Geneva 2011 Run-Down

The 2011 Geneva Autoshow will have to go down in history as one of the best autoshows the world has ever seen.  The amount of new metal that was officially unveiled by some of the world’s greatest automotive companies is simply mind boggling!  Lamborghini, Ferrari, Pagani, McLaren, Jaguar, Lexus, Morgan, Aston Martin, Gumpert, and Koenigsegg all released new (or somewhat new) übercars.  The one problem with this is the fact that my local autoshow, the Canadian International Autoshow (CIAS), now seems almost boring in comparison.  Living in the great White North means that most car manufacturers never dream of having any amazing unveilings as our country only has 30 million inhabitants, and isn’t exactly a mecca for automotive enthusiasts.  Being buried under snow for half the year doesn’t help either. 

The cars that debuted at Geneva can all be classified as übercars.  Some are the new flagships for their companies, while others are evolutions of already successful models.  But all of them are incredibly cool and utterly desirable.  I may gripe over the fact that some of these cars are niche fillers that no one thought required filling, but given the opportunity I would own every single one of these magnificent machines.

Lamborghini Aventador LP700-4

Undoubtedly the star of the show, the Aventador is the newest flagship from Lamborghini and takes its styling cues heavily from the limited edition Reventon (pronounced Rebenton by the way) that was released three years ago.   The Aventador is named for a very angry and successful bull, like many Lamborghinis before it.  The LP700-4 designation refers to the fact that this is the most powerful Lambo ever built, with 690bhp, and four-wheel drive.  The engine in this car is brand new, and puts to bed the previous V12 engine which had been upgraded and adapted since its inception in the 1960 Miura. 

Some have criticized the styling of this new car, and say that it is too similar to the one it replaces.  This is somewhat true, but the Murcielago was itself a scary car, and it seems that the designers have made this new bull even scarier.  I personally love the look, especially in this particular orange-reddish hue.  The car looks like it wants to hurt you.  Badly. 

This is one hell of a Lambo, with that new engine, a specially designed gear box that shifts in 50 milliseconds, and a carbon fiber passenger cell that is infinitely stronger than the previous one found in the Murcielago.  It seems that the Aventador is an evolutionary car that is made of revolutionary technology, and looks set to lead Lamborghini into the 2010’s.

Ferrari FF

The FF does not stand for something rude as you might think.  It stands for “Ferrari Four”, which means the car’s full name is Ferrari Ferrari Four.  Not a great start to the launch of a brand new Ferrari then.  But this is a special car as it replaces the long in tooth 612.  The major styling note is that this is Ferrari’s first shooting-brake, which has always been one of my favorite body styles. 

The FF is a definite improvement over the 612, which always reminded me of an upside down bathtub on wheels.  This Ferrari combines the face of a 458 (good thing) with the practicality of a station wagon (also good).  Now, owners can enjoy spirited drives with their family sitting four up, and even bring the family pet along with them in the boot.  I would suggest against it as there are no restrains in the back, and flying animals are never helpful during an enthusiastic drive.  Especially cats, which get angry very easily. 

The Four in the name doesn’t just refer to the number of seats, but also to the fact that this is Ferrari’s first four-wheel drive car.  This Ferrari designed system (known as 4RM) is very different from the run-of-the-mill Quattro system found in any Audi.  4RM only sends drive to the front wheels when required, whereas the Audi sends drive to all wheels, all the time.  Combining the shooting brake, four seats, and four-wheel drive makes this the most practical Ferrari on sale today.  But, as goes with the badge, the FF is also no slouch in the engine department, and actually houses the largest capacity Ferrari engine ever produced at 6.3 L.   Though not traditionally good looking, the FF is one of the most interesting cars to come out of Maranello in a long time.

