Geneva motor show 2009 A-Z preview and review
04 March 2009 11:00
Welcome to CAR Online's coverage from the 2009 Geneva motor show. This is your one-stop shop for news, photographs, blogs, video, analysis and comment on every new car launch. Click on our quick links below to jump to our new content:
• The CAR blog live from Geneva
• Videos of new cars at Geneva - video footage has been moved to page 2
• A-Z of every new car launch
• Photo gallery from Geneva
• News from CAR's reader reporters
FULL A-Z OF EVERY NEW CAR
• Alfa Romeo Mito GTA concept
• Aston Martin DBS Volante and One-77
• Audi A4 Allroad and TT RS
• Bentley Continental Supersports biofuel
• BMW Concept 5-series Gran Turismo
• Bugatti Veyron Blue Centenaire
• Chevrolet Spark
• Citroen DS Inside concept
• Dacia Duster concept
• Ferrari 599XX and HGTE
• Fiat 500C convertible
• Ford Iosis Max concept
• Honda Insight hybrid car
• Hyundai ix-onic concept
• Infiniti Essence concept
• Jaguar XFR and XKR
• Kia No.3 concept MPV
• Lagonda Concept car
• Lamborghini Murcielago LP 670-4 SuperVeloce
• Lexus RX450h hybrid SUV
• Maserati Granturismo S Automatic
• Maybach 57 and 62 Zeppelin
• Mazda 3 MPS
• Mercedes E-class saloon and E-class Coupe
• Mini John Cooper Works Convertible
• Mitsubishi i MiEV Sport Air
• Nissan Qazana
• Opel Ampera
• Peugeot 3008
• Porsche 911 GT3 and Cayenne diesel
• Renaultsport Megane 250 and new Scenic/ Grand Scenic and Renaultsport Clio 200
• Rinspeed iChange and E2
• Rolls-Royce EX200 concept
• Saab 9-3X
• Seat Exeo ST and Leon and Altea facelifts
• Skoda Yeti and Octavia Greenline and Fabia Scout
• Toyota Verso and Prius
• VW Polo
>> The CAR live blog filed straight from the show floor at Palexpo by CAR associate editor Tim Pollard. Top tip: start at the bottom and scroll your way up in blog format. All times are local Geneva time (GMT +1)
GENEVA NEWS ALERT
>> GM Europe weeks from running out of cash...click here to read more
>> Renault to relaunch Gordini sports brand
12.10pm Nearly the end
I'm flying back to Blighty at 2.00pm, so my time at Geneva is drawing to an end. The Swiss locals have missed their wackier excesses of previous years and I'm disappointed by the normally barking Sbarro and Rinspeed. Maybe it's a reflection of the times. Nobody told Zagato, however, who have two models wearing the skimpiest denim hotpants I've ever seen cavorting all over its new concept, an interesting new South Africa sports car with a production intent and plans for European sales. It's like 1970s glamour marketing and TVR brashness never went away.
11.52am Giugiaro meets Lambo
There are retro cars and there are wacky cars. But the Italdesign Giugiaro stand at Geneva has a real eyesore this year. The new Frazer-Nash concept is a real disappointment for me. It might be a hybrid show statement, but its design is just too derivative for this most fabled of stylists. That rear end plunders the Murcielago dialect too much. And that's a shame.
11.37am Chilling thought
Prize for the most interesting nugget of the show? A Smart executive reveals that China is growing at such a rate (even in the global crisis), that a Chinese city passes the population of New York every 10 months. Kind of puts downsizing and small cars in context.
11.15am Coffee with Callum
Just had half an hour with Ian Callum, Jaguar design chief. He's great value and we cover everything from the new XJ to his retirement plans (well, sort of). Full story to follow in a separate article. But his reaction when I inquire about his reaction to the BMW 5-series is somewhat unprintable. There's a relaxed vibe at Jag - they're waiting for the big launch of the XJ at Frankfurt 2009.
