At Geneva Motor Show a Platform for Success (and Speed) Wall …

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Jaguar F-Type-fighter

At Geneva Motor Show, a Platform for Success (and Speed)

GENEVA . the center of international diplomacy, swung into action this week after Russia intervened in Ukraine, much like Tampa when the Shriners are in town. An expeditionary force of additional bartenders was dispatched to key hotels. Large black sedans were deployed in front of all the major restaurants.

And it seems the managers of Palexpo hall, the venue for the 2014 Geneva Motor Show, might have turned up the thermostat to ward off the chill running down everyone s spine. The situation in Ukraine bodes ill for the EU s fragile economic recovery on any number of fronts but most acutely in the automotive segment, where Western car makers have coveted Russians growing buying power (2.6 million units in 2013, Europe s second-largest market) and where exclusive car makers such as Rolls-Royce, Ferrari and Lamborghini have added dealerships to better serve Russia s car-obsessed, man-child oligarchs.

Western car makers including GM and Renault have also invested billions in Russian manufacturing, with joint ventures at most of the country s 32 facilities. What happens to those sales, those investments and those jobs in a prolonged standoff over Ukraine—including Western sanctions and Russian retaliation—is unclear, to put it diplomatically. What is clear is that the auto industry is at the center of the chessboard.

A look at the starts of the show:


If the Geneva Motor Show is one sprawling metaphor for the perils of global entanglements, then two companies, both Swedish, are demonstrating the virtue of independence, even isolationism. Volvo, owned at arm s length by the Chinese conglomerate Geeley and flush with $11 billion in investment raised mostly in the private market, will turn the page in its product portfolio this year using an all-new flexible platform of its own design.

This platform will underpin no less than five new models, including the D-segment XC90 crossover SUV this fall, as well as future D-sized sedans, wagons and crossovers. This retrenchment happens not a moment too soon; Volvo hasn t had a new product in North America since 2010.

Volvo is now alone among mainline European car makers in not having a sheltering auto-making parent or sibling to share the costs of R D and procurement; theirs is very much a lab experiment, to borrow a phrase, to see if such a model is viable in a rapidly consolidating industry.

What can t be doubted is that for the moment, Volvo feels free to be as Volvo as it wants to be. In Geneva this week, the company pulled the silk off its Concept Estate, a luxuriant, full-size shooting-brake design inspired by the Frua-bodied P1800 of a half-century ago. Dressed in umber and cinched at the waist, the broad, cab-rearward, belt-high coupe previews much of the company s new design vocabulary, including the strong floating grille, the muscular haunches, the graphical T-shaped LED headlamps and taillamps, and general strength of proportion.

According to a person familiar with the company, the concept is built off a production platform. That is important because the Concept s long, sport-tourer hood (the axle-to-dash distance) and its short front overhang (proportions of a premium rear-drive car) will translate to production cars. If that is true, Volvo s about to make a lot of … cars.

More than that, Volvo s design direction finally looks like it comes from somewhere. At a time of growing statelessness in car design, Volvo s proposed design is exuberantly Scandinavian—clever, clear, modern, ineffably masculine. The Concept Estate gets my vote for Best Concept Car.

The other company is the ultraexotic manufacturer Koenigsegg, based in Angelholm, Sweden. Koenigsegg only makes a couple dozen cars a year. Economies of scale typically drive exotic-car makers to purchase character-essential pieces such as transmissions and engines from suppliers. Pagani, for example, buys its engines in crates from Mercedes-Benz AMG.

McLaren receives their gearboxes in a box from Graziano.

Koenigsegg engineers, fabricates and assembles nearly every part of their warp-capable sports cars, from the charismatic dihedral synchrohelix door hinges that allow the doors to fold like swan s wings, to the entirety of the powertrain. Large parts of the titanium exhaust are 3-D printed in house. Even the car s variable geometry turbochargers are 3-D-printed.

On Koenigsegg s stand this week is the One:1, whose home-brewed 5.0-liter twin-turbo V8 produces a world record 1,360 brake horsepower (1,341 hp, SAE), which is equal to about one megawatt, enough power to light up a small town.

As of Geneva 2014, the One:1 is quite comfortably at the top of the pile as the most powerful series-production road-legal automobile ever made, surpassing even the mind-bending Bugatti Veyron Super Sport, with 1,200 hp on tap (a mere .895 MW). Company founder Christian von Koenigsegg says the One:1—which weighs 1,360 kilograms, and thus the ratio—will accelerate to 249 mph in 20 seconds, as quick and fast as just about any Formula One car.

For self-evident historical reasons—i.e. 1 hp per kg and one-megawatt output—I name the Koenigsegg One:1 the most significant car of the show. But it is also a testament to provenance, the allure of a product s story of origin.

Sometimes when you want to go fast, you have to go it alone.


By 10 a.m. Tuesday, photographers were camped out at the McLaren stand to shutter-click the moment when the company would pull the drapery from what all understood to be the McLaren 650S Spider, a retractable hardtop version of McLaren s new coupe. However, we could see the brilliant orange Spider very well under its car-show negligee of white silk, and we could see that it looked exactly like the blue coupe sitting … beside it.

Nevertheless, the proprieties must be observed.

Here is what mustn t be said: the McLaren 12C, launched at great expense in 2011 by a world leader in technology, was a stumble; the 650S is its fast-tracked replacement. McLaren, in the person of its chief, Formula One titan Ron Dennis, was never satisfied with the first car. He wasn t alone.

