Geneva Show – March 2015

Having read about it since childhood, when almost all motoring knowledge was contained in my weekly copy of Autocar and sneeky looks at Car in the newsagents,  I got the first chance to attend the Geneva Show in person in 2000 when I had started working in Switzerland. I think I’ve only missed a couple of them in the intervening 15 years. An annual treat, sitting in a car-manufacturing “neutral” country, so there is no national flag-waving to dominate, like you can get at the biennial Frankfurt and Paris events, it did not take long after the founding of for it to become one of our first, and certainly most popular overseas trips. As soon as the dates for the 2015 event were confirmed, plans were made flights booked and the search for a decent hotel at a sensible price commenced. That was back in late August. At that time, and even through the autumn months, the rumour machine seemed to be suggesting that there was not going to be that much that was genuinely new that would be launched for 2015, and certainly nothing to top the 2013 unveiling of the Hypercar Trinity. But by the early days of 2015, it was clear that we were in for a real treat, as news of ever more models leaked out and official releases were made. Excitingly, some of the very best were a complete surprise, some things that had never even been mentioned in the press until the day that they were featured in full detail. With a month to go, it was clear that the 85th annual Geneva Show stood every chance of being the very best ever. And so it proved. We had two full days to see the contents of the Palexpo, and to be honest, that was only enough to scratch the surface. Whilst the site is nothing like as large as Frankfurt, it is still plenty big enough to accommodate a lot of cars, and we must have waled a fair few miles trying to see them all! With over 1300 photos in this report reading this will allow you to see what we did.

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Even before reaching the turnstiles at the Palexpo, there were three things of interest, displayed in the walkway out of the combined airport and station location. First to cause us to pause and pull the camera out of is case was this, a fabulous 1950s Chevrolet 3100 PickUp.

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Two manufacturers had “taster” models on show in the concourse, too: a Fiat 500X and a new Skoda Fabia Combi (Estate), complete with an enormous pair of glasses perched on the bonnet.

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At the end of Day 1, and with empty stomachs and tongues hanging out for a refreshing beer (which came at a very agreeable pizzeria in the airport which we had tried a couple of years ago), we did pause when we found this RedBull Formula 1 car almost tucked into a corner.

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Alphabetically first for sure, but somehow I managed to curb my very strong desire to see the latest 595 Competizione until late into Day 1 when we finally got there. Outwardly barely any different from the current model, it was widely reported that Abarth would move the Competizione further apart from the sister 595 Turismo model, by endowing it with a 180 bhp rather than 160 bhp engine, thanks to a Garrett turbo, and the standard fitment of Brembo brakes to ensure it will stop as well as it goes. UK specs are still not finalised, but on the evidence of what I saw, this is going to cause some heart searching as to whether it is time to upgrade my own much loved 135 bhp car. The fact that the show car was painted in Cordolo Red, a stunning pearlescent colour that was launched last year did not help me to feel anything other than covetous!

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Centrepiece of the 3 car stand, though, was the 695 BiPosto. First shown at this event exactly a year ago, development is now finished, the press have driven it (and largely approved of what, let’s be honest, is something of an indulgent toy, aimed really at track-day devotees as opposed to being an every day road car), and customer cars should start to be delivered soon. It’s not for everyone, and certainly the optional dog ring gearbox would likely take some getting used to, but the world is a far better place because it exists.

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Third car on the stand was a 595C Turismo, which showed some of the modifications made in 2014 in what are known as Series 3 cars, of which the TFT instrument dial is the most striking.

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Specialising in modifying Audi products, a number of the latest examples of ABT’s “range” were on show.

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Making their debuts here were two cars, the AC1 which looked like it started off as a 4 Series of some sort and a creation based on the latest X6. Not for me, either of them!

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The really big news from Alfa comes on 24th June when we should finally see the rear wheel drive Giulia saloon. Until then, Alfa’s range remains rather on the limited side, with sales coming from the established MiTo and Giulietta. Examples of both were on display, and whilst they look good and the recent interior upgrades were welcome, it is clear that Alfa cannot hope to see a rise in fortunes until they get more products to sell.

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The Spider version of the 4C was making its European debut and a couple of these were on show along with the fixed roof model.

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Representing Alfa’s glory days was a car from the Alfa Storico collection. I will confess I am not sure what exactly it is, and there was no sign to tell us! I think it is an early 1950s 1900 based car.

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Emphasising that this is a separate marque from BMW, whose products underpin every Alpina, there was a separate stand some distance from BMW for the brand which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. To mark the occasion, new limited edition variants based of the B5 and B6 Biturbo were presented. Dubbed ‘Edition 50’, the B5 and B6 Biturbo versions are powered by a revised 4.4-litre twin-turbocharged V8 engine producing 600bhp at 6000rpm and 590lb ft of torque at 3500rpm. According to Alpina, this is the most powerful engine in the firm’s history. The B5 Biturbo despatches the 0-62mph sprint in 4.2sec and has a top speed of 203mph in saloon guise and 200mph in Touring. The B6 Edition 50 coupé and convertible can also crack 0-62mph in 4.2sec. However, the coupé’s top speed is 205mph, while the convertible’s is 203mph. The revised motor is mated to a ZF eight-speed automatic gearbox with three driving modes: automatic, sport and manual. Combined fuel economy for the B5 Edition 50 is 29.7mpg for the saloon and 29.4mpg for the Touring. For the B6 coupé and convertible it is 30mpg and 29.4mpg, respectively. All Edition 50 models feature a limited-slip differential and an Akrapovic-developed titanium exhaust system with twin tailpipes that is 17kg lighter than a stainless steel set-up. Lightweight forged 20in alloy wheels unique to the Edition 50 also reduce weight by 15.6kg, while stopping power comes from four-piston, fixed Brembo calipers with 395mm discs and high-temperature resistant pads. The interior on all variants is cloaked in nappa leather. Seats are trimmed in black and ‘Forest Green’ leather with yellow and black stitching, a combination that pays homage to the 1982 Alpina B7 S Turbo models. The controls have ceramic finishes. Edition 50 stainless steel door sills and panels inscribed by Alpina founder Burkard Bovensiepen complete the interior. Just 50 of each will be built. There were both a B5 and a B6 Gran Coupe on show.

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Also displayed were the first Alpina-modified X model BMW, the XD3 Bi-Turbo, as well as the D4 Bi-Turbo.

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A highlight of the trip for me. When we were standing outside the barrier, gazing longingly at the cars on Aston’s stand, somehow we got talking to one of the stand staff, called Mark. It turned out that he is “second generation Aston” in that he followed in his fathers footsteps in joining the company, and he has been there a long time. We had a lengthy chat with him about the cars on show, and then out of the blue, he suggested that as we were coming back for Day 2, that if we presented ourselves at the stand early in the morning, he would welcome us to have a close up inspection of everything including the Lagonda Taraf that you could not really see from outside the stand. We needed no time to decide that this was an offer too good to refuse, so the Aston stand was indeed our first port of call on the second day. After looking at some of the other cars again – and that was absolutely no hardship, I can tell you – we went into the area where the Taraf was, and got the chance not just to loo, but to sit in it. I’d only seen this car in pictures when it first came to light last summer, and was not completely convinced at the time. Let me tell you that in the flesh, in a lighter colour, it is absolutely stunning. Taking some styling cues from the William Towns designed Lagonda of 1976, this car is very different from everything else currently in the Aston range. The body is carbon fibre based, and there are some amazing details that have been incorporated. For instance, Mark pointed out a very clever and very subtle curvature on the top of the wing that is so subtle that until someone draws your attention to it, you would not notice, but it is all about the details with this car. Some of them are classic Aston, of course, such as the name of the engine builder on a plaque under the bonnet. The other person who was looking at the car at the time commented that he thought that the same person had built his engine, to which Mark responded “ah yes, he’s been with is a while”. As the conversation went on to talk about other Astons, it was clear that he knew many of the owners personally. Buying an Aston is clearly like joining a family, even now.

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It was not just the outside of the Taraf that impressed. The interior is stunning, too. At nearly 5,4 meters long, the car is 400mm longer than a Rapide, and you can tell that this is the case when you open the door and see how roomy it is. There’s plenty of space in the back. A lot of the details will be down to the individual purchaser, of course. I would be very happy with the trim of the show car, which is headed to the Middle East after the show, It is the 39th one (out of 200) to be built.

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Outside, there were 4 other cars to see, and 3 of them were also new for the show, something of an achievement for a company as small as Aston. Not only that, but they had managed to keep their existence very quiet until days before the doors opened. Biggest surprise, for sure, had to be the Vulcan. Despite what you may have read about how this track car will be road legal, I can tell you it won’t be. It is absolutely designed for the track, in the same way as the Ferrari FXX and the McLaren P1 GTR are purposed designed for racing, and it is fully FIA compliant. Unlike those other cars, though, customers will be able to keep the Vulcan where they want. One of the principles for this car which is designed 100% for the lucky owner who can afford it and who wants to have fun with it, is to make it as easy as possible, so Aston will look after and transport if required, but they will not insist. It has also been designed to make it easy to drive, with the ability to increase the power available, as your confidence grows. Be in no doubt that this is a technical tour de force, the most impressive thing, from a long list of things which make you go “wow” is the downforce that it generates at 200 mph – nearly 1300 kg, or the weight of the car! Built around a carbon fibre tub and featuring bespoke suspension, a full carbon fibre body and a progressive power programme for the engine to allow the driver to build up to the full 800 bhp generated by the most powerful version of their 7.0 litre V12 engine, as they build up to finding out what 1300 kgs of down force feels like at 200mph, it sports an Xtrac gearbox with straight cut gears and a sequential change.  Work only started on the car last summer, and a surprisingly small number of people have been involved in creating it, but it is not finished yet. For instance, currently there is no interior, but we were told that there will be a fully customisable package for the specification and colours. It will be limited to just 24 examples worldwide, with the first deliveries expected before the end of 2015. Utterly Astonishing!

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Sitting behind it was the DBX Concept. Unlike a number of show vehicles that bear the name “concept” but which are very thinly production vehicles, this is absolutely a concept. It has been produced to show what could be done, and to test reactions. It is quite likely that some elements, which could be styling lines, or details, will appear on future products, but it is very unlikely that the car as it appears would enter production. The Lagonda SUV concept of a few years ago was mentioned both by Mark, and his colleague Markus who also showed us round, and it is clear that Aston listened to what people liked and what they did not. There’s plenty that is new in this for Aston, as it is an all-electric, all wheel drive model, with big doors, a flat floor and no sills, and ground clearance the same as you get with a range Rover Evoque. There are four inboard-mounted electric motors, each driving one wheel. Power flows from lithium sulphur battery packs mounted low along the north-south spine of the chassis. This gives all-wheel traction for low-grip situations and sophisticated torque-vectoring and traction control as the car corners and accelerates. Steering is drive by wire and the brakes are carbon ceramic discs with a built in KERS systems. The lights are LEDs, the windscreen is made from auto-dimming smart glass and there are separately configurable head-up displays for driver and passenger. Overall length is around 4.3m and the height of 1.7 m, similar to a conventional saloon

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Sitting behind these two cars was the utterly droolsome Vantage GT3 car. Weighing 100kg less than a V12 Vantage S and having close to 600bhp, this track focused machine it is easily the fastest and most focused of the Vantage lineage. It has undergone a long list of weight saving measures, the most significant of which is an all carbon fibre body. We were told that the whole car can be subjected to the By Q division, meaning that buyers can completely customise the interior and exterior colours to their own taste, with an expectation is that every customer will personalise their car and it is unlikely that any 2 will be quite the same. Needless to say, interest in the car is huge, and all 100 cars were sold out even before it was launched. The car on the stand looked absolutely stunning, with the colours well chosen.

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Final car on the stand was the (relatively) familiar Vanquish Volante. But even this car was somewhat special as it was the Vanquish by Q version. Designed to show off the possibilities to individualise your Aston to your very own specifications and taste., the example here featured rather a lot of yellow accents, not just around some of the external styling details, but also around the instrument binnacle. Not perhaps quite to my taste, but this is certainly the way to create a unique car, if you have the money!

