborghini debuted the Cententario. One hundred years since the birth of Ferucio Lamborghini is celebrated in, er, style, with this new limited run hypercar. 770bhp in 20 coupes and 20 roadsters could have been yours for 1.75 million euros, before they were all sold.
The re-dressed Aventador is certainly a slicker styling exercise than the Veneno. Even in its clear carbon with yellow highlights dress, it was a lot more digestible in person than in pictures.
Pagani and Koenigsegg demonstrated a relentless hunger for progress. A new type of carbon weave, an 80bhp hike and Ohlins suspension tech makes the Huayra BC just as radically different underneath that Dallara engineered aero as it is on the surface.
Koenigsegg presented the end of the Agera era with the One Of 1 run out series and the Agera RS ML specials. Ahead of them was the ever beautiful and revolutionary Regera complete with finished drivetrain and robotised bodywork. As outstanding and as unobtainable an offering as ever, from the original bespoke hypercar manufacturers.
Due to the fact that the F-Type R is neither wayward or loud enough, Jaguar saw fit to present the steroidal 600bhp 200mph F-Type SVR in both convertible and coupe guises. SMMT driving days will echo with those annoying, I mean, addictive exhaust crackles and spats of oversteer for years to come.
Besides all of that, a plethora of renewable energy hypercar’s peaked interest, including the 1000bhp electric Rimac Concept One and hydrogen powered Pininfarina H2 Speed. The future of ultra high performance looks exciting.
The usual scourge of tuning companies demonstrated once again how not to re-style a Lamborghini and Ford dressed itself up as a premium car manufacturer with the Vignale nomenclature. How much of a success that will be remains to be seen.
Oh, by the way, the new Honda NSX starts at £130,000 and deliveries will definitely, DEFINITELY begin in the final quarter of the year.
Cars of the show for us?
The DB11 is the kind of form we’ve all wanted to see from Aston for years. We reckon it’s the most important debut of the show.
The RX Vision is as delectably minimalistic and beautiful as it is in pictures. A refreshing buck of this over styling trend. We hope it’s as close to production guise as possible.
A personal favourite was the C7 Corvette Grand Sport. A Z06 minus a supercharger, 200bhp and those cooling issues. Mclarens 570GT demonstrated that abstract, modern, fussy and beautiful are all words that can gel when referencing automobile aesthetics.
It was nice to see the BMW M2 with its M Performance kit and a manual transmission, too.
Geneva 2016 has served to demonstrate that there is still hope for enthusiasts and investors alike, that the abstract vomit inducing styling desires of “Insta-famous” 14 year olds are never far enough away from reality and that the management at Palexpo still don’t know how to regulate room temperature under all of those spotlights.
GIMS16 was as sweltering, exciting, vast and crowded as ever. A rush that anyone with even a quart of unleaded lacing their plumbing ought to do at least once.
You can check out our full gallery here.