10.37am The weird and wonderful
Is Wiesmann the German Jaguar? I think so, as I study the new Roadster MF4. That oval grille is pure Browns Lane, but the horrible lights spoil an otherwise retro-rich 50s style.
10.07am To Infiniti and beyond
Back up to look at the Infiniti Essence concept. I liked it yesterday and, sleeping on it, I'm glad to say I still do. A big cheese at Infiniti tells me this styling will influence their road cars very soon. Remove one of the turbos and you're left with the new hybrid system that'll come to market in 2010 in the US, probably the year after in Europe. And look out for the new M exec (think 5-series) at Geneva next year.
8.49am: BMW rumours are mongering
After yesterday's debut of the opinion-dividing 5-series GT, today it's all about small cars for BMW. There's going to be a press conference later on about the company's i car project for small urban mobility solutions. Aren't they a bit stuffed with their nomenclature? I can't imagine a 0.3-series will go down too well in Belgravia.
8.31am: The mini Nurburgring in Geneva
I slip into a back room behind Nissan's stand to take a peek at the Nissan GTR SpecV. It's by invitation only and I suspect they don't want customers only just getting the Euro car to cancel and order this souped-up version instead. But rather than the carbonfibre bewinged GTR, my attention is grabbed by an utterly awesome model of the Nurburgring. It must be 10sq m and captures every twist and turn in glorious detail. I want one...
8.11am: Lagonda does a Lazarus
Strewth. Aston Martin chief exec Ulrich Bez introduces us to his centenary birthday present to Lagonda: the new concept car, which strikes me as a cross between a Mercedes GL and an Infiniti FX. It has impact alright, and Bez stresses that the new crossover isn't aimed at western Europeans. I can just sense the reader feedback on our comments, but this car is aimed at a different milieu. Russia, the Middle East, Asia. Places where roads aren't as well prepared as in the UK. David Richards tells me this car wasn't pushed by Aston's Kuwaiti investors, rather by a realisation that Aston Martin can access a further 100 markets by entering this segment. The logic adds up. And it seems that Georg Kacher's scoop on an Aston-Merc tie-up was bang on. This car is based on the hardware of a Mercedes GL. It spells rapid access to Daimler's diesel, hybrid and biofuel tech and that's invaluable to a small independent like Gaydon.
Wednesday 4 March 2009, 7.50am: Day two
Aston Martin are about to show the new Lagonda Concept car. A large huddle of journalists gathers around the Aston stand - and a tall, rather ungainly amorphous shape under a dust sheet. What on earth have they gone and done?
6.00pm: Debrief with the CAR team
Time to meet the CAR reader reporters' team. Turns out they've not had time to file their copy yet, so look out for their pearls of wisdom over the coming 48 hours. It's great to chew over the show highlights and hear some feedback about CAR Online. They're bonding well and threatening to hit Geneva town centre together. I warn them of the princely cost of Geneva hostelries and bid them farewell, as I head for a dinner with some Renault suits. It's been a long day without a single pause. Just goes to show Geneva is too metal-packed for one man to cover everything in a day. I'll mop up the pieces tomorrow – I want to see the new Tata Nano for Europe and Lagonda's new concept car in particular. Come back on Wednesday morning for more coverage from the Geneva motor show 2009.
5.55pm: Shreyer back to his roots
Spot Kia design overlord Peter Schreyer sampling the new Polo. One of the joys of motor shows – spying on the men in charge. Not to mention all the engineers (often Asian) crawling under the competition with digi cameras and tape measures to hand. It's daylight robbery, I can tell you.
5.40pm: Feeling the current on the Opel stand
I keep being drawn back to the Opel Ampera. Yes, I know it's just a Volt in Euro style, but I find this car fascinating. And poignant. It could be the car to save GM – or a missed opportunity if the business fails. Weird electro-shock blue sparky tubes around the Volt provide brief distraction.
4.45pm: Problems back at base
Oh dear. Sounds like our website has been crashing on one of our busiest days of the year. Grrr. Web producer Sarah-Jayne back at base is pulling out her blonde locks trying to fix our server problems. Please bear with us while we fix the bug. Fly spray please!