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We left Aston having had a very special experience indeed. The confidence of the firm which will benefit from the engine deal with AMG (and a 5% equity and observation rights but no voting on the Board), and a new CEO in Andy Palmer, who has clearly energised the company, came across very clearly. These are exciting times for Aston, and what they showed this year proved what can be done by a small number of dedicated people who believe in the company. Talking to Mark, it became very clear that even though sales volumes have increased significantly in the past 20 years since the launch of the DB7, ownership is still a very special experience, and it is like joining a family than just buying a car. It is heart warming in the days of the globally integrated enterprise and where economies of scale are seen as the holy grail that something as wonderful as this whole philosophy can not just survive but prosper.


Audi always have a huge stand at Geneva, and it is always very busy. 2015 was no exception. The car I most wanted to see, and so, I guess, did everyone else, was the new R8. There were two examples, and both were on display plinths, making it easy for everyone to get to see them, but precluding a really close up view. At launch, at least, the model will only come with the V10 engine, offered in two power outputs, with the V10 and V10 Plus names being used. The grey car was the former and the orange  one an example of the latter. All the details are different from the much loved first generation R8, even though the overall effect is of a car that is unmistakeably like its predecessor.

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Following on from the well received Prologue Coupe which was shown at the Los Angeles Show in November 2014, Audi had a new concept car on their stand, the Prologue Avant. Both share a wide hexagonal grille, angular matrix laser headlights, prominent air ducts decorated with LED graphics, a contoured bonnet and shapely front wings, but the Avant then differs from the doors rearwards, ending in a steeply raked tailgate and tailpipes integrated into the bumper. Power comes form a lightly retuned version of the plug-in hybrid system fitted in the e-Tron version of the new Q7, which means that there is 449bhp available to all four wheels. The chassis includes air suspension and adaptive damping with four wheel steering. Inside there is a contemporary dashboard with touchscreen controls which is said to preview cabin architecture intended for future Audi models. Indeed, the external styling is also said to allude to what we can expect in the next generation of A6 and A7 model, though at 5110mm in length, this car, riding on 22″ wheels is a touch larger than those production models will be.

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Also on the display plinth was the latest RS3. The five cylinder engine in this car generates a stonking 367 bhp, enough to propel this family sized hatchback from 0 – 62 mph in 4.3 seconds.

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There were plenty of other RS models to see. Gone are the days when Audi only has one RS car in production at a time, as these days you can buy an RS4 Avant, an RS5, an RS6 and an RS7. They were all here.

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Performance versions of the Q badged SUVs were also shown, with RS Q3 and the SQ5 as was a regular Q5.

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Audi showed the second generation Q7 earlier in the year at Detroit. As well as the regular TDi models, making their European debut was the e-Tron version, which offers a theoretical range of 876 miles thanks to a combined cycle consumption of 166.2 mpg. The powerplant is based around Audi’s familiar 3 litre TDi engine, which delivers 254 bhp, but this is mated to a disc shaped electric motor mounted in the front section of the e-Tron’s 8 speed automatic gearbox that develops 126 bhp and 258 lb/ft. Together that amounts to 368 bhp and 381 lb/ft, giving a top speed of 140 mph and a 0 – 60 time of 6.0 seconds. Emissions are just 50 g/km. Energy for the electric motor is provided by a 17.3 kwh lithium ion battery mounted within the boot floor consisting of 168 separate cells. A two phase charging system gives an overall charge time of around 2.5 hours, and the car can travel 34 miles on battery alone. Impressive technology for sure.

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The A1 was updated last autumn and a couple of these cars, including the S1 were on show.

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The A3 range is now complete, and there were examples of the Saloon and the Cabrio as well as the Sportback, this last being shown in e-Tron and g-Tron guises.

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The A4 and A5 ranges will be replaced starting late this year, so there was less emphasis on this still big selling and vast range, but I did see an A5 Sportback and an S5 Cabrio on the stand.

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Head up a model size and you get to the A6, being shown in TDi Ultra spec, which has some impressive reductions in emissions making it ever more attractive especially to the business user.

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The top of the range was represented by an S8.

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There was one example of each of the Coupe and Roadster versions of the latest TT.

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Final Audi to see was last year’s Le Mans winning R18 e-Tron quattro, which is powered by a diesel V6 with an electric turbocharger, a 500 kJ flywheel accumulator system designed by Williams Hybrid Power and two 100 bhp generator units driving the front wheels. As the name suggests this gives the R18 four wheel drive above speeds of 75mph as required by the regulations. All this is combined with a smaller fuel tank of just 58 litres than was in it predecessors. Enough, still for victory.

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The car I most wanted to see on the Bentley stand was the EXP 10 Speed 6 Concept. It was not immediately visible, and when we asked the stand staff, they confirmed that it was no longer present. Once the press had gone, it was taken away, supposedly to some other show, though the staff were vague as to where. This isn’t the first time time (or even the only example at this show, and the other absentee was also a VW Group concept) where where a concept is deemed to be only something that the press should see, and comes across as a real piece of contempt for the public, who, let’s face are the ones who will actually buy the product, as opposed to the free-loading press. So, rant over, what was there to see? Four cars, all familiar in outline, though a number of changes were introduced at the show. The Continental cars, of which a GT Coupe Speed and a Convertible were shown include a new bumper design, smaller radiator shell and bright chrome badges to denote the engine, along with a more sculpted rear boot lid and a reshaped rear bumper. The 6.0 W12 engine has been upgraded for more power, with a further 15 bhp added, to take it up to 582 bhp, yet fuel consumption is 5% better thanks to a variable displacement cylinder deactivation system.  All the driver controls are new, and there is more chrome detailing plus new dials and graphics as well as a revised surround for the centre console.

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The Flying Spur W12 benefits from more power and the cylinder deactivation system, as well as new 20″ and 21″ wheel designs, the new cabin with more modern graphics and an updated steering wheel design.

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Final car on show was a Mulsanne Speed, which was only launched late in 2014.


Although BMW had a huge stand, it was still only big enough to accommodate a small subset of the massive range of cars that the Munich marque offers, as well, of course, as a lot of people. One of the more crowded parts of the show, it was not that easy to get much of a look at what was on show, sadly. New for the show was the facelifted 1 Series. The big changes are under the bonnet, with the 3 cylinder engine that debuted in the MINI making its appearance in a quest for ever lower levels of emission and better economy. You will spot the revised cars from their new face (mildly better than the gawky beak that featured on the car at birth) and new rear lights (which seem to make matters worse).

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Following the launch last year of the first ever front wheel drive BMW, the 2 Series Active Tourer, a second model premiered here, the 2 Series Grand Tourer. The most notable difference with this one is that it has 7 seats rather than 5, and hence the rear styling has been changed to accommodate the extra seating. Like all other cars of this size, the rear most seats are only really suitable for children, with limited space for legs being the biggest problem.

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Other 2 Series models are far more sporting in intent with Coupe models now joined by Convertible cars.

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A facelift for the 3 Series is expected later this year, but for now we are still presented with the familiar F30-based cars, with Saloon and Touring on show, as well as the closely related 4 Series models in Gran Coupe and Convertible guises.

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With a new 7 Series waiting in the wings, this could well be one of the last major shows for the F01 model, a car which addressed the awkward Bangle styling of its predecessor, but which failed to enthuse the press or the market.

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A trio of M cars were tucked away at the back of the stand: M4, M6 Gran Coupe and the new (and extremely pricey) X6M.

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X cars included an X1, X3 and the X5 in xDrive50dM guises.

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A separate display for the 2 electric cars contained an example of each of the i3 and i8.

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This Hanseatic marque last made cars in 1960, so it was quite a surprise to learn that the brand is to be revived. Not a lot of detail was provided before the show, so i was intrigued as to what I as going to find on a large stand. The answer was simply a beautifully presented version of the old Isabella Coupe from the 1950s. The reborn model will appear later in the year.

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Known for its modified Mercedes cars, Brabus had a wide range of cars on their stand, with the 900 Rocket version of the S Class and 850 version of the S Coupe, as well as an 850 version of the E Class Estate, and their adaptation of the latest C Class model. At least with Brabus you are largely paying for engineering upgrades rather than styling changes of questionable taste.

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First and last here. The news recently was Bugatti were about to make the very last Veyron, the 450th car, and 150th Roadster, and given the number of limited edition models that have been produced during the last few years, it was no surprise that it was another special car, a limited edition of one, called “La Finale”, and in case there is any doubt, this is spelled out on the underside of the rear spoiler. It was displayed along with the first production chassis model, which was in – to my eyes at least – a far more attractive colour scheme.

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Proving that they still don’t understand Europe, Cadillac had someone spouting PR guff at anyone who could be bothered to listen (which appeared to be no-one) every few minutes, just as you find on every stand at a US Show. That is not done in Europe! The cars are still clearly designed for American tastes, too, though no doubt a few of the latest Escalades will be seen at Premier League grounds before too long, just as the previous models were.

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It was the V models of the ATS and CTS that were the most interesting, of course. Theoretically, rivals for the M3 and M5 respectively, and no doubt the American press will try to convince us that they are better than the European product, these cars certainly look good and the on paper stats are convincing enough, but they are likely to sell in single digit numbers in Europe.

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There were regular versions of both the CTS and ATS also displayed.

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Also shown was the ELR, which is really a Chevy Volt under the skin of a striking Cadillac Coupe bodyshell.

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The CK10 is Mercedes specialist Carlsson’s version of the new Smart Fortwo. Aerodynamic accents, 17″ alloys, lowered springs and a sports exhaust with four tailpipes mark the CK10 apart from the standard car. A wide range of leather and Alcantara options allow interior customisation, while the pedals, gearknob and handbrake lever are finished in aluminium. Prices are yet to be announced.

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Also on show were a number of Mercedes models.

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Three examples of the Corvette Stingray were here, including the thunderous Z06 version.

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My favourite current Citroen is the C4 Cactus, and there were several of this imaginative design on show, in an array of poster paint colours that so suit it. Although objectively not as good as a Passat, this is the car that should have won the Car of Year award, to my mind, as it is trying to do something a bit different from the mainstream. Included among the display cars was the concept Airflow model, which combines an efficient 2 litre diesel engine with a lot of careful aerodynamic modifications to be able to claim a fuel consumption of just 1 litre/100km.

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A Citroen that I don’t care for much is the C1, the new city car that launched last summer, and missed the spot by a long way compared to the Up! trio or the Korean alternatives.

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The stand also contained examples of the rest of the range, from C3 and recently updated C4 through the Picasso models to the C4 AirCross that we don’t get in the UK.

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Receiving a facelift was the Berlingo multivan, a popular utility vehicle. Identified by a new front end, the Berlingo also has new more efficient engines, a new 7″ touchscreen, Active City Brake and some new colour choices.

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Citroen’s WTCC challenger, the C4 Élysée was shown on one side of the stand.

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Nothing new from Dacia as far as I could tell, but a good grouping of all the current offerings: Sandero, Logan MCW, Duster, Dokker and Lodgy.

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Not a brand I’d even heard of. It only took a couple of minutes to deduce the country of origin, though. These vehicle all seemed to take their styling cues from European machines, and then apply Chinese levels of build quality and finish to them.

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Hong Kong-based DMC is German-owned but sells most of its embellished supercars and hypercars in the Far East. Modest performance hikes are offered, but the company’s focus is cosmetic modification, with kits shipped for local fitting. There were four cars on show included the pincer-nosed Lamborghini Huracán ‘Stage 2’ and carbon-riddled Aventador ‘Edizione GT’

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A small showing of the American cars that have not been rebranded as Lancia models for Europe included the latest Charger and Challenger cars, as well as the SRT10 (Viper) and a huge Ram 2500 Pickup.

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Citroen have now starting to separate the DS cars out into a stand-alone brand, which was always the plan, so that meant that there was a separate stand here, albeit positioned literally next to the parent company. Reminding us of the heritage of the DS name was a 1971 DS21 Pallas, which to my mind was the most desirable car on the stand, and by some margin.

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Receiving a significant update, including a new grille was the DS5, and several of these were on show.  Included among them was a concept version called Moon Dust, which featured new chrome exterior trim, a slightly reprofiled front grille and brown leather trim inside. Propulsion is from the same diesel-electric set up as in the Hybrid 4×4 DS5.

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The DS4 has also been mildly tweaked, though spotting the changes here will be more difficult.

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The DS3 models continue, in both closed and open topped guise, with several of them on show including the popular Racing version.

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Completing the DS presence was the Divine concept car.

