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The Greenest and Meanest Cars Spotted at the 88th Geneva Auto Show

Green and go in Switzerland

I'm walking the convention floor when I see the big-time boast in giant tan script against a stark black wall: The Most Powerful Hypercar in the World, 1,800 hp. There's something shapely lurking under a sheet. What the? What is this thing? Yep, I'm back in Geneva.

Some shows are bigger from a sheer size perspective. Others sometimes feature more high-impact debuts. But in terms of total automaker participation, number of important product reveals, and wealth of delightfully eccentric dream machines, the annual Salon International De L'Auto in Geneva, Switzerland, is the crème de la crème of the world's top auto shows.

Despite an industry that's growing greener faster than a lawn sprayed three times over with Scotts Turf Builder, there were a couple of major, traditionally powered surprises out on the floor of the 88th Geneva show—chief among them from an enthusiast perspective was the debut of the GR Toyota Supra Race Car Concept.

Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda is clear about his desire to develop more exciting, fun-to-drive offerings for Toyota and Lexus. That Toyota decided to preview the coming production version of the Supra in race trim was a megaphone shout to the world that the car will be a serious performer. I participated in a roundtable discussion with Supra chief engineer Tetsuya Tada, and he made a couple of emphatic points: The car will achieve a 50:50 balance over its 97.2-inch wheelbase, and its signature powerplant will be an inline-six, which is all but certain to be a version of BMW's turbocharged 3.0-liter thanks to Toyota's six-year relationship with the German automaker.

Tada-san spent some time talking about the tie-up with BMW, Toyota's partner on the joint Supra coupe/Z4 roadster project. He said that despite some rocky patches at the start due to cultural and organizational differences, they have been able to develop an effective working relationship.

Speaking of BMW, it had a big, bad, and beautiful debut of its own in the form of the Concept M8 Gran Coupe. The crew from Munich has yet to launch the production version of its coming 8 Series, but that didn't stop it from previewing the four-door version of what will almost assuredly become an M8 variant. Indeed, according to our esteemed European correspondent Georg Kacher, an M version of the 8 Series will be available in either Coupe or Gran Coupe flavors and will be powered by a track-tested, 650-hp version of BMW's 4.4-liter twin-turbo V-8.

If you weren't aware, there are some seriously well-paid folks in the greater Geneva area, and for them, there were several variations of some already super cars strewn about the show's tiered halls in case they wanted to add one to their already crowded garages: an ultimate Ferrari 488 called Pista, a better-handling Bugatti Chiron Sport, a two-door Range Rover dubbed the SV Coupe, and the Mercedes-AMG GT 4-Door Coupe among them.

Want to launch a new brand? Geneva was the spot this year. Is it electrified? Even better. No less than three nascent nameplates had their official coming out parties at the Palexpo. Aston Martin is reviving its dormant Lagonda subbrand, which will be an all-EV proposition aimed at the super rich, so yeah, Geneva worked. Its Lagonda Vision concept had some of the most comfortable-looking seats we've seen, top-hinged rear doors that allow occupants to stand up and strut out, and a design that takes advantage of EV packaging to maximize space.

We've already previewed Polestar, Volvo's electrified offshoot. This was the first time it had a presence at an international auto show, and it rolled out its sleek Polestar 1, which features a plug-in hybrid drivetrain the marque says will push 600 hp. Then there was Cupra, an offshoot of Volkswagen Group's Spanish brand Seat, which showcased several conventional offerings, but the car that stood out the most was a purpose-built EV racing concept called the Cupra E-Racer.

But the best part of the Geneva show to me will always be stumbling upon the dozens of niche brands and tuning houses you've heard or never heard of, small makers doing big things such as legendary German outfit RUF, which unveiled its Porsche-look, bespoke-platform SCR series cars. There are top-tier tuning houses such as TechArt and Brabus and dreamers like Corbellati (aka the makers of the most powerful hypercar in the world!), a privately funded Italian startup that's aiming its Missile at a terminal velocity of 500 kilometers per hour (310 mph) using a 9.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 with 1,800 horsepower. Good luck with that. Seriously.

Some say auto shows are dead.

I say Vive la Genève.