Motor City Blogman: Your Handy Pocket Guide To Geneva 2013

GENEVA - Here’s what I saw during press days at the 2013 Geneva International Motor Show. Pocket guide? Yeah, if you’re reading it on your smartphone.

Cue the overly dramatic music: The BMW 3 Series Gran Touring is here … the first presser I actually made on time Tuesday morning, and one of many to amp up the sturm und drang. The Chevrolet Corvette Stingray convertible already had been unveiled, first, on Jalopnik, then in Hall A. The 3 GT is better looking than the 5 Series Gran Touring, and will be a favorite of hatchback-happy Europeans. It’ll sell in the tens in the U.S.

Together again, for the first time: Daimler chief Dieter Zetsche, Karmin and affordability, as Mercedes introduces its CLA-Class. 

Spotted Niki Lauda: Early in the day. Not sotted, as I had Tweeted. Love the keyboard, hate the touch-screen. 

“Opel is back”: CEO Karl-Thomas Neumann at Opel’s press conference, with GM vice chairman Steve Girsky. When the presser ends, Neumann and Girsky duck the press scrum. Neumann’s optimism seems premature; this is the European market, which Zetsche says is having an even poorer first half of ’13 than expected [he and analysts believe the second half will be much better]. On the other hand, the Opel Cascada and new Adam variants are two of the most intriguing cars here not to have six-figure sticker prices.

“The Gentleman’s Grand Tourer”: Sexism aside, the Rolls-Royce Wraith coupe, a two-suicide-door version of the Ghost on a shortened wheelbase, with full wood paneling on the interior doors, is one of the most intriguing cars here to have a big, six-figure sticker price. It has the fastest roofline on the planet. On the other hand, from the right angle, the c-pillar and backlight looks like it belongs on a ’51 Pontiac Torpedoback. 

The Great Wall of Geneva: A 50/50 joint venture of Chery Automobile and Israel Corporation, the automaker will venture into Europe, but hasn’t announced any plans for the U.S. One exec noted that China invented paper and is “a very inventive and inventional country.” It’s certainly inventional regarding words, but why do its cars look like Volkswagen-Kia mashups? 

Why? Why? Why?: I very much like the Toyota FT86/Scion FR-S/Subaru BRZ, and I love the Mazda Miata. But why would anyone consider a convertible FT86? Certainly it would be overweight and flexy. Convertibles are best built as such from the ground-up, especially when they’re sports cars (see also Porsche Boxster, which came first, then the Cayman). So far, the FT86 convertible is just a concept; let’s hope it has as much of a shot as the Miata hardtop concepts of the late ‘90s.

Subaru Viziv: Love the palindrome name, and the styling’s not bad, but it has no meaning within the brand. The real new crossover/Tribeca replacement comes to the New York show.

New VW GTI, et. al.: The Golf VII is trickling out in Europe, though the U.S. won’t see the car for about a year-and-a-half. Will we notice? Though it’s on VW’s all singing, all-dancing MQB flexible small car platform, the styling is anti-climactic for such an important new car.

The most influential car here: is, however, the Volkswagen XL-1. I drove a recent version of this two-seat, diesel/plug-in hybrid in Qatar a couple of years ago, and with an all-electric range of about 30 miles, plus a roughly-converted rating of 261 mpg, this configuration some day could become the perfect commuter car. It will be sold in Europe with sideview cameras and no back window, which is probably why it won’t be sold in the U.S. Let’s hope VW doesn’t pull a Toyota and try a convertible concept.

Porsche could give Lamborghini subtlety lessons: No matter what you think of the PDK-only (I don’t like it, but I’d get a Cayman, anyway), 469-horsepower, 3.8-liter Porsche GT3, you’ve got to love its sublime design. 

La, la, la, la, la, la: If you’re not Fernando Alonzo or Felipe Massa and you want la KERS in your 951-horsepower, 6.3-liter V-12 Ferrari, you’ll have to go with LaFerrari.

If you’re not Jensen Button or Sergio Perez: You’ll need P1 money to kinda get a KERS-like hybrid 727-horsepower 3.8-liter twin-turbo V-8 McLaren. I’m starting to think that if you want a chance to make it as an upstart road car company, it’s best to start out with a Formula 1 team.

La bella machina: La production Alfa Romeo 4C. In red. I couldn’t get close enough to sit behind the wheel, but the interior looks sufficiently downmarket enough to believe it will be more affordable than a Porsche Cayman. I hope.

Closing with the oldest of car magazine cliché’s: How many decades have we been writing, “Darth Vader, your car has arrived.”? And finally, it has: the Lamborghini Verano … er, Veneno.

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