Salon international de l’auto, better known to many as the Geneva International Motor Show, has come and gone once again.
This year’s show brought a number of important unveilings, from the monumentally pricey and strictly limited-production Bugatti Chiron, Koenigsegg Regera and Lamborghini Centenario to the more accessible new Audi Q2, Toyota C-HR and Renault Megane wagon.
There was likewise no shortage of edgy concepts, from the improbable DS E-Tense to the crystal ball-gazing Subaru XV show car.
Here are some of our picks of the show, and a few of the less than stellar outings.
James Ward, in Geneva
Best Production Car: Volvo V90
The big and supremely stylish wagon shows that the XC90 was not a one-trick pony for a revitalised Volvo.
The lovely ‘natural’ interior and low stance of the wagon earns the Volvo a big tick. I would have loved to see the rear ‘dickie seat’ in the back, though.
Best Concept: Italdesign GT Zero
What is it with shooting brake style lines that balance out a futuristic sports car design?
Some really cool elements, like the back window surrounding brake light, and an undeniable visual link to the 1960’s Pink Panther car!
Biggest Miss: Maserati Levante
Whether it was the lighting on the Maserati stand or the car itself, something about the Levante didn’t pop as much as it should. It looks like a generic X6-clone rather than a sporting luxury SUV befitting the Maserati name.
It may grow on me, but for now the Levante has left me feeling a bit cold.
Trent Nikolic, in Geneva
Best Production Car: Lamborghini Centenario
There is no more fitting tribute to the founder of legendary brand Lamborghini than this stratospherically expensive hypercar. The massively powerful V12 engine is non-negotiable and its outrageous styling has the same effect as the Miura, which kickstarted Lamborghini so many years ago.
If Lamborghini is building cars that look like the Centenario, all is well in the world.
Best Concept Car: Subaru XV
I’m the first to criticise the underwhelming presence of the current XV, a car that barely gets anyone’s pulse racing. Sure, it’s user friendly and it will have Subaru reliability, but there’s nothing too exciting about it.
This vision of the next XV, though, promises to be so much more. It’s attractive, with sharp-edged styling and great presence. Make it happen Subaru. And don’t change it too much either.
Biggest Miss: Maserati Levante
I might get pilloried for this, but when sportscar manufacturers try their hands at SUVs, it rarely ends well. Look how long it’s taken Porsche to design a Cayenne that isn’t headache inducing to look at. The Levante is a whole lot of nothing with fancy badging and a fancy price tag.
The fact that SUVs prop up car companies because we’re all stupid enough to buy them is starting to get a bit sad.
Mike Stevens, in Geneva
Best production car: Renault Megane GT wagon
I’m all about small wagons, and a quick wagon is all the more appealing. Renault has pleased us with the Megane GT220 in recent years, and this new Megane GT wagon looks a treat to me, although I’d be never be able to resist a Megane RS wagon. Whaddya say, Renault?
Best concept: DS E-Tense
I don’t like being seen in over-the-top sports cars, but boy do I love looking at them. The DS E-Tense throws itself against the Great Wall of Too Damn Much but manages to avoid crashing through the other side.
Sharp lines, inventive, if familiar angles, classic proportions and a foward-thinking electric drivetrain make the E-Tense a potential winner if it goes into production.
Miss: Audi Q2
There’s no specific quality to the Q2 that rubs me the wrong way — it simply doesn’t look like an Audi to me. That’s a tricky place for a car maker to be, of course: stay the course on an evolutionary and predictable design path, or break away with something new. The Q2 is unquestionably Audi in its look, and the ‘3D’ grille is everything Audi promised it would be.
But does it work for me? It doesn’t. The whole package is off, somehow. It’s boxy where it should be sporty, muscular and angular where it should be lithe and athletic. Time will tell if I’m alone in this view, but I suspect it’s going to sell well. Compact, affordable, Audi-badged SUV? A recipe for success.
Best Production Car: Aston Martin DB11
Call me biased, but how good does it look? This is how to evolve a design that is already amazing. It looks exactly like it should, classy without losing that aggression. V12 with two turbos? Aston has nailed it.