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Specialist engineering firm EDAG previewed its latest vision of futuristic car construction with a concept dubbed ‘Light Cocoon’. This is another 3D-printed creation from the company, using similar ‘additive manufacturing’ construction techniques applied to the firm’s preceding concept – the Genesis – that was shown at last year’s Geneva motor show. Designers have used a leaf as their inspiration for the ‘ultimate, lightweight outer skin’. A weatherproof textile fabric made by outdoor clothing specialists Jack Wolfskin, and called ‘Texapore Softshell’, is stretched over the 3D-printed skeletal frame. The material reportedly weighs 19g per square metre and is four times lighter than standard copier paper. The skeleton and skin-like fabric is back-lit, illuminating the two-seater concept, which also features glass doors. EDAG’s head designer Johannes Barckmann states the lightweight concept is primarily designed to provide the necessary strength with the minimal amount of material required.

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There were no words on the stand to explain this. So I am not going to try, either.

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A stand with examples of the growing number of electric cars on sale now included the BMW i3 and the eGolf.

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It’s a home show for FAB, which is based not far from Zurich. Its two debutantes pack slight power upgrades but trade more heavily on cosmetic mods, answering demand from the Middle East, Far East and Russia. FAB’s take on the McLaren 650S Spider is the Vayu RPR Spider, whose embellishments include skirts, wings, front splitter, rear diffuser and three-piece 20in wheels. Choose all of its exterior options and, on top of your £215,250 650S, you’ll spend around the same as the £64,500 premium charged for the 675LT, revealed by McLaren a couple of halls away. Meanwhile, FAB Design’s ‘Esquire’ widebody package for the Mercedes S-Class Coupé overlays Stuttgart’s silky lines with a more aggressive aesthetic and wheel arches that are 30mm and 50mm deeper at the front and rear respectively. Excluding the show car’s forged 22in alloys and interior changes, the pack costs just over £30,000.

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The other cars on show are not “new”, although as one (thankfully) rarely sees these rather brash conversions in Western Europe, it would take a real expert to know that.

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There were large crowds around the perimeter of the Ferrari stand whenever you looked, and although some people were being allowed on for a closer look, we were not, so we had to assess the new 488GTB from a distance. There were a couple of them on show.  The hotly anticipated evolution of the 458 Italia, the 488GTB brings turbocharging into a modern-day, mid-engined V8 Ferrari supercar for the first time. The engine s completely new when compared with its V8 stablemate, not only in components but also in feel and character. It is a twin-turbocharged  3902cc unit whilst that in the California T is 3855cc. In the 488 GTB, it produces 660bhp at 8000rpm and 560lb ft at 3000rpm. Both outputs are significant increases over the normally aspirated 4.5-litre V8 used in the 458 Italia and 458 Speciale. This engine produces 562bhp at 9000rpm in the former and 597bhp at 9000rpm in the latter; the torque figure of 398lb ft at 6000rpm is the same in both cars. The outputs of the 488 GTB also eclipse its likely biggest rival, the McLaren 650S. The torque figure of the 488 GTB is such that it also exceeds the 509lb ft at 6000rpm of the normally aspirated V12 used in the range-topping Ferrari F12 Berlinetta. The mighty new engine in the 488 GTB drives the rear wheels through a revised seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox derived from the 458. It features a new ‘Variable Torque Management’ system which, Ferrari says, “unleashes the engine’s massive torque smoothly and powerfully right across the rev range”. The gear ratios are also tuned to “deliver incredibly progressive acceleration when the driver floors the throttle”. The 488 GTB can crack 0-62mph in just 3.0sec, 0-124mph in 8.4sec and reach a top speed of 205mph. Its 0-62mph and 0-124mph times match the McLaren 650S’s, but the Woking car’s top speed is slightly higher at 207mph. The engine also accounts for the ‘488’ element of the car’s name, because each of the engine’s eight cylinders is 488cc in capacity when rounded up. The GTB suffix, standing for Gran Turismo Berlinetta, is a hallmark of previous mid-engined V8 Ferraris such as the 308 GTB. Not only is the new turbo engine more potent than the 4.5-litre V8 from the 458 Italia, but it is also more economical. Combined fuel economy is rated at 24.8mpg, compared with 21.2mpg in the 458 Italia, and CO2 emissions are 260g/km – a 47g/km improvement. Ferrari’s HELE engine stop-start system features on the 488 GTB. Developments on the dynamic side include a second generation of the Side Slip Angle Control system, called SSC2. This allows the driver to oversteer without intruding, unless it detects a loss of control. The SSC2 now controls the active dampers, in addition to the F1-Trac traction control system and E-Diff electronic differential. Ferrari says the result is “more precise and less invasive, providing greater longitudinal acceleration out of corners” and flatter, more stable behaviour during “complex manoeuvres”. Learnings from the Ferrari XX programme have also been incorporated into the 488 GTB, something that Ferrari says allows all drivers and not just professionals, to make the most of its electronic and vehicle control systems. It also claims the 488 GTB is “the most responsive production model there is”, with responses comparable to a track car. The 488 GTB has lapped Ferrari’s Fiorano test track in 1min 23sec – two seconds faster than the 458 Italia, and half a second quicker than the 458 Speciale. The dimensions of the 488 GTB – it is 4568mm in length, 1952mm in width and 1213mm in height – closely match the 458 Italia from which it has evolved. Its dry weight is 1370kg when equipped with lightweight options – 40kg more than the McLaren 650S. The new look, styled at the Ferrari Styling Centre, features several new aerodynamic features that improve downforce and reduce drag. Most notable is the addition of active aerodynamics at the rear through a ‘blown’ rear spoiler, where air is channelled from the base of the glass engine cover under the spoiler. This contributes to the 50% increase in downforce over the 458 Italia. Also new is a double front spoiler, an aerodynamic underbody, a large air intake at the front that references the 308 GTB, a diffuser with active flaps, new positioning for the exhaust flaps and new-look lights. The interior has been redesigned to be made more usable, including new switchgear, air vents and instrument panel. The multi-function steering wheel remains, while the infotainment system gets a new interface and graphics. The car goes into production late this year after the last 458 Italia models have been made in the summer. Pricing has not yet been revealed, but expect an increase over the £178,851 of the 458 Italia.

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Also displayed were the FF, the recently revised California T and a F12 Berlinetta.

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The 500X is the big news at Fiat. Most seem to agree that the lines of this one work rather than better than the 500L, and by all accounts it drives pretty nicely, too. It enters a burgeoning sector of the market, so let’s hope that it serves Fiat well as they need volume selling models that are bigger and can generate more profit than the regular 500.

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That said, the regular 500 continues to sell very strongly, recording its best year ever in 2014, which is remarkable for what is now an 8 year old model. A couple of these were on show, with the limited edition model that pays homage to the Nuova 500 joined by a 500C in S trim and a particularly attractive shade of blue.

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The third generation Panda is now selling well, and the 4×4 models continue to prove popular offering lots of practicality for not a lot of money. There was a Cross version on show.

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Although the looks may not be to everyone’s taste, the 500L is actually finding buyers, too. This is a practical and roomy car, and the one I drove last year endeared itself to me, in a funny sort of way.  There was no sign of the 7 seater MPW version here, but there were a regular and a Trekking version of the 5 seater to look at

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The Freemont is based on the US market Dodge Journey and offers plenty of space for those who want a big family car.

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There were plenty of reasons to visit the expansive Ford stand, and one of the best ones was nothing to do with a car. Very kindly, Ford were serving free cups of coffee from their Vignale lounge, with the added bonus of plenty of seating upstairs, and also some padded cushions on the large stepped area from which also sprouted a series of adapters and connectors to allow for battery recharging not just of the person but the electronic devices as well. Accordingly, we paid a number of visits over the 2 days. There was a Vignale badged car there, too, to look at. To you and me, this is a Mondee Estate with Vignale badging, and no matter how hard Ford try to persuade us otherwise, it is going to be almost impossible to persuade people that it is anything any more premium than that, not matter how plush it is.

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Sitting on those steps also gave us a view of one of the Stars of the Show. A complete surprise for the Detroit Show back in January, Ford’s GT was making its European debut. The billboards outside might have been changed from reading “LaFord”, a reminder of the fact that the original GT40 was produced by the Blue Oval as a riposte to their failed attempt to buy out Enzo back in the mid 1960s, but there was no denying the fact that this was a crowd puller par excellence. I thought it very impressive, with lots of lovely and carefully thought through design details. Ford’s challenge now is to get it into “production”, following the extremely positive reception it has enjoyed, and we are told that this will happen in 2016. Can’t wait!

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An exciting Ford that you can buy sooner than that will be the Focus RS. The car that they said they would not build, Ford relented once again, and have created the ultimate Focus for the last couple of years of production of the current model. Whilst appealing far more than Honda’s Civic Type R, with which it competes, this one did not quite do it for me.

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If you want a different sort of performance Ford, then later this year. the Mustang will be offered officially for sale across Europe. Coupe and Convertible models will be on sale, and there will be a choice of the 4 cylinder Ecoboost engine or the stonking 5 litre V8 and examples of these variants were shown here. It will be fascinating to see how well this car sells. It could do well, or it could be something we all thought we wanted, but don;t actually part with money for (like the Toyota/Subaru Gt86/BRZ). I hope it is the former.

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Another US-sourced model that will reach Europe as part of the One Ford program is the Edge. An SUV that will sit above the Kuga in the range, there was a single example of this shown on a turntable. Personally, I prefer the looks of the first generation model which we did not see in Europe, this one looking a bit off from some angles, but it is likely to drive well, and could find a ready market even though it will be far from short of rivals.

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No doubting the commercial success of the Fiesta, now quite an old design, but still looking fresh and selling well. The much lauded ST model was here, as were the Black and Red versions that came out as “warm” hatches last year.

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The revised Focus finally hit the streets at the turn of the year, and there is no doubt that the new front end tidies things up somewhat. The simplified minor control layout is welcome, too. A number of models were on show including the latest ST and the new diesel powered ST in Estate form.

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Also finally available is the Mondeo, following a long delay whilst the Valencia plant was retooled to build it. Mondeo sales are a fraction of what they used to be, as the market for cars this large – and it is a big car – without a premium badge continues to shrink, but to my eyes this is a good looking car, and it deserves to do well. It should certainly outsell the Insignia, though chances are that it probably will not, which seems unjust.

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There are plenty more launches to come from Ford in 2015. There was no sign of the facelifted C-Max which was first shown at Paris, but there was an example of the new S-Max mounted high on a turntable.

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The EcoSport was launched in the UK last year and it received a very critical press, who felt it fell short of the mark in many ways. Ford have worked on addressing what they can, with a better quality (so they say!) interior, changes to the suspension set up and the removal of the spare wheel from the tailgate. The changes will be phased in over the coming months and should make the car that bit more competitive.

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Completing the SUV/Crossover part of the range was an example of the Kuga.

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The Ranger pick up had a prominent position in the middle of the stand. Behind it, on the wall was a Formula Ford racing car.

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Volkswagen-owned design house ItalDesign Giugiaro unveiled an Audi-style autonomous electric luxury saloon called the GEA. With a length of 5370mm, it is 235mm longer than an Audi A8. Powered by four electric motors, two at the front and two at the back, there is a combined power output of 764 bhp. The car is made from lightweight materials that include aluminium, carbon fibre and magnesium, so it weighs just over 2000 kg. Notable features include massive 60 spoke 26″ wheels, each milled from a solid block, and slim light clusters using Audi laserlight and LED technology. Access to the rear seats is through suicide doors, and there are no B pillars further improving access.

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Yet another German entrant, Hamann sells in the UK via Scuderia Systems in Surrey. Its Porsche Macan S was one of the most overtly modified cars at the show, with a striking body kit, paint job and interior and lowered suspension. The car’s power hike is relatively modest at 41bhp, achieved via a tweaked ECU and a sports exhaust claimed to produce V8-aping sounds via actuators and the interior speaker system. Similar tweaks boost power in Hamann’s BMW M4 by 85bhp. Recalling the E92 M3 GTS, it has lots of aero kit including a composite rear wing, while the Swabian tuner has attempted its own ‘art car’ finish with the help of Hamburg cartoonist Timo Wuerz. Only slightly less dramatic is Hamann’s take on the latest BMW X6 – seen here in M50d form – which sports swollen arches and a bulging carbonfibre bonnet, while the company’s new Aventador Roadster ‘Limited’ reprises the 750bhp coupé it revealed last year and pips Lamborghini’s new Aventador SV by 10bhp and 35lb ft.

