The Motor Trend Online staff was in chilly Switzerland covering the 71st Geneva International Motor Show late February, before the major European event opened to the public on March 1.
A diverse selection of vehicles were revealed, from futuristic concepts to popular coupes, sedans, and convertibles, including many that can only be found in Europe.
All you need is a cold draft, a warm cup of Swiss Miss cocoa, and Motor Trend Online to experience the show. It's much easier than making the transcontinental travel arrangements, escaping mad cow disease, and contending with the second-hand smoke -- trust us. Enjoy our look at the wild, extravagant, and imminent.
Inspiration for a generation to succeed, the exquisite V12 Vanquish was the most desirable car at Geneva for us. Beneath the gorgeous coachwork is an equally stunning aluminum and carbon fiber chassis. The raging heart of this British beast is a 6.0-liter/460-horsepower V-12, promising a 190-mph top speed. Equally impressive, the most technically advanced Aston Martin ever built was subject to almost a million test miles during development, despite the minute production volume. All this for just $228,000. The line forms behind James Bond.
Although BMW claims the new 3 Series Compact is not destined for U.S. shores, we have heard to the contrary. Lackluster sales on the E36 318ti would certainly make it a tough internal debate, but the better-featured Compact has the goods to grab first-time BMW owners and ward off the Mercedes C Coupe. Two engines will be offered in Europe, an economical 115-horsepower four-cylinder and a more appealing 193-horse inline six. The three-door rides on same wheelbase as the sedan but measures 8.3 inches shorter. More convenience and safety features pack a lot of car within its tidy body.
The new M3 redefines sports coupe, and now sports convertible, making it a natural progression for BMW to introduce a second-generation "sequential M gearbox" (SMG II). Working with Getrag and Sachs, BMW has fitted F1-style shift buttons to the steering wheel, with the transmission ready to work in automatic or sequential mode. With the driver's foot standing on the accelerator, the system can shift in a mere 80 milliseconds. The setup uses numerous s goensors to ensure the best, appropriate shift and it teams with the traction systems for optimum performance.
Operating as part of Volkswagen AG for less than three months, Bugatti showed a mesmerizing EB 16-4 Veyron, destined for production in 2003. Low slung with artistic styling, its appearance has supporters and detractors, but no one has voiced disapproval of the horsepower. Strong enough to suck the green from Ralph Nader's bloodstream, the Bugatti boasts an 8.0-liter W16 engine from VW, cranking out 1000 horsepower with four turbochargers. Performance figures are still being calculated by Big Blue, but suffice to say extreme would be an understatement.
Ford gives us a glimpse at the sporty future of its European product with the ST Mondeo Concept. Building on the all-new four-door Mondeo, Ford has added a special 217-horsepower version of its aluminum quad-cam, 24-valve Duratec V-6 engine. Other performance goodies include P225/40R18 Dunlop tires on Ronal 16-spoke alloy wheels, four-wheel disc brakes, stainless-steel dual exhaust, leather Recaro seats, navigation system, and high-intensity foglamps. A timeline for its production was not revealed.
Ford has joined with Pininfarina to showcase the concept StreetKa, targeting its production for 2003. Ford reps say it is too early to predict specific attributes of the production vehicle, but they are determined to honor the spirit of the Ghia-designed concept, which features six-spoke alloy wheels wrapped by sculpted Pirelli racing tires, racing-style bucket seats, unique driving gauges, modified headlights, aluminum roll bars, and an easy-fold canvas top.
Honda is attempting to enter the European market with a new Civic model scheduled to be on sale in Europe later this summer. The Swindon, England-built Civic three-door hatchback has a similar design to its big brother the five-door, but has unique exterior styling designed to attract younger buyers.
Just as the performance gods intended, the new Civic Si will be a hatchback. This three-door gives a look at the potent European and Japanese Type R. Like the Integra Type R, this Civic features a full round of suspension, exterior, interior, and powertrain enhancements certain to thrill import enthusiasts. The DOHC i-VTEC 2.0-liter engine produces 197 horses backed by a six-speed transmission. The U.S.-bound Si is expected to debut at New York in less-extreme form so as not to encroach on the Integra-replacing Acura RS-X.
Design maestros Giorgetto and Fabrizio Giugiaro have transformed an Aston Martin chassis into a rolling design study with an aluminum exoskeleton. Crafted to a certain excess, the Twenty Twenty stands out as a striking exploration of appearance possibilities. Here, the aluminum takes on the role of adding metallic highlights, with plastic and carbon filling in the body work. Its 6.0-liter/444-hp V-12 (shared with the Aston Martin Vanquish) can be spied through a window in the hood. Last time Aston teamed with Giorgetto was back in 1961 on a DB4 JET two-seater prototype.
