The Geneva Auto Show is to the automotive industry what the Consumer Electronics Show is to the world of tech. It’s a huge — and hugely important — gathering where companies from all over the planet vie for the limited attention span of journalists, consumers, and enthusiasts.
Geneva stands out from other stops on the auto show circuit such as Detroit, Paris, and Tokyo. There are no major car manufacturers based in Switzerland, so every company is on equal footing. And it has historically been the venue of choice for brands that want to unveil powerful and/or luxurious models that cost as much as a small, late-model Cessna plane. Porsche, Lamborghini, and Aston Martin have all skipped various auto shows in recent years, but none of those brands would even consider sitting out Geneva.
This year’s show was a little bit smaller than it’s been in the past because big names like Rolls-Royce, Bugatti, and Koenigsegg were among the brands sitting on the sidelines. Still, we counted at least 40 global debuts in the sprawling Palexpo convention center. These are the ones that stood out — for better or for worse.
Best in show: McLaren 720S
The 720S replaces the 650S in McLaren’s Super Series lineup. It’s faster and lighter than the model it replaces, but that’s what you typically expect from the second generation of a sports car. We don’t need to tell you that it has more power, either. What’s truly surprising is the effort McLaren put into making its core model easier to live with on a regular basis.
The trick butterfly doors aren’t there just to look cool. They make getting in and out of the car a much less awkward process. Natural light penetrates the cabin through glass panels built into the top parts of the doors, and seethrough C-pillars facilitate the ferociously nerve-racking task of maneuvering the 720S in tight spaces. There’s even a small storage space right above the engine compartment that can hold a messenger bag or a purse.
All told, the 720S is a big step forward compared to the 650S, which was already a formidable car. We can’t wait to see what McLaren has in store as it gradually replaces the other members of its lineup.
Our favorite coupe: Lamborghini Huracán Performante
Too often, new variants of existing cars receive a specific paint job and, if we’re lucky, a redesigned front bumper. The Performante is not one of those. Instead, Lamborghini sent the Huracán to the gym before giving it comprehensive updates.
The newest Raging Bull is built around a naturally aspirated, 5.2-liter V10 engine dialed up to 640 horsepower. Lamborghini relied on groundbreaking active aerodynamic technology to add downforce without creating excessive drag, which limits the top speed a car can reach on a track. The Performante is also lighter than the standard Huracán thanks to a new, patented type of carbon fiber named Forged Composite.
Our favorite SUV/crossover: Volvo XC60
The XC60 is the next chapter in Volvo’s ongoing renaissance. Getting it right was crucial; crossovers are in hot demand all around the globe, and the current-generation model is the Swedish company’s best-seller by a long shot.
From a design standpoint, the new XC60 is a smash hit. It retains a few of its predecessor’s defining styling cues, like the slanted D-pillar, and blends them with the elegant design language that Volvo introduced on its bigger 90-series models. The interior is markedly improved, too; the materials used are perceptibly nicer, and the XC60 brings Volvo’s intuitive infotainment technology to a new segment. We’re confident it has what it takes to retain the best-seller crown.
Our favorite concept: Mercedes-AMG GT
It’s been a wild ride for AMG. The company started out as an independent tuner before becoming a partner, a subdivision, and now a full-blown sub-brand with enough independence to develop its own cars from scratch. The GT concept is the first sedan designed entirely by AMG, and a direct product of the company’s newfound freedom.
It may look like a four-door variant of the GT coupe, but it’s built on an evolution of the platform that underpins the recent additions to the Mercedes-Benz lineup like the E-Class. A twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 engine and an electric motor join forces to put a stunning 805 horsepower under the accelerator pedal.
Many concept cars are design studies built for the auto show circuit — but not this one. AMG stresses the GT will morph into a Panamera-punching machine that’s expected to arrive early next year.
Our least favorite debut: Audi Q8 Sport concept
The Audi Q8 concept isn’t new; it was presented in January at the Detroit Auto Show. It received a coat of orange paint and a redesigned front end on its way to Switzerland. It also got an electric-powered compressor, which is a nifty piece of tech that already equips two production models (built by Audi and Bentley, respectively) in Europe.
The Q8 concept is the automotive equivalent of the leftover casserole lingering behind the milk jug in your fridge. It’s no secret that it will soon join the Audi lineup, and we understand that the company wants to flaunt the show car in front of as many eyeballs as possible, but billing it as a world premiere was misleading.
You might be wondering, “Why pick on Audi? What about Jaguar and Bentley?” It’s true, the i-Pace concept turned red as it traveled from Los Angeles to Geneva, but it was honestly and humbly presented as a European premiere, not a global one. And while Bentley dusted off the EXP concept, this time around it was topless and fully electric.