Best Concept: Rimac Concept One
It’s Croatian, and has 800kW of power and 1600Nm of torque. In reality, given its eastern European heritage, even if it has half that power and torque, it would still be cool.
Biggest Miss: Toyota C-HR
My God, the designers at Toyota have completely lost the plot now. First the new Prius and now this wannabe-Honda abomination. If you’re going to copy a company’s design, don’t let that be Honda. There are far better sources to steal from.
Toyota designers seem to have been told “stop producing boring cars” and have taken that to mean, “start making the edgiest cars you can possibly can”.
For me, the prize is shared with the Audi Q2, which — while I want to applaud them for making it look a little different to every other bloody Audi — looks like a Suzuki from the front and a weird French car from the rear. No thanks.
Best Production Car: Bugatti Chiron
I want to be completely dazzled at an international motor show, such as Geneva, and the all-new Bugatti Chiron does exactly that. The performance figures will leave you speechless: over 1500PS (1103kW) and 1600Nm, which is around 50 per cent up on the original Veyron we drove in 2008.
Here again, Bugatti has pushed the automotive envelope further than anyone would ever dare in our politically correct world. And good on them.
Best concept: DS E-Tense
If the French brand wants to make a statement about their new luxury sub-brand, DS, then this high-performance electric GT will certainly attract plenty of eyeballs.
And like the Citroen of old, this is a car that pushes the design envelope in much the same way that the original DS did all those years ago.
Biggest miss: Toyota C-HR
Part British Bulldog and part Transformers, or something in between, is how I would best describe this creation from Toyota.
It just doesn’t work on so many levels. It’s a shame the production C-HR had to stick so close to the earlier concepts.
Best Production Car: Porsche 911 R
Yes, it’s as predictable as death and taxes that Porsche would release a ‘manual GT3’ of sorts, but that doesn’t make the R any less lust worthy. In fact, the diet-GT3 format of the 911 R simply makes it more appealing.
That Aussie supply will be strangled ensures instant collectible status for a car I hope to one day drive, but know that I’ll likely never own.
Best Concept: Lazareth LM847
Geneva churns out enough world-conquering Bugattis, can’t-buy-them Lambos and Koenigg-somethings that such hypercar tomfoolery starts to lose its surprise factor. Enter the Lazareth LM847, a truly mad scientist creation that’s essentially a four-wheeled motorcycle structure clinging fearfully to a 4.7-litre Maserati V8 engine.
One part Mad Max Fury Road, another part Tron reboot, the only utterly forgettable thing about this bonkers device is its name.
Biggest Miss: Bottom-ugly SUVs
If the march of time brings progress, those tasked with styling family haulers have missed the brief. It certainly mustn’t be an easy job moving SUV design forward: just ask Audi, Maserati and Toyota.
How could the Q2 just miss every mark from any angle? And the Levante looks like a bad Photoshop job that’s been spat out of a printer at Pixar. As for the Toyota C-HR, well, it’s perhaps the worst case of Lex-itis in recent memory, a veritable multi-design pile-up in desperate need of urgent medication.
Best production car: Volvo V90
Station wagons and Sweden. Those two things go together like beef patties and buns. Like cheese and crackers. Like ice cream and topping. Geez, I’m really hungry.
Where was I? Oh, yeah, the Volvo V90. It’s sexy, sensual, and the best-looking production car debut of the 2016 Geneva motor show. It has sleek lines, beautiful details, a sumptuous looking interior and enough boot space for all the picnic hampers imaginable. That’s it, I’m off to get lunch.
An honourable mention goes to the Toyota C-HR. It looks pretty convincing in the pictures and the video, but will it be as appealing in person? We’ll have to wait until later this year to find out.
Best Concept: Volkswagen T-Cross Breeze
“Another convertible SUV?” I scoffed when I saw the first image of the T-Cross Breeze, but the more I looked at it, the more it started to make sense. This is a baby SUV that features a folding soft-top, and it looks great with the roof off or on.
If it makes it to production alongside the other sub-Tiguan models that are said to be coming, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was properly successful for the brand.
Biggest Miss: Audi Q2
Put it back in. It’s not done yet.
