The 2019 Geneva Auto Show, where electrification, tech, and performance collide

Though automakers are increasingly turning their backs on auto shows, the annual Geneva Auto Show remains one of the most significant dates on the calendar. Historically, the industry’s elite have chosen Geneva to unveil their latest and greatest models. In recent years, the event has expanded to give companies big and small a venue to showcase their efforts in the fields of electrification, connectivity, and autonomy. Performance and tech again collided in a spectacular display of creativity during the 2019 edition of the event.

From the dune buggy of the future to a Kia with bionic eyes, here are the most captivating cars basking under the spotlights at the 2019 Geneva Auto Show. Spoiler alert: most of them are electrified to some degree.

Alfa Romeo Tonale

Alfa Romeo Tonale concept
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Even a company like Alfa Romeo that values tradition can’t escape the two waves currently sweeping across the automotive industry. It unveiled a close-to-production concept called Tonale that takes the form of a plug-in hybrid crossover. It previews a model that, when it reaches showrooms, will slot below the Stelvio to compete against the BMW X1 and the Audi Q3. Most of the concept’s tech, including the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and the 10.25-inch touchscreen, will make the transition from the show floor to the showroom floor.

Audi Q4 E-Tron

Audi’s product plan calls for the launch of no less than 12 fully electric cars by 2025. The concept that the firm introduced in Geneva sheds insight into what one of them will look like. Called Q4 E-Tron, it’s a high-riding model with a softer, more rounded design than what we’re used to seeing from Audi. Its cabin is brimming with tech features, including a driver-configurable digital instrument cluster, and an evolution of the MMI Touch Response infotainment system.

Though it’s presented as a concept, the Audi Q4 E-Tron will reach production in late 2020 or early 2021.

Honda E Prototype

Honda E Prototype
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The E Prototype is the kind of car we would have expected Apple, not Honda, to build. Urban, electric, design-led, and minimalist yet advanced, it’s a close-to-production car that previews the final evolution of the Urban EV concept we saw in 2017. Every part of it is new, including a triple-screen infotainment system that looks surprisingly intuitive to use, rear-view camera technology that sends conventional door mirrors the way of the carburetor, and an electric powertrain which places the motor over the rear wheels. Honda promises about 124 miles of range.

Production will begin in 2019, but there’s a catch. Honda confirmed the E Prototype will not be sold in the United States. Its design and tech will influence the EVs the company plans on offering here in the early 2020s.

Kia Imagine

Kia’s Imagine concept looks like nothing else the firm has ever made. We’ll let you judge whether or not that’s a good thing. LEDs give its front end a high-tech look, and it inaugurates the next evolution of the Kia logo. Inside, the South Korean company installed no less than 21 screens neatly arranged one behind the other to display the infotainment system, as well as vital information about the car and its surroundings. Why 21? It’s “a humorous riposte to the industry’s current obsession with ever-increasing dashboard screens,” according to Kia.

Nissan IMQ

2019 Nissan IMQ concept
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The Nissan IMQ concept wears a Hot Wheels-like design with oversized wheels, an unusually tall belt line, and tiny windows. Clearly, it’s not quite ready for production, but it’s a sign of the direction the company’s design department could take in the coming years. It’s semi autonomous, and it’s powered by a 335-horsepower hybrid powertrain that delivers V6-like performance, impressive fuel economy, and the peace of mind of all-wheel drive. It might come to a driveway near you sooner rather than later, according to Nissan.

Polestar 2

Volvo decided to sit out the 2019 Geneva Auto Show, but sister company Polestar attended the event to introduce its first mass-produced car. Named 2, it’s an electric sedan-SUV mash-up aimed directly at the Tesla Model 3, and it has the power, the tech, and the looks to back up its aggression. Polestar quotes 400-horsepower, all-wheel drive, about 275 miles of range, and a cutting-edge Android-based infotainment system. Pricing will start at approximately $60,000, which is on the expensive side for a car of this size, but the Model 3 has proved the market is there.

Volkswagen ID Buggy

Volkswagen demonstrated the nearly boundless flexibility of its MEB vehicle platform by unveiling a modern-day dune buggy in Geneva. The design study takes the form of a battery-powered, two-seater dune buggy that channels the spirit of the original, Beetle-based Manx sold between 1964 and 1971 without completely copying it. While it looks like merely a styling exercise for the auto show, Volkswagen told Digital Trends it will team up with a third party manufacturer to bring the model to production by 2021.

Who else was in Geneva?

2019 Subaru Viziv concept
Ronan Glon/Digital Trends

The cars mentioned above are some of the highlights of the show, but the list of introductions includes dozens of models from companies positioned all over the automotive spectrum. Mercedes-Benz introduced the facelifted GLC, and it revealed the CLA Shooting Brake. It’s a family-friendly version of the CLA sedan that’s not sold in the United States. Toyota showed a race car based on the Supra. Mitsubishi and Subaru each had an adventure-ready concept car on display, and Smart showed a follow-up to the Forease concept it unveiled in 2018. Jeep went hybrid, Volkswagen released a 300-horsepower crossover, and Mazda expanded its portfolio of high-riding model with the CX-30.

What about the supercars?

Bugatti La Voiture Noire
Ronan Glon/Digital Trends

Switzerland is better known for delicious chocolate than for ultra-quick supercars. It has almost no automotive industry, so it’s a neutral ground where high-end manufacturers from Europe, Asia, and America come together to fight for the attention of enthusiasts — and for the wallet of wealthy shoppers — on equal footing. Geneva normally puts on an impressive supercar show, and 2019 was no different.

Ferrari revealed a brand-new model named F8 Tributo which replaces the 488 GTB. It packs a twin-turbocharged, 3.9-liter V8 engine that delivers a monstrous 720 horsepower. Arch rival Lamborghini unveiled two top-less supercars: the Aventador SVJ Roadster and the Huracan Evo Spyder. Aston Martin attended the event to preview a gasoline-electric hypercar code-named Project 003, and its Lagonda sub-brand showed us an electric SUV concept that could turn into a Rolls-Royce Cullinan competitor. The 1,600-horsepower Koenigsegg Jesko and the one-off, $19 million Bugatti La Voiture Noire also broke cover under the lights in the Palexpo convention center.

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