2014 Geneva Auto Show: Hits, Misses & Revelations

GENEVA – We all love the Geneva show. It’s on relatively neutral ground. The first press day is so packed with product and concepts that we need the second day just to catch up and see everything. Despite all that, our design editor, Robert Cumberford, didn’t find much of interest.

“This is one of the least imaginative Geneva shows I’ve been to,” Cumberford insists. “There simply isn’t anything new and exciting in production cars, for me.”

Indeed, some of the most innovative designs came from French automakers that don’t sell cars in the United States. Meanwhile, such past groundbreaking designs as the Audi TT and the Mini Cooper prove that at Geneva, it’s all downhill after the first big splash. So without further ado, here are Automobile Magazine’s hits, misses, and revelations from the 2014 Geneva auto show:

HIT: Maserati Alfieri

Star of the show.
I have to say it’s the Maserati. It’s nice. Real nice. –Robert Cumberford

First, it was nice to be at least a bit surprised about a design that hadn’t leaked out. Second, the Alfieri is supposed to be an indication of Maserati’s new design direction, and anything that cribs from the Pininfarina-designed 1954 Maserati A6 GCS is going in the right direction. Design chief Lorenzo Ramaciotti said he was “overcome by emotion” when the silk came off the sensuous coupe Tuesday. In a bit of press conference bombast, Maserati said it “intended to break the shackles” of conventional sports car design. Hyperbole, for sure, but at least someone’s talking about design breakthroughs for a segment other than luxury crossovers. CEO Harald Wester hinted the car would get both V-6 and V-8 power from the Ghibli and would come in under the Gran Turismo, with a base price in the $110,000 range. That means an average transaction price of $150,000. As long as Wall Street continues to binge on corporate profits, Maserati will have no trouble selling out the car. – Todd Lassa

HIT: Skoda VisionC Concept

The Czech VW CC?
I like the proportions and the lines. They’re clean. Not complicated. – RC

MISS: Jeep Renegade

“Looks like a Korean Jeep.”
It’s way too complicated to be a straightforward, go-anywhere Jeep. It’s got a fancy DLO on the side. It’s got stuff everywhere. The backend is a mess, and the frontend has some coded vertical slots that say “Jeep” but headlights that don’t. – RC

HIT: Jeep Renegade

What a modern Jeep is.
I think it looks kinda cool. – David Zenlea

Perhaps I’m jaded by the Jeep Compass and Patriot, which I drove at a press event when they first came out some years ago, but this first B-segment Jeep seems fairly coherent, with good interior quality and styling. And perhaps it’s because of Land Rover’s direction with such models as the Range Rover Evoque, but unibody, transverse-engine cute-utes don’t bother me anymore. I don’t think it’s a home run, but it’s as true to its brand as any new, small thing I’ve seen lately. Let’s hope it’s a real off-roader, even if no one uses it that way. – TL

REVELATION: Volvo Estate concept

What happened to the company’s safety dance?
The Volvo Coupe concept that made such a splash at the Frankfurt auto show last September makes a handsome two-door wagon with 2+2 seating, orange seatbelts and wool carpeting, and black-on-white patterned seatbacks. It even has a Swedish game called “kubb” under the rear load floor, which is a transparent material with the game’s instructions embossed on it. On the other hand, Volvo says it’s proud that it eliminated most of the knobs and dial controls on the dashboard in favor of a large touchscreen tablet. Interior designer Robin Page says that “not having to deal with buttons and other controls for a growing number of functions is like being freed from a pair of handcuffs.” Easy for a designer to say, but try operating such controls on your morning commute without looking away from the windshield for seconds at a time. What happened to Volvo’s safety reputation? – TL

