2019 Geneva Motor Show: The Best And Worst

Every year, the Geneva Motor Show is home to some of the most outrageous supercars and hypercars on the planet. And 2019's installation is no exception. Bugatti, Koenigsegg, Lamborghini, Pininfarina, and others, brought out their best, brightest, and most-powerful new vehicles to the forefront this year.

While social media has been abuzz talking about the latest $18-million Bugatti or Koenigsegg’s 300-mile-per-hour coupe, it’s the less-talked-about vehicles and lesser-known automakers that made the biggest impacts. Here are our picks for the best and worst of the 2019 Geneva Motor Show.

Hispano Suiza Carmen

A couple of my colleagues here have labeled the Hispano Suiza Carmen as their Worst of Show. I understand; people often mock what they don’t understand. To them, I say: Whatevs. Compared to this show’s glut of slick supercars, the Carmen does look odd with its covered rear wheels, slicing front fenders, and maker’s name – ”Hispano Suiza” – in large script written across the grille. But it’s also interesting to look at from every angle, and the details are positively delightful. Honestly, I haven’t seen a car design this interesting since the first Pagani Zonda.

Aston Martin Lagonda All-Terrain Concept

Maybe the Aston Martin Lagonda Concept is a great-looking indicator of the brand’s future SUV, but I wouldn’t know because Aston parked it within a makeshift room on its display stand and gave photographers all of five feet of clearance to shoot it. Every pic of it I’ve seen from the show floor of the Geneva Motor Show has been taken with a wide-angle lens that distorts its true lines. Sure, I can get a sense of it from the official images released by Aston, but I’m still not impressed. High-end automakers have a tough task translating their designs to the boxy dimensions of an SUV. Aston’s bar is even higher considering how gorgeous its road cars are. It just missed the bar on this one.

Best: Volkswagen I.D. Buggy Concept

Just look at the Volkswagen I.D. Buggy concept, it’s absolutely adorable. Even with all the crazy, 1,900-horsepower (1,416-kilowatt), 300 mile-per-hour (482 kilometer-per-hour) supercars on display, VW’s electric Buggy is my choice for "Best in Show." It has no doors, no roof (apart from a foldable canvas top), and no gas engine. Power comes from a pair of electric motors exclusively, producing 201 horsepower (149 kilowatts) and 258 pound-feet (349 Newton-meters) of torque. It’s even off-road ready with chunky 18-inch wheels wrapped in BF Goodrich All-Terrain TA tires and a tall ride height. 

Worst: Mazda CX-30

The Geneva Motor Show is supercar central, so it feels like an odd spot for Mazda to debut its new crossover, the CX-30. The high-riding, heavily cladded crossover shoehorns in between the smaller CX-3 and larger CX-5. A common term to describe this segment is the grammatically incorrect "crossover coupe," and a lot of things about this crossover are straight up wrong.

For one, what kind of a name is CX-30? The obvious choice here would be CX-4, though, Mazda already uses that on a crossover in China. And then there's all the plastic cladding; as if the CX-3 wasn't stocky enough, the CX-30 takes the plastic fad to a whole new level. It's just another oddly proportioned, poorly positioned crossover the world probably doesn't need. Hopefully it’s at least as fun to drive as the rest of the Mazda lineup.

Best: Pininfarina Battista

There's literally no better way and place to introduce a new company to the automotive industry. Pininfarina Automobili says hello to the world from Geneva with its first production vehicle called Battista. It's named after the original coachbuilder's founder Battista "Pinin" Farina and is the most powerful production road car ever to come from Italy. In fact, the company's headquarters is based in Munich, but a significant part of its team hails from Turin, so it still counts as an Italian car.

With 1,874 horsepower (1,397 kilowatts) and 1,694 pound-feet (2,300 Newton-meters) of torque, the Battista puts even the latest crop of hypercars like the Koenigsegg Jesko and Bugatti La Voiture Noire to shame. Power doesn't matter, you say? Okay, how about a 0-62 miles per hour (0-100 kilometers per hour) acceleration in less than two seconds? Yup, this is a production vehicle, not a just fantasy rocket for the road.

Worst: Ginetta Akula

If there’s one thing I like about the Ginetta Akula, it’s the old-school approach. In the era of hybrid and electric powertrains, the company relies on a traditional large-displacement V8 and a six-speed sequential gearbox. So far, so good.