Jaguar enters the fast-growing compact sedan market with its new X-Type. Scheduled to go on sale this summer, Jaguar's first all-wheel-drive model will start just below $30,000, and will be powered by either a 2.5-liter/194-horsepower V-6 or 3.0-liter/231-horsepower V-6 engine. Boasting performance and agility, the innovative luxury sedan features five-speed manual or auto tranny, bird's eye maple veneers, and Connelly leather seating. ABS, side curtain airbags, automatic climate control, cruise control, and remote keyless entry round out the list of luxury amenities.
Lancia unveiled its striking Thesis flagship in Geneva, drawing a constant crowd to the dramatic booth. The five-meter luxury sedan blends retro cues and soft, modern lines to create a head-turning car. Distinct elements include raised fenders, flat nose, dominant grille, and slender taillamps. The interior features fine leather, wood, and aluminum, along with the latest telematic technology. Not be sold in the States, the Thesis will certainly raw the attention of designers for its daring, and arguably successful, styling.
An action-ready Land Rover Defender will share the silver screen with Angelina Jolie in the live-action film "Tomb Raider" inspired by the popular Indiana Jane-style video game. Based on a high-capacity pickup, the V-8-powered Defender is decked out with wildlife-blinding lights, roll cage, expedition gear, and winch. To commemorate Land Rover's omnipresence in the movie, a limited-edition 'Tomb Raider' Defender will go on sale later this year. Lara Croft-lookalike is optional.
While the Lotus Exige is not new, it is still among the most outrageously styled vehicles available at any show. Available for sale in the United States for track use only, Lotus protects its exact engine specifications, offering only that it makes 187 horsepower and can propel the car from 0-60 in 4.3 seconds and to a top speed of nearly 140 mph. Power is put to the ground via Yokohama P195/50R16 (front) P225/45R17 (rear) tires on alloy Elise wheels. Jumbo 11-inch cast-iron discs bring it to a stop. Its sister the Elise also offers extreme handling in a more conservative open package.
Mazda joins the environmentally friendly fray with its innovative MX Sport Tourer concept vehicle, which sports new engine technology that combines a 2.0-liter gasoline front-wheel-drive engine and an electric motor at the rear wheels. The powerplants can work separately or together to provide varying levels of driving performance and fuel efficiency. Its 20-inch tires utilize 14.5-inch regenerative disc brakes to help recharge the rear motor for increased fuel economy. Mazda's "freestyle" door system eliminates the center pillar for easy access to seating and cargo areas.
Already a German favorite selling more than 550,000 models over the past three and a half years, Mercedes-Benz has stretched the wheelbase of its A-Class minivan by more than six inches to give it more space and comfort. Nearly $2 billion was spent developing a number of styling and engineering changes, including a 25-percent horsepower boost to its 1.6-liter turbodiesel engine and a reconfigurable rear seat. It's larger format provides a more viable platform for future U.S. sales.
MG Rover has teamed up with the BMW Group to produce the new ZT - - re-engineered from a current MG platform, the sporty sedan features an uprated 2.5-liter KV6 DOHC alloy engine, Getrag five-speed manual transmission, lowered suspension, anti-roll bars, and 18-inch alloy wheels with 12.7-inch brakes. External features include rear spoiler and front air dam, sporty exhaust tailpipes and black body trim. The line will include an entry-level 157-hp model as well as an "Ultimate" derivative with additional features and up to 370 horsepower.
Destined to run as the "dark horse" in MG's new Z-model range, the ZS-01 will be offered in four-door sedan and five-door hatchback variations. Base models feature a 175-hp 2.5-liter KV6 engine and manual transmission, along with 17-inch wheels, upgraded suspension, brakes, and steering to improve the driving experience. The interior is similar to the ZT-01, but adds sporty front seats, steering wheel, instrumentation, and shift knob. A performance-tuned version of this car will be MG's entry into the British TOCA Tour race series, and forms the engineering foundation for an "Ultimate" model.
Competition-grade, rally ready Lancer Evolution VII packages extreme performance in a non-too-subtle compact sedan. A streetable race car, the Evo VII features a lightened body with aluminum panels, track-tuned suspension, pizza-sized Brembo disc brakes, complete aero package, and sporty interior. Under the scooped hood lurks a ferocious 2.0-liter/280-horsepower turbocharged, intercooled four-cylinder engine that rockets the all-wheel-drive sedan 0-60 mph in 5.3 seconds, according to Mitsu. Other race tech includes an active center differential and active yaw control for maximum cornering tenacity.
