Words and Photographs: Andrew Elphick
Back on a grumpy night shift between Christmas and New Year, I was updating my 2011 diary, sipping coffee and grumbling to myself – not unsurprisingly there were other places I’d rather have been at that moment. However, trudging through March’s shift patterns, I found a perfect opening for a beano – a quick Google found this year’s Geneva Salon dates and another window priced up some Easyjet flights. Some swift clicks later saw a £51 debit to my account and a guaranteed ‘rollocking’ off Mrs. Elphick…
Actually, if you’re near an airport, visiting the Salon de l’Auto Geneve is pretty painless – book a flight and get to the airport. On arrival, you just leave the Geneva departure lounge, turn right and walk for five minutes through the train station until you reach the Palexpo exhibition centre where a nice man will relieve you on 16chf (about £12). That’s quicker than the walk from the car park to an NEC car show, yet less than half the price – you can even leave travel bags in the cloakroom for 2chf if you happen to overnight.
Anyway – the show itself. Unsurprisingly, the Bertone B99 Jaguar Concept scored high on my wish list. However, the Swiss general public walked on by nonplussed. This concept works extremely well in the metal even if the Jaguar alloys could have been on an inch or so narrower track for perfection. A shame then that the ‘leaper’ looked like it was cast onto an executive letter opener. The adjacent B99 racecar, though, eschewed style for Aston-esque brute force – how this was side stepped by the motoring press is a mystery… One negative point about the B99: remove the Jaguar logos and this would have made a show stopping Alfa, BMW, Lancia or even Hyundai concept.
My other interest was Italian. No, not that modern day Jensen Interceptor FF homage on the Ferrari stand. I’m talking Lancia. Sacrilege maybe, but, let’s face it, Lancia stopped being Lancia over 40 years ago when Fiat stepped in. I think the ‘Thema-isation’ of the Chrysler 300 works (in a kind of Lincoln-bodied by Pininfarina way) rather well. OK, it’s no Lexus to the touch inside, but it exudes a class the 300 could not. The Flavia, er, well, whatever… One surprise was the Chrysler Voyager-based Lancia Voyager – apparently the ‘Voyager’ moniker still has very strong brand identity even though it has little more than a radiator grille swap.
Across the way, parent Fiat had two points of note (well, three, if you consider the stand was without Pandas). Hidden like a disgraced family member at a funeral, sulking on the back corner of the Fiat pitch was the ‘Freemont’. The world premiere of this Dodge Journey-based badge-engineering exercise was accompanied by as many pretty show girls as were needed to divert your attention – more effort appeared to have been put into the ‘Freemont’ Ski suits instead. The very delicate Zagato 500 coupe showed the ‘Duplo Lego’ MINI Rocketman how to create desirability. (The ridiculously dumpy Rocketman looks like an iQ ‘Streetwise’ in the metal…)
Incidentally, apart from the Tonka Rocketman, MINI had another special edition on show – the gloriously named Hampton. Best not enter Hampton Wick into a Cockney translator…
One thing not lost in translation was the oriental Chevy Cruze. This excellent MG6 rival (which you can purchase now) was showcasing a sports specification with excellent black/buffalo leather combination within. The British-designed five-door hatch got its production specification unveiling too. GM sister brand Cadillac had a nod to Harris Mann on display – the A-Class sized ‘Urban Luxury’ was given its first public viewing outside Detroit. Unusually, it has a three-piece windscreen.
JLR littered its stand with temptation – Jaguar XKR-S, the original 50th Anniversary Geneva E-Type, the Range Rover Autobiography Ultimate Edition and the future ‘cash cow’ the Evoque in three- and five-door form. The Evoque really does look right, no matter what the viewing angle. Mind you, if you’re a family man, the heavy rear window tinting and raising shoulder line make it a gloomy place in the rear seat – that’s worth bearing in mind if you intend to seat your 2.4 back there. Just don’t go for the Mac generation white leather if you wear blue jeans…
My wonder is will the Evoque steal sales from the Range Rover Sport? If so, will the Evoque gain the ill-fitting Chav crown before 2011 ends? One hopes not.
JLR parent company Tata Motor’s own models were at the other end of the spectrum. The Future Car Challenge-winning Indica Vista EV was proudly displayed. Engineered by the 250 UK-based staff (many from the ashes of the Firm), the British contingent showed the production (2012) ready version of the model. This will be sold direct and ready homologated but the team admitted that the engineering of the Nissan Leaf impressed them although the lacklustre looks didn’t. Expect a large impact from this practically priced and designed EV.
For 4×4 enthusiasts (without Evoque pockets) the Tata Aria SUV impressed. A separate chassis and inline 2.2-litre diesel underpinned the smart bodyshell and, although not JLR standard inside, the overall package was chasms apart from the awkward Tata Safari.
The ‘Eurotrash’ from the boutique luxury tuners were, of course, present and, as ever, fascinating. A Toyota Amazon dressed as a Cayenne? Matt paint and crocodile skin upholstery – of course! Carbonfibre seems to be on the wane, metallic matt finishes are the hot ticket (and, if you’re Hyundai, gloss overspray on the door shut rubbers of your new Hyundai i40 – tut tut…). A lone Mercedes-Benz SLS in fluorescent green provided some welcome Motor Show glamour.
There you are, then – the Geneva Motor Show through the eyes of a grown man clutching his Observer’s Book of Cars.