But what’s with the design of this car? Seriously – it’s like a generic two-door sports coupe with added aftermarket wings here and there, plus tons of carbon fiber. I mean, just look at the rear diffuser and you’ll get the idea. And, honestly, “somewhere in the region of 600 horsepower” on a 2,535-pound (1,150-kilogram) body doesn’t sound super impressive in 2019.

Best: Jeep Plug-In Hybrids

Yes, Geneva has no shortage of performance. More than one 1,000 horsepower (745 kilowatts) is undeniably cool. But while only a few absurdly wealthy clowns will enjoy their overpowered, overstyled, and overpriced supercars, it’s stuff like the new plug-in Jeep Compass and Renegade that will have a far greater impact on our roads. These two CUVs are but the start of a trend that will see automakers start adding usable, all-electric range – 31 miles in the case of these cute utes – to gas-powered vehicles that normal people actually buy. The Compass and Renegade are far from exciting, but at the very least, they’re about to get a lot more interesting.

Worst: Hispano-Suiza Carmen

Much like "fetch," the rebirth of the Hispano Suiza is never going to happen. And even if it did, I’d really rather the revival didn’t sully the brand’s legacy with cars as ugly as the Carmen. Sure, there’s some impressive stats – it has 1,005 horsepower (749 kilowatts) and can travel 248 miles (399 kilometers) on a single charge. But frankly, it could cure cancer and solve climate change, and it’d still be too ugly to buy. Look at it! It’s like the designers thought, "Hey, that Audi from Will Smith’s terrible I, Robot movie looked pretty cool. How could we make it worse?" The Carmen is the answer to that question.

Best: Morgan Plus Six

The Morgan Plus Six makes me weak at the knees. It’s a gorgeous combination of old-world charm and modern mechanics. Sure, the overstyled BMW gearshift lever looks a little awkward in this roadster’s simple wood and leather-lined interior, but that’s a small quibble in an otherwise perfect package.

A manual transmission is surely a more engaging gearbox, but the ZF eight-speed and BMW-sourced, 335-horsepower (249-kilowatt) turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six are a fantastic combination that will surely make this charming little roadster an absolute hoot to hoon. It also looks like a great way to tour the countryside; elbow hanging out the low-cut door and the wind in your hair.  At a Geneva show where technological advancements reigned supreme, the Luddite-like charm of the Plus Six is a breath of fresh air.

Worst: Hispano-Suiza Carmen

Whereas the Morgan Plus Six’s old-school looks are simple and endearing, the Hispano Suiza Carmen’s design is overstyled and repugnant. It tries too hard to look modern and retro, and it fails at achieving success at either end of the spectrum. Yes, there are some neat details (the rear end in particular), but the whole, in this case, is less than the sum of its parts.

Truly, my dislike toward the Carmen is entirely based on its styling, because the mechanical bits of the all-electric Carmen make for a compelling car: 1,005 horsepower, 248 miles of range, zero to 62 miles per hour in less than 3 seconds. It’s a shame about the looks, though. No matter how impressive the Carmen’s performance is, I still can’t get past its awkward proportions, ugly mug, or the myriad of flying storks placed haphazardly about the body.

Best: Puritalia Berlinetta

The 2019 Geneva Motor Show will likely be remembered for the sheer number of impressive electric and hybrid performance vehicles on-hand. The Puritalia Berlinetta stands out for me because it doesn't try to look futuristic, or retro for that fact. The fastback roof is pure bliss, and the flared fenders with honest-to-goodness oval headlights capture some of the best styling elements from 1960's sports cars. It looks thoroughly modern and classic at the same time, and it doesn't overindulge with aero trickery that's become increasingly common among high-horsepower machines.

Speaking of which, electric power is the future and there's no reason to fear it. Being as warm-blooded as the next enthusiast I still love the sound of V8-generated internal combustion, and the Berlinetta bridges both worlds with nearly 1,000 combined horsepower. It looks fantastic, sounds fantastic, and it's ultra-exclusive. I only wish it were available to mere mortals such as myself.

Worst: Kia Imagine Concept

It’s not that Kia’s electric crossover is bad. However, I can’t help but doubt the intentions of an automaker when the press release itself says certain aspects of a vehicle’s design are literally a joke. Seriously, go back to our article on this and hit the press release button at the end. Buried in there amongst over-indulgent passages about emotion and excitement is a section explaining why this concept has 21 small display screens spanning the entire dash. Spoiler alert: it’s a joke. Get it? I didn’t either.