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Honda has been struggling to find its way in recent years. It all seemed to go wrong when Honda shifted their focus from producing engineering-led technical marvels that appealed to the enthusiast and headed down the route of trying to out-do Toyota with a series of unbelievably bland machines, some blessed with rather odd styling in a futile effort to try to give them some visual interest. Sales have tanked right across Europe. There’s a wealth of new product coming in 2015 which aims to redress some of this. Two of the new cars are a deliberate return to sectors, albeit very niche in sales terms, that Honda once occupied. Of these, the more costly one is the long awaited new NS-X. Shown in concept form for many years, we finally have the production model, complete with its hybrid propulsion system twin charged V6 and a nine speed dual clutch transmission, and I have to confess to being rather disappointed with the result. For me, it just does not get close to the “wow” that was engendered even just by looking at the first such car to bear the name when it launched in 1989 and gave Ferrari and Porsche such a wake-up call. They’re all sold out, so unless those who have put their deposits down in eager anticipation actually pull out, Honda need not worry so much, but I fear that this model will not be the halo for the brand like its predecessor was.

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That puts a lot more pressure on the other sporting newcomer, the Civic Type R. Long in development, as Honda tried to ensure that it would be “Number One” in all objective measures, such as power, torque and Nurburgring lap time what has been released is a 2 litre turbo car with a standard manual gearbox and with 309 bhp at its disposal, this is the most powerful front wheel drive car ever. You can be sure that all that time on the ‘Ring and elsewhere will mean that it is not bad to drive, at least on track, though Honda is claiming that they have addressed the problems of the crashy ride that beset the last Type R. Even so,  I could not live with the looks, which combine in yer-face boy-racer with rather wacky, and the interior has plenty of unbelievably cheap looking touches. Perfect for those who used to drive Mitsubishi Evo’s, no doubt, but the chances of luring anyone out of the German rivals are approximately zero I would guess.

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What probably will sell will be the new Jazz. This one has been a long time coming, as the Japanese version was launched almost two years ago, and the US market model (called Fit) went on sale in summer 2014. What we get appears little different. Something has been lost as the model has evolved, but I gather this is deliberate, as the intent was for it to appear less boxy. It is still decently roomy inside, but I can’t see this one making much in the way of conquest sales.

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Conquest sales are very much something in mind for the HR-V, though. A small cross-over design, that shares much with the Jazz, this is Honda’s rather late entrant into a segment which appeared from nowhere a few years ago and is now an imporant part of the market. Worthy but dull sums up my opinion of this one.

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Also on show were the recently facelifted versions of the Civic and CR-V.

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Honda had their second generation FCV fuel cell hydrogen-powered concept on the stand. less wacky looking than the Toyota Mirai which was across the hall (which you will be able to drive later this year), this presages something coming from Honda in a couple of years time. Hmm.

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One corner of the stand contained the McLaren-Honda Formula 1 car, new for 2015.

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Such is the pace of model refresh at Hyundai that the Tucson, successor to the ix35 was making its debut here, just 5 years after the names had been swapped over to (for European models) the “i” based nomenclature. Stylistically, there is a clear link to the larger and much lauded Santa Fe, and the return to the Tucson name is the clue that this car will be sold worldwide with only local market adaptations. European market cars, which will be built in the Czech Republic, will come with a choice of two petrol and three diesel engines, the former both 1,6 litre in normally aspirated and turbo guises, the latter in 1,7 and two tunes of 2.0 guise. The last of these will be offered with 4 wheel drive. Although there were Plug-in Hybrid models shown on the stand, these are prototypes and have not yet been confirmed for production.

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The mid-sized i30 has just received a mild facelift, as well as gaining a higher powered  183 bhp 1.6 litreTurbo car. Example of the Hatch and Estate were on show.

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Joining them were the recently unveiled i20, which now gains a 3 door model, which Hyundai call a Coupe.

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The large Genesis, in second generation form, is poised to go on sale across Europe. Not expected to sell in large quantities, thanks in no small part to the fact that it is only offered with a petrol engine, and its £48,000 price tag, it is nevertheless a significant statement as to just how far this Korean marque has come.

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Also shown were the established i10, ix20, i40 (sporting mild updates) and Santa Fe models as well as Fuel Cell version of the ix35.

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The i20 WRC rally car was in a prominent position on the front of the stand.

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Infiniti sales in Europe are still paltry, thanks to a combination of the products they offer still having too high a CO2 rating to make them appeal, and the lack of dealers. All that could change when a duo of smaller cars appear in the coming months, with both a regular hatch and a crossover, sharing much with the Mercedes A Class. A concept version of the second of these, the QX30 was shown here. With the exception of details such as the gaping front air vents, the air blade roof bars and 21″ wheels, which will be toned down, this is very close to the look of the production car, which can be expected some time in 2016, a few months after the launch of the Q30.

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A second concept featured on the stand, the Q60 Coupe, a likely replacement for the much loved G37 (latterly Q60) Coupe. Taking its styling cues from the Q50 saloon that first appeared a couple of year ago, this one loses it for me on looks alone, just as the transition from G37 to Q50 seemed like a miss.

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There were examples of the rest of the range on display as well, of course: Q50 and Q70 saloons and the QX50 and QX70 Crossovers.

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Having failed to get a close-up of the XE at the Paris Show I was really looking forward to seeing one from the inside here. There were a couple of cars open for inspection as well as one on a turntable. First observation, as I started off in the back, as this it is indeed that bit tighter than the German rivals. Someone sitting behind me would not have a problem, but when the front seats are set well back, then this not quite spacious enough. From the driver’s seat, things are also quite snug, but that’s no bad thing. the quality looked well up to par to me. The acid test will be what it is like to drive, and that I would hope to find out before too long.

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The stand also contained a couple of the stunning F Type models, one with the newly available AWD system.

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An XJ and an XF completed the lineup.

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Jeep has benefitted from new investment since the Fiat acquisition, and new models are now in the range with much improved interiors, long one of the really weak points on the product, improving their competitiveness. Last of the Mercedes-based models is the Grand Cherokee, a luxurious off-roader that has plenty of appeal, especially the top spec Hemi engined model, which has a 6.4 litre V8 engine which generates a massive 470 bhp.

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The Cherokee is proving more popular than I had imagined, with its distinctive profile being seen on our roads quite a lot, despite a very damning review by Autocar who castigated one of their test cars in just about every respect giving it one of the lowest ratings of the year.

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The smaller Renegade is just going on sale. Sharing its underpinnings with the Fiat 500X, though I doubt you would ever guess, it could do well, though the pricing looks a bit ambitious.

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The classic Wrangler was also on display, though few of these find European buyers.

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Another of the modification brigade, Kahn specialise in Land Rover based products and they had a number of examples of what they can offer on display. Most interest was perhaps generated by the Defender based 6 wheel Huntsman, a monster powered by a 430 bhp 6.3 litre GM LS3 V8 engine. To accommodate the new powertrain, the Defender body and chassis have been stretched by about 400mm, with the extra length inserted between the windscreen and front wheels. The ‘105’ designation refers to the Huntsman’s lengthened wheelbase. Suspension and braking systems have been upgraded to cope with the hike in power. The car is also fitted with the company’s Defender wide-arch body kit. The Huntsman is expected to cost about £150,000.

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By contrast some of the other models on show were almost restrained!

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Centrepiece of the Kia stand was a concept which is said to be very close to a planned Estate version of the next Optima, the SportsSpace. This is yet another concept Kia to which the response is “just build it”. I thought it looked absolutely fantastic.

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Not that any of the rest of the range are anything other than good looking. Peter Schreyer really has transformed the styling of this Korean brand, with the result that they have one of the best looking and most cohesive ranges of any on sale. Newest production car is the third generation Sorento, one of which was in the back corner of the stand.

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A mild facelift for the small Picanto was announced a few weeks ago. Key among the changes are redesigned front and rear bumpers, optional 14″ alloy wheels and an upgraded version of Kia’s ‘Tiger Nose’ grille design. An optional sport pack is also available. Inside, Kia has upgraded the Picanto’s infotainment system with a larger 7.0″ touchscreen, available from Q3 this year. Other changes to the interior include new chrome accents, new upholstery options and a redesigned fascia. New options include cruise control and a speed limiter. Three new interior colour packs are designed to help owners personalise their car and bring features such as leather seats and footwell illumination. Mechanical updates include larger optional front brakes – 252mm compared to the standard 241mm – as well as small modifications to the Picanto’s 1.0-litre petrol engine to meet Euro 6 emissions legislation.

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A similar freshening was applied to the Rio, and Venga last autumn.

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There were several of the mid-sized Cee’d models on show, including the 3 door pro-Cee’d and the Estate. Following the GT versions that were launched last year, Kia are now addiing GT Line cars to the range. These have the new 1.0 litre T-GDi engine and a seven speed dual clutch automatic gearbox, as well as a handful of cosmetic upgrades. They go on sale late this year. Will the press care? Although the versions you can buy now look particularly appealing, they seem largely ignored by the British press (apart from Evo magazine who have a Long Termer GT which they rather like).

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The Carens is a pretty decent car these days, too. Looking better than the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer, it is also thousands of pounds cheaper.

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The Sportage is next up for replacement, even though the current and well received car has only been around for 5 years.

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Finally, there was an EV version of the funky Soul.

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Swedish maker Koenigsegg had three cars on their stand, one of which was all new, the Regera. The first hybrid model from the firm, it is powered by a combination of a V8 engine and three electric motors, one on each rear wheel and one on the crankshaft. Output from the 5 litre twin tubo engine is rated at 1085 bhp at 7800 rpm, but add in the 697bhp from the electric motors, and you get a total of 1782 bhp and 1549 lb/ft. That makes it the most powerful production car in existence, beating the P1, LaFerrari and 918 Spyder quite comfortably. The large rear spoiler contributes to a downforce of 450 kg at 155 mph. The model sits on 19″ carbon fibre wheels at the front and 20″ at the back and features ventilated carbon-ceramic brake disc all round. Although it is not referred to as a traditional hybrid, it odes feature a new Koenigsegg Direct Drive transmission that can reduce energy losses by up to 50% compared to conventional transmissions. Just 80 examples will be made.

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Joining it were the early CC8S and the latest RS version of the Agera. More track focused than the “regular” Agera, it boasts upgraded bodywork, active aerodynamics and more power.

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Taking centre stage on Lamborghini’s expansive and raised stand was the new SV version of the Aventador. At its heart is a 6.5 litre V12 that produces 740 bhp, 49 bhp more than the standard car, thanks to optimised variable valve timing and intake systems. Together with a 50 kg weight reduction and improved aerodynamics, the 0 – 62 time is cut by 0.1 second to 2.8 seconds, and the top speed is quoted as being more than 217 mph. The SV retains the 7 speed automated manual gearbox, but has a newly engineered exhaust system, which can play a wide variety of “music”. The weight reduction comes from more use of carbon fibre including the engine bay cover, rear wing, interior door panels, bucket sports seats and air intakes. Some noise insulation and carpets are removed. The stripped out interior features a woven carbon-fibre fabric to trim the seats and other parts, called Carbon Skin. The SV is likely to cost around £300,000.

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Straddling it on either side were examples of the Huracan. I am sure that further, and wilder versions of this commercially significant car will join the launch model before long. What we have for now is a car that looks almost a bit too “un-wild” to be a Lamborghini. and which certainly – based on my experience at the Queens Square Breakfast Club event just a few days prior – sounds innocuous at idle (until you press the loud pedal, that is!). I still think it is a great looking car, and it would seem that the Audi touches under the skin have made it rather easier to live with even than the Gallardo that it replaced.

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Final car on the stand was another Aventador. This one was a Spider, and had a number of optional styling adornments which were not too my taste, which comprise the Pirelli Edition.

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With just one model in the range, the little Ypsilon, Lancia had no need of a large stand, and indeed they did not get one. Three examples were on show.

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Lots to see on the Land Rover part of the JLR stand, and all of it impressive. Highlight for me, I think, was the SVR version of the Range Rover Sport. Looking very striking in its bright blue paintwork, the idea of a large SUV that drives like a fast sports car has plenty of appeal. First revealed some time ago, I had thought that we would have seen press drives of the car by now, as its on sale date is imminent. I expect it to be very positively received. Certainly as a static object, it hits the spot.

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That is the case for the regular model and the traditional Range Rover, too. There was a Hybrid LWB version of the latter, and it is sumptuous inside, feeling every bit as luxurious as cars like the Mercedes S Class with which is (sort of) competes.