4.29pm: Where's Asimo when you need him?
I've missed Honda's Asimo robot displays. Shame – I could do with some help walking after a long day on the show floor. The CRZ concept is a reminder that Honda will soon launch this as a sporty hybrid coupe. Bring it on: the Insight might impress, but it sure doesn't inspire. It looks uncomfortably like a Prius from some angles, especially behind.
4.15pm: Nissan's world debut surprise
Nearby Mazda, Honda and Nissan always jostle for attention at Geneva – and it was a hands-down win for Nissan this year. Its Qazana was a proper surprise with no leaks or advance peeks. This foreshadows a new mini Qashqai crossover, due in 2010 and built in Sunderland, UK. It does have some genuinely sporting pretences: that roofline echoes the GTR's and the rear boomerang lights are straight off the 370Z. The bad news? There's no way they're going to keep the Qazana's character intact for production. I predict some underwhelming dilution, but hope to be proved wrong.
4.00pm: A flood of Astons
It's all go on the Aston stand as not one, but two of the new One-77 are shown, scotching rumours of its premature death. There's a glorious carbonfibre chassis on show which is like a hi-tech Tonka toy made reality. When will the mega Aston be built? The first arrives in late 2009, the other 76 in 2010, powered by an epic sounding 750bhp V12. Elsewhere, it was business as usual: the DBS Volante was there, and Dr Ulrich Bez announced that a V12 Vantage would compete at the Nurburgring 24-hour race, on top of the firm's ambitions at Le Mans. And who's that in the corner? Lord March of Goodwood fame, chatting to David Richards. LM always comes to Geneva to drum up interest in his Festival of Speed and Revival. He'll have his persuading powers tested as makers close their wallets in the downturn...
3.55pm: Jaguar and the heat
Sitting in a Volvo for a nifty vantage point of Jag's press conference, I see it's 26deg C in the Geneva show. Lots of lighting or journalistic hot air? I'll let you judge that! Jag MD Mike O'Driscoll shows off the Detroit cars (XFR, XKR) and announces a carbon-offset scheme. Then it gets interesting. 'In a few short months we'll show the new XJ and it's a car that challenges convention.' Sadly that's all he'll say today. I've got a slot with design chief Ian Callum tomorrow, will have to press him more then...
3.47pm: Smart plays Star Trek
Smart is well placed in the new world order, enjoying sales growth of 39% last year. It's a quiet Geneva though, with just a Limited Edition Three version and the Smart Brabus Electric Drive – what Dr Zetsche calls the first tuned EV. Problem is nobody on the stand can tell us about the mechanical changes, raving instead about the dual engine noise speaker system which emits a V8 growl or – and I quote – a 'Beam Me Up Scotty futuristic noise.' Classic motor show nonsense, surely.
3.31pm: Peugeot and the other Yeti
I thought the Yeti was supposed to be on the Skoda stand, but there's a curious furry snowman on the Mini stand, as I walk to the Peugeot stand next door. Strange. Peugeot unveils the 3008 crossover which, to be honest, looks more like a 308 estate than a pumped up sporty field-plugger. It'll come with Peugeot's first diesel hybrid from 2011. The French brag they've sold more coupe cabriolets than anyone else, flogging 650,000 since the 206 CC rekindled the sector in 2000. Although PSA is relatively exposed in the credit crunch as a mid-sized player, its strength in low CO2 cars is a boon. It claims to sell more sub 130g/km models than anyone else in Europe.
3.10pm: Mini JCW cabrio and some hot lights
The Mini John Cooper Works Convertible arrives. I'm a modern Mini fan but fail to get excited by this incremental new addition. Bring on a new launch later in this, their golden anniversary year. I've a hunch they're going to show something special, a birthday concept. It's getting hot in here and a quick glance roofside reveals thousands of spotlights hanging from Palexpo's roof. What must the motor show's carbon footprint be?