HIT: Mazda Hazumi

The next 2.
This concept, yet another handsome execution of the Kodo design language, becomes the Mazda2 as soon as it grows real door handles and mirrors. Like the Mazda 3 and Mazda 6, it looks more like a rear-wheel-drive European car than a front-wheel-drive Japanese car. That’ll be a huge advantage for the new 2 in Europe, where the Bsegment is more significant than any other. For the U.S. market, the most significant change in the 2 will be its point of assembly. The car will be built at Mazda's new factory in Mexico, which has recently started churning out North American Mazda 3s. That should insulate the brand from sharp currency changes. – DZ

HIT: Lamborghini Huracan

Best-looking Lamborghini since the Miura.
It’s much more subtle. And much more intelligent. – R.C. to Filippo Perini on the show stand, where the Lamborghini design chief gave our design editor a detailed walk-around of the car. Last year, Cumberford skewered Perini’s Veneno show car.

It sits three deep along with one slightly ridiculous Aventador, attempting to atone for decades of teenage male poster art. – TL

MISS: BMW 2-series Active Tourer

The un-BMW.
Unlike many of my colleagues, I’m not prejudiced against front-wheel-drive cars, even from sporty brands. I recognize that BMW needs the profits and sales volumes that only front-wheel-drive cars can earn so that it can subsidize ambitious investments like Project i and playthings like the M3. That said, I am having a lot of trouble warming up to this front-wheel-drive car. The cab-forward proportions and tall roofline scream “dumpy utility vehicle.” Perhaps BMW designers should spend some time studying the Mazda Hazumi concept, which looks more like a BMW than this vehicle. The name adds insult to injury, muddying the already confusing split between the brand’s odd-numbered sedans and even numbered coupes/four-door coupes. -- DZ

It’s an okay people mover. It doesn’t say BMW to me. It doesn’t have any compelling reason for anyone to buy it. Except for the badge, perhaps, and some people will do it based on that. I wouldn’t. – RC

HIT: Renault Twingo

Better than Twingo II, not quite Twingo I.
It’s out of the ordinary with its architecture: rear-engine/rear-wheel drive is brave and, I think, good. The problem is the first Twingo, back in the early ’90s, was expressive and cute. Then a bunch of dimbulbs at Renault said, “No, no, we need something consensual.” And they did Twingo II, which was so consensual that nobody bought it, relatively speaking. They sold about half as many. Now they’ve got a four-door hatchback Twingo, which is good. The rearrangement of the elements is good, but it doesn’t capture the cuteness of the first one. It’s just another city car, and“just another” is not a real compelling sales argument for anything. – RC

It’s one of my favorites here, though probably for its engine configuration more than for its design. The Twingo is on the next Smart platform with a 1.0L or a turbo 0.9L three-cylinder under the rear load floor, and presumably neither produces enough power to turn the engine into a boat-anchor in turns. Unlike the current Smart ForTwo, the Twingo is available with a stickshift, and it’s got both personality and some useful storage space. I wish we were getting the car in the U.S., perhaps as a Nissan. – TL

HIT: Peugeot 108

Best of three.
This car shares its platform and mechanicals with the Citroën C1 and the Toyota Aygo. This is the secondgeneration, and all three cars premiered here together. The Toyota was the best lookingof the three last time around, and this time, the Peugeot is the best looking. It’s very inexpensive -- 8000 euros (about $11,000) for the base model -- and with a new Peugeot 85-hp three-cylinder engine, they go really well. The fact that the 308 got International Automobile of the Year is another sop to this dying company. -- RC

MISS: Audi TT

Good-looking design, just as it has always been.
In the old days of Detroit -- the ’50s through the ’70s – the TT Mark II and now the TT Mark III might have been called facelifts. It’s the danger of developing such a fresh, unique, and handsome car as the first-generation TT that the design quickly goes from cutting edge to status quo. I wish Audi had taken some chances here. -- TL

REVELATION: Audi TT vs. Renault Twingo

There’s a lesson in here somewhere.
Audi could have taken the chances that Renault did with the Twingo. We’ve just seen the third generations of both cars. If Audi had done what Renault did, would the TT Mark II be a failure? Would the new one be more interesting? – TL

HIT: Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge

Idea in search of a transmission.
Infiniti got a lot of attention by stuffing the GT-R’s 3.8-liter twin-turbo V-6 between the front fenders of the Q50. Now comes the inevitable question: will it reach production? Infiniti CEO Johan de Nysschen indicates that the will is certainly there.

