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Sunday, 9 March 2014

2014 Geneva Motor Show Roundup Part 2

Citroën C4 Cactus Adventure Concept, under a thin veil. I will post about the regular C4 Cactus separately because it's awesome
Seeing as the Geneva Motor Show is pretty huge, I was never going to fit every interesting and/or important car in one post without making to massive that the one-column format of this blog would've made it a tedious scroll-fest that took whole minutes to load all the pictures. So, because there's plenty more to show you, here's a part two, with ten more new releases!





Alfa Romeo 4C Spider Study
Ah yes, the Alfa Romeo 4C. What if the Lotus Elise was done by some Italians with a point to prove? Apparently it would have a genuine carbon fibre tub, unassisted steering in an age of electric numbness and a bonnet you can't open. Oh, and it would have one of the prettiest body designs the world has ever seen... apart from those headlights. The "spider eye" units in the original 4C that came out last year were controversial after they had replaced the 2011 concept's headlights with lightweight panels sporting a T-formation of LEDs and a small projector unit, housed in either carbon fibre or very cheap-looking dark grey plastic. Like a zit on Scarlett Johansson, it just didn't look right. Well, happily Alfa Romeo have included "nicer headlights" on their list of small changes to make to the 4C for this year's Geneva show. Well, I say small changes, but one big change is "cut the roof off."

This is a should-we-make-this concept for a targa-topped 4C sports car, completing the "Italian Elise" idea formulated in the heads of onlookers. Like the coupé, the Spider Study (is it ironic that the one that's actually called "Spider" doesn't have "spider eye" headlights?) weighs less than a metric tonne, tipping the scales at just 955kg dry. While this is 60kg more than the hardtop, it still makes it lighter than a Ford Fiesta or Alfa MiTo TwinAir, so the 1.75 four-cylinder turbo engine and its 240bhp punch is more than adequate for enthusiastic driving. Apparently said engine sounds better from the outside than it does if you're sat inside, so the lightweight canvas top, complete with carbon fibre rollbars, provides a solution to that issue immediately. Making it sound even better on the outside is a new dual-centre-exit Akrapovic exhaust system, which features carbon fibre and titanium in its construction as well as an electrically-operated valve (switches between loud or quiet) with "wireless technology." What, so the exhaust pipe can access the internet? Neat!

There's still no solution for the lack of a clutch pedal, should you be that way inclined, but as I've said before, this engine is essentially lifted from the Giulietta Cloverleaf, and that car is available with a manual transmission, so some elbow grease and a gearbox from one of those ought to sort you out. If all goes to plan, this car is scheduled to make production in a year's time. Until then, the small changes like headlights and wheels - graphite numbers from the 159 Ti - might make it onto the current 4C. So if those headlights were the only thing putting you off, sit tight for a few months...

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Honda Civic Type-R Concept
If you're cultured and handsome enough to watch the British Touring Car Championship, you'll look at a Honda Civic and see not a chav applying "JDM, Yo" stickers or an octogenarian transport unit, but a dominant force of speed and the winner of the last three BTCC titles (2013 going to privateer Andrew Jordan in an ex-works car). This, I think, helps with one big change to the upcoming Type R version of the current Civic that this outrageous concept previews. Enduring icons aren't allowed to return unless there's a controversial change made to them these days, you see. In the red-badged Honda that means that the screaming VTEC engine that revved to a million RPM has been retired and replaced with a turbocharged unit that cannot, will not rev as high or sound as exciting. The payoffs are threefold, however: having a turbo means having more torque more often, and Honda promises that the production car will have "over 280PS," or in other words "nearly 300 horsepower."

Whether they plan to control all those manic Euro-Japanese horses with a trick front diff, clever suspension or active electronics is unknown at this point, but one thing for certain is that aerodynamics play an important role in reducing drag and adding stability and downforce at speed, as well as cooling that beastly 2.0-litre engine. See all those vents and fins and stuff? They aren't just there in tribute to Paul Walker, they're there to achieve "optimum airflow" and help them in their quest to set the fastest time around the evergreen Nürburgring Nordschleife of any front-wheel-drive car ever. Until the following week, probably. At any rate, SEAT recently laid down a considerable gauntlet by lapping their new Leon Cupra 280 in just 7:50.44x, monstering the previous record holder's 8:07.97x. Renaultsport won't be pleased, nor will fans of the V8-powered BMW M3 (E92), which officially took 8:05.xxx to lap the 'Ring. Honda insist that the Civic-R is not simply a pimped hatchback, but a BTCC car (or WTCC car) for the road. When it lands in 2015, watch out. Despite the lower rev limit, it ought to be wild.