2.57pm: BMW and Bangle
How quickly times change. I spot BMW's former design chief lurking round the side of Mini's stand during the 5-series Gran Turismo launch. Bangle is swilling a glass of champers and not listening to the dry German presentation behind me. Fair play, I say – he's never been one to let procedure to get in the way. I have no headsets and the 5 GT chat is flying over my head, but I think my eyes do the talking. This is one odd-looking family addition and while I find it mildly repulsive, I do admire BMW's boldness. The X6 is cool in an extravagant OTT way – could the 5 GT follow suit? I suspect not, but remain open-minded...
2.15pm: Mercedes E-class lands as two-door
Dieter Zetsche is on typically ebullient form, cracking gags about his cars being the perfect prescription for these depressed times. The new E-class family makes its Euro debut and, while the E saloon I saw out in Detroit remains a sober-suited clinical exec, the two-door looks better in the metal. But who are we to pass judgment on the newcomer? Daimler has 40,000 orders for the new E-class family already. Dr Z says there will be a tuned electric Smart on the next door stand in a while; as a small-car fan, I must go and look at that. My love affair with Smarts has been dented by CAR's new long-term Toyota iQ I drove down to the airport yesterday...
1.35pm: Meeting the CAR readers at Rolls-Royce
We meet our competition winners at the unveiling of the Rolls EX200. Reg, Robby, Ollie, Tim and Mark have come from far afield – the latter all the way from Auckland, New Zealand. Nutter. Respect is due. Each is preparing a blog of the show high and lowlights, with a personal tour around Geneva's new metal. They'll filter onto the site from Wednesday and they promise much more in the next 24 hours. We chat so much, I miss much of the Rolls presentation. It's clear that Goodwood's glory days of record sales are over. Last year, Rolls posted a record 20% growth, but 2009 will be much, much harder. They're clearly desperate to launch the real RR4, based on this EX200 show car. It's a tidy thing, but hardly any different to the Phantom family. The volumes are different – marginally – but the language is all Rolls' existing lingua franca.
12.45pm: Mini's man with the crayons
Bump into Gert Hildebrand, Mini's global styling chief. He looks like an excited schoolboy and finds it amusing whenever I try and wheedle out future model stories. He loves CAR Magazine, too. Genius. Right – off to Alfa now.
12.20pm: Kia and the classic designer suit
Kia's new No.3 concept is shown to much fanfare. It's a neat design and hints at the new 'tiger' face creative boss Peter Schreyer is working on. He appears on stage in hilariously apt designer garb: black suit, black tie, black shirt. Classic. Also reveals that No.3 is 'surprisingly close' to the production version. They're on a roll, these guys.
12.03pm: Lexus announces stunning figures
Hybrids have their detractors, but I challenge you to ignore the new Lexus RX450h. It produces a minuscule 148g/km of CO2 – quite incredible for a decent-sized crossover. One Toyota wag tells me that the new Prius also on show and RX's combined emissions are in fact lower than Porsche's new Cayenne diesel. Kinda puts things in perspective. I've developed a bit of a thing for the iQ supermini and am pleased to hear it's selling well in its target metropolitan markets (read London and similar cities).
11.37am: Renault go hot hatch crazy
The power of CAR Online! Renault have obviously heard my plea and a nice comfy sofa gives me a chance to sit as I type. This job'll give me RSI, I can tell you... Renault shows six genuine world debuts: the blink-minor Clio facelift, complete with refettled Renaultsport 200 pocket rocket; the Megane estate; and the big news – the Renaultsport Megane 250 and new Scenic and Grand Scenic. I reckon the hot Megane should be a riot, complete with its LSD and stronger engine. The Scenics don't have the elegant simplicity of the original, but there's no arguing with the family handling duties. These cars have brilliantly creative storage solutions, but I'd lose my stuff in all those cubbies. Shame the middle row has to be removed though and won't fold into the floor. Don't we expect that nowadays? Renault gives us our first strobe lighting of the day, and some most curious music, ending with a strange off-key melody. Weird and very ear-catching.