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This was another chance to see the new Discovery Sport, a vehicle which is just going on sale. It is a roomy and nicely finished machine, which looks good. It was nice to see the model in brighter colours than the greys which have dominated the publicity photos to date.

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Tucked away at the back of the stand were a couple of Defenders. With the model ceasing production at the end of this year, except plenty of “last hurrahs” from this long running and much loved model. Certainly the pale green was so popular that I failed to get a picture of it.

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Sadly, I also failed to get a picture of the facelifted Evoque.


Ah, Lexus. What can I say? Whilst sales of this Japanese brand continue to be strong in the US, every move that they make shows either that they don’t understand or don’t care about Europe, or both. Cracking the German strangle hold on the premium market was never going to be easy, but putting awkward looking grilles on their cars, as they did with the latest IS saloon was never going to do anything other than turn off far more buyers than it attracted.

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And adding more creases than in a badly folded up shirt, with lines and angles that go beyond bold to the point of people wondering the car has been crashed, as they have done with the NX might have worked if the car underneath was brilliant to drive. By all accounts it is not. The new NX200t, with a 2 litre turbo engine was here as well as the 300h hybrid model that was launched last autumn.

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With the stonking 5 litre V8 engine, that much at least was promised by the RC-F, even if the looks are also worse than challenging. But by all accounts the car is nothing like as good as a BMW M4 or an Audi RS5. A less potent RC300h was also shown.

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So that should leave Lexus in their sweet spot, with cars like the RX, which is nicely built, practical, and well that bit dull, but easy to own.

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But no, Lexus seem to have decided that all the recent offerings are such a success, that they need to go further and they give us this……… admittedly it is only a concept, the LF-SA. What on earth were they thinking? That plastic grille is just ridiculous and the rest of the lines are equally comic. This is a surprisingly small car, less than 3.4m long, though apparently it could seat 4 people. If they seriously want to evaluate whether to offer something smaller than then rather humdrum CT model, which is apparently the exam question they were trying to answer, then showing this is a funny way of trying to get the answer.

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Not that their other displayed concept, the LF-C2 was exactly nice to look at, either. Lexus claim that this one shows their “devotion to emotional designs”. Not all emotions are good, I hope they realise!

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Other cars on show included the LS600h, and the brand new GS-F, a car which on paper rivals the M5 and E63AMG, but which in reality, I suspect will struggle to find more than a handful of buyers. It’s not as if the regular GS sells more than a token few hundred cars a year across the whole of Europe.

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Three cars on the Lotus stand: Elise, Exige and Evora. The last of these was the newly announced Evora 400, the fastest production model ever built and the first fruit of a sales and product push masterminded by the new boss, Jean-Marc Gales. The 400 tag comes from the fact that this car has 16% more power from its Toyota-sourced 3.5 litre V6 thanks to a bigger supercharger and a more efficient intercooler, changes to the engine management system, and a three inch exhaust pipe with a driver activated valve which reduces back pressure at higher speeds, all of which allows the unit to generate 400 bhp. Apparently, 60% of the parts in the car are new, with revised nose and tail styling and a completely redesigned cabin, with narrower and lower cabin sills making it easier to get in and out. There are also major modifications to the extruded chassis tub. Kerb weight reduces by 22kg. The first production cars are expected in the summer.

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Also shown was a 220 Cup S version of the Elise and the latest Exige V6.

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Global automotive supplier Magna International showed a new two-seat hybrid sports car, named MILA Plus, the latest in a line of MILA-badged concepts to be shown by the company, and a showcase for Magna’s capabilities, specifically its advanced technologies and flexible manufacturing processes with a focus on eco-friendliness. MIILA Plus is based on an extruded aluminium space frame, chosen over a steel structure for its lower weight, structural flexibility and ability to accommodate different driveline configurations. The modular body-in-white concept also allows the use of components and systems from large-series production, thus enabling improved manufacturing efficiency and flexibility for global automakers. The car’s high-voltage battery pack is integrated into the space frame in order to increase structural rigidity. The MILA Plus, which weighs 1520kg, is clothed in what Magna refers to as “a multi-material external skin”. This includes lightweight plastic body panels, which are used due to their corrosion resistance and styling flexibility. The body-in-white is constructed using cold mechanical joining, a process that is more cost-effective than traditional welding and has been used on other vehicles Magna has been involved with, including the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG and Aston Martin Rapide. The car’s plug-in hybrid system comprises a three-cylinder petrol engine and two electric motors. One is mounted between the internal combustion engine and transmission and drives the rear axle, and the other drives the electric-only front axle.The overall power figure is put at 268bhp with peak torque rated at 428lb ft. The Plus is capable of accelerating from 0-62mph in 4.9sec. Magna claims the car can cover 46 miles on electric power alone and achieves CO2 emissions of 32g/km. The aluminium body-in-white is recyclable and the interior uses renewable materials such as bioplastics and natural fibres. Two cameras replace the exterior mirrors, not only to improve the car’s aerodynamics but also to provide wide-angle, high-resolution live images shown on two display screens inside the vehicle, helping to minimise blind spots. The MILA Plus is 4403mm long, 1925mm wide and 1250mm high, and has a wheelbase of 2575mm. Those dimensions make it a similar size to a Lotus Evora, which has the same wheelbase. The MILA Plus has 360 litres of luggage space.

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Despite stiff competition, Swiss-German outfit Mansory once again delivered some of the most outrageous vehicles on show in Geneva, with the help of copious carbonfibre and some committed under-bonnet tampering. The ‘Sahara Edition’ Mercedes G63 AMG uses revised pistons, con rods, bearings, crank, cylinder heads and exhaust manifold to boost power from 529bhp to a claimed 817bhp. Its bodywork – largely rebuilt in carbonfibre – sits 40mm wider than before at the arches, and the bespoke interior features camouflage and spread-wing graphics throughout. Similar modification formulae are applied to the 971bhp ‘Diamond Edition’ S-class Coupé, the ‘lightweight’ Bentley Continental GT-based ‘Race GT’ and the ‘Torofeo’ Lamborghini Huracán, which is capable of reaching 62mph in 2.7sec. The latter two are each claimed to offer around 1000bhp.

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Nothing new from Maserati this year, and no sign of the Alfieri concept that starred at numerous shows during Maserati’s centenary year. That meant a stand which contained a number of examples of the Ghibli, a Quattroporte and one of each of the GranTurismo and GranCabrio, the latter in MC Stradale guise complete with carbon fibre bonnet.

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I’ve said it many times in recent years, and as the model range evolves, it only seems to become ever more true, by some margin, Mazda has the most appealing looking range of all the Japanese brands, which combine some very crisp styling with driving dynamics which are also among the best in their class. There’s not an unattractive car in this range, and the latest models continue that trend. Of these, the new MX5 is the one which was attracting the most attention. The fourth generation car returns to the roots of this much loved design, eschewing the trend for making every successive design larger and heavier than what went before. It is still some months before European spec cars go on sale, but the press reports from a few weeks ago suggest that this will be a fun car to drive, and is likely to be much in demand from not just the marque faithful, but also those who strayed away from the NB and NC cars.

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Going on sale before that will be the CX3, Mazda’s entry in the small cross-over market. Compare this with the Honda HR-V which will hit the market at around the same time, and you can see the contrast between what good and what dull looks like. To my mind, this goes straight to the top of the class, trumping such cars as the Mokka, the Captur and the 2008 by a country mile.

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Even before that, Mazda’s new supermini should reach us. I was a big fan of the outgoing 2, which I thought was the best looking car in the class, and which drove very nicely as well, in a “back to basics” way, with a refreshing honesty that was no smothered in gewgaws and fripperies. This one is also a looker, and has a much higher quality interior to help it to crack this highly competitive segment.

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The 6 and CX5, now the oldest designs in the range, have both recently received mild facelifts, with mechanical changes joining some interior upgrades which try to keep up with the ever rising standards being set. Both are absolutely the best looking cars in their class, and the new insides are welcome, too.

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The 3 has been on sale for just over a year now, and it is still quite a rare sight on our roads, which does not seem fair, as to my mind, it is infinitely preferable to many of the big sellers, such as the Ford Focus. Proof that the market does not always vote for merit.

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Last year I was lucky enough to get access onto McLaren’s large stand for a close up inspection of the displayed cars, and what a treat it was, with both a P1 and the legendary F1 on show as well as the then newly unveiled 650S models. It was going to be hard to top that, I thought, until it became apparent that as well as the much discussed P1 GTR, a treat in its own right, there would be a new version of the 650S car, with a Long |tail to be called the 675LT. But McLaren went one better than all that, and for me, the star of their stand, and indeed the whole show was an F1 GT Longtail. Just three of these cars were made, so that McLaren could field similarly long tailed F1 GTRs on the race track. Of the three, one lives in Japan, one in Brunei and this one does reside in the UK. It is Ron Dennis’ personal car, never seen outside the UK before, and apparently even he took some persuading to ship it over. I am glad he agreed, as it is just utterly stunning. It would also have been the most valuable car present. With a “regular” F1 likely to fetch between £8 – 10 milliion, then this must be a contender for the world’s most expensive car, were one of those three owners ever to sell up.

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First seen in concept form at Pebble Beach last August, the show marked the first appearance of the final form of the P1 GTR. This is the ultimate track-only incarnation of the P1 hypercar, and it boasts plenty of changes over the road car. The twin turbo 3.8 litre V8 unit produces 789 bhp, up from 727 bhp and the electric motor is now 197 bhp rather than 176 bhp, giving a combined total of 986 bhp, up from 903 bhp. Weight has been saved wherever possible by removing features designed specifically for road use. There are plenty of aerodynamic changes, of which the large rear wing is the most striking, sitting 100mm higher than the adjustable one on the road car at its highest setting. Working in conjunction with flaps in front of the front wheels, this produces 10% more downforce than the road car, 660 kg at 150 mph. The weight saving features across the car make it 50kg lighter than the road car, some of which comes from the use of motorsport spec polycarbonate side windows, carbon fibre panels for the roof and engine cover and twin exhaust pipes made from an inconel and titanium alloy. Offered for sale only to the 375 existing P1 road car owners (almost all of whom have now have their cars, by the way, with the final ones likely to be complete by June), the purchase price of £1.98 million includes entry to the McLaren P1 Driver Program which includes a profiling session for bespoke seat fitting, a design and livery consultation and a go in McLaren’s simulator.

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This marked the first appearance of the new 675 LT (for Long Tail), a car which at a likely £65,000 premium over the regular 650S cars sits in the “Super” part of the range (P1s are in the “Ultimate” collection). Those who thought that the 675LT might look little different from the “regular” 650S, with a simple elongation of the rear end have underestimated the engineers at Woking, as the 675LT has a style and appearance all of its own, with lots of different detailing to distinguish it from the standard car, with carbon fibre wings and twin circular titanium exhaust pipes exposed at the rear deck to improve cooling, sitting above a new bumper and diffuser both made from carbon fibre. At the front there is a larger carbon fibre splitter and new front bumper design, aimed at improving cooling and downforce.  Designed to be far more track focused than the 650S, it contains many elements aimed at improving handling and performance. The biggest difference to the way it feels is apparently down to 100kg reduction in weight, but it does also contain a significantly modified 666 bhp version of the 650S’ twin turbo 3.8 litre V8. 50% of engine parts are new, including the turbos, camshafts and connecting rods, along with detailed revisions to the cylinder heads and manifolds. As a consequence, the 0-60 time is reduced to 2.9 seconds, 0.1 seconds less than the 650S, though the top speed is slightly reduced due to the extra drag of the aerodynamic pack. 500 examples will be built, and it is expected that they will be sold out within weeks, many already being spoken for.

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There were examples of the 650S, both in Coupe and Spider guises, on show as well.

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We managed to get a close up view from on the stand, as, sure enough, all we had to do, was ask, and we were welcomed on he stand, and then given a guided tour, pausing at each model. I can tell you that the “P13” will be launched at new York, but everyone was very tight lipped about what it will be called, and all we could glean is that it will look “like a McLaren” with clear family ressemblence. After about 40 minutes, when we responded to a question about the origins of McLaren, in CanAm racing, the gent we were talking to then said that the daughter of the eponymous founder. Bruce, was on the stand, and would we like to meet her. You don’t get chances like that very often! So, we spend another 20 – 30 minutes talking to Amanda McLaren. She joined the company last November, as a Brand Ambassador, for the Road Car division, having decided to leave her native New Zealand and come to the UK. Her husband joined the company soon before she did. She was utterly charming, and clearly very knowledgeable about the company, its history, its cars and drivers.