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Jaguar XE (Teaser)
Hey, remember the Jaguar X-Type? You poor thing. Jaguar's first attempt at toppling the almighty BMW 3-Series didn't go well, with its Mondeo underpinnings snubbed, its design criticised and its lack of Jaguar-ness leaving few satisfied customers (although my Grandma liked it!). But hey, you could have a V6 4x4 estate version! But no. It wasn't good enough. Thankfully, being sold by Ford and bought by Indian industry giant Tata (who, ironically, make the Nano) has lead to a renaissance at Jaguar-Land Rover. Ford may have left them an excellent parting gift in the mercifully un-nostalgic XF, but JLR in its current form has been on a roll either way, and now that the F-Type has drawn the world's attention to them, they've got the confidence to try again at the most coveted of mainstream segments: the premium D-segment. The midsize executive sports saloon. The kingdom of the 3-Series for generations. Jaguar is throwing everything they've got at it this time, which means an all-aluminium architecture debuted in the C-X17 concept crossover and a new family of four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines (which is unfortunately called "Ingenium"...). Said engines will power a car available either in rear- or all-wheel-drive guises to top speeds as giddy as 186mph (300km/h) with minimal carbon emissions. Ian Callum, design chief, says that the upcoming XE will be "as exciting to look at and drive as it is brilliant to run and practical to own. " Lofty ambitions, but then that's how the greatest things are achieved. We'll see soon enough if this time around it's a proper Jaaaag.

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Nissan BladeGlider Concept
If Nissan BladeGlider is the answer, what is the question? Probably "What the fuck is that?!" Another question this answers that fewer of you will have asked is "What if they made the DeltaWing/ZEOD RC into a road car?" This machine, with a name like a 9-year-old's awesome new plastic toy and a McLaren F1-style 1+2 seating layout that puts the driver front and centre, takes what Nissan learned from buying into the DeltaWing project and goes somewhere else with it. Somewhere, potentially, with a dealer network. The front track (axle width) is only a metre wide and helps give the BladeGlider a minuscule frontal area and reduce aerodynamic drag dramatically. The same trick combined with a sub-500kg weight made the DeltaWing just as fast as LMP2 cars at Le Mans despite sporting about half the power, so as you might guess this car's weirdness - and all-carbon-fibre structure - is all in the name of efficiency. The weight distribution is 30:70, which would normally be horrible, but that shape means that it's actually a good thing. It also means that during hard fast driving, each of the four tyres are working and wearing equally, so you won't have to change tyres as often, plus the rear brakes are bigger and more important than the front ones, in contrast to the norm. To see what TopGear.com thought of a test mule, clicketh hither.

Being a Japanese concept car, it's electric (hence the blue Nissan badges, because blue is the new green). Each rear wheel features an in-wheel electric motor, which frees up lots of space for other stuff, rather than having a chunky rear axle area a bit like an Ariel Atom. This is why such a compact car has two rear seats flanking the central front one. There's no way that luggage for three is going to fit anywhere, but as a fun weekend car which allows you to take two friends for the price of one, it's a pretty cool idea. There's a chance this will actually reach production, if regulators can see that it actually works as a normal car.

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EDAG Genesis
No, this is not a spaceship version of a BAC Mono. What this is, in actual fact, is a 3D-printed... car? When is a car not a car? When it has no wheels? But what about flying cars? They'll never happen so that's somewhat irrelevant. Regardless, this "futuristic vehicle sculpture" by vehicle engineering firm EDAG explores the capabilities of 3D printing, or as it's more professionally known, additive manufacturing. The big deal about this is that the entire body is one seamless piece, something only possible with additive manufacturing. The grooves across the tail - inspired by turtle shells, naturally - belie this fact a little if you ask me, but nonetheless it is overall a very cool concept that looks into the future of automotive production, one that could do without tools of any kind and just use 3D printers to make everything. Neat!

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Audi TT Mk.3 (Seriously, this is an all-new car)
The Audi TT has been around for a long time now, and while the late-'90s original was stylish and surprising, the second generation car was merely a more matured version of the original. Clearly they liked this approach, because I shit you not, this is a brand new car. It's not a facelift of the Mk.2 TT, it's new from top to tyres and sits on the modular MQB platform that all similarly-sized VW-Group cars use (Golf VII, Audi A3, Škoda Rapid, etc.). The 37mm-longer wheelbase means shorter overhangs, it's got new "LED Matrix" lights and every body panel is new, yet for all the world it just looks like they traced the Mk.2 and then tweaked a line here and a surface there. There are generations of Porsche 911 that look less similar...