“Look, if we were run as a dictatorship, we’d be building it now,” he says. It’s finding a way that could be very difficult. The biggest challenge may be finding a transmission that can handle 443 lb-ft of torque (the GT-R’s rear-mounted transaxle would be a tough fit in the Q50). De Nysschen adds that he doesn’t want to “run out…and buy an expensive transmission,” such as the seven-speed automatic that partner Mercedes-Benz employs in the V-12-powered S65 AMG. Then the engine would need to be extensively retuned to work with a different transmission. “That's why it has not been done before--it's not easy."

Still, there’s a compelling case for Infiniti, which has struggled for two decades to establish itself as a first-class luxury brand, to go ahead with the ambitious project. -- DZ

HIT: BMW 4-series Gran Coupe

A pretty good mixture.
It tries to combine the sleek lines of a 6-series Gran Coupe with the versatility of the 5-series GT. -- TL

REVELATION: Turn Seat Leon Cupra into VW Golf

A humble suggestion.
Seat is Volkswagen’s struggling regional brand in Spain, having long been rumored for euthanasia. In Geneva, Seat showed a new Leon Cupra, based on the VW Golf’s platform, that showed clean, flowing lines. Why not end Seat and make that a Golf, instead? -- TL

There’s a Volkswagen stand with 10,000 Golfs on it, of every color, but it’s all the same. But they will never do that. They think there’s some magic in the Golf shape -- and that that shape will save them from depradations by the Japanese or the Koreans. -- RC

MISS: Porsche 919

It had better be quick at Le Mans.
To me, it’s the ugliest racecar in 25 years. It’s like they studied the ugliness. That offends me, in the sense that all previous Porsche sports racing cars were really good looking: the 962, the 956, the Spyders. This thing, I don’t care how many engineers worked on it, they could have done something for the windowline. --RC

HIT: Citroën C4 Cactus

La voiture quotidienne innovates.
The production version of this compact wagon, which appeared at Frankfurt as a concept, features Air Bump door panels, which means the doors have a rubberized centerpiece that absorbs minor impacts. The front passenger’s airbag drops down from the headliner, leaving space for a huge, top-hinged glovebox. And there’s a variety of colors and fairly rich interior materials, including matching or contrasting paint jobs for the Air Bumps. – TL

MISS: Rinspeed Autonomous Car

Needs a treadmill.
Using what apparently is a Tesla Model S body, Rinspeed teamed with several suppliers to show off an autonomous car. Its “driver” was a young, thin model lounging in the front passenger seat, which was facing rearward. (The seat has twenty different configurations.) The model won’t be this thin for long if this is the way she plans to drive around. –TL

REVELATION: The Scent of Bentley Leather

This is some kind of marketing trick.
You could smell the scent of leather emanating from the Bentley GT Speed on the stand from three or four carlengths away. It smells like well-bathed, Swedish-massaged money. – TL

HIT: Obscenely expensive tchotchkes

Wear your brand swimming.
What separates the Geneva auto show from most others is the presence of real, live rich people. Every brand makes sure to offer this clientele something absurdly expensive to take home, even if they decide not to put down a deposit on a Gumpert Explosion. Can I interest you in a 10,000-euro scale model of a Bugatti Atlantic? Or, perhaps Porsche swim trunks for 131 Swiss francs ($148)? -- DZ

REVELATION: Luxury is excess.

