Whenever the international auto show circuit arrives in Frankfurt, Tokyo or Detroit, the exhibition halls brim with national pride as the host nation’s automakers assemble elaborate displays. But when the industry convenes to introduce its newest offerings in Geneva each year, there are no native brands to lay claim to a home-court advantage.
This unusual circumstance — neutral territory in a sophisticated multilingual city — confers a special character on the Geneva International Motor Show, which opens to the public on Thursday after two days of press previews. The show runs through March 18 at the Palexpo convention center.
Swiss prosperity, so evident in Geneva, sets the tone, and for the show’s 88th edition there is plenty of cause for optimism. Passenger vehicle sales in the European Union increased by 3.4 percent in 2017, topping 15 million for the first time since 2007, and the trend continued into 2018. The year started with a 6.8 percent gain over year-ago sales in January and 3.5 percent in February, the increases coming largely from demand for sport-utility vehicles.
The challenge of stricter carbon dioxide regulations is evident in a flood of new fully electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids, as well as a change in attitude by the public toward diesel power. The advance of electrification to crossover vehicles, luxury sedans and even spinoff brands will be apparent to visitors throughout the Palexpo arena.
Here is a rundown of what show visitors can expect to see in Geneva.
At any auto show, a visit to the Alfa Romeo display is always an immersion in passionate Italian style. Especially worth checking in Geneva will be the latest changes to the Stelvio S.U.V. and Giulia sedans, both much admired by reviewers. Confirming that the passion extends beyond thebody and interior design is the performance story. At the top of the Alfa food chain are the Quadrifoglio editions with twin-turbo V6 engines of over 500 horsepower.
Alpine may be part of the Renault family, but it has its own display in Geneva — and a distinctive identity. The nameplate has been applied to lightweight sports cars for more than half a century, but its modern revival with the A110 dates back just two years. Think of it as a French Porsche Cayman, with its mid-mounted turbo 4-cylinder engine and 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. Two new variations arrive in Geneva: the lightweight A110 Pure and a touring-focused A110 Légende.
The esteemed British gentleman’s brand hardly needs to remind enthusiasts of its status, yet the company keeps delivering fresh variations and all-new editions. At Palexpo, the latest Vantage, powered by a Mercedes-AMG 4-liter V8, will make its debut, taking care of the entry end of the company’s range. Also on hand for ogling will be the GTE racecar version of the Vantage, the DB11 Coupe and Volante, and the new Aston Martin Red Bull Formula One car.
The center of attention at Audi’s display is likely to be the fifth-generation A6, which is sure to carry on the family look, borrowing details from the A7 and A8. The bigger story may be the tech features and the improved dynamics from a new chassis that trims weight. There will, of course, be E-tron design studies from previous auto shows to examine, the line of Q5 and Q7 S.U.V.s, and the RS and R8 sports machines.
The Bavarians will arrive in Geneva with a full complement of 5 Series and 7 Series sedans as well X Series S.U.V.s, M cars and i models. BMW is expected to have several surprises, but much of the attention will be lavished on the world premiere of the second-generation X4, the coupelike utility vehicle that gives away some practicality for fashion. Speculation, and anticipation, run high that a further development of the Z4 Concept, seen last summer at the Pebble Beach concours, will be unveiled. The show will also be a first opportunity for most mortals to see the Roadster version of the i8.
On the streets of a wealth center like Geneva, Ferraris are simply special, not especially rare. But their mystique elicits envious glances, so models like the 812 Superfast and Portofino (which replaces the California) can be expected to be at the center of a swarm of admirers, while more practical-minded oligarchs might flock to the GTC4Lusso. Still, it will be the new 488 Pista, pushed past 210 miles per hour by its 710-horsepower V8, that’s surrounded by the fantasy-league racers.
Mass-market models will be the emphasis of Ford’s display, including a Euro-edition of the new Edge, the new Ka+ Active and a sizable offering of updated models, including the Mustang. Show visitors may be walking right past all of those cars, though, on their way to the GT supercar, which will be shown in road and racing configurations.
