Each year Geneva plays host to the International Motor Show, drawing in every relevant brand in the auto industry to show their latest, greatest and most innovative cars. While navigating the labyrinth of new releases and concept cars at the 2012 show we took note of four standouts across all categories of design, function and luxury.
The star of the show: Ferarri F12berlinetta
While Geneva was packed with new model launches from almost every major manufacturer, the most consistently crowded floor belonged to Ferrari and its stunning new F12berlinetta. Even Internet leaks couldn't dampen the enthusiasm for the model that Ferrari is calling the harbinger of a new V12 era. This is the most powerful and high-performance Ferrari ever, with aluminum construction using some alloys never before seen in a car. Aerodynamics play a critical role in the overall style of the F12, which Ferrari also claims to be the slipperiest they've ever made. While we were lukewarm on the overall styling in photos, in person it's a horse of a different color (satin aluminum, to be precise). We look forward to getting behind the wheel soon.
The head turner/head scratcher: Bentley EXP 9 F
Bentley also drew crowds, but for a very different reason: the already infamous SUV Concept EXP 9 F. Perhaps the most controversial SUV since the original Porsche Cayenne, the EXP was met with both derision and curiosity. Online opinion also appears to be mixed, with some claiming Bentley is diluting its rich heritage by building a truck while others are embracing the possibility of a high-performance British luxury SUV in the tradition of the estate car and shooting brake, albeit one that would make even the top Range Rover look pedestrian by comparison (and small—the EXP is enormous).
One thing is clear: the EXP represents a large chunk of potential profit that Bentley could claim, especially in areas where both a commanding ride height and luxurious interior are in high demand (China and the Middle East, for example). While our opinion on the concept is mixed, we did get to sit down inside with its interior designer Robin Page to learn about the thinking behind the SUV.
Elements like a dual-use cabin interior that's both luxurious and rugged, a traditional British hunting sport aesthetic and some advanced tech features combine to give the impression of a very thought-out and pure concept, especially impressive considering the time from sketch to show was less than nine months. There is no question that the EXP's very existence is a controversial move for Bentley, and we were assured by more than one person within the company that this remains a concept built for feedback and to gauge interest. That said, we fully expect to be seeing a production version in some form within the next few years; we can only hope that some of the smarter elements of the interior make the cut.
The Crowd Pleaser: Toyota GT86/ Subaru BRZ
Not every car can be a ultra-luxury SUV or a temperamental supercar. Sometimes simplicity is best, especially when trying to reach a new generation of driving fans. While not new to Geneva, this was our fist chance to get some one-on-one time with the Toyota GT86. Jointly developed by Toyota and Subaru (and almost identical—Subaru's version will be sold as the BRZ, while the Toyota version will be sold by Scion in the U.S.), the GT86 represents a laser focus on pure driving joy at minimal cost.
No magnetorheological dampening or push-to-start here—the purely functional GT86 uses springs and a key. The interior is spartan as well, but the short-throw gear changer feels solid in the hand and the seats are supportive buckets. Overall, it was refreshing to find a sporty rear-wheel drive 2+2 coupe with a manual transmission and a penchant for drifting for under $25,000.