The CAR Top 10: things we learned at the Geneva motor show

Published: 07 March 2016

► 10 pearls of wisdom from Geneva show
► From VW protests to Ferrari SUVs
► Do you agree? Sound off in the comments!

The 2016 Geneva motor show was a Swiss classic: a smattering of top-end supercars, more than 120 European and world debuts, and plenty of talking points for anyone with an ounce of petrol in their veins. Here we pick over the show highlights. 

Read on to find out what we've been talking about in the CAR magazine offices this week.

1) The moment a protestor stormed the VW press conference

British comedian Simon Brodkin gatecrashes the VW press conference (Getty Images)

The dieselgate scandal remains a hot topic of conversation across the industry. Geneva was the first major car show on European soil since the emissions scandal embroiled Volkswagen in September 2015 and the firm scaled down its usual peacockish pre-show party as a mark of the new austerity sweeping Wolfsburg. Sadly nobody told British comedian Simon Brodkin, who disrupted the VW press conference dressed as an engineer, wandering past passenger car chief Juergen Stackmann on stage to check for cheat devices on the newly facelifted and terribly named Up Beats. Watch the video clip above to see one of the more surreal moments of the Geneva motor show.

2) The world's fastest car just got faster

Bugatti Chiron: a real wow moment

How to replace the world's fastest car? Bugatti's been beavering away on a successor to the Veyron for years now - and the Chiron was the answer, delivered to gasps of amazement at 4.00pm on the day before the show. Its combination of a €2.4 million price tag, 1480bhp quad-turbo W16 engine and a top speed limited to 261mph sent the internet into global meltdown. Read the full story on the new Bugatti Chiron here.

3) The turbos are coming - but sports car brands know we still love a naturally aspirated screamer

Porsche 911R

The groundswell of forced induction has swept through Porsche's range at an alarming rate. No sooner has the 991.2 adopted turbocharging across most of the range than Zuffenhausen has turned its attention to the new, smaller 718 Boxster range (and the Cayman will follow suit later in 2016). The results will surely - we hope - keep the driver excited, albeit with a smaller, four-cylinder soundtrack in place of the traditional boxer six. But there's less need to worry about the new 911R unveiled at Geneva: it's resolutely naturally aspirated, taking the innards of a GT3 and packing it in a purer, lighter, de-bodykitted back-to-basics shape. Yes please!

4) The future is fragmented: don't have all your eggs in one basket

Hyundai Ioniq at the Geneva motor show

Future powertrain tech is not just a VHS vs Betamax debate. The choice of fuel for the future of carbon-crunched motoring is way more fragmented than that. Which is why many brands are choosing to hedge their bets. No better example was at Geneva than the Hyundai Ioniq - a multi-fuel pioneer, which the Koreans will sell as a pure electric version, a PHEV or a conventional hybrid. You've got to applaud the flexibility of this approach.

5) Italy is entering a new, more adventurous car phase

Fiat 124 Spiders - old and new

The Italian automotive sector is moving forwards with a mix of shrewd product planning and clever alliances. Fiat showed off its Mazda-derived 124 Spider for the first time in Europe, marking the occasion with a sportier Abarth version. The Alfisti were frothed up by seeing the regular Giulia models, with a sprinkling of Modenese know-how. Maserati unveiled the Levante SUV, which will come to the UK in diesel-only form in autumn 2016. And Ferrari baffled us all by dropping the FF name for the 2016 mid-life facelift, henceforth to be known as the GTC4Lusso. No, we don't understand the punctuation of that name either...  

6) Aston Martin really, really needs the DB11 to work

Aston Martin DB11

Calling a new model make-or-break is a cliché, but the new DB11 is a crucial car for Gaydon. The company has pedalled the similar-tech DB9 and Vantage ranges for over a decade now and has been acutely aware of the need for proper replacements, sporting up-to-date technology, to ensure the long-term viability of the brand. Following a partnership with Daimler, the new DB11 has modern electrical architectures, a fully overhauled platform and - most crucially - a stunning new wardrobe penned by Aston's chief designer Marek Reichmann. This was one of the most eagerly anticipated launches at the Geneva motor show - and we were not disappointed. In the metal, it's really quite striking. 

7) French car makers really are back on the front foot

Renault Scenic: part crossover, part MPV

One of our favourite cars of the show was the new Renault Scenic. It reflects the confidence in Paris these days: Citroen is emboldened to create cars such as the C4 Cactus and Renault's done exactly the same with its mid-size MPV. In a sector that's shrunk dramatically in the 20 years since it first exploded upon the scene, Renault's design chief Laurens van den Acker has seen fit to reinvent the humble people carrier, blending just enough crossover stance to give the new Scenic some attitude, while retaining all the practicality you need in an MPV. Expect to see the longer, seven-seat Grand Scenic a little later this spring.

8) Money doesn't necessarily equal taste

Bee Bee XS: a strange kind of car

The tuning halls at Geneva are always a barometer of taste. The likes of Mansory will still destroy a perfectly nice executive car for you. And when you see some of the gems like the Bee Bee XS from French start-up Bee Bee Automotive, you now that the world is a very mad, very strange place. Still, vive la différence!

9) Crossovers aren't the answer to everything, you know

Audi Q2: it's Ingolstadt's fourth crossover

You'll struggle to walk past a single stand at Palexpo without seeing a chunky great big SUV hogging one of the central spots. We saw them everywhere, from Audi's new junior Q2 (above) to the new Kia Nero, Ford's Edge and the bothersome Bentley Bentayga. It's a simple argument. Launch a Seat Ateca or Skoda Vision S, and your sales should soar (Europe's market will be hogged by SUVs - a quarter of all sales will be crossovers by the decade's end, predict analysts). But not everyone agrees - some brands remain staunchly anti-crossover. Ferrari top brass came out and quashed rumours of a Maranello mud-slinger, group overlord Sergio Marchionne declaring: 'We will not play with SUVs.' The world breathed a collective sigh of relief.

10) Aren't motor shows just a little bit last-century?

Girls adorn a tuner car at the Geneva motor show

There's something resolutely last-century about motor shows. The girls draped over the cars contrasting with the men in dark suits who monotone through press conferences (Brit Linda Jackson at Citroen a refreshing change). Much as car makers are having to adapt their products to cope with the lightning pace of change in the car market (witness the Tesla Model X), so we wish the HR teams could bring a little bit more modernity to proceedings.

Read more of CAR’s 2016 Geneva motor show coverage here

Click here for CAR’s A-Z guide to the 2016 Geneva motor show

By Tim Pollard

Editorial director of CAR's digital publishing arm. Motoring news magnet

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