The latest Honda CR-V, which will be available as a hybrid, will share floor space with three concepts, the Urban EV, Sports EV and NeuV EV. They are worth a close look because Honda has committed to delivering a fully electric production model in 2019, and one of these may well be the basis for that E.V. There’s some fast and noisy fun from Honda, too. The Civic Type R TCR, destined for the touring car racing series, will be showcased, as will the NSX GT3. Finally, a rugged edition of the Jazz (known as the Fit in the United States) will be introduced under the X-Road label.
The all-hands presence of Hyundai in Geneva is a telling sign of the South Korean automaker’s continuing ambitions. Several world premieres are on the automaker’s schedule, the most important of which is the fourth-generation Santa Fe crossover. Hyundai’s intentions to expand its market footprint may be more evident in the Kona subcompact crossover, which gets a fully electric version with a not-to-be-ignored 290-mile range. For anyone who’s still not taking the company’s green theme seriously, the Nexo fuel-cell vehicle could seal the deal. It’s built on a new platform specifically engineered for zero-emissions hydrogen power. The Hyundai exhibit also offers an Internet of Things cockpit display and a technical breakdown of fuel-cell operation.
The reason it seems that years have passed since we first heard about an all-electric crossover from Jaguar is because it has been years. Revealed as a design study at the Los Angeles auto show in 2016, the I-394, a likely competitor for the Tesla Model X, makes its production debut, and goes on sale, just before the show opens. Built in Austria on a dedicated aluminum-intensive chassis with a twin-motor 394-horsepower drive system, the I-Pace will have a range of 240 miles. But while crowds cluster around that shiny new object, savvy show visitors can be taking in the delicious XJ sedan, F-Type sports car and F-Pace S.U.V.
As the genuinely international brand of the Fiat Chrysler combine, Jeep continues to be a sales hit in markets well outside its American homeland. The Palexpo center will have samples of the Grand Cherokee, Cherokee and Compass, and the new Wrangler.
The Italian sports car specialist rarely resists bringing some new variation of an existing model to a showcase like Geneva, but the main attraction will be the 641-horsepower Urus, which the company calls a super sport utility vehicle (a slippery slope in nomenclature, to be sure). The 190-mile-an-hour Urus will be prowling city streets, but probably very few mountain trails, later this year.
The days when a Range Rover represented the most elite of all S.U.V.s faded when the likes of Bentley and Lamborghini entered that market. So Land Rover will be showing a new model at the top of its line: the two-door Range Rover SV Coupe, to be built in a limited run of 999. The original Range Rover arrived as a two-door model, so this hyperluxurious new model, which seats four, will serve as a fitting tribute to the company’s tradition.
What was an upstart luxury brand from the utilitarian Toyota company three decades ago will soon have five utility vehicles in its portfolio. The latest is the UX crossover, arriving at the Geneva show as a dialed-back version of the UX concept unveiled in 2106 at the Paris show. The UX takes on the distinctive stance of recent Lexus sedans, notably the LC, and would logically share a platform used by Toyota’s C-HR and Prius. The Palexpo halls will also present the first European sightings of the new RX L and LF-1 Limitless concepts amid a display that includes the current LS, LC, RS and RX models.
The display for Maserati, which has a prominent entry in the luxury S.U.V. horse race, will be an important destination for many shoppers who want to consider the Levante. While there, the Ghibli, Quattroporte, GT and GTC will also be available to accept longing looks.
European shoppers will get the first look at the wagon version of the Mazda 6 and the Kai and Vision concepts. Also available for inspection will be the current range of Mazda 2, Mazda 3, CX-3, CX-5 and MX-5 models, and the Skyactiv-X engine that the company will be rolling out as practical proof that electricity isn’t the only answer to efficiency.
McLaren’s ranking in the universe of supercar builders takes another step up with the Senna, its most muscular road car, with a 789-horsepower twin-turbo V8. Named for Ayrton Senna, who drove to three championships for the McLaren Formula One team, this beast will run up to 211 miles an hour. Admirers can look over the car, but shoppers may want to avoid the heartbreak: The entire planned production of 500 cars has already been sold.