This is possibly the biggest styling fail from any luxury automotive brand since the Bangle-era at BMW. It lacks cohesion, with its Volkswagen Polo-like tail-lights, its Suzuki-aping front end styling, and its previous-generation-A3-on-steroids profile. Sure, some of the shots make it look OK from some angles, but the red one with silver C-pillar insert — what is that?! — is gross.
Best Production Car: Renault Scenic
Renault design under Laurens van den Acker just keeps knocking it out of the park. This is one seriously gorgeous MPV, right?
Between this, the new Espace and the Kadjar, Renault’s European range is seriously sexy. However, it appears that like the latter pair, the Scenic won’t return to Australia — at least for the foreseeable future. There just isn’t any real demand.
But to me, crossover SUVs can hit the kerb if this is the alternative. Tres magnifique.
Best Concept: DS E-Tense
If PSA Peugeot Citroen’s luxury brand spinoff DS gets the green light to produce this car I’ll eat my hat.
Nevertheless, as a design statement, this electric (and electric green) supercar couldn’t be more bold. The French sure are on a roll this year.
DS plans to build six new models by 2020. The E-Tense is not confirmed to be one of them, but if even hints of this design carry over, then it’s happy days.
Biggest Miss: Toyota C-HR
Even the tight-knit team within CarAdvice had a protracted email back-and-forth debating the merits of such edgy styling. I led the no camp and, damn it, I’m right.
Look, I love seeing Toyota emboldened and inspired to churn out designs nicer than your average set of household whitegoods, but there has to be a happy medium.
This is a mess of creases, angles and confusion, like a piece of scrunched up paper given wheels. And the blind-spot from that clumsy C-pillar is going to be a nightmare, even more-so than the Audi Q2’s. Miss.
Best Production Car: Bugatti Chiron
The only time I have ever been scared of a car is at the helm of the Bugatti Veyron in 2008. At the time it was the world’s fastest car, and when I finally had the chance to open up the throttle, it resembled a hellish roller coaster ride with the audio soundtrack of turbochargers and screaming pedestrians.
I absolutely cannot wait to drive the Chiron. It will be a subtle evolution of what is currently the world’s greatest car.
Best Concept: Opel GT
While manufacturing in Australia is coming to an end, Australian design and engineering isn’t. The Opel GT Concept wasn’t designed in Australia, but Aussie engineers fabricated it in Melbourne. It was also photographed in Melbourne.
It’s a small coupe that could one day make it into production and be seen on Australian roads. Great job, Opel!
Biggest Misses: Maserati Levante
Wow. This thing really is the last word on ugly. When I was a kid, a Maserati was a desirable car that looked different to everything else on the road.
The Ghibli is a prime example of how sharing components with cheaper brands absolutely doesn’t work — check out the infotainment system from the Chrysler 300 — and the Levante is yet another Maserati that does absolutely nothing for me.
Best Production Car: Mercedes-Benz C-Class cabriolet
Mercedes-Benz styling is looking better and better, and the new C-Class cabriolet is no exception: smooth lines, a long bonnet and the large three-pointed star in the middle of that diamond grille. Add four seats, a quality interior and German engineering, and it’s a winner.
I can’t wait to drive the new Mercedes-AMG C43 cabrio.
Best Concept: Honda Civic hatch
The once vibrant and now faded flower, the Honda Civic hatch, looks ready to roll once again thanks to this sharp new concept. It’s edgy and sporty, with sharp lines and bold aggressive features, yet is still unmistakably a Civic hatch.
It’s always been a little different with its futuristic dash design and that annoying, yet defining, rear spoiler. Let’s hope the power and performance of the standard version is much improved, although we’ll also get the Type-R in Australia too, which I’m excited about.
Biggest Miss: SUVs sans style
I’m with Curt on the lack of exciting looking new SUVs, it’s like the designers — Audi, Skoda, Peugeot, Maserati and so on — all got together over a bowl of All-Bran and agreed that conservatism is the new black. The exception is the Toyota C-HR.
On the other hand, the shockingly gauche Lexus LC500h needs to take a look in the mirror and remove all the slap before it leaves the house. I’m all for quirky and interesting, but I hope the LC is like the Citroen C4 Cactus and looks better in the metal.
Let us know in the comments below which cars you’d put into your Leno-esque garage, and which you’d prefer to see head into a metal crusher.