Cars, Cars, Cars: The 82nd Salon international de l’automobile Genève

[Hint: there are loads of clickable red links in the text below if you're bored and looking for more info]

Last month, after finishing my work in the Democratic Republic of Congo and a weekend spent with my aunt in Uganda, I flew into Geneva for two days of debriefing at MSF Switzerland head office. It was cold but beautiful when we landed:

Flying into Geneva, over Lac Léman

The view from my hotel room in Geneva:

View from my hotel in Geneva

Four of us had flown together from Uganda to Geneva. Three of us, plus our friend Jan who had left the DR Congo a week before us, managed to meet up for a couple quiet beers and lots of laughs in Geneva.

A beer with colleagues in Geneva

My friend Julia lives in Geneva now, so we got to hang out too!

Me and Julia

In my spare time, aside from debriefing and socialising, I did two things in Geneva:

1. I walked around randomly, proof of which is found in this photo of a bridge decorated with the flags of all the Swiss cantons:

Flags of all the Swiss cantons on a bridge in Geneva

2. On March 8th I went to the first day of the 82e Salon international de l’automobile de Genève, aka the 82nd Geneva International Motor Show, perhaps the most important annual international auto show in the world. Now, I’m the first to admit that I’m not a car guy. I love driving, and I like to stare at pretty cars, but that’s about the limit for me. However, with nothing to do the day before flying out of Geneva, and seeing that the normal price of about $16 was cut in half after 16:00, I decided to catch the bus out to the Palexpo in the afternoon and have a look.

There was no way to fit even a quarter of the floor space into one photo, which gives an idea of just how big this show was:

Partial view of the floor of the 82nd Geneva International Motor Show

The Salon de l’auto showcased everything from familiar family vehicles to eccentric electric cars to stupefying supercars to creative concept cars, some of which are fully drivable, others being only display concepts. Let’s start out by looking at a small selection of the electric and hybrid vehicles I saw…

This is the EDAG Light Car concept, which the company hopes to sell for use as a shared car (think along the lines of Car2Go, but the Light Car is a six seater instead of two)

EDAG Light Car

Rinspeed, a design firm which makes some pretty cool stuff, this year premiered their Dock+Go electric vehicle range extender concept. Essentially, it’s like an extra battery that attaches to the rear of a modified Smart ForTwo car to give it a longer driving range. A number of custom non-battery designs have also been produced, to extend the Smart car’s functionality. This one, for instance, includes DJ decks and speakers:

Rinspeed Dock+Go electric vehicle range extender, front side view

Rinspeed Dock+Go electric vehicle range extender, rear view

This is the Opel RAK e electric concept car, which looks really cool, is well-suited to city driving, and hopefully will lead to a production model sometime soon:

Opel RAK e electric concept car, front side view

Opel RAK e electric concept car, rear side view

The Tesla Roadster is a highway-capable all-electric car which uses a Lotus Elise glider as its foundation, with an electric powertrain. Two new Tesla models were premiered at this show, but I didn’t take photos of them.

Tesla Roadster Sport

Infiniti showed off the Emerg-E electric supercar concept for the first time ever in Geneva. It’s one very good-looking car, capable of 480km on one battery charge with its gasoline engine recharging system. It’s Infiniti’s first supercar, and it’s electric! Way to make a bold statement, which is apparently aimed at getting the company a foothold in the European car market by making a scene.

Infiniti Emerg-E electric supercar concept

For some reason I didn’t take a photo of the entire Fisker Karma electric car, only the solar panel on the roof which is, according to the manufacturer, “the largest solar glass roof ever designed for a production vehicle”.

Fisker Karma solar glass roof

BMW also had their updated i8 hybrid concept sportscar on display. Normally I don’t care much for bimmers, but this is one very neat-looking (and most likely pricey, when it eventually makes it to production in 2014 or 2015) car. Random fact: the teaser videos for the i3 and i8 were both filmed in Vancouver.

BMW i8 hybrid concept sportscar, front view

BMW i8 hybrid concept sportscar, side view

This Giugiaro Brivido hybrid coupe concept is super sleek, with long gullwing doors that allow access to the front and rear seats at the same time:

Giugiaro Brivido hybrid coupe concept car, passenger side view

Giugiaro Brivido hybrid coupe concept car, driver side view

Among the many “conventional”, fuelled vehicles at the Geneva Motor Show, these ones caught my eye:

Lotus brought three race cars to the show, including this LMP2 race car made by Lola for long races like the 12 Hours of Sebring or the 24 Hours of Le Mans

Lotus-funded Lola LMP2 race car

…and the Lotus Formula 1 race car:

Lotus F1 race car

I spent a fair bit of time staring in awe at two Pagani cars on display. The artistry and technology that went into these vehicles is astounding (like many of the vehicles at the show, actually). What I didn’t know until I got home and did some internet research: the two Pagani cars of which I took photos are both Pagani Huayras. This Pagani Huayra White Edition had its doors, bonnet, and boot closed while the Carbon Fibre Edition, below, had all of them open. The only difference between the two is that, in the Carbon Fibre Edition, the exterior is a carbon fibre coating and a lot of interior elements are carbon fibre. The name Huayra refers to the god of wind worshipped by the Puruhá Quechuas and Aymaras in the Andes in Bolivia and Peru before their conversion to Christianity.