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To be honest, we could probably have talked to her for the rest of the day. But when we realised that we had been at the show for 90 minutes and still only seen 2 stands, it was time to take some more photos, and then to move on.


Mercedes had a huge stand, right next door to arch rival BMW. It was also very busy, not least because the staff were dispensing welcome cups of water for free in an area at the back which housed two of the nicest cars on show, AMG versions of the latest S Coupe and the new C63 in Estate guise.

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Just round the corner from that was an example of the AMG GT Coupe. An elegant looking car, due on sale very soon, this could and should do very well in the market.

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A line of cars with hybrid and electric engines showed the number of such versions that are now in the Mercedes range, with the all electric B Class as well as the hybrid W205 based C Class and W222 S Class. More will follow. Stretching things a bit was the inclusion of the championship winning Formula 1 car.

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Newest body style in the Mercedes range is the GLE Coupe. Sad to say but this is as gross and vulgar in the metal as the pictures suggested. A clear riposte to the BMW X6, sales of which exceeded all expectations, I have no doubt that it will find a ready market, but it is not for me. I can report that the inside is far nicer than the out, and that despite the sloping rear roof, there is ample head room in the back.

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That’s not an attribute shared by the CLA. The Estate version, called Shooting Brake, was making its debut here, and it is is just as hard to get in the back, thanks to the curvature of the doors and the low roof line as is the case with the saloon, and once installed  there is no more space. A style-led Estate car, with appeal for those who like the looks and can afford the ambitious price tags.

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A couple of the Mercedes-Maybach cars were in a walled off display area, with the extra long wheelbase Pullman making its first appearance alongside the “regular” model. At 6499mm long, 1046mm longer than the regular Maybach, most of the extra goes into the wheelbase, which means that there is either space for a four seater vis-a-vis layout or a conventional two seat layout and an acre of space. Not perhaps as elegant as you might hope with those extra inches inserted, though I am sure it will be superlative to ride in. It needs to be, as the car is tipped to cost around £375,000.

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There were plenty of examples of the rest of the range, with A, B, C, E, CLS and S Class cars dispersed across the stand.

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A separate line up contained the SUVs, starting with the GLA and going through the soon to be replaced GLK, the ML (which will mutate into the GLE at facelift time), the gargantuan GL and the long-lived G, seen here in the bonkers AMG G63 trim.

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This V Class based model was billed as a concept, featuring a hybrid powerplant as well as lots of different trim and fittings.

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Representing Mercedes’ heritage was this fabulous 300SL Mille Miglia car.

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Surprisingly, considering that MINI started to roll out the 3rd generation models a year ago, there were no further models premiered here, even though the latest Convertible and the Clubman are both supposed to be imminent. That meant that the only car that was being cited as “new” was a Park Lane version of the established Countryman. The changes are all cosmetic, with new colours and interior trims. It will be offered with a choice of four engines and front or all wheel drive.

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The rest of the stand contained examples of some of the other available body styles with 3 and 5 door versions of the regular MINI, also shown in JCW form, as well as the Paceman.

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Japanese maker Mitsubishi has a rather odd range at present, with a scattering of models that don’t exactly link together to give the brand faithful a path to go up (or down) the range. At the top end of the range are the Crossover/SUV vehicles, and it is the latest Outlander which has helped to boost the brand’s overall sales, with the PHEV version doing particularly well. Several of these were on show including an Asian rally version.

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At the other end of the scale comes the iMIEV, an all electric city car that looks quite distinctive but which as well as now being quite an old design is also rather pricey.

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Pricey is not the word for the SpaceStar and Attrage models, which are cheap and look it. Intended primarily for the Asian market, where they are built, these cars have very limited appeal in Europe, although we were amused to find one (elderly) couple clearly trying to decide between the two, impressed by both.

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Although deleted from the UK range some time ago, the Lancer remains on sale in some markets, and the Liftback version was displayed here. This was never a particularly good car, but it is well out of its depth now.

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The latest L200 pickup, the vehicle that accounts for 25% of the brands total sales globally, was presented on a plinth at the back of the stand. Mechanical changes include revised 2.4 litre diesel engines generating either 151 or 178 bhp, along with a new six speed manual box and a plusher cabin. It follows the current trend for more brash “in your face” front end styling, but will doubtless sell well to those who have bought its predecessor.

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Shown alongside it was a concept, the XR-PHEV II, which is said to hint at the next generation ASX. Hmm! Though the looks are a bit odd, the technology is impressive. With a plug-in hybridy system designed for front-engined front wheel drive models, and a high output electric motor, its claimed that the system emits just 40 g/km and produced 160 bhp.

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Morgan promised us something new for this show, and they did not disappoint. Dusting off the Aero 8 name, last seen on a model that shocked the Morgan traditionalists when it first appeared in 2001. This one shares the front end with the much lauded AeroMax designs, but has a completely different back end. Standard equipment is a soft top, but a hard top is optional, and there were examples of each on show.  The car carries over the 4.8 litre BMW sourced V8 engine, and is offered with a choice of six speed manual or automatic boxes. Morgan say that build quality is improved over previous models, there will be better passenger comfort, greater refinement, reduced noise and improved protection from water leaks, thanks to better door seals. It is also lighter than previous Aero models, weighing just over 1000 kg. Sales start later this year and it is expected to cost around £80,000.

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The Three Wheeler has been a huge success for the Malvern Link company, with the firm being challenged to build them as fast as orders poured in. As is the way with the specialist manufacturers, it has been modified in detail quite a bit since launch, ut the fun factor remains undiminished.

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Also on show were some of the traditionally styled Morgans, the Plus 4, including the 4 seater version, as well as the Roadster and the recently launched Plus 8.

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MTM has been modifying VW Group products for a quarter of a century (and has taken a minor interest in McLaren 12C and 650S mods of late, too). The German company unveiled three new Audi-based models in Geneva. Commemorating the 641bhp Audi 200 that hit 217mph at Talladega Speedway in 1986, the MTM S8 Talladega S achieves the same maximum. It costs around twice as much as a standard 513bhp Audi S8 at just over £160,000, around £35,000 of which goes towards a turbo and exhaust system that help boost output to 791bhp. Just 25 of them will be produced, as a “celebration” of the company’s 25 year anniversary. A mere £132,400 buys MTM’s fully loaded RS6 Clubsport that adds 197bhp to the ‘standard’ superwagon and cuts the 0-62mph sprint by 0.7sec to just 3.2sec. Finally, a new turbo, exhaust and ECU help eke a full 420bhp from MTM’s S3 Cabrio and its venerable 2.0-litre turbo four. Buying the power upgrade alone is a relative snip at £12,200.

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Occupying a large plinth display all to itself was the Sway. A concept car that features some of the design cues that have been used on recent new models such as the US market Maxima, it is reported that this car has a lot of the styling for the car that will replace the current Micra sometime in mid 2016 in it. If so, Nissan could go from having one of the least imaginative cars in the class to one of the most. It is such a departure that even the name may change.

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Pulling the crowds still, at the back of the stand were the Nismo cars. Three road cars were here, of which the GT-R was the star, of course. It was joined by the 370Z and the recently launched Juke RS.

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Joining them was Nissan’s Endurance racer.

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On the main floor area of the stand were examples of the current range, going though the much-despised Micra and similarly sized Note, to the recently launched Pulsar, the Juke, Qashqai and X-Trail as well as a second generation Murano.

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Brand new model making its first appearance here was the Karl, a car that we will see as the Vauxhall Viva when it goes on sale in the UK in the summer. Respected journalist Jesse Crosse called it out as his Star of the Show, so I was expecting a lot. Whilst it appeared worthy enough, I don’t think there’s anything that makes it truly stand out. Measuring less than 3.7 metres, there is still plenty of space for 6 foot passengers to sit in both front and rear, as space has bee liberated by lowering the floor pan, which also means that there is a generously sized boot. Standard equipment will include a phone-integrated multimedia system, hill start assist and lane departure warning, with options including cruise control, heated seats and heated steering wheel, things not usually seen in cars of this class. It is certainly neatly styled, nicely if rather conventionally trimmed and clearly well kitted out inside but the 1 litre 3 cylinder 75 bhp unit will need to make it  drive really well to make it stand out and be distinguished from rival city car products.

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The latest Corsa is now starting to appear on our roads. Despite the claims that this is an “all new” car, it would seem very clear that it is really just an extensive revamp of the previous model. For sure the interior looks better, with those awful translucent heating controls gone, but to think it can wow anyone is probably the mark of an optimist. The high performance 207 bhp OPC (read VXR for the UK) model was making its first appearance. Not for me, thanks!

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Centrepiece of the stand was a rather odd sculpture with seats in the middle. Bizarre!

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Next up for replacement is the Astra, with the first models in the new range expected later this year. Even so, the current car was much in evidence on the stand, with Estate and GTC models present.

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The Adam has not exactly set the market alight, though Opel must be hoping that the new engines that are filtering through to the car will help matters. A couple of this slightly odd car were on one corner of the stand.

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Two examples of the dramatic Huayra were on the Pagani stand.

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After years in the doldrums – as so memorably caricatured by the BBC Top Gear program recently – Peugeot seems to be rediscovering some of their long-lost and much-missed mojo. Three concept cars were on show: the Quartz, the Exalt and the Onyx.

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A mild facelift for the 208 was announced just before the show. The most significant changes are under the bonnet, with the latest lower emission engines being installed. The diesel cars, offered in three outputs of 74, 99 and 118 bhp now emit less than 95 g/km, and the 1.2 Pure Tech petrol generates 108 bhp and puts out just 103 g/km. The 67 bhp 1.0 and 81 bhp 1.2 petrol units remain unchanged. A new front bumper, wider grille and new headlights on Active trim and above make the cars readily identifiable from the outside. A whole row of these cars were assembled, all in a distinctive orange colour.

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A row of GT-Line cars, showcased a range of cars with a little more performance that stop short of the “full-fat” GTi cars.

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There is one GTi in the range at present, the 208. It was launched in 2014, and was widely heralded as something of a return to form, though with the redoutable Fiesta ST as a competitor, it has not taken the market by storm. Shown here was the 30th Anniversary model with the distinctive mix of black and red paintwork.

The 308 was the Car of the Year in 2014, and having now driven one, I can confirm that it is a massive improvement in its predecessors, if not ultimately that exciting, Hatch and SW versions were on display.

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The 508 received a mild facelift last year, and there was an example of the mild-Hybrid RXH here.

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A couple of the RCZ Sports Coupe models were shown. Make the most of this car, as Peugeot have hinted that they are unlikely to replace it with something similar.

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From the SUV range were the 2008, 3008, 4008 and 5008 models. The penultimate of these is not sold in Britain, but if you look at it, you can certainly see the close linkage to the Mitsubishi ASX on which it is based.

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Peugeot renewed their city car last year, giving us the 108. Marginally the best looking of the Toyota/Citroen/Peugeot trio, this was one of the disappointments of the year, feeling cheap and insubstantial, and no match for the VW Up! and its relatives.

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Completing the display was the 2008 Dakar Rally car, a real beast of a machine.

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This P75 Cipher was a rather unusual looking machine.

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This was actually the first stand we reached, as it is located at the top of the escalator just to the left of the cloakroom. And what a start it was, with a sight of the stunning Sergio. A limited edition roadster which is based on the Ferrari 458 Spider, it was designed by Pininfarina to celebrate 60 years of Ferrari’s collaboration with the Italian design house, and to commemorate the death of Sergio Pininfarina – the company’s figurehead and former boss – in 2012. Originally revealed as a concept car at the 2013 Geneva motor show, the positive reaction it received meant that it was decided that a total of six examples would be made with Ferrari, each to celebrate one decade of the co-operation between the two companies. The Sergio features a 597bhp Ferrari 4.5-litre V8 engine, also found in the 458 Speciale, and can accelerate from 0-62mph in just 3.0sec. Final assembly of the Sergios took place at Pininfarina’s plant in Cambiano, Italy. All have already been accounted for, much like the recently revealed Ferrari F60 America. Pricing for the Sergio has not been disclosed but it is estimated to have cost around £2.5m. Each one of the six cars made was specified by their owner in a series of sessions at Ferrari’s atelier in Maranello.