Pagani Huayra

The Huayra (pronounced “A-Why-Ra”) is the long awaited successor to the legendary Zonda.  Why they couldn’t come up with a name that is as easy to say as “Zonda” is beyond me, but following in its predecessor’s footsteps this Pagani is named after a South American Wind God.  The name is dumb.  Aventador = cool, Zonda = cool, Huayra = huh?  The good news is that this “Wing God” will be the most powerful car discussed in this post.  The Hugabuga (or whatever) has a custom made AMG V12 engine with two turbochargers that produce over 750bhp, and propels it to 100kph in less than 3.5 seconds.  It looks like a fish gasping for air, but it goes like a bat out of hell!

The Huayra has some big shoes to fill as the Zonda was the car that launched Pagani into the mainstream.  Most start-up car companies fail spectacularly, but somehow Pagani managed to hang around long enough to now be considered just as cool as Ferrari and Lamborghini, and the Zonda was the car that did this.  In the run up to the launch of the Huayra a number of special edition, one-off Zondas were created.  It had begun to be something of a joke as it seemed a new “final” Zonda was released every week.  But among these final cars are some of the best of the breed.  Just search Zonda Cinque, RAK, and Tricolore to see what I’m talking about. 

Unfortunately, the Zonda was never road legal for North America, which is something the Huayra corrects.  I’ll never own one of these Wind Gods as the base price is a cool $1.5 million, but at least with it being homologated for North American road regulations I might get to see one.

McLaren MP4-12C

To start with, I generally hate it when supercars are given numbers and letters for a name.  At least Huayra makes the car sound mythical.  MP4-12C sounds like something out of MIT.  But, if you know your F1 history then this name has resonance as every recent McLaren F1 car has started with MP4 followed by a season specific number.  For example, the 2011 McLaren F1 car is called the MP4-26.  The 12C is rightly included in this MP4 classification as it is a very special car. 

The last McLaren road car was not only their first, but also the definitive supercar of the 20th century: the McLaren F1.  To put it mildly the F1 is legend and introduced too many technological innovations to list here.  All you need to know is that the F1 held the world’s fastest production car record for almost a decade.  Its usurper, the Bugatti Veyron, held onto that record for little more than a year.

The 12C is meant to be McLaren’s re-entry into the production car world, and is the first of a three-car strong line-up for the company.  It primarily competes against the Ferrari 458 Italia, and like the Ferrari, has a lot of F1-derived technology packed in its mid-engined layout.  The 12C has a twin-turbo V8 that produces close to 600bhp, a system called “brake-steer” that brakes the inside wheel when turning to combat understeer, and a carbon-composite chassis.  In other words: this car go boom.  When you want it to the 12C can attack a twisty road like a GT3, but if you just flick some switches the car transforms into an accomplished Autobahn cruiser that soaks up road imperfections with aplomb.  The 12C will take the fight directly to the 458 and the 911 Turbo and looks set to kick the ever-living crap out of both of them.

Jaguar XKR-S

Jaguar is known for really crappy cars.  Sorry but growing up the only people I saw who drove Jags were Grandpas.  They constantly broke down, and were primarily based on bits and pieces of Fords, who at the time owned the brand.  But then, along with Land Rover, they were sold to the Indian car company Tata and everything changed.  Tata let Jaguar do what Jaguar did best: design innovative cars from the ground up with no corporate intervention.  Jaguar’s redesigned-for-2006 XK coupe was proof of this and really the start of their change in design language from old and frumpy to new and sleek.  Then the XF (a 3 Series rival) came out to solidify Jaguar’s position as a company that can stand on its own two feet.  Now the S-Class competing XJ has arrived and it seems that Jaguar has finally gotten into the business of making money.  With all this cash they decided to create something rather special to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the launch of the legendary E-Type, and thus the XKR-S was born.

To make it simple, the XK is their base model, and adding an R to that means it’s now sporty.  Adding an S on top of that makes this really sporty.  I can just imagine the marketing meeting to figure out the name of the most powerful production Jaguar since the XJ220 supercar, “How do we make the XKR seem sportier in name? Hmmm, Hmmm, why don’t we add an S! Great idea!”.  They went to school to get that smart.  The S should really stand for “special” because that’s what this big cat is.  With a 5.0 L V8 that kicks out 542bhp, a ton of scoops and vents, and that big black spoiler, it looks the business.  The XKR-S is a dedicated enthusiast’s machine that now sits at the top of the Jaguar range, and is a true homage to the iconic E-Type.

