ome think auto shows are a thing of the past. I hope not. Granted, most of the American expos have lost some of their sex appeal lately by focusing on the practical rather than the fabulous—but not in Geneva.
The 2019 Geneva Motor Show opened to the public this morning. It’s always been a performance-oriented event, filled with lots of outrageous sports cars and ultra-posh luxury machines that excite the senses. This year is no different.
Sure, the European economy is on the verge of recession, and fallout from Brexit promises to hobble its major auto manufacturers, but that hasn’t stopped the world’s top car builders—including Aston Martin, Audi, Bugatti, Ferrari, Lamborghini, McLaren and others—from delivering some of the most otherworldly performance vehicles in years.
A Gift From the Gods
ASTON MARTIN AM-RB 003
Previously code-named Project 003, the AM-RB 003 is the third model in Aston Martin’s mid-engine lineup, joining the stunning Valkyrie and extreme Valkyrie AMR Pro. The all-new vehicle will slot below the Valkyrie and compete for bragging rights with the likes of the Ferrari LaFerrari and the McLaren Senna.
Though a lot of the vehicle’s design language is shared with the Valkyrie (the rear diffuser and air tunnels appear to be nearly identical), the AM-RB 003 sports a more traditional mid-engine supercar layout, with high-exit exhausts, a jet-fighter-style canopy, and active aerodynamics and suspension.
The 003 is propelled by an all-new V6 engine that will feature some level of hybridization and turbocharging to aid performance. For example, it might employ KERS technology. A mainstay in Formula One racing, KERS captures kinetic energy under braking and stores it for use when needed to enhance a car’s performance. We’ll just have to wait and see. And even though Aston Martin won’t comment on power output, the rumor mill has it at 1,000-plus horsepower.
Though AM-RB 003, which will be limited to 500 models, doesn’t yet have a real name, it will when the car goes into production in 2021. Again, rumor is that Aston Martin will continue with the Norse God theme and call it the Valhalla.
BUGATTI LA VOITURE NOIRE
La Voiture Noire translates quite simply to “The Black Car.” However, there is nothing simple about this black-on-black one-off coupe with the comfort of a luxury limousine and the muscle of a hypercar.
According to Bugatti, La Voiture Noire is a modern interpretation of the French automaker’s legendary Type 57 SC Atlantic, which celebrates its 80th anniversary this year. But it’s much more. Technically, the vehicle borrows much of its underpinnings from the Bugatti Chiron. Distinctive bodywork, an elegant glossy black finish, a longer wheelbase and significant engine tweaks make it one of a kind.
At its core is the automaker’s iconic W16 8-liter 16-cylinder engine, which develops 1,500 horsepower and 1,180 pound-feet of torque. Though Bugatti did not release performance figures, the car is technically capable of the same blistering performance exhibited by the Chiron and Divo since it is equipped with the same mill. However, Bugatti says the car is set up for cruising rather than just going fast, so your guess on speed and capability is as good as mine.
Sadly, you can’t buy this black beauty. Not because Bugatti is keeping the $12.5 million (before taxes, nearly $19 million after) vehicle for itself—but because even before the Geneva Motor Show began, it was sold.
FERRARI F8 TRIBUTO
This mid-rear-engine two-seater is the successor to Ferrari’s popular 488 GTB. According to the Italian car builder, the F8 Tributo is every bit at as powerful as the company’s more performance-oriented 488 Pista, but tuned with more focus on drivability and comfort.
The F8 Tributo features a twin-turbocharged 3.9-liter V8 that produces 710 horsepower and 568 pound-feet of torque, making it the prancing horse’s most powerful mid-rear-engine production car to date. Those figures are identical to those of its rival, the McLaren 720S, and are suitable for a top speed of 211 mph and zero-to-62 mph romp of 2.9 seconds.
The vehicle is also equipped with a system called the Ferrari Dynamic Enhancer that makes it easier to exploit the car’s power and capability at the limits of its handling.
On the outside, you might say, “It looks like a Ferrari—so what?” Look closer; you’ll see a new, cleaner styling direction, a bridge to a new design language that emphasizes performance and aerodynamic efficiency—or so says Ferrari.
Faster Is Better
Swedish automaker Koenigsegg builds some of the fastest supercars in the world. Take the Agera RS, for instance. It holds the top-speed record for a production car (read: street-legal): 277.9 mph. The Jesko is the company’s latest speedwagon, and it is slated to replace the Agera RS in the Koenigsegg garage next year. More important: Will it be as fast?