Pagani Huayra, side view

Pagani Huayra, rear view

The Huayra bonnet, when opened, looks like a bat:

Pagani Huayra Carbon Edition, front view with bonnet open

Amazing custom leather work inside, among other cool things about this fascinating car:

Pagani Huayra Carbon Edition, open interior passenger side view

The Italian design firm, Bertone, premiered the Bertone Nuccio concept, which looks cooler in person and in road videos than in my photos. One interesting thing about this car is that it has no rear windscreen because the angles of the car body would make a rear windscreen useless for seeing anything. Instead, they mounted an LCD monitor inside the car, which displays the view from an exterior rear view camera (which you can see if you look carefully on the orange part). This way, a driver’s natural habit of looking in the rear-view mirror still provides an image of what’s behind.

Bertone Nuccio Concept, side view

Bertone Nuccio Concept, rear view

I see Maseratis driving around Vancouver quite frequently, and this one didn’t strike me as particularly unique, but I took this photo because the blue paint job made this car look amazing despite no huge design breakthroughs from Maserati at this auto show. Turns out this was a world premiere for this model, the Maserati GranTurismo Sport, a slight upgrade from the long-running GranTurismo S:

Maserati GranTurismo Sport

The Lotus Evora GTE road car concept was also being shown off:

Lotus Evora GTE road car concept

There were also a few retro-style, brand new cars at which I marvelled as I strolled around the huge halls of the Geneva Palexpo. For instance, this Alfa Romeo Disco Volante, which blends the past and future into something unbelievably cool-looking. Literally translating as “Flying Saucer”, the Disco Volante model was produced in 1952-1953. The 2012 concept, first shown to the world at this Geneva International Motor Show, is actually an Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione with a different aluminium body and some carbon fibre elements.

Alfa Romeo Disco Volante, side view

Alfa Romeo Disco Volante, rear view

Wiesmann showed off a Roadster MF3 Final Edition, one of only 18 produced, each with a unique paint job. This particular one, named Scuba Mobile, will also give the buyer VIP access to a number of races, but only if the car itself is driven to the events – the car is the VIP ticket.

Wiesmann Roadster MF3 Final Edition

Morgan, a British car company, had several retro style vehicles on display, including the Morgan Aero Coupe with signature triple windscreen wipers:

Morgan Aero Coupe

There was also a world premiere all-electric Morgan Plus E concept, seen in the background below. The foreground, however, shows two Morgan 3 Wheelers. These are powered by S&S V-twin engines mounted on the front – very cool. A number of Morgan 3-wheeled vehicles were produced from 1910 to 1953, and were apparently very popular at the time. Since last year, the company has been making this new version, which has been very well received. I wish I had one!

Two Morgan 3 Wheelers

Morgan 3 Wheeler V-Twin close-up

This Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse, another world premiere in Geneva, is currently the fastest serially produced convertible in history, capable of 410 km/h.

Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse

While not as fast as the Bugatti Veyron series of cars, the latest Ferrari is quite impressive as well. The F12 Berlinetta, also first shown to the world in Geneva this year, hits speeds up to 340 km/h and is therefore the fastest roadworthy Ferrari yet produced. Sleek design, too.

Ferrari F12 Berlinetta

Yet ANOTHER world premiere at the 2012 Geneva International Auto Show was the gorgeous, and Sveeedish, 2013 edition of the Koenigsegg Agera R. For this new version, Koenigsegg has introduced a world first – hollow, one-piece, carbon fibre car wheels (Aircore technology, they call it). Imponerande och jättesnabb. If the Agera R’s theoretical top speed of approximately 440 km/h can be independently tested and verified, it would move Bugatti’s fastest car to second on the list.

2013 Koenigsegg Agera R, side view

2013 Koenigsegg Agera R, rear view

Last, but the opposite of least, is perhaps the most talked-about world premiere of the 82e Salon international de l’automobile de Genève: the Lamborghini Aventador J, of which only one – this one – exists. Even I, a complete ignoramus when it comes to cars, could tell as I walked up to this display that I was seeing a new type of Lamborghini. In my opinion, it’s the coolest one (at least in appearance) yet. I took tonnes of photos and later found out online that this is a one-off creation specifically to make a scene at the Geneva motor show which took less than two months from the time the Lamborghini CEO asked the design team to produce something new and fantastic, to the day it was unveiled in Geneva. And yes, it’s got all the legal stuff taken care of – it’s fully roadworthy. It only cost about 3 million dollars after taxes for the anonymous, obviously middle class dude who bought it.

Lamborghini Aventador J, front driver side view

“Look ma, no windscreen!”

Lamborghini Aventador J, front view

Lamborghini Aventador J, rear view

Check out the space-age rear-view mirror:

Lamborghini Aventador J, front passenger side view

Lamborghini Aventador J, passenger side close-up

I think I’m starting to see why some people get so interested in cars…

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  1. [...] returning to Vancouver via Geneva, where I spent a couple of hours at the 2012 Salon International de l’Auto, my first ever visit to a car [...]

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