Lexus LF-A Nürburgring Package

I would understand if you haven’t heard of the LF-A before, but if you don’t know what the Nürburgring is you have a lot of soul searching to do.  The Nürburgring is the race track.  It has been around for decades, hosted F1 races, endurance races, and is now best known as a proving ground for all modern performance cars.  A car’s lap time around the Ring is almost as important as its 0-100kph time.  And this Lexus supercar has a lot of history there as during its nine long years of development it was routinely spied testing at this 20km piece of automotive legend.  Meaning that, just like the Nissan GT-R, this Japanese supercar’s ancestral home is actually in Germany. 

So it’s a Lexus, spent almost a decade being developed and refined, and did I mention that its engine noise can be used to shatter a champagne glass?  While we are on the engine, it’s a V10 that develops close to 560bhp and revs to an astonishing nine thousand rpm. In fact, the engine revs so quickly that a traditional analog rev-counter (what you have in your car) couldn’t move fast enough to be accurate, so a digital one was installed in the LF-A to accurately monitor the engine speed.  Saying that this car is special is a massive understatement.  And the Nürburgring Package that debuted at Geneva takes all of these stats as a starting point.

The Nürburgring LF-A has more horsepower (10 in fact), less weight, better aerodynamics, and even faster gear changes. Of the 500 LF-As that will be made, only 50 will be upgraded to Nürburgring spec, and these will come in at a cool $450,000.  The base LF-A can never be classified as cool for the sole reason that Paris Hilton owns one, and it’s canary yellow.  But the Nürburgring Package is something that we can all appreciate as it’s the better version of the best Lexus ever made.

Morgan 3 Wheeler

This is not what you’d define as a “supercar”, but come on, it’s got three wheels!  If you don’t already know, Morgan is a British company that is steeped in history.  They have been making cars since 1910 and have only ever been managed by three men: the founder, his son, and his son.  Morgan have been making basically the same car since their inception, resulting in the cars looking like they belong in the 30’s, but underneath they are bang up to date with BMW engines and sub 5 second 0-100kph times.  When the company was founded they were best known for their three-wheeled vehicles, and this car is a continuation of that theme.  But like all other Morgans, it’s a very modern piece of kit.

This concept 3 Wheeler will be put into production, and better yet, it will be coming across the pond and classified as a “motorcycle vehicle”.  Even better news is its price is expected to be a somewhat reasonable at $50,000.  Compared to the cars that have previously been discussed this is pocket change.  The engine is similar to those found in a Harley Davidson, as it’s a V-Twin, and pushes out 115bhp, which frankly isn’t that impressive as that’s the same hp found in my Golf RS.  The thing is my car weighs triple what this Morgan will weigh, meaning that those three wheels will propel the car . . . motorcycle . . . combo thing to 100kph in 4.5 seconds.  And the best part is I can wear goggles and a tweed cap while driving it and not look stupid.  Competition for the 3 Wheeler is . . . non-existent and it is guaranteed that all examples of this model will sell out quickly.  So when picking one up for my Christmas gift remember to get it soon, and in British Racing Green with tan leather.  Thanks.

Aston Martin Virage and Vantage S

So I touched on these two cars in a previous post, but here is a refresher.  These two “brand new” Aston Martins fill niches that no one thought were there.  The Virage fits in between the DB9 and DBS Astons, and has 20bhp more than the former and 20bhp less than the latter.  It seems like a pointless car but does have one thing going for it: it looks bloody brilliant and I can’t explain why.  I don’t like the DB9 because it seems to have been around forever and its styling never really changes.  The DBS is cool for the sole purpose that it is used in the Bond films and looks the business in a pumped up, aggressive way.  The Virage is really just a DB9 in a Hugo Boss suit, and if I was in the market I know I would just splurge for a DBS, but somehow the Virage just makes me slack-jawed with lust . . .