On paper . . . yes. The company claims the Jesko will reach 300 mph. However, the Swedes aren’t basing this claim on practical testing but rather on the sum of the innovations it made while building the “megacar,” as Koenigsegg calls it.
The Jesko is motivated by an all-new 5.0-liter twin-turbo V8 capable of producing 1,280 horsepower on standard gas (1,600 horsepower on E85 biofuel) and 1,106 pound-feet of torque, which makes it the most potent Koenigsegg internal combustion engine ever made. The Agera RS, for comparison, was rated at 1,160 horses on gas.
An ultra-fast-shifting nine-speed transmission is also on tap, allowing for instant, prodigious power that’s always optimized and available for maximum acceleration.
Other notable enhancements are a new rear wing, front splitter and rear diffuser. They combine to form the core of an active aerodynamics and airflow package that maximizes downforce while minimizing drag. Dynamic rear steering allows for faster cornering, better maneuverability, and more grip.
Interior luxuries include an infotainment system that includes a five-inch display mounted behind the steering wheel and a nine-incher mounted in the dash; inductive phone charging; Bluetooth connectivity; automated climate control; electrically adjustable mirrors, adjustable pedals and steering; and parking sensors.
Koenigsegg will build 125 Jeskos in two variants: one that is track-focused and one that is a more road-friendly machine. Each will cost $2.8 million.
Top of the Topless
LAMBORGHINI HURACÁN EVO SPYDER
Only a few months after Lamborghini introduced the Huracán Evo Coupe to the world, the house of the raging bull is chopping the top to create the Evo Spyder.
As with the hard-top coupe, the convertible is motivated by a tweaked version of Lambo’s 5.2-liter V10 engine, which now produces 640 horsepower and 442 pound-feet of torque just like the race-inspired Performante model. With the help of a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission and an all-wheel drive, it can propel the Huracán Evo to 62 mph in 3.1 seconds and on to a top speed of more than 202 mph.
Handling is improved over the stock Huracán thanks to rear-wheel steering and a torque vectoring system. A central processing unit that manages every aspect of the car’s setup and dynamic behavior is also on tap, anticipating the next move and needs of the driver to help the Lamborghini handle as precisely as possible.
Cosmetically, the Huracán Evo Spyder (which will hit the streets this spring with a base price of $287,400) wears a new front fascia with larger air intakes, new underbody aerodynamics and a redesigned diffuser as well as new exhausts that exit higher up on the rear fascia.
This work of art takes my breath away. The McLaren Speedtail (above and top) is the spiritual successor to the 1992 McLaren F1, the legendary ultralight, V12-powered, mid-engine coupe whose beastly acceleration and 250 mph top speed made it the world’s first hypercar. According to McLaren, “It brings together unprecedented levels of innovation and elegance to create a new benchmark in automotive design.”
Like the legendary F1, the Speedtail seats three, with the driver steering from the center of the cockpit. However, that’s where the similarities seemingly end. McLaren classifies the car as a Hyper-GT. At first glance, the car looks like it’s breaking the speed limit standing still. Every detail—from its ultra-low stance to the ultra-slim headlights in the front fascia to jet-fighter style canopy covering the cockpit—has been designed to enhance the car aerodynamically. Even the traditional side mirrors have been replaced with rear-facing cameras that can retract into the bodywork so as not to cause any drag, and fixed carbon-fiber pieces cover the front wheels.
Inside is just as fantastic. The dash is one big display panel, cut into three zones, that stretches across the front of the dashboard: Zone 1 is the driver’s instrument panel; Zone 2 to the left of the pilot is for HVAC and navigation; and Zone 3 to the right is for phone and other media functions.
Generous motivation is provided by a 1,036-horsepower, gas-electric hybrid powertrain that will propel the Speedtail to 186 mph in a staggering 13 seconds and to a top speed of 250 mph, making it the quickest McLaren built to date.
Sadly, you can’t have this one either. All 106 Speedtails slated for production have been sold, despite their $2.3 million price tag.
Top-Down And Cruisin’
MERCEDES-AMG GT R ROADSTER
In only a few months on the street, the AMG GT R Coupe has proved to be a real gem of a car, combining luxury and performance. Now Mercedes’ performance gurus are chopping off the top, giving us a roadster that they promise will perform just as well as the coupe while the sun beats on your face and the wind blows back your hair.
