The doors of the 2012 Geneva Motor Show in Switzerland are open for just one more day, and in my final round-up from the show I’ll cover the latest models from the high-end sportscar manufacturers: the poster-children of extreme automobile manufacturing.
The wraps have come off a number of eagerly awaited cars this year – particularly the new offerings from Ferrari and Porsche – but it’s also a great opportunity to catch up with the ranges of both the boutique marques and more mainstream manufacturers.
The same old names continue to try and out-do each other in the performance stakes: the pursuit of speed is still very much at the heart of the hypercar phenomenon. Stats are everything! Bugatti get terribly upset when somebody outguns the Veyron: hence the Grand Sport Vitesse. If only Koenigsegg would stop ruining their party! The GSV has a staggeringly high top speed of over 260mph. In an open-top car. You have to be certifiably insane, clearly.
It’s interesting to see the retro styling that pervades the hypercar arena: I see as many nods back to the classic styling era of the ’60s as I do sharp, modern lines in this year’s Geneva line-up.
The big news from Modena was the unveiling of the F12 Berlinetta. It’s the most powerful road car ever produced by Ferrari and replaces the 599 series. The design of the car was undertaken in conjunction with styling legends Pininfarina, so there’s no surprise that it’s another beautifully svelte design – their aesthetic magic has balanced the quantity of computing power that’s gone into the aerodynamics. The F12’s 730hp, 6.3-litre V12 gives a 0-60mph time of 3.1 seconds and a top speed of 211mph.
Ferrari have also developed a Handling Speciale package for the California, which has lowered the weight, increased power – the V8 now cranks out almost 500hp – and heavily revised the handling. New dampers and springs have stiffened up the California’s ride, and as with the F12 Scaglietti have been heavily involved in the manufacture of the chassis and new bodywork.
The Ferrari Four was also on show, the Prancing Horse’s competitor in the long-wheelbase, grand touring class. In the flesh the FF is a lot more graceful than some of the rivals (specifically the Panamera) and I rather like the shooting-brake tail treatment. It shares the big V12 with the F12, though the bigger size and weight slows things down a bit – not that it’s any kind of slouch. I think I’d still take a Rapide though…
One of the highlights for me is seeing the new NSX prototype. This is another car unveiled in the States in January now getting its European debut. The NSX has a mid-mounted V6 plus a hybrid electric unit connected together via a dual-clutch transmission. A virtual four-wheel-drive system is implemented on the car, as each front wheel also has its own separate electric motor that kicks in when cornering. The world has lacked a production NSX for almost seven years, and it’s been a poorer place for that fact. I can’t believe we’ll likely have to wait until 2015 for the car to start rolling off the lines.
So, a Lotus Exige is an Elise with a roof, so an Exige without a roof is… the Exige S Roadster. It packs the same 3.5-litre V6 as the coupé: that means 345hp and 60mph arriving in less than four seconds – enough to just about keep you in the game with the FF off the lights. Paddle-shift is now an option, and you do get a removable roof section thrown in.
Lotus are taking full promotional advantage of their flood of motor-racing programmes: Lotus Formula 1 driver Kimi Raikkonen was thrust behind the wheel of the Roadster: witness the new, smiling Kimi! Well, one thing with Kimi is that he does love the cars – just nothing else around the business of racing. And there’s nothing really wrong with that.
The Lotus stand was awash with examples of their racing tie-ins, from GT Evoras through Le Mans LMP2 prototypes and the F1-alike trackday single-seater. Raikkonen was specifically on hand to introduce the Lotus F1 Team Evora GTE, a special edition of the car with a high gloss carbon body and a Lotus F1-alike livery (visible here behind the line-up of race cars).
Eccentric British marque Morgan brought their three-wheeler to the show. It’s the exact opposite of everything the equally unusual Deltawing is – in layout obviously, but also in the application of technology. Morgan still revel in using traditional wooden-frame techniques as the basis for their cars. A new and edgy development for Morgan would be something like using wattle and daub to finish the car. Carbon fibre? Never. Well, okay, there is the Aero series, but you get the feeling that they’re much happier with this kind of approach.
From tiny and crazy to enormously big and crazy. The Maserati Gran Turismo Sport looks like an oil-tanker next to the Morgan, but luckily doesn’t drive like one. The Sport replaces the S model: it features the expected raft of updates (an updated 4.7-litre engine, improved aero and an obligatory paddle-shift option) but seems to be mostly about making this big car handle better in the corners.
Following on from the 991 launch is the new-shape Porsche Boxster. This subtle reworking has breathed new life into the car: it’s just that little bit less round and cuddly, and closer to the 911 shape. The new Boxster has a completely redesigned lightweight alloy body, a revamped chassis, upgraded engine and longer wheelbase.
After the soft launch last month, the road-going Aston Martin V12 Zagato was also present in the flesh at the Geneva show. Just 150 examples of the 510bhp machine will be produced, each costing almost €400,000. The rear wing does still seem at odds with the car’s flowing lines, though at least in carbon black it isn’t too obtrusive.
Pagani are ramping up production of their Huayra: they have 85 confirmed orders, which might be nothing for a mainstream manufacturer but is a huge figure for a company like Pagani, who are used to making cars in single-digit numbers. At, let’s face it, the best part of a million pounds per car. 25 are due to be built this year, and then another 40 in 2013. Five more Zonda Rs are also in build, completing the planned run of 15. Unsurprisingly, this has meant expanding production facilities at the Pagani atelier in San Cesario sul Panaro.