But of course, it's not that similar underneath. It's 50-90kg lighter than the outgoing car, with more powerful and efficient engines ranging from the Golf GTD's 2.0 TDI diesel with 180 horsepower, to a petrol version delivering either 230PS (227bhp) or 310PS (306bhp). Both a manual and a DSG gearbox will be offered as well as front-wheel-drive or "quattro" all-wheel-drive, as you'd expect. The most powerful engine adds an 'S' to the name and also delivers 280lb/ft of torque, while the less powerful petrol lump manages a very similar 273lb/ft. Really though, this car is all about the interior, which has been "de-cluttered" by moving many of the readouts onto a digital screen behind the steering wheel, which of course also includes all the usual dials and mechanical information. The HVAC controls are integrated into the air vents they adjust, while there is just one row of buttons on the centre console and a neat arrangement on the transmission tunnel. There are quite a few buttons on the steering wheel, though, but that's not unusual these days.

Expect it to be on a trendy high street near you soon. Don't expect to notice.

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Ferrari California T
As it happens, I saw a Ferrari California today (in red, natch). I realised that the only reason it caught and then held my attention as it rolled past is because it's a Ferrari. If it didn't have prancing horses on it, I'm not sure I'd be that bothered. I also realised that it's surprisingly big. The California is the "base model" in Ferrari's range, with the least powerful engine and the lowest price tag, and it isn't exactly held in the same regard as the 458, F12 or FF that sit above it. One reason is that even though the FF is four-wheel-drive (in some situations), the California is the least Ferrari-ish Ferrari. It's got an engine in the front that isn't a V12. It's got a folding hardtop like a Mercedes SL, something no other Ferrari has ever had because it's very heavy. It's their mass-market model, basically, made to appeal to people who wouldn't normally be worthy. That means that, if any of their models are going to become turbocharged in the near future, it might as well be the California.

The new, heavily-revised "California T" features a 3.8L twin-turbo V8 that Ferrari originally engineered to give to Maserati, where it sees service in the new Ghibli and Quattroporte saloons, but now that it's in a real Ferrari it's been tuned up to make 560PS (552bhp) and a walloping 557lb/ft of torque. That's only 10 horsepower less than the mid-engined 458 Italia, and a whole 159lb/ft more torque that will inevitably be available from much lower in the rev range thanks to the twin blowers. That said, with a 0-60 time of 3.6 seconds and a top speed of 196mph it is still slower than a 458 (0-60 in 3.3s, 202mph), most likely thanks to being quite a lot heavier at 1625kg, compared to the mid-engined car's 1380kg, and having inferior aerodynamics for being a front-engined GT.

As well as giving it a new heart, Ferrari have restyled the bodywork from nose to tip, and personally I think it's a great improvement over the outgoing California, with smoother lines and little changes to what was already there to make it look newer and more elegant. It's just a shame that, because it's on the same chassis as before, the hard points carry over too, meaning the rear end is still quite chunky. But they've made a slightly better job of styling that out. The reason it's got a big butt - and I cannot lie - is to accomodate the electric roof, which still takes 14 seconds to do its thing.

30 years after the 288 GTO brought the words "twin-turbo" into Ferrari's lexicon, it's back, and just like last time (when we also got the legendary F40), it coincides with Formula 1's turbo era. So, why turbocharge a Ferrari? BECAUSE RACECAR.

More pictures and a few videos here

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Abarth 695 Biposto
Let's stick with turbocharged Italian stuff. This is the latest incarnation of the Fiat 500 Abarth, and it's so hardcore that Abarth have seen fit to give it a bigger number (paying lip service to a different tiny fast Fiat instead) despite it having a lower number of seats. Biposto means "two seats" in Italian, see. The trackday-oriented hot hatch is a very small niche, with the only two similar cars I can think of being the old Renaultsport Megane R26.R and the current MINI John Cooper Works GP. The latter is still on sale and looks like hilarious fun, but how will this wee Abarth compare?

On paper, it's round one to the Fiat. The 1.4 turbo engine has been tuned with knowledge from the Assetto Corse racing version to produce 190 horsepower, 30 more than the Abarth 500 esse-esse. While the MINI GP counters with 215 horsepower, the Abarth 695 Biposto weighs a miniscule 997kg, compared to the BMW's ~1180kg. That makes a big difference, and puts the Abarth's power/weight ratio higher, at 191bhp/tonne vs 182 for the MINI. In fact, Abarth are claiming it's the highest power/weight ratio of any hardcore hatchback. Its 190 horses are channeled to the front wheels via a 6-speed H-pattern gearbox with dog rings, which gives fast drivers the ability to change up a gear without using the clutch pedal at all, saving a good tenth of a second or more each time. So yes, the Fiat wins this round. Round two would involve getting both of them together for a twin test, which I can't do...

The 695 Biposto achieves this lightness - and therefore right-ness - through more than just taking out the back seats. They also removed the xenon headlights, fog lights, climate control, electric windows and radio system. What's more, the windows are fixed in place with a little sliding panel like a race car, the 18" wheels are lightweight OZ Racing numbers and the bumpers, side skirts, wheel arches and spoilers are partially made of carbon fibre. Finally, the Poggipolini-designed rear rollbar where back seats used to be is made of titanium. That's serious stuff, y'know. The front seats didn't get off scot-free either, being replaced by carbon-shelled buckets by Sabelt with four-point racing harnesses. Elsewhere, you'll find Brembo performance brakes, an Akrapovic exhaust, à la 4C Spider, self-locking limited-slip differential and a meatier bodykit.

