Words and photography: Andrew Elphick
Unlike the rest of the press, I never visited the 2017 Geneva Salon Auto – instead, I watched the ‘Range Rover VELAR‘ show unfurl.
Now that confession’s out of the way, I really wasn’t sold on the whole another variation concept. Another Range Rover! Piano black, 20in wheels, 50 shades of grey, impress the neighbours etc. But I needed to have a proper look.
You see, despite dressing like a turtle-necked Austin Powers’ villain, Gerry McGovern knows how to conjure curb appeal. Wanton desire keeps Solihull production lines on 24 hour shifts, not unsurpassed functionality.
So I took a walk to JLR’s stand. The bloody VELAR was in an opaque box. Great! Now it might just be me, but the VELAR had been drip-fed to the media for nearly a month, survived a glamorous official launch and clogged every on-trend hipsters Instagram feed for the last week…
But in Geneva? Still a secret… So, wistfully staring at the giant container-sized mystery parcel, I slouched off in a huff. I knew I’d be back for the media briefing, I just couldn’t help myself.
Vauxhall’s Citroen C5 remix
Over on the Opel/Vauxhall stand things seemed more upbeat. As expected a big crowd milled round the 2008 Citroen C5, bemused it had Insignia badges and narrow seats. Mind you, the fresh orange juice was welcome. I swear I saw a Director from Hertz working out just how much of a discount he could get off for 5000.
However, this blandness coupled with new owner PSA Group’s willingness to enter the Asian markets (that GM forbid Opel from entering) may be an accidental trump card. I looked at my watch, not VELAR time just yet.
Next stop Honda. Among the clutch of Civics and the black and gold Jazz (Smokey and the Colostomy bag bandit) sat a McLaren MP40. I dwelled upon what if the F1 engine design division and the passenger car design division had swapped roles; such is the success of each department. Honda, we want fast F1 cars and desirable hatchbacks please, this way round, Sir.
Type R-trick pony won’t keep your head above water for ever. Suzuki was showing Honda how it should be done – even Ratan Tata paused to give the Swift a thorough investigation – back in India the Suzuki is a huge home market rival. So, if you’d like a Japanese MINI, give your dealer a call, you won’t regret it.
Ford gets historic
Last year, Vignale had a few token Fords on the stand. Detroit’s ‘DS’ reverted this year to a Ford stand with a few Vignales instead. Henry’s famous strap line ‘The car you always promised yourself’ rang true at the show. Think GT40’ Escort Cosworth’ humble carb-fed XR2. You always promised yourself them. Of the 2017 line up? Well, I genuinely forget what it was. With six heritage motorsport heroes and a DFV8 engine impressing the crowds nobody noticed what keeps Dearborn in dollars…
However, over at rival FCA, Alfa Romeo impressed with the new Stelvio – German quality and feel, a cracking driving position and controls coupled to marketable drivetrain. Was it really an Alfa?
Over at Jaguar Land Rover
Finally, it was time. Jaguar opened its press conference with a highly visible Ratan Tata letting everyone know who’s still the Boss. The ever-gracious Ian Callum showed JLR’s hopeful Tesla beater the I-PACE. An inoffensive Jaguar F-PACE meets original Focus style body, coupled with a very Prius-esque floating console interior. It should sell well – because it looks like a real car, something unusual for a pure EV.
Later that day Mercedes-Benz Boss Dieter Zetsche (below) had a very close look for himself too. A few minutes of how a Jaguar lifestyle turns you bionic/cooler than Kelvin/team player and we arrived at the main event: VELAR.
The wraps come off Velar
Nobody cared about Discovery, Range Rover, Mountain rescue, the great outdoors. The crowd just bayed for VELAR, VELAR, VELAR. When the Rolling Stones are wheeled on for their very last encore, I’d imagine the furore will be similar. I swap spots in the crowd and, looking round, everyone has that awe-stricken expression you’d witness at a Wimbledon Final or while gripping a pint glass during the last few seconds of the FA Cup.
VELAR, VELAR, VELAR. For all I know on the adjacent Volvo stand Swedish supermodels were evocatively feeding each other cream cakes – no one would have dared turn their head 180 degrees to find out. VELAR, VELAR, VELAR. Finally, Gerry stopped talking – he knew the crowd were paying as much attention to his speech as you do to an airline safety briefing.
Drumroll: Time for the reveal. I positioned myself for a paparazzi-style stand invasion of the VELAR and its creator, ready to bask in VELAR’S AWESOMENESS.
Polarised, I watched as the grand reveal happened… Yawn, another Range Rover I thought as the assembled crowd dropped silent, the opaque container silently floated skyward… and… suddenly sheeesshhh… I WANT ONE!
Hot Wheels meets Solihull. Imagine Chip Foose chopped and channelled a Range Rover. Stuff all your Artic Gortex and Snowboards – hail the ‘Tiki’ Rover. Strap surfboards to the roof, drop the one-touch windows and wind up the Pharrel. Finally, we have a Range Rover NOT to be envied, but to be appreciated.
Sure it has minus points (the pop-out door handles have the grace, style and texture of scaffolder’s IVECO) and do we really need those Granada switches still powering the back seats? I really like it, photos don’t show the transatlantic gait of the Tiki Rover. Just loose the Range Rover badges – VELAR doesn’t need them, it’s obvious.
Finally, Car of the Show? I’m torn. VELAR? Ferrari 812 Superfast?
Nope… Ever since the Volkswagen Taro, I have been a sucker for an inappropriate badge on a 4×4, so my Car of the Show has to be the Nissan Navara’s Parisian cousin – the HALF-BAKED ALASAKA…