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How times change. Two years ago, the centre of attention on Porsche’s large stand was the 918 Spyder. There was an example here, and it was parked away towards the back in an area to which you had to request access. It’s a very splendid motor car indeed, but it was not the one that was drawing the crowds, particularly.

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The two Porsche that everyone wanted to see were the ones to one side of the 918, the Cayman GT4 and the 911 GT3 4.0. I have to say that both of these look absolutely spot on, and with all the early repots suggesting that the Cayman is at least as good as everyone’s sky high expectations, this is one hugely desirable car. Needless to say, demand will massively exceed supply, and if your name’s not in the queue already, you will need to pay a big premium or pull a very special favour to get one, as it would appear that the 2000-unit production run is already sold out.

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The GT3 RS, complete with a 4 litre version of the naturally aspirated six cylinder boxer engine, good for 493 bhp, looked fantastic. too. Whilst the power is the same as with its predecessor, the torque is increased by 15 lb/ft. Clothed in an aluminium body that is borrowed from the 911 Turbo, it has a magnesium roof and carbon fibre-reinforced plastic bonnet and engine lid to reduce weight. That ensures that the weight is 10 kg under that of the standard GT3 model, giving it a 0- 60 time of 3.3 seconds, 0.6 seconds faster than the old GT3 RS.

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Down one side of the stand were the latest eHybrid versions of the familiar Cayenne and Panamera.

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The recently launched GTS versions of almost the whole range were easy to spot as they were all painted red.

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Representative examples from the rest of the range completed this stand, with Cayman, 911 Cabrio, Cayenne and Macan among them.

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Making another appearance at a European show were the neatly styled Chinese Qoros cars. The initial 3 Saloon and Hatch models have been joined by a slightly taller Crossover model.. There’s still no sign of them going on sale, which is a pity and an opportunity missed, as the look good enough to find a ready market here in a way that most other Chinese products still just would not.

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A huge stand for Qant, the marque of nanoFlowcell, a company that creates all-electric cars. Three cars were on display, including the Quant F concept, a re-engineered and redesigned version of the Quant e-Sportlimousine concept previewed at last year’s Geneva motor show and which is capable of an 800km (500-mile) all-electric range. Measuring 5.25 metres long, the Quant F is powered by four electric motors with a peak output of 1075bhp for a limited duration and a maximum rated voltage of 735V, compared with the e-Sportlimousine’s 912bhp and 600V. The transmission is a new, in-house-developed two-speed automatic, “the like of which has not yet existed”, says nanoFlowcell. Top speed is reported to be 186mph. The car is powered by the firm’s own flow cell battery storage technology with an ionic liquid, which iInstead of using hydrogen and oxygen as in a conventional fuel cell, works with two ionic fluids – one with a positive charge and one with a negative charge. With a total tank capacity of 500 litres, comprising two 250-litre tanks accommodated separately in the Quant’s substructure, the firm has achieved an increase in range of over 30 per cent in comparison to the e-Sportlimousine. The four-wheel-drive saloon also has the ability to be converted automatically to rear-wheel drive at appropriate speeds, with the front axle essentially becoming ‘declutched’ and running in idle mode. The bodyshell is a newly developed carbonfibre monocoque with narrower A-pillars than those of the e-Sportlimousine. A two-stage aerodynamic aerofoil is automatically activated above 50mph, providing downforce to the rear of the car and allegedly increasing grip to the road. Back-lit crystals are fitted to the headlights that project a ‘Q’ when they are switched on. The firm says this new light technology gives the appearance of eyes with pupils and lends even more personality to the car’s front end.

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Also displayed was a smaller model, called the Quantino. This 2+2 all electric coupe uses flow cell battery technology to power four 25kW electric motors, giving a total of 136 bhp, enough for a top speed of 124 mph and a range of 620 miles.

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First time I recall seeing Radical at the show, and they had two cars on display, the SR3 and, new for this event,  the RXC Turbo 500, which boasts more than 530 bhp. It is understood that Radical will be trying this summer to beat the Nurburgring lap record with this car.

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Renault had the same undulating stand that they have used for a while now, meaning that the cars were all displayed at varying angles. The big news here was the premier for the Kadjar, a mid-sized crossover which is based on the hugely successful Nissan Qashqai and which looks more than mildly similar. No doubt this one will sell well in France, though whether people elsewhere will prefer it to the Nissan remains to be seen.

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There were lots of the rear engined Twingo models on display. We now know that the pert looks are not entirely matched by the other characteristics, and that this innovative little car is not that good to drive, and the interior is also rather cheap looking with plenty of hard-edged plastics in primary colours.

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Newcomer in the Clio range was a 220 bhp version of the RenaultSport RS. Along with revised software to speed up the responses from the gearbox, this could be the car to address the criticism that the regular 200 bhp received at launch. Also shown was a top spec Initiale version and the rather bulky looking Estate model which is not imported to Britain.

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The Captur crossover is now selling well, vindicating Renault’s decision to offer this model as well as the Clio.

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Next up for a refresh will be the Megane, with a new model expected in the coming months. Hatch and Estate versions were shown along with the highly rated 3 door RS

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Tucked away at one side of the stand was the Scenic, looking almost forgotten these days.

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Attracting far more attention was the new Espace, with several of these on show.

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The Zero Emission electric vehicles were not forgotten, with a couple of the Twizy and the Zoe on the stand along with an all electric Formula E race car.

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An interesting car at the front of the stand was the RS01, a concept hinting at what might come with the revival of the Alpine name, and what remains on the now abandoned joint venture with Caterham.

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Switzerland-based Rinspeed might have sold its Porsche tuning arm to Mansory in 2007, but the two companies couldn’t pitch their products further apart at Geneva. The supermini-length Budii concept, developed with the help of Ernst & Young and several specialist technology partners, is an EV that hopes to lend a glimpse of future automated vehicles. The interior (trimmed by Mansory) offers novel flexibility by way of a seven-axis steering column that stows away during automated driving, while air suspension is adjustable up to 100mm to cater for various driving requirements. The doors are electrically operated, and a pair of folding Segway-style vehicles can be stored in the back seats. The telescopic ‘TrackView’ laser scanner on the roof works with a high-resolution camera to assess the surrounding environment and the road ahead. The Budii’s 123bhp motor is claimed to take it to 62mph in just 7.2sec, while range is pitched at 124 miles.

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Four Rolls-Royce cars fronted the stand, and these were the ones that everyone could see, though there was clearly at least one more, further back in the stand structure. The four cars we could see where a Wraith, a Ghost, a Ghost EWR and a Phantom.

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The Bavarian Porsche 911 tuner presented a trio of fire-breathing new 991-based models on their stand. The headline-grabber was the RtR, which uses a twin-turbo version of the Mezger 3.8-litre six-pot to generate 791bhp and 730lb ft of torque and runs on a lengthened wheelbase for added stability. Not satisfied by the mere 424bhp output of Porsche’s 911 Targa 4 GTS, RUF has added two turbos to its Turbo Florio to gain another 197bhp. Naturally aspirated engine fans are catered for, too, with the restyled RGT 4.2 track day special that makes 518bhp at a screaming 8370rpm.

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Also shown was a classic 911 Targa and a 964 based model.

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Known for producing some of the more imaginative or even downright wacky creations that you are likely to see at any show, Sbarro has become something a “must see” for most people, even if the resulting products are not to all (or even anyone’s) taste.

The Triple is a supercar with a centrally mounted V8 producing 400 bhp. The idea is to make the dreams of two motor racing fans come true as they strap themselves in behind an experienced driver.

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Two other cars originate from the Espera Sbarro school in Montbeliard. The Grand Prix is a nod in the direction of the first cars designed for the big oval in Indianapolis, and packs a 360 bhp V12 BMW engine under the long bonnet. The Aria uses a Subaru Impreza engine, but clothed in a light and compact body.

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The Memory harks back to an earlier era, with a body that combines that of a Ferrari 250GT with a Corvette. Sort of.

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Completing the stand was this Lazareth GT, an odd sort of 3 wheeler.

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This small company is owned by cinema scriptwriter, actor, director and producer James Glockenhaus, who is also a lover and creator of exciting and unusual cars. Unveiled here were both road-going and racing versions of the SCG003 supercar. The former will cost £1.65 million before the tax and the latter slightly less at £1.5m. Both feature the same all carbon-fibre construction and Le Mans prototype-style bodywork. The race version is powered by a modified Honda HPD 3.5 litre twin turbo V6 which gives out 520 bhp, with the restrictor mandated by GT3 technical regulations, which also dictate its 1300kg weight. In road-going form, the same puts out around 650 bhp and the car weighs just 1150 kg. It is planned that two of these cars will take part in the Nurburgrin 24 hours in May

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Centrepiece of the Seat stand was the 20v20 concept. The turntable was whizzing round at a quite a pace, but you could at least get up close to have a look inside as well. The journalists use the word “sharp” in just about every review they write these days, but in the case of this one, it would seem fully justified, as there are some very clear edges to it. Sitting on the MQB platform, and sharing much with the Leon, this concept will spawn a production car some time in 2016. For now, what we see is a car that is larger than a Qashqai, at 4.7m, and offering 7 seats.

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This was another chance to have a look at the Leon in its many guises. One of my favourite cars in the class, it looks good and even the 1.6 TDi versions I have driven are very capable machines. The ones I really want to sample are the Cupra models, and there were 3 of those here as well as the X-Perience ST model. The one with the orange wheels sports the Sub8 performance package, which in exchange for £4200 gives 30mm-larger Brembo brakes, Michelin SportCup2 tyres, new side skirts and alloy wheels as well as weight reductions.

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The smaller Ibiza may not have won quite such praise, but to my eyes, this is still a good looking car, and the last one I sampled was good to drive, too.

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The Toledo was present in FR line trim. There is no debating the roominess of this car, and it appeared quite well finished, so the cold shoulder that the press have given it may be a little unfair.

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This Leon based racer was on one of the magazine stands.

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Highlight of the Czech marque’s stand was the new Superb. And in contrast to the slightly odd looks of the back end of he outgoing car, I have to say that I think this one truly lives up to its name. An elegant design, it now has a true hatchback, as opposed to the complex boot and hatch that went before, and looks none the worse for it.  A trio of cars were displayed across the back of the stand, and another one, in a striking greeny-yellow pearlescent metallic was on the front corner of the display.  This is just the beginning of a range which is likely to be more extensive than has been the case in the past, with not just an Estate model, but potentially Scout and vRS versions as well. Skoda are definitely shooting for conquest sales in the D-segment, targetting the Mondeo and Insignia, both of which the Superb will undercut when it goes on sale in the autumn.

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The third generation Fabia was unveiled last summer, and has recently gone on sale. Following the latest family look, the proportions of this one are, to my eyes, more successful than those of the last version, which always appeared a bit too tall and narrow. Although not visually exciting, it is a very neat design, and with an interior that gets very close to the standard set by the VW Polo, this is one of the nicest cars in its class. Hatch and Combi (Estate) models were shown.

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Making its debut here was a more potent version of the Octavia vRS. A 230 bhp engine under the bonnet of this capacious Hatch and Estate can only make this car even more desirable than ever before. And with even the non-sporting models being very capable and astonishingly roomy cars, whilst not quite the bargain it once was, this is an excellent car which deserve the massive sales success it enjoys across Europe. Other versions of the car, including the Scout were also on show as well as a G-TEC powered car.
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There were a couple of Yeti models. One of my favourite cars “in the real world”, this is still a good looking car, though the black wheels are not really to my taste.

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The Rapid Spaceback has quickly become the more popular of the bodystyles for Skoda’s lower C-segment offering in Western Europe. Given a bit of a ho-hum write up by the journalists when it first appeared, this is a neat looking car which deserves to do well.

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The new generation of Smart ForTwo and ForFour cars, based on a platform shared with Renault’s Twingo, are just going on sale, so this was a perfect opportunity to get a closer look. The styling has moved on quite a lot more in the third generation compared to the evolution between first and second types, but whether that is a good thing will depend on your tastes. I do not like the result, with the grilles making the cars looks more comedic, and as if they have escaped from “cars” the movie, rather than something to take seriously. Thought when you see the price tags, you will have to take them seriously. These are not cheap cars. I don’t much like the interiors, either. Autocar recently concluded that if you liked the previous Smart, you will pro bably relish the changes made, but if you were not a brand devotee before, this one is unlikely to turn you into one. I think I agree.

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A Smart bicycle was on the stand as well.

