Geneva 2012: the PH round-up
A PH editor's perspective on the cars and interviews at the Geneva show (warning, contains old 911s)
Respective brand bosses appear on stage, new model (at least, we were told the Audi A3 was new but it wasn’t obviously so) emerges from dry ice, the cameras show Piech beaming and the process repeats in rapid succession. For some reason they always put the poor bloke from VW commercial vehicles on after Lamborghini or Bugatti too.
have been pretty unanimous, not helped by the hapless bloke with the hawk on his hand at the show unveiling on press day.
No, nor us.
So to show day. Compared with the vast halls and domestic brand willy waggling of Frankfurt, Geneva is a more manageable size but no less busy. Ducking out of the press conference schedule meant missing the Bentley falconry display, but the usual run of interviews left little time to take it all in anyway.
Or something like this?
The question “why should one buy a GT86 instead of a BRZ?” was met with a non-committal chuckle but we were shown an apparent early inspiration for the GT86 – the flat-twin powered 1965 Toyota Sports 800 – and a flow chart that gave the clearest explanation of the Toyota/Subaru axis in the car’s design, development and production yet offered.
Over at Lotus there was a mix of Bahar-era glitz and some more hard-headed engineering but, trapped backstage, it was actually impossible to hear the press conference. The Exige and Elise soldier on with new variants that look fun but don’t really move the game on at all while the race cars – and Kimi – took pride of place at the front. Behind the scenes, literally and figuratively, it was talk of the range-extender and the first collaboration with a mainstream manufacturer (Nissan, via Infiniti) that could see it being adopted for production. Here’s hoping.
Go away, we're full
Audi was the next stop, an appointment with Quattro GmbH boss Stephan Reil apparently not good enough to gain entry to the stand. “We are full,” said the man by the rope. Er… Thankfully the UK PR team were on the stand and we were ushered to one of those windowless cupboards in which motor show interviews tend to be conducted. Having explained Quattro’s role within Audi as a small, specialist department, run by petrolheads with expertise in building low-volume, high-performance variants his response to the question why Quattro wasn’t involved in the A1 Quattro was … odd. “We were busy,” he said, flatly. “And it’s not an RS model. And chassis modification isn’t our specialism.”
So why did the RS5 fail to hit the spot? “We heard that criticism from some of you and your colleagues and we took it very seriously,” he said as the conversation turned, inevitably, to the steering. “I would give the criticism the headline ‘artificial driving’ and we took that very seriously … we felt it too,” he admitted. The response? Locking out the variable steering ratio on the Dynamic Steering so that when you choose Dynamic on the Audi Driver Select it stays at a constant ratio of 14:1. “It is extremely direct and this changes the character of the car completely,” said Reil. “And it’s very good, well of course, you can put it on comfort and then you have the variable steering but when you are really driving the car on a racetrack you need that clear connection between steering angle and where the wheel is and that is why we have it fixed.”
Away from the big corporate stands Geneva has much to offer the likes of us, the tuners traditionally turning out in force.
And it was business as usual in this regard, Mansory doing unpleasant things to nice cars as is its way and Brabus levering in 800hp’s worth of bi-turbo V12 into a C-Class coupe. 230mph, in case you were wondering. And assuming the rear axle has been sufficiently reinforced to cope with the 1,047lb ft of torque and doesn’t just leave you stationary with a little heap of shredded transmission components for your efforts.
All of which goes to show. You can show us as many new cars as you like. But an old 911 will always grab the limelight. Predictable? Us?
The stories of Geneva