The Roadster’s hardware is nearly identical to the Coupe’s. A four-liter twin-turbo V8 resides under the hood, delivering 577 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque, just like the Coupe. When all that power is routed through the seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission, Mercedes claims the car will accelerate to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds and achieve a top speed of 197 mph, a little slower than the Coupe.
To ensure that the car is at home on the race track or a winding coastal road, AMG engineers worked on the suspension to provide a mix of comfort and performance. Hence an adjustable suspension; active rear-wheel steering, aerodynamics and engine mounts; and programmable driving modes are also on tap.
Only 750 will be made.
It’s a Matter of DNA
PIËCH AUTOMOTIVE MARK ZERO
Nearly four years ago, Toni Piëch and serial entrepreneur and industrial designer Rea Stark Rajcic came up with the idea to develop a new, flexible vehicle architecture—one with an element of future-proofing in its DNA. The two envisioned an electric car with swappable motors, batteries, and software—the concept was that as technology improved, so could the car. Plus the platform had to be configurable, able to house a variety of powertrains ranging from hybrids to hydrogen fuel cells to full internal combustion options. Hence, Piëch Automotive was born. This week, the company unveiled its first EV, the Piëch Mark Zero.
If the Piëch name sounds familiar, it should. Anton Piëch named the company after his father, Ferdinand Piëch, the legendary Volkswagen executive and grandson of Porsche’s founder, Ferdinand Porsche. So cars are in Anton’s blood.
A sleek sports car, the Mark Zero is powered by three electric motors—each rear wheel gets a dedicated 150-kilowatt synchronous electric motor, while the front axle has an asynchronous 150-kW motor. The result is a combined output of 450 kW, or 603 horsepower, which is good for a zero-to-62 mph romp of 3.2 seconds and a top speed of 155 mph.
To ensure the GT car can handle that type of power in the twists and turns, Piëch engineers positioned the car’s battery pack in the chassis’ center tunnel and around the rear axle. This configuration makes the vehicle extraordinarily balanced and gives it a low center of gravity, so it will theoretically handle like a dream, staying planted on the ground even at speed.
Like most EV makers, the company is already making some bold claims. According to Piëch, it is using a new type of battery whose cells produce barely any heat during charging and discharging phases, which allows for the extremely fast charging. It can achieve a charge of 80 percent capacity in less than 5 minutes. That’s considerably faster than any other car on the market. Its range is 311 miles.
Two-seat, four-seat and even SUV variants are in the pipeline. Production should begin in the next few years.
AUTOMOBILI PININFARINA BATTISTA
Legendary Italian car designer Pininfarina has brought many iconic sports cars from sketch to scale over the years for the likes of Alfa Romeo, Ferrari and Maserati, to name a few. Now the fabled designer is getting set to launch its line of supercars under the banner of the company’s new car-building division, Automobili Pininfarina. Its first offering is this spectacular-looking electric hypercar.
Known as the Battista, its powerplant will develop 1,900 horsepower and 1,696 pound-feet of torque. That’s enough get-up-and-go to reach 62 mph in less than 2 seconds and achieve a top speed of 217 mph.
The Battista will go into production in 2020. Only 150 units will be built at an estimated price of $2 million to $2.5 million, according to Car and Driver magazine.
Less Is Much More
PORSCHE 718 CAYMAN T AND THE 718 BOXSTER T
More at home on a winding mountain road than a boring superhighway, these two-seaters are designed with the sports car purist in mind—the type of driver who not only loves a car’s raw power and speed but also its ability to effortlessly hoon through the twists and turns.
The 718 Cayman T (above) and 718 Boxster T are both powered by the same turbocharged, 2.0-liter flat-four engine tuned to deliver 300 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. Mounted directly behind the passenger compartment, the turbo four spins the rear wheels through a six-speed manual transmission; a seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic tranny can also be outfitted for a few extra dollars. Porsche claims a zero-to-62-mph in 5.1 seconds with the stick and 4.7 seconds with the automatic regardless of body style. Top speed is 171 mph.
A sport-tuned suspension with adaptive dampers, lower ride height, and the Porsche Torque Vectoring with rear differential lock are also part of each package.
Inside, the vehicles are mostly tech- and creature-comfort-free—fewer amenities means less weight, and the lighter the car, the better the power-to-weight ratio. The better the power-to-weight-ratio, the better the cars will perform. Pricing starts at $71,000 for the 718 Cayman T and $73,500 for the 718 Boxster T.