11.32am: Subaru overuns
All quiet on Subaru stand with only Detroit's Legacy concept on show. Much chat of Subaru's Swiss local-market heritage. My eyes glaze over. Why is there never anywhere to sit down at motor shows? My feet are killing me and its not even mid-day.
11.20am: GM, an electric car and a Bob Lutz tribute
GM Europe's president Carl-Peter Foster looks tired as he delivers a gloomy message. Maybe he's had ten rounds of Phil McNamara, who's interviewing him today. But the Ampera concept is definitely a light at the end of the tunnel. Buy one, as you can in 2012 as a RHD Vauxhall, and you may never again have to buy another drop of fuel, if you only drive short journeys daily. Such is the power of the petrol-electric range extender. But there's the obvious cashflow crisis to negotiate before we talk about cars three years hence. Foster calls for more government support and claims that Opel's plan to become more independent from GM will guarantee survival. He pays tribute to Bob Lutz, who's moving to quasi-retirement. 'I hope this industry will go back to being the engine of prosperity,' he declares, ever the soundbite master. But he lets slip the downturn could last five years – and this septuagenarian has no appetite to stick around that long. We'll miss you, Bob...
10.59am: Mitsubishi cancel and Jackie Stewart crystal-ball gazes
No press conference at Mitsubishi. A sigh of relief instead. Just bumped into Jackie Stewart, F1 champ, and asked him for his 2009 tip. 'Massa – he's a brilliant driver and got real go. He can beat Hamilton...' You read it here first.
10.49am: The green, green grass
Someone's planted real grass near the Infiniti stand. Genius! Apart from some women in high heels (every female at a motor show) are getting stuck. Especially the well heeled.
10.40am: Hyundai wins its Euro passport
The Koreans continue to ape European designs: the new Hyundai i20 three-door has a decidedly Fiesta-ish DLO (side glazing to you and me) but looks neat enough. And guess what? The Ix-onic concept for the new Tucson looks as much like the Kuga in the metal as it did in the photos. I'm intrigued by this Blue Oval obsession. The Kia No.3 concept is the same.
10.15am: The new Infiniti lands
A genuine show surprise: the new Essence concept car. It looks fabulous, like a Merc CL with Infiniti's new design language. Think molten metal, its flowing silvery flanks appearing exceptionally slinky to these eyes. And that new grille – not plonked on, rather it's integral to the whole nose, emerging from the raised wheelarches – really works. It even reminds me of the Maser Granturismo's shark-like snout. I bump into the head of Nissan's European design who laments it was totally designed in Japan. 'But when it's this good, who minds?' I'm inclined to agree. Take note also of the rear-drive 600bhp hybrid system – it's coming to Infiniti's top-end cars sooner than we think.
10.03am: Largesse at Lambo
Staff writer Ben Pulman sidles up. He's hairing round the show shooting all the cars. 'Have you seen the size of that,' he gawps. I assume he's referring to the SuperVeloce's exhaust (easily bigger than my size 12 boots), but his eyes seem dragged towards the uplifting sea of silicone hosted by Lambo's traditionally vogueish models.
9.50am Audi TT RS muscles in
Audi chairman Rupert Stadler introduces the A4 Allroad, A5 cabrio and TT RS. All eyes on the latter, as we've already seen the others. Could this be the Audi coupe to finally get us salivating? It packs 340bhp and 332lb ft from 1600-5300rpm; the original 1980 Quattro had just 200bhp. It's quick, too: 174mph flat out if you delete the limiter, 0-62mph in 4.6sec. Perhaps enough to silence the hairdresser critics? Mind you, there is a button to acoustically bolster the exhaust note. For some, a TT will always be a Porsche cop-out.
9.32am: Lambo livens up the proceedings
Lamborghini knows a thing or two about supercars and its new Murcielago 670-4 SuperVeloce is a menacingly fun car out of kilter with the zeitgeist but glorious nonetheless. Looks epic, has 30bhp more and 100kg less. That's like bolting a turbocharger to Usain Bolt.