Moving on.  The Vantage S is the sporty version of the “regular” Vantage (Aston’s entry level model), and it brings a little more horsepower, a little less weight, and a new gearbox to the Vantage equation.  Now if you know your Astons you’re probably thinking, “Hey, isn’t the Vantage V12 the sporty Vantage?”  And you’d be right so I don’t understand why they couldn’t just introduce this car as an updated Vantage, instead of claiming that it’s a new model.  When the V12 came out it was exciting because you always wondered how the hell Aston shoehorned such a giant engine into such a small package.  The only question I had after the S broke cover is why?

Gumpert Tornante

If you haven’t heard of Gumpert don’t be ashamed.  They are a very small German supercar producer that started in 2005.  Up until now they have made one car, the Apollo.  Very cool names generally lead to very cool cars, and this is no exception.  The “base” Apollo has 641bhp, which I guess is okay for only a base model.  But seriously the Apollo is epically cool.  The company makes around 30 of these a year and they are some of the scariest cars on the road.  If Batman and Thor had sex their utility-belt-equipped-Norse-God-love-child would drive one of these bad boys.  In black.  With the optional “kick-ass” upgrade.  I’m joking, that’s not optional.  It’s standard.

Now Gumpert has released a concept of a new model that will be based on the Apollo, but will be clothed in less extreme bodywork and be known as the Tornante.  First impression: what’s the point?  Gumpert makes cars that look like they want to kill your first born for sport, and as you can see from the above picture the Tornante looks like a Jaguar design reject.  It’s not a bad car; it just doesn’t seem to fit with my impression of the company.  The Tornante looks too tame to have the Gumpert badge, with no giant scoops or spoiler.   The name reminds me of a tornado, but the styling reminds me of my fridge.  Yes, my fridge has an Audi sourced 4.2L V8, and yes it’s the most awesome fridge in the world as a result.  It also holds my beverages and the like while the Tornante does not share these same food storage capabilities.  Conclusion: my fridge is better than the Tornante.

Koenigsegg Agera R

I don’t like this car for many reasons.   First off, in my mind there are two kinds of people: people who like Bugatti and people you like Koenigsegg, as these two compete to create the world’s fastest production cars.  I am decidedly in the Bugatti camp as the Veyron is the coolest car to ever grace the planet.  Secondly, the name of the company is dumb.  I have literally had to check the internet 3 times in writing this to get the spelling of the name correct as it’s bloody tricky.  Thirdly, this “new” car, the Agera, looks identical to their previous car, the CCX.  Finally, this particular car, shown at the Geneva autoshow, also features a carbon-fiber ski-box.  I’m not kidding, it’s a Volvo-like storage compartment on its roof. 

So let’s play this scenario out.  You decide to take your 1115bhp supercar up to your ski chalet in the Alps for a weekend getaway.  The problem is that you won’t make it to the top of the mountains because, as I said, this car has 1115bhp!!! And its rear-wheel drive.  You will die on your quest for the summit: the car will sporadically snap sideways after losing traction and you won’t be able to save it.  Now this is bad because either your dead or you’ve ended up in the hospital.  Yea, you’re alive, but I’ve got some bad news: you are out a little bit of coin.  The base Agera costs $1.4 million, and this R version adds an extra $215,000.  Plus the $30,000 ski box, and the $12,000 snow tires and rims (which won’t save you from losing control as the car still has enough horse power to speed up the Earth’s rotation).  And, like any true petrol head you want your car in bare carbon fiber at an extra cost of (wait for it) $270,000.  So now you are in the hospital, most likely badly injured, and you have just lost a car valued close to $2 million.  That’s when the morphine mercifully kicks in . . .

Geneva 2011.  The best bunch of new kids on the block I’ve ever seen (and the actual band has a Wahlberg, which makes them pretty hard to beat).  Some cars in this group are truly astonishing, while others are simply puzzling.  But all of them are definitely übercars.

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~ by ubercar on March 21, 2011.

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