Everybody could see that the midengine berlinetta s styling had low T levels, and the corked pitch of the turbocharged V8 wasn t nearly thrilling enough. Also, says McLaren product head Mark Vinnels, the dynamics software was dialed down a tick. We were afraid of people hurting themselves.

McLaren s 650S reboot starts with the company s foundational technology: a lightweight, tooled single-piece carbon monocoque, with cast- and extruded-aluminum substructures front and rear. Twenty-five percent of the 650S s parts are different from the 12C. The 650S s carbon-composite exterior panels are radically different than the old car, with sinuous negative spaces interleaved through and under the car, highlighted with contrasting paint.

The highly graphic form language links the 650S to the company s new ultracar, the P1, which is highly efficient in cooling and downforce. The 650S has 40% more down force at speed than the 12C.

As for the performance, the wick has been turned up. The twin-turbo 3.8-liter puts out 641 hp and 500 pound-feet of torque. Quoted acceleration is 3 seconds flat to 62 mph and 0-124 in 8.4 seconds, which is brisk. Thanks in part to standard carbon-ceramic brakes, curb weight is even down a tick, to about 3,000 pounds.

The Spider weighs 88 pounds more (call it 3,100 pounds), but is still svelte, going on slinky.

McLaren isn t alone in revising history at Geneva. On the Ferrari stand the California T broke cover, a replacement for the wildly successful, hotly debated California hardtop convertible that made its debut here in 2008. The unmentionable fact is that, while 70% of California buyers were new to the brand and the atelier in Maranello is humming, purists didn t exactly fall in love with the California. A front-V8, rear-drive grand tourer? We call those Corvettes around here.

Jaguar F-Type-fighter

The accusations were that the original California was overly refined and lacking durezza. Officially, these voices don t exist, and yet Ferrari has heard them, and the new car answers.

The 2015 California T is the first Ferrari since the F40 to use a turbocharged engine, a 3.9-liter flat-crank, 90-degree V8 pressurized by a pair of twin-scroll turbochargers that, Ferrari engineers promise, sound bravissimo honking through the tuned, three-piece exhaust manifold. The turbo-8 s output is quoted as 553 hp and 557 pound-feet of torque at 4,750 rpm, gains of 70 hp and 185 pound-feet over the previous California s naturally aspirated 4.3-liter V8. Zero to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds, a top speed of 196 mph.

Badder, faster, brawnier. The California T is just what the doctor, or dentist, ordered.


The last time Maserati stole the Geneva show was probably when the Maserati brothers scampered off with the bunting. But the Modena, Italy-based luxury car builder—celebrating 100 years in (and out) of business—laid them in the aisles with the Alfieri Concept. Pray to your pagan gods that the company s Porsche 911/Jaguar F-Type fighter, due in 2016, will look anything like this urbane, drama-drenched, wallet-molesting gran turismo.

Maserati designers credited the 1954 Maserati A6 GCS-53 race car as inspiration; I suggest it was something far older, and more Roman—perhaps a chariot.

Thanks to the redraft of the Quattroporte and introduction of the Maserati Ghibli sedan, Maserati had a stellar year in 2013, with global sales more than doubling to 15,400 cars. The weakness is coupes, particularly anything to sell against the Porsche 911. The Alfieri is right there, size-wise (180.7 inches), with a wheelbase 9.5 inches shorter (106.2 inches) than a GranTurismo.

While the Alfieri Concept arrived at the show packing the 4.7-liter V8 and six-speed rear transaxle from the GranTurismo, Mazzer s next personal luxury sports car could come with a wide variety of engines drawn from all provinces of the Fiat and Ferrari empire.

Alfieri, by the way, was one of the Maserati brothers, but he doesn t know what happened to the bunting.


For endurance racing fans, Christmas is coming. In June, Porsche will return to the top-tier prototype category at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. This year s race will witness an epic, practically Freudian contest between two massively funded VW-AG siblings: the defending champion, Audi, which has largely owned the race for more than a decade; and Porsche, which has a record 16 overall championships and whose brand, whose soul is immortally bound to the great race.

Officially and unofficially, says Porsche LMP1 team principal Friedrich Enzinger, the message from VW supremo Ferdinand Piech has been, Boys, have at it, or words to that effect. No favorites and no team orders, except the usual: Don t take each other out.

Porsche has no intention of rolling over. That much is evident in the company s new 919 Hybrid Le Mans Prototype, which debuted in Geneva this week, to much slacking of jaws. Buried in the sweeping, mission-critical bodywork and somewhere under the vertical stabilizer fin is a 2.0-liter turbocharged V4 engine spooling to 9,000 rpm.

Mighty Maus.

In addition to the V4 s furious 500 hp or so, the 919 has a large motor/generator on the front axle, providing an unspecified amount of electric horsepower to the front wheels, with dynamics benefits including better corner-exiting acceleration and more dexterous torque vectoring. Under deceleration, the front motor/generator feeds electrons back to the lithium-ion battery with regenerative braking.

One sign that Porsche is seeing the contest as a war of efficiency: The tiny gas engine s exhaust flow is scavenged to drive a turbine to recapture energy otherwise lost as heat. Porsche is counting every joule, therm and BTU for this one.

Jaguar F-Type-fighter
Jaguar F-Type-fighter
Jaguar F-Type-fighter
Jaguar F-Type-fighter
Jaguar F-Type-fighter
Jaguar F-Type-fighter
Jaguar F-Type-fighter

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