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Spanish outfit Spania GTA unveiled the second iteration of its GTA Spano supercar, the previous version having debuted in 2013. Its 8.0-litre V10 now uses twin turbos rather than a supercharger, adding 12bhp to take output to 912bhp, while torque jumps from 737lb ft to a massive 900lb ft. The Spano is claimed to reach 62mph in 2.9sec and to be capable of more than 230mph. The car’s monocoque chassis is said to make pioneering use of graphene, which is lightweight yet extremely strong, along with carbonfibre, titanium and Kevlar. Just 99 will be made.

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Making its European debut was the new Tivoli, a smaller car than this Korean brand’s previous offerings. It looks much better than most of them, too, but then that’s not saying a lot as this brand has certainly dared to be different. There were several of them on stand, and I had a good sit in a couple. It looks decent enough, but this is a very competitive market sector, so I suspect it will need the low prices we are promised if it is to make its mark. The first cars to go on sale will have 1.6 litre petrol engines., but 1.6 litre diesel models and 4WD versions will follow soon after. An EVR electric concept version was also shown on the stand. It features a 1cylinder petrol engine range extender to augment the 127 bhp electric motor. A range of 310 miles is claimed an emissions of just 40 g/km.

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Also represented were the familiar Korando, Rexton and Turismo.

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Part of the Brabus Group, Startech produces aftermarket kit for Land Rovers, Range Rovers and Jaguars. Its new range for the Jaguar F-type includes carbonfibre aero mods, 25mm-lowered springs and custom wheels and upholstery. Items can be bought on a modular basis, but the changes made to the show car would cost around £52,700 in total.

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With the exception of the Swiss market, Subaru sales have fallen away to negligible, which seems a pity as these cars were once popular with the twin appeal of the rally-winning Impreza performance models and the 4WD utilitarian models that represent more of the roots of the company. Even the introduction of an impressive diesel engine a few years ago was unable to stem the fall in sales as ever blander machines which are selling well to Americans just failed to hit the spot in Europe. Subaru must be hoping that the two new cars that they will offer in 2015 will reverse that sales performance. First to arrive is the latest Outback. Looking less awkward than the last one, and with a much improved interior, this could just find the niche that the previous model’s predecessor so successfully occupied (especially in much missed SpecB guise).

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Later in the year we will get the Levorg. The strange name aside (“grovel”, backwards?!!), this looks worthy enough, though barely any smaller than the Outback, so I wonder if the two will compete with each other?

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On show were lots of the current Impreza and XV models as well as the latest Forester.
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Reminding us of the performance and rally heritage was the latest WRX STi. in road going and rally challenge trim
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Suzuki sales have been on the rise in Europe in recent times, which may well surprise you as much as it surprised me, as the range still, as it always seems to have done, comprises, a collection of rather odd-ball machines, few of which compete in high volume segments. The car which has consistently drawn praise is the Swift, with the Sport version getting a particularly good set of reviews, offering lots of fun from behind the wheel, at a bargain price. A number of the Swift cars were on the stand.

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The Celerio, a new A-segment car has been much in the news in the UK recently, too, but for all the wrong reasons. This is the model which when Autocar took it to the test track, lost all braking capability, with a pedal shearing off when it was pressed hard. To Suzuki’s credit, they instantly recalled the handful of cars that were in the hands of dealers and the public and immediately set about finding out what caused the problem and devising a solution. This only took 10 days, and the car is now back on sale. Although it is cheap to buy, it does rather look it to me, with plenty of rivals having rather more appeal than it does, but no doubt the Suzuki faithful will replace their Alto and Splash models with it.

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Next to go on sale is the Vitara, a medium sized cross-over that has only a name in common with that small SUV that often appeared in bright pink with brash roo bars on it in the early 1990s. Early press reports suggest that this one is quite good to drive, and at a lower price than its rivals, it could do moderately well.

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That applies to the rather clumsily named SX4 S-Cross, which appeared in 2013, as a sort of cut-price Qashqai. From some angles it even looks a bit like one. It’s not as good as the Nissan, but nor is it as costly.

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Suzuki’s future was represented by a pair of concept cars on show, the iK2 and iM4, both of which are likely to appear in similar guises as additions to the range before too long. The iK2 is apparently very close to the production car we should see in 2016. It is intended to address those who won’t buy a Swift as they feel the sporty lines impede rear legroom and boot space, both of which are in plentiful supply on this car. I wasn’t aware that the Swift was losing huge numbers of sales for that reason, but maybe it is. The iM4 is further away, but is a potential rival for the 4×4 Fiat Panda, offering soft-roader capability in a rather boxy looking body style.

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Tucked away on one corner of the stand was one of the longest running production cars of all, the Jimny. This little go anywhere machine has a sector of the market almost to itself and a very loyal owner base.

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Tucked away in Hall 3 was a special display celebrating a century of motor sport history and an association with renowned watchmaker TAG Heuer. I was really looking forward to this as in 2014 the same display space had contained a fascinating tribute to leMans with a vast assembly of cars. Sadly, my hopes were dashed as this year there was rather little to see. Cars on show included the latest McLaren 650S, a Tesla Roadster, last year’s championship winning Mercedes-McLaren, Ayrton Senna’s McLaren MP4/4, another example of the Nissan Nismo World Endurance racer as well as a Formel E electric race car. But that was it. Oh, well, lots of watches, and an interesting sort of Scalextric set up where the cars were driven around by harnessing the driver’s thought processes.

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Although not sold in Western Europe, Indian conglomerate Tata still takes stand space at this show, and uses it to show a mix of production and concept cars. In the former category was the Bolt, a small supermini that looked quite neat, though the details of which are still not really quite up to western standards.

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The two concept vehicles included a medium sized crossover called Hexa.

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TechArt is based just 15 minutes from Zuffenhausen, and introduced new packages for the 911 GTS and facelifted Cayenne at the show, as well as a Macan-based model. Embellishments available for the GTS include an aero kit, carbonfibre accents, 20in centre-lock wheels, a choice of two exhaust systems, interior upgrades, sports springs and an electro-hydraulic noselift system that adds 45mm of clearance on demand. Exterior, interior and exhaust mods for the Cayenne are supplemented by a 79bhp power hike option and a more focused air suspension setup that lowers the car when locked for a sleeker kerbside look.

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The stand also included Panamera and regular 911 based models.

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One of the busiest stands was the Tesla one, showing just how this elegant electric luxury saloon has captured the public’s imagination. Three of the Model S were on show, and they were mobbed almost constantly.

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The MINI Superleggera Concept was making yet another show appearance, following its unveiling at Villa d’Este just under 12 months. Much praised by many who have seen it, some hope that the car may make production was created when the design appeared to have been lodged for patent protection.

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A car that has not been seen in public before was the Berlinetta Lusso, a new model based on the Ferrari F12 Berlinetta, though it does adopt minor styling changes to give the car a more retro appearance. Most noticeable is the large grille which dominates the front end of the concept. The interior of the F12 also appears mostly unchanged, and keeps its digital dashboard. Previously, an official video released by Touring Superleggera hinted at a deep Ferrari connection, with the Carlo Anderloni-penned Ferrari 166 MM Touring starring alongside snippets of the firm’s concept. Included in the video was a quote by late Fiat owner Gianni Agnelli: “A well-done thing can be made better.” The Berlinetta Lusso retains the F12’s naturally aspirated 6.3-litre V12, which produces 731bhp and 509lb ft. Performance is claimed to be the same as the Ferrari F12, meaning the Berlinetta Lusso should be capable of sprinting from 0-60mph in just 3.0sec. It is planned to build just 5 of these distinctive machines.

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Lots to see on the massive Toyota stand, though whether you’d really want to is another matter. With the exception of the very slow selling GT86, Toyota are pursuing their strategy of delivering utterly anondyne appliances, despite a surfeit of “Go Fun yourself” advertising that accompanied the launch of the new Aygo last summer. There were several of that car, with its odd hot-cross bun X shaped grille, in some rather distinctive colour schemes.

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A facelift has just been applied to both the Auris and the Avensis. with new front grilles being the recognition point, though the more significant changes are under the bonnet, with the latest BMW diesels and revised petrol engines given a better efficiency and emissions performance. The Auris now has a 1.2 litre petrol which generates 114 bhp and a 110 bhp 1.6 diesel which is rated at 104 g/km CO2 and capable of 68.9 mpg. The same 1,6 litre diesel finds its way under the bonnet of the Avensis along with a 2.0 version and revisions to the petrol engines cut the emissions by up to 19 g/km.

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The new noses bring the cars into line with the Yaris which has abused last year with an awkward looking front end.

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The Prius has been a huge success for Toyota, and there were a number of these in regular and the elongated + guises here, including the Plug In Hybrid model.

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Representing the next idea around alternative engine technology is the hydrogen powered Mirai. This will be available later this year, though the ability to refuel it will be a key consideration for anyone who wants one. If you do see one, you are not going to forget it in a hurry as the looks are, er, distinctive.

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The SUV models were also on show with RAV4 and both V6 and V8 versions of the Land Cruiser.

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Toyota were also showing the World Endurance Championship winning car, which won everything in its class last year apart from le Mans.

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No surprise that VW had a huge stand, as there are a lot of different models in the range,  many of which top their class in sales volumes across Europe. VW scored my second brickbat of the day, though, with no sign of the Sport Coupe GTE concept, which I had wanted to see. I suppose I should not have been surprised, as they also whisked the Ducati engined XL1 off their Los Angeles Show stand before the public had arrived. That meant that the only concept on show was the Golf 400. This has been shown a few times now, and the rumour mill suggests that there is a good possibility that they will make if not this, then something awfully like it. And I hope they do.

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Brand new for Geneva was the latest Touran. Sharing the MQB platform with a still growing number of VW Group cars, this model shares many of the latest styling lines with the rest of the range, and will doubtless sell strongly, though enthusiasts are likely to find it somewhat wanting.

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That’s not something that will be said about the Golf R, shown here in Estate (Variant) form. For what it is, this is excellent value, and a very practical car as well as one which is claimed by all those who have driven it to be utterly fantastic. In the “real world”, this has to be one of the very best cars on sale at present.

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There were several less potent Golfs on show, too. As well as the petrol and diesel models that have been available for as long as anyone can remember, there are some additional versions available now, and they look in all but very small details, exactly the same as those with which we are familiar. There’s the eGolf, which is all electric, the GTE which is a hybrid and the TGi. Confused? Well the GTi is just as it always has been – a “grown up” hot hatch that does not shout about is power and dynamics. Estate versions, including the AllTrack were also on show.

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Taking its place alongside the regular Golf is the SportsVan (known as SV in the UK), which replaced the Golf Plus last year. The styling links between this and the new Touran are very clear to see.

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Last survivor now from the Golf VI range is the Cabrio, and one of these was also on display. With news of the demise of the Eos, the almost duplication between the two models is now resolved.

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Fresh from being crowned “Car of the Year” on the eve of the show was the new Passat, also available in a bewildering array of different models, with petrol, diesel and hybrid GTE cars offered in Saloon and Estate body styles, the latter including the AllTrack versions.

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The Polo is selling well, hitting the number 2 spot across the whole of Europe in January this year, which is the best performance it has ever enjoyed. Shown here was the latest GTi version as well as some of the less exciting and more economical variants.

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Other familiar models on show included the Up! (in Eco Up! guise), a Scirocco, a Beetle Cabrio, and the long running Phaeton.

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Star here, of course, was the new XC90. There were 6 of them on display, and there were people constantly looking at them, so getting photos was not easy. I was able to sit in one of them and reconfirm my extremely positive impressions of the car. It looks great inside and out and is supremely practical, Although it is no longer the bargain it once was, this model deserves to sell well.

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If Geneva is an indicator of the health of the global motor industry, as many say it is, then on the evidence of the 2015 Show, I would say it is in the rudest of health. There was a confidence evident on so many stands, be it the large manufacturers or the smaller specialists, and although the regulatory pressures may seem ever tougher on matter such as emissions performance, it is clear that there is a determination across the industry to take technology and push it as far as fast as possible in some exciting ways. There’s never been a better time to be a car enthusiast on the evidence of what we saw. And that, of course, contributed to an excellent trip. With the benefit of cheap and convenient flights from Bristol, in my case, a very acceptable Ibis hotel a few minutes walk away from the Palexpo, and the pleasure of the company of my friends and fellow forummers, this was the best Geneva trip we’ve ever done.

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