About time for a definition.
Silly as all these extravagances seem to us regular folks, they provide important insight into what real luxury is. No one needs a luxury car, certainly not when your average Kia or Volkswagen comes loaded with premium features. The key to getting people to spend more on a car is not some special paint color or a branded infotainment system but rather, the sense that the car is a pure reward. – DZ

ON SketchTV
https://www.youtube.com/user/onsketch Car sketch channel!! It's awesome!!
Franck Marcoccia
Jeep renegade ,Maserati alfieri,alfa romeo 4c ,cactus,Twingo,Ferrari california T ...panda cross
พล ฟ้าวันใหม่ พล เหลืองตรงกิจ
HURACAN
Mave0330
Hey, did you see best cars from Geneve 2014?? Check here - https://www.youtube.com/user/Mave0330
Ajay Rao
good
Maria Spores
That Maserati is gorgeous
phil_pe@yahoo.com
the Volvo looked great! would buy one today if it were on offer. The TT...one can't notice it as a new car, and besides, the TT2 looked the same as the original; Audi has one of the most boring lineups of all in terms of styling.  The Skoda Vision C concept looks very nice...and not too different in profile than the new Chrysler 200 I think.  With a few tweaks the Chrysler 200 could turn into a nice Lancia, specially if they made a hatchback or wagon version...are you listening Mr. Marchione?
Ayush Ponomareff
Lambo
Jon Arbuckle
in order, huracan, maserati, jeep and volvo are a tie, audi, mazda
Andrew Aslanidis
The Mazda is beautiful
Opel GeneralMotors
Opel
Michael Hallberg
The bottom four.
Balaji Kannan
volvo and lambo
Aaryan Parida
maserati
David George
1. Audi 2. Lamborghini 3. Maserati & 4. Volvo!
Frieder Steinle
Jeep Renegade!
Kalyan Cheedi
i feel is exlusive...ly ugly. but i guess that would make heads turn.
Pankaj Tiwari
AM
Angus MacKenzie
Between the Volvo Estate Concept and the super wicked awesome Hazumi Mazda Concept...drop me some Speedy2 parts and some nice rubber bits and suspension mods and I be good to go
Sachin Sharma
nic volvo
Esakki Muthu
jeep
Eddy Rodriguez
lambo huracan
Krishna Chaitanya
maseratti
Nek Plínio
Volvo and Audi
Noah Wou
Maserati Alfieri Concept
Alexandre Lima
Being in Geneva is my favorite.
Marc Hamady
Maserati, Lambo, and Volvo
UnRated Flair
the Maserati Alfieri!
Sathya Rx
Maseratiiiiiiiiiii
Lee Klein
The Maserati concept wins, but I really hope they make the Volvo Estate.
Denis Altynbayev
Huracan
Andre Lienhard
1 - Volvo
Rana Narendra
Lamborghini 620.... :)
Abolfazl Vahed
Maserati only.
Paolo Ghetti
Maserati e jeep
Philip Levy
The Volvo and Maserati
Adi As Spaho
volvo
Samuel O Lee
My faves were: 1. Jeep Renegade-Chrysler Corporation's saviour at minutes to midnight 2. Mazda Hazumi-this Mazda 2 is the latest in a winning lineup from the last true Japanese automaker. Please bring the new Mazda 6 Sport Wagon and RX-9 to North America asap Mazda!!! 3. Volvo Sport Wagon/Shooting Brake
Sadegh Moghadam
Jeep Renegade.
Matt Carberry
Volvo and huracan!!
Bryce Johnson
Volvo and Jeep (:
Ida Bender Piche
Jeep
Хатем Абдуррахмана
Lamborghini
Geoff Ekenstam
Volvo! APR will make the TT scream down the road though.
Reda Issa
Mercedes s coupé
Majid Safavian
Volvo
Hammad Mehmood
hurracan...
Chintan Patel
Lamborghini
Eric Augustus Margozewitz
They all have the same headlight design. Lame. Need a leader not a follower
Devendra A. Ishi
maserati

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