The flood of new models from Stuttgart in recent years shows no sign of abating, so anyone walking through the auto show displays will have lots to see. One sure to generate buzz is the AMG GT Coupe, a four-door version of the two-door sports car. A 4-liter turbo V8 will deliver 604 horsepower. The newest G-Class S.U.V., shown this year in Detroit, gets the AMG treatment with a 577-horse turbo-V8, but perhaps the most significant mainstream introduction will be a new A-Class hatchback. That will be in European showrooms this spring and eventually make its way to the United States.
Even to devoted fans of green vehicles, the news that Mitsubishi has sold 140,000 plug-in-hybrid versions of its Outlander crossover may come as a surprise; it’s been Europe’s best-selling plug-in hybrid for the past three years. The 2019 edition has more power, more choices of four-wheel-drive modes and greater battery capacity. On display, too, will be the e-Evolution concept vehicle, a futuristic (if squat) all-electric performance S.U.V. whose name might be a hint that it’s intended to fill the gap left by the death of the Lancer Evolution.
The PSA Group’s portfolio now adds the former General Motors subsidiaries of Opel and Vauxhall to the existing brands of Peugeot, Citroën and DS. With an updated Peugeot 508 hatchback and the new Rifter microvan, there’s plenty to see this year. The French automaker describes the 508 as “radical” and “reserved,” a combination that’s pretty hard to square, but whatever. The Rifter departs from the usual packing-crate motif with a more French interpretation of the utility van, communicating an intent to instill urban appeal. There is a four-wheel-drive version, naturally, though that is just a design concept for now.
Add Volvo to the list of automakers starting E.V. sub-brands as a way to ride the Tesla wave of popular acclaim. Polestar, an existing nameplate that Volvo has used for performance models, is using the Geneva show to go public with the Polestar 1, a 600-horsepower plug-in hybrid coupe. The understated four-seater promises more than 90 miles of all-electric range and will start production in 2019.
The push to be a something-for-everyone automaker continues to advance at Porsche. Visitors will find Panamera variants, including the not-a-station-wagon Sport Turismo, and a 462-horsepower plug-in hybrid, alongside the Boxster, Cayman, Cayenne and Macan. But center stage will be the 2019 911 GT3 RS, powered by a 4-liter nonturbo engine of 520 horsepower, the most powerful naturally aspirated engine ever fitted to a road-legal Porsche.
“Wait, did I get lost?” That’s what visitors who discover the hulking Ram 1500 pickup might wonder at Palexpo. FCA is not only flexing its truck muscle here. The 808-horse Dodge Demon will also be shown in this land of high-price gasoline.
By the time the Palexpo center opens to the public, a still-secret design study that Renault says is “focused on shared urban mobility” will have been unveiled. Likewise, much of the display will be devoted to upgrades of current models geared to city drivers. The Zoe, Europe’s top-selling E.V., gets a more powerful motor, and the Captur and Scenic models are upgraded with a new 1.3-liter engine developed with Daimler.
One of the most-anticipated cars at this year’s show is a touring coupe that’s intended to fill the gap left by the cancellation of the much-loved Supra in 2002. Developed jointly with BMW, the new car — on display in Geneva as a racecar proposal — is expected to also become the next edition of the BMW Z4. There’s more: Along with futuristic confections like the Concept-i and Concept i-Ride, Toyota will have the Aygo city car and Mirai fuel-cell model.
Sales setbacks resulting from VW’s diesel troubles are not keeping it from looking ahead to a product line dominated by electric power. Leading that effort to change public perception will be the I.D. Vizzion, the latest in a string of I.D. concepts. This all-electric sedan is aimed at the autonomous future — it has no steering wheel or pedals.
There’s no question about Volvo being on a roll, with enthusiastic receptions of its XC60 crossover and S90/V90 models. Beyond those favorites, Volvo adherents will be able to take in the sleek 2019 V60 wagon and XC40 crossover as well as the XC90 S.U.V. and V40 wagon.