9.26am: The Audi table plan
Just walked past the Audi stand and all the seats are reserved for their press conference. Press minders shuffle them around: Dr Piech and his wife Ursula take pride of place, flanked by Martin Winterkorn and Michel Piech and Dr Wolfgang Porsche. Just in case you were in any doubt who actually runs the Volkswagen Group.
9.11am: Bentley boys turn to crops
Bentley boss Franz-Josef Paefgen is as candid in front of the cameras as he was for CAR Magazine's interview in the new April 2009 issue. He admits Crewe's problems in 'the worst economic downturn since the war' - sales slumped 24% last year. The new Continental Supersports is the response: the fastest, most powerful Bentley ever. Doesn't make much sense in bio-cautious Blighty but in some markets it'll be a hit and besides, isn't having the green image more important than what actually comes out the rear? I'm more interested in the new powertrain in development that'll cut CO2 by 40% in 2012... Diesel or hybrid? I'd bet the latter.
8.53am: In search of the Yeti
Skoda chairman Reinhard Jung is on stage talking up his business. Sales up to 675,000 last year – a new record. New Yeti is shown and it's remarkably faithful to the concept car. Does make you wonder why they've done a Fabia Scout and Roomster Scout as well, though. Greenline versions of the existing cars are shown too; the Octavia Greenline gets a diet-cut weight, a 1.6-litre common-rail diesel and 116g/km. These are good figures for a Mondeo class car. I can sense a CO2 obsessed theme developing at this show already.
8.41am: An old Audi on the Seat stand
Seat president Eric Schmidt announces company's new strategy: 'Lower emissions, more emotions.' Can you see what he's done there? Facelifted Altea range is so-so, but Ecomotive's 99g/km is impressive on a Focus class car. And all this fuss about the Exeo? The new ST estate is an Audi A4 Avant on the cheap. It's like buying clothes in TK Maxx and, in these troubled times, that makes plenty of sense.
8.17am: VW opens the Geneva motor show
But they're 15 minutes late with the world debut of its Mk5 Polo. It looks clean and crisp, but uncannily like a shrunken Golf. It's the automotive equivalent of buying M&S undies. The Polo goes on sale this autumn, but keen customers can drive one this week via a new application for ipods and iphones.
7.47am: Waiting for the reader reporters
They're held up in Geneva's motor show rush – with only 12 minutes until VW's first press call... It's going to be a close call. Looking forward to meeting the five plucky forum regulars who've won press access in a CAR Online competition. Will be useful to hear their opinions alongside the regular CAR hacks'.
7.06am: Time to leave for the show
I leave the hotel for the short walk to the Geneva motor show. Keep wondering what surprises will lie in store today. I can't wait to see the new Infiniti concept car, for one, and the new Lagonda concept which is due to be shown tomorrow on the second press day. As journalists, we're always pushing to get photos and news in advance, but deep down I do love a good surprise on press day...
6.12am: 'Où est la gare?'
Time to scrub up on my schoolboy French. Remarkably, a decent coffee and croissant are entirely within my linguistic powers. Time to feed the machine, as press days don't allow much slack for pastimes like eating. A good Continental breakfast and back to the room to make sure no big stories have broken overnight. They haven't and CAR Online seems to be up there with the quickest coverage around. Phew.
Tuesday 3 March 2009, 5.45am: a hotel near the airport
I wake up 15 minutes before my alarm. Typical pre-motor show nerves! Time to smarten up before meeting the crack team of CAR Online reader reporters who will be helping us file our news reports live from Geneva's Palexpo arena.
* Due to technical difficulties please click here for show images *
>> The 2009 Geneva International Motor Show runs from 3-15 March 2009 at Geneva Palexpo. Come back on Tuesday 3 March and Wednesday 4 March to read news, reports and blogs from CAR and our reader reporters
>> Check out the Geneva motor show's own website www.salon-auto.ch