High performance product prevails at the 2017 Geneva show

22 March 2017

AS ONE of the most significant events on the global motoring calendar, it should come as no surprise that the world’s major car-makers have been saving up their most exotic and potent new kit to reveal at the Geneva motor show.

While there was a mix of the expected weird concepts, some more pedestrian new products and far-fetched self-driving machines, this year’s Swiss show was dominated by high-performance kit that will doubtless find its way on to the bedroom walls of countless budding petrol heads around the world.

British brand McLaren wheeled out one of its worst kept secrets in the company’s 50-year history and the second-generation of its Super Series cars. While it was the first official outing of the new model, unofficial images had already leaked out on the internet and its 720S moniker was already firmly part of the motoring lexicon.

Australian fans can grab an example of McLaren’s second-gen Super Series model when it arrives in the third quarter of this year.

Not only does the model introduce a new look for the McLaren stable, it also hides a whole raft of technology that breaks new ground for the company. Gone are the gulping air ducts in the doors in favour of a hidden channel inside a double-skinned door for a tidier look.

Its twin-turbo V8 engine is also a departure from the long-standing 3.8-litre unit, with the 720S power plant growing to 4.0 litres. How does 530kW/770Nm and zero to 100 in 2.9 seconds sound? The new engine is also illuminated by eerie red lights so passers by can fully appreciate the engineering update through the engine cover at night.

Lamborghini was not going to let a Brit steal all the attention at Geneva and presented a version of its hugely popular Huracan dubbed the Performante, which gains a power and torque upgrade to 470kW and 600Nm from its 5.2-litre V10 engine.

Lamborghini’s Huracan Performante has special tyres, exhaust, aerodynamics, wheels and weight-saving modifications – and the ability to smash all other road cars at one of the most unforgiving tracks in the world.

Accompanied by a number of weight-saving modifications and a chassis tweak, the new Lambo took on Germany’s Nurburgring and set a new production car lap record of 6:52.01. That’s nearly five seconds faster than the Porsche 918 Spyder.

While Lamborghini’s hardware is a heavily modified version of the existing Huracan, Ferrari weighed in with something all-new and its utterly jaw-dropping 812 Superfast.

Its name is no exaggeration thanks to a new 6.5-litre V12 engine that puts out a massive 588kW and 718Nm and can fire the Ferrari to 100km/h in 2.9 seconds. Even more astonishing and befitting of the name is the Ferrari’s top speed, which maxes out at 340km/h.

Ferrari’s replacement for the F12 was always going to have to be special and the 812 Superfast really is.

Unlike the California, 488 and GTC4Lusso T, the 812 Superfast has resisted the temptation to join its stablemates which are powered by a proliferating range of turbo engines. The latest Ferrari gets all its grunt from pure, unadulterated revs with the redline at an almost unbelievable 8500 rpm. What must that sound like!?

Keeping up with the Italian onslaught, renowned design house Italdesign weighed in with new partners Automobil Speciali and an offering for the high-end supercar market named the Zerouno.

Italdesign CEO Jorg Atalosch said the Zerouno has been created to showcase the skills of the company’s 1000 employees based on 49 years of experience and to further develop the business.

The vehicle will be ultra-exclusive and produced in very low numbers, but the company says it will not be the last, with another vehicle due to be added to the portfolio every 18 to 24 months.

The Geneva show wouldn’t be complete without something from high-performance car authority Porsche and the German car-maker pleased the crowds with its latest iteration of the 911 GT3.

The latest version of the more track-focused Porsche 911 GT3 will cost Australian customers $33,900 more than the previous model, but it is available with a manual gearbox once again.

Driving purists will be delighted not just by its naturally-aspirated flat six engine (while the rest of the range except GT3 RS goes turbo), but also by the option to take delivery of the new 911 version with a manual gearbox, where a dual-clutch auto was the only choice in its predecessor.

Aston Martin didn’t have anything tangible to offer in the way of an update for its eagerly anticipated AM-RB 001 hypercar, other than the significant news that it has now settled on a moniker for the mighty vehicle.

When Aston and project partner Red Bull Racing finally reveal the ultra-high performance model it will be wearing the nameplate Valkyrie, continuing a tradition of the car-maker to name its most potent production vehicles with words starting with V.

Staying with the British players, Bentley revealed a concept that not only hints at the company’s intentions to venture further into hybridisation, but also the possibility that it will introduce a smaller and likely more affordable sportscar beneath the big Continental GT.

Bentley revealed little technical detail about its latest show car but it hides an electric drivetrain that is likely to feature in a future production car.

Bearing a striking resemblance to the EXP 10 Speed 6 that was revealed at the Geneva show two years before it, the EXP 12 Speed 6e takes almost all of the previous show car’s styling but adds the fun of a convertible roof and a fully electric drivetrain.

Bentley made it quite clear that the car was not just a show pony and that it represented the company’s commitment to electrification and a pure battery EV at some point in its future.

While most brands were painting a bright future for the Australian high-performance car market, Renault-owned brand Alpine presented somewhat of a disappointment for local petrol heads.

Don’t get too excited about France’s latest sportscar because the Alpine A110 is strictly for Europe and Japan at this stage.

After a prolonged hype campaign of teaser shots, leaked information and good old speculation, the French car-maker finally revealed its production Alpine A110, but it was accompanied with by the news that, despite 12 European markets and Japan being offered the car, Australia will be missing out.

This year’s Geneva was almost all good news for Australians though, including too many concepts and production cars to name from all segments.

As another Geneva show comes to a close, the flood of new cars that turned out for 2017 proves that the world’s automotive industry is alive and kicking.

Daniel Gardner GoAuto.com.au