Pagani love their one-offs and specials, and the Carbon Fibre Edition shown at the Auto Salon was, predictably enough, a full raw carbon-finished Huayra complete with matching black wheels, and looked very racy indeed.
The Roding Roadster 23 is a hand-built, lightweight sportscar made in Germany aimed at the track-day market: the 950kg car has a BMW turbocharged inline-six, and a limited production run is planned for 2012. The main carbon panels are kept in their raw form, though the remaining bodywork is available in custom colours.
Sbarro are a particularly interesting company: the owner, Franco Sbarro, oversees a design school in France that consistently rock up to Geneva with outlandish concept cars and one-offs built for an exclusive and eccentric clientele. Once again they had a whole range of cars on show, from electric-powered, futuristic city cars to a three-seater F1-style racer! This is the Supercharged 11: a sort of Lotus 7 for the 21st century.
The Supercharged 11 is powered by a colour-matched six-cylinder Jaguar block. Looking at their website, they’ve produced a stupendous amount of fabulously out-there cars over the last 30 years. I hope to delve more into their history during this year…
Like a number of specialist British car companies, AC Cars suffered during the ’90s but have bounced back under new ownership, not just producing continuation Cobras but also working on a new model. This is the AC 378 GT Zagato – not the first collaboration between AC and the Italian styling house, as they previously worked on a car in the 1950s. The British company was formed in 1901, but now has its manufacturing base in South Africa. 10 pre-production 378s have been built, so things look good for the marque. Appropriately, power for the 378 comes from a big American V8.
Wiesmann are another small-volume specialist manufacturer; the German company produces a quartet of coupé and roadster variants, which to me bear a resemblance to Jaguars of the 1950s. This is the MF3 Final Edition – a send-off for the MF3 model that is in its last year of production.
Another niche German company is Artega: the mid-engine SE has two electric motors producing 375bhp, each independently driving a rear wheel and mounted on sub-frames to help absorb the torque. 0-60mph will be achieved quietly but very quickly: 3.9 seconds is the quoted figure. A regular petrol-engined version is also available.
The Fisker Karma is an American plug-in hybrid sportscar: a small petrol engine runs the car’s generator, which charges the lithium ion batteries, which powers the electric motors that turn the wheels… There’s been some controversy over the car’s performance: apart from anything else, the range is puny and the price is high. But, I’ve read elsewhere that this car looks like a Maserati redesigned by the Joker, which in itself makes it worth showing.
Angry Gumpert! Not just angry, but furious! Enraged even! “Perhaps it is a bit crazy to take the most extreme, barely still street-legal vehicle and make it even more extreme,” says company owner Roland Gumpert, and he’s not kidding. The Apollo Enraged R is as street legal as any 780hp car can be… “We are not necessarily known for understatement,” added Gumpert. I think we’ve gathered as much.
Gumpert raced a hybrid Apollo in the Nürburgring 24 Hours a couple of years back, but with the Apollo R they’re introducing a factory-prepared GT racer that can be entered in national open formula GT events. The R pumps out a brutal 860hp from its 4.2-litre supercharged V8 and is fitted with a racing exhaust system. You’re going to have to find a very open series to race it, I expect.
Now further into spaceship territory. The hyperdrive Koenigsegg Agera R laughs in the face of an Enraged. It’s got 1,140hp available from its 5-litre V8 bi-turbo if you fill up with E85 fuel. That’s over 220bhp per litre. Obscene numbers, which means 300kph arrives in 21 seconds. The R introduces the world’s first ever one-piece carbon fibre rims – the only metal part is the tyre valve!
Marussia. A name that would have registered last year as the sponsor name of a Formula 1 team, but how many people have actually seen a road car of the same name? Up until recently, not many – but once you see one you’re not going to forget it in a hurry. The company logo looks a bit Transformers – and so do their cars. This is the B2, following up the exploratory B1 introduced a couple of years back.
Marussia certainly aren’t staying in safe territory with the B2. Its brutally geometric bodywork can contain either a Cosworth 3.5-litre V6 or turbo-charged 2.8. The young company are also not thinking small: they’re expecting to shift over a thousand B2s this year.
The B2 is being built on behalf of the Moscow firm by Finnish manufacturer Valmet (they’re also involved with the Fisker Karma). The Valmet Dawn EV concept shows that stuff they do for other people is actually quite sane compared to what happens when they’re left to their own devices. The Dawn EV features a wireless induction charging system for its electric power train, allowing constant charging on the move; however, the practical advantage of not having to find a charging station are somewhat outweighed by the fact that you can’t drive it over speed bumps. Or up a hill. Still, it looks amazing! Kind of like a melted CanAm racer.
Spanish firm GTA introduced the production version of their Spano coupé. We’re back up to stratospheric levels of power: the 8.3-litre V10 develops 840hp, and the unibody shell is constructed from titanium, kevlar and carbon fibre.
It’s faster than the Berlinetta – a sub-three second 0-60mph is achievable – and AP Racing brakes will help you slow down when you realise just how fast you’re going. I think it has some angles that are better than others: it has a nose that echoes a rounded-off F40 and the swooping, bold curves on the side are lovely, but the ovoid door styling can look a big Hobbit-house… Still, 840hp…
Vredestein are a tyre company by trade, but showcased this Giugiaro-designed Frazer-Nash Namir concept on their stand that reminds me of the Stratos Zero prototype from 1970. This rotary-engined car is another concept using individual electric motors attached to individual wheels: the original concept was launched back in 2009 at Geneva.
All in all, it’s been another amazing Geneva Motor Show!