Nissan likens its Chappo concept to be a sort of "living room on wheels," designed from the inside out to be more than just basic transportation, but also an extension of its driver's social gathering space. Looking slightly like a baseball cap, the tall boxy city car features tea-room styling with flexible seating configurations, onboard computer, and entertainment center so that it can be a comfy and stylish place to hang out. Dual-entry doors that open both ways allow easy ingress and egress for its automotive socialites.
Penned by a design team from Opel and Bertone, the sporty Astra Cabriolet offers room for four, automatic softtop, heated-glass rear window, and nearly 12 cubic feet of luggage capacity. On sale this spring, drivers may choose from the base 1.6-liter/98-horsepower, or bump up to 1.8-liter/123-horse or 2.2-liter/145-horsepower engines paired with electronic stability and traction controls. Additional niceties include integrated four-CD changer, navigation system, as well as optional leather seating and remote-controlled top feature.
With the German Nurbergring as a breeding ground, the Opel Performance Center (OPC) speed-fiends push the GM division's mainstay cars to their performance potential with their own production variants. A DTM enthusiasts' dream, this X-Treme concept combines race-honed performance in a striking gullwinged body. The 4.0-liter eight-cylinder powers the rear wheels, commanded via sequential six-speed transaxle. This two-seater concept explores trickle-down race technology and affordable exotic extremes.
As exotic as its name, the Pagani Zonda C12 S drew curious show goers to its humble display amid Europe's finest coach builders and sports car specialists. The C12 S uses extensive carbon fiber, from chassis to curvaveous, gullwinged body. Beneath the twin spoilers lurks a monstrous 7.0-liter AMG-tuned Mercedes 12-cylinder engine, pumping out 550 horsepower: enough for a claimed 3.7-second 0-60 mph time. Cost for driving the extreme translates to about $350K U.S. Start saving.
Not all concept cars are as daring as the Osee, but Pininfarina says its goal with this vehicle was "to amaze people." Inside the sleek exterior is a rather unconventional interior with a center-mounted driver's pod, while passengers sit on either side just slightly behind the driver. Access to the cabin is possible via a remote-controlled hydraulic system that pivots the windshield and roof assembly forward for easy ingress and egress. Powered by Citroen's 2.9-liter/191-hp six-cylinder engine, the rear-wheel-drive concept wears Michelin tires and sports Brembo brakes.
In true Renault tradition, the top-line Vel Satis makes a bold styling statement in a distinctly French package. The five-door addresses the market move from sedans to wagons, SUVs, and crossover vehicles in the premium market. Playing the style card heavily, the Vel Satis uses panache to gain entry into the segment dominated by the Germans, evidenced in its carefully penned lines. Surgically precise panel fit, clever reclining seats, automatic parking brake, and other small elements speak volumes about attention to detail on this upscale diamond-badged car.
Switzerland-based Rinspeed Design continues its tradition of constructing innovative (read: borderline wacky) concept vehicles to showcase its design ability. Measuring only 38-inches tall, Rinspeed touts the Advantige Rone as being the lowest automobile in the world. And if that claim isn't enough, the road-hugging machine is the first sports car that runs on biofuel made from kitchen and garden waste. Unlike the DeLorean from "Back to the Future," the biofuel is Kompogas made from fermenting organic waste.
The tiny cars served like PEZ from storage garages in Europe have spawned another fun concept, this time taking the open-air buggy direction. Looking more like sports gear than sports car, the golf-cart- sized two-seater does scream fun. Power comes from a tiny three-cylinder turbo engine, efficient for commuters in cramped cities. While chopping the top off a Smart Cabrio does compromise all-weather driving, safety is preserved through chassis reinforcement and aluminum side bars that double as doors.
Since it originally debuted at the Detroit Auto show in January, Volkswagen has remodeled its concept Microbus to reflect feedback from visitors at the show. The interior has been redesigned for more warmth and versatility with softer, larger seats, and the third-row bench seat is now removable for more storage space. Volkswagen will show another variation of the Microbus at the upcoming Frankfurt Auto Show to gain additional insight.
Despite its subtle exterior evolution, the Volkswagen Passat was thoroughly redesigned for 2001, increasing its dynamics, safety, and comfort. The range was expanded at Geneva with the 2002 W8 introduction, a luxurious model slotting between four- and six-cylinder Passats and the future D1 premium sedan. Full-time all-wheel drive harnesses the 275 horsepower produced by the unique, three-bank eight-cylinder engine. Inside, leather, wood trim, abundant amenities, navigation system, and generous legroom make the Passat W8 a strong player against other upscale German sedans.