I need this in my life! That said, it's not going to be cheap with all that carbon fibre and titanium and whatnot...

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Ermini Seiottosei
I'll say it again: Lightness is Rightness. This is a sentiment that our third turbocharged Italian very much symbolises, seeing as it has no side windows or roof, let alone anything else. This is the tongue-twisting Seiottosei, a car that brings back an old Italian sports and racing car manufacturer from the 1940s and '50s called Ermini. According to the people bringing it back, "between 1946 and 1955, Ermini built and powered around 40 automobiles, all sports cars that rivalled the likes of Osca and Cisitalia, the more high-profile and powerful Ferrari, Maserati, Porsche and Mercedes models, sometimes, quite incredibly, even managing to beat them." So now you know.

Looking like an Italian take on the Tommy-Kaira ZZ-S, the Seiottosei (I'm guessing it's pronounced "say-otto-say") features a tube-frame chassis coated in carbon fibre and aluminium bodywork, two very skinny bucket seats clothed in brown alcantara, an LCD display and that's about it. The result of all this minimalism is a kerbweight so low it makes even the Abarth Biposto look lardy and dumpy. In fact, even the carbon-tubbed Alfa 4C can't hold a candle to the Ermini's commitment to lightness, as the Seiottosei weighs in at just 686kg, or 1512lbs if you're an imperial sort. A Lotus Elise weighs just under 900kg, to add more perspective, and a regular family car is probably 1300-1800kg. Anything under 1000kg can be considered a true lightweight, but when it's much closer to half a tonne, it's a proper hardcore machine. But a car that light will only have about 200 horsepower, right? Wrong. This car uses the 2.0 turbo engine from the current Renaultsport Megane, an engine that is rather amusingly called "F4RT RS." This particular F4RT has been heated up to increase its strength, meaning it emits 320PS (316bhp). That makes for a 0-60 time of 3.5 seconds and a power/weight ratio of 461bhp/tonne, which I think you'll find is knocking on the door of some very serious supercars. Sure, it won't do 230mph - would you want to in something so open? - but around a track this could be a total giant slayer!

This weekend toy can line up alongside the KTM X-Bow, Caterham Superlight and Ariel Atom as a hardcore adrenaline pump... if it turns out to be any good. Ermini haven't mentioned anything about production plans at this time, so we'll just have to wait and see...

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Jaguar XFR-S Sportbrake
OK, so it's the end of the Geneva Motor Show. You've seen the future, you've built up an appetite for spirited driving and you've picked up a hundred leaflets and free test drive offers and even bought a souvenir. What would you choose to drive home? Easy: a new Jaaaaaaaag. This particular one, with all its letters of varied significance, may not be as purely sexual as the new F-Type R Coupé, but it does pack an identical punch. Its 5.0 supercharged V8 can, at full chat, produce 550PS (542bhp) and 500lb/ft of torque, enough to get its nigh-on two-tonne mass from 0-60 in 4.6 seconds, and onwards to a limited top speed of 186mph (300km/h). Who doesn't like a fast estate car? People who are wrong, that's who!

Mechanically this is identical to the XFR-S saloon of course, right down to its coil-sprung rear suspension where normally there is air suspension, and adaptive damping all-round. The XFR-S provides a marginally less solid but more graceful and characterful alternative to the Grosser Drei and their assorted letters of great significance (AMG, M, RS), and adding a boot that gives you as much as 1675 litres of luggage space with the rear seats folded down only puts more icing on the cake, a cake you can very much eat... if you don't mind paying for fuel. And tax. And insurance. And the pretty steep £82,495 asking price to buy one in the first place, although you could just wait a year or two and get a nearly-new one for a hefty discount. If I was doing that though, I'd want to check the service history, because any rear-wheel-drive car with a big shouty engine is going to get used and abused on occasion. According to Pistonheads it drives the same as the saloon, so it's very much happy to pull big smokey drifts until the electronic differential overheats. Only now you can do that with a dog in the back! Or 100kg of cheese! Or two Christmas trees! It's the perfect family car for the well-off hooligan. I wish I was a well-off hooligan...

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So there you have it, ten more cars that I like from the 2014 Geneva Motor Show. If you want to see every single release from the show, click here for similarly-sized summaries of each one. I will leave you with the Pagani Zonda Revolucion, which is the very very final-est Zonda, honestly this time. Frankly, if they're going to finish it in blue-tinted carbon fibre, they can make as many as they want!


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