As for the concept’s theme of showcasing excitement and imagination in an electric car, Geneva was literally filled with exciting electric machines that lit fires in my heart, from the Pininfarina Battista to the gorgeous Italdesign DaVinci. Meanwhile, Kia’s take on an imaginative, exciting electric vehicle is . . . a silver five-door crossover. This wouldn’t be an imaginative concept ten years ago, never mind today when the world is filled with silver five-door crossovers.

Best: Mercedes-Benz CLA Shooting Brake

Electric hypercars and one-off W16 Atlantic tributes are nice and all, but those are for the one-percenters. I’m not saying a Mercedes is cheap, but compared to the multi-million-dollar machines invading Geneva, the CLA Shooting Brake suddenly becomes affordable. As sleek as the regular CLA but with the added practicality that comes with a longer roof, the not-a-shooting-brake Merc is the whole package for yours truly.

That high-tech interior from the CLA is virtually carried over, and dare I say it looks and feels better than what you get in cars from a segment above. With a wide selection of engines and forthcoming punchy AMG models, the posh compact wagon ticks all the right boxes in my book. The baby CLS Shooting Brake is roomier than its predecessor and has a bigger trunk, so unless you want to carry a piano, it should offer more than enough space in its voluminous cargo area.

Worst: Smart Forease+ Concept

Ironically, my "worst of Geneva" pick is – much like the CLA Shooting Brake – is also from the Daimler. As cool and funky as it might look, the Forease+ is more of the same in the sense it's merely an evolution of the Forease speedster shown last year in Paris. The only real change is the adoption of a removable fabric roof. Big whoop.

Don't get me wrong, it looks smart (pun intended), but the fact it's essentially a recycled concept is a big turnoff. Smart has had some truly interesting concepts over the years, but the Forease+ is not on that list. Aside from the all-too-familiar exterior, the interior looks plain, certainly not worthy of the vehicle's concept status.

Best: Ruf CTR Anniversary

Companies like Singer and Emory Motorsport make a business out of old Porsches, particularly updating them to provide performance on par with modern machines. The Ruf CTR Anniversary is my new favorite take on this idea.

For a different spin, Ruf doesn't take an existing Porsche and rebuilt it. Instead, the CTR Anniversary rides on mostly carbon fiber monocoque, and the exterior panels are carbon, too. The result is a machine that looks like a 1980s 911 but benefiting from modern technology. The twin-turbo 3.6-liter flat-six engine with 700 hp (522 kW) should offer plenty of power for the lightweight coupe. I'd love to drive one, but I'm not holding my breath, either.

Worst: Subaru Viziv Adrenaline Concept

Let me preface this by saying I currently own a Subaru and another likely has a spot in my garage in a couple of years. If the right SVX comes along, I could be very tempted. So I'm a fan of the brand. But Subie, your designers can do a whole lot better than the Viziv Adrenaline. Concept vehicles should be inspiring and make people excited about what's to come, but the matte black fender cladding on this one makes it appear like a cheap, base model even on the show stand.

The Viziv Adrenaline might be a preview of the next-gen Crosstrek, and I'm suggesting that the designers go back to the drawing board if it's not too late. The current Crosstrek isn't the most beautiful product in Subaru's lineup, but the little crossover is still more attractive than this concept.

Best: Golden Sahara II Concept

The newly-restored Golden Sahara II show car is better than any new car at Geneva. It was cutting-edge when it was new, and even today it’s still mind-blowing. The jet-age styling has aged surprisingly well, and its various autonomous features and technology are still impressive, even in 2019. It’s a far cry from the anonymous, bloated jellybeans that make up most new cars today.

The lighted Goodyear Neothane tires are fantastic, and I really want to know where I can buy a set. I live in Akron, Ohio, so I feel like I should just be able to go knock on their door and ask for a set, right?

Worst: Rinspeed Snap

Every few years, some automaker, as a publicity stunt, will pick an art school at random and ask hipsters to design Cars of the Future™. Invariably, they’ll get back a half-dozen drawings of glass boxes on wheels filled with trees, each accompanied by a paragraph or two of utterly meaningless, postmodern buzzword salad explaining how clever they think they are. The Swiss tuning company, Rinspeed, actually went a step further and built one. It debuted at CES, but now we have to look at it again in Geneva. Those jerks. At least you don’t have to read the press release as I did.


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Autos Magazine: 2019 Geneva Motor Show: The Best And Worst
2019 Geneva Motor Show: The Best And Worst
Autos Magazine
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