Sunday, 22 April 2018

Geneva's hits and misses


Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo

If there’s one reason to visit Geneva, it’s the $12 croissants. If there are two reasons to visit, it’s those AND the annual auto show, the only time of the year the median income of the city’s dwellers doesn’t have a pair of commas in it. Because our Los Angeles reporter and vintage croissant collector Dave Undercoffler never sees real weather, we sent him to check out Geneva. Here’s what he saw.

HITS

• Volkswagen Arteon: Regular readers of these Hits and Misses columns (hi, Mom!) will know I’ve been hard on VW’s tepid styling of late. Someone, somewhere at VW agrees, as evidenced by the new VW Arteon. Finally, a VW that doesn’t make you feel like you need a handful of NoDoz every time you look at it. The design is bold, sleek and yet unlike anything else on the road; that’s a rare feat in these days of derivation and compromise. Plus, hiding under all those adjectives is a hatchback with gobs of trunk space. How delightfully European. This is the kind of stuff VW needs to be filling our lives with, not excess NOx. 

• Volvo XC60: Volvo would have had to work hard to screw this one up. The larger XC90 is among the best-looking crossovers schlepping around suburbia today. The Chinese-owned Swedish automaker could have just taken a Sawzall to the 90’s midsection and then superglued the trunk back on and still had a hit. Thankfully it did better than that, finding a way to inject the 60 with just enough character of its own so you can tell them apart at your PTA meeting. Given how popular the XC90 is, the automaker can look forward to selling every XC60 it makes. You’ve earned your fika today, Volvo.

• Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo: Stupid name, paradigm-shifting car. To be clear, this isn’t the first large sultry wagon ever made; Europe is full of cool cargo haulers we never see in the States. But this wagonette is the first of its kind for Porsche, and it’s coming to the U.S. Everything about it is right. The proportions and lines are damn near perfect; I’d write poetry to them, but pentameter has never been my thing. Power ranges from 330 hp to possibly the barn-burning 680 on the Turbo S E-Hybrid. No one will buy this over the Panamera sedan for space because it has about one Pomeranian worth of additional room. Instead it’s all about the gravitas this car brings to the table that rivals simply can’t match.

MISSES

• Mercedes-AMG GT Concept: Mercedes’ hot-headed division used Geneva to debut this four-door hybrid coupe that it says foreshadows the division’s third stand-alone model. The front of the concept is pretty cool, but toward the back the design becomes slippery and vague. Things get worse in the details, which make the car look like it contracted something from the nearby Mansory stand. The chromed out wheels are tacky; you could smell their cologne 10 feet away. And the center-mounted exhaust protuberance can’t appropriately be described here because we’re a family publication. In all, the car comes across as a Russian oligarch’s fantasy car, which makes this a firm nyet in my book.

• European aftermarket tuners: Speaking of oligarchs, just how many were expected to attend this year’s show? I ask because dotting the convention floor were numerous aftermarket Euro tune houses locked in a battle for who could nauseate quickest and eliminate all taste and sense from very expensive cars. Common themes by companies such as Mansory, Tech-art, Hamann and Fab Design seemed to be “Why have one lip spoiler on your Range Rover when you can have 13?”; “This abominable bumper package will go great with your chest hair and gold chains”; and “All Ferraris are meant to have diffusers that look like Bane’s mouthpiece in Batman.” Just be glad these are rarely seen in the U.S. You’d need an ocean’s worth of distance to forget them. 

• McLaren 720S eyes: Make no mistake: This sleek new supercar has plenty to drool over. There’s the 710-hp bit, the glass canopy roof, the new carbon fiber tub. The kids tell me the retractable digital instrument panel and a slide bar in the nav screen to control the car’s drift angle are cool. McLaren also saw fit to make some more changes with the 720S’ styling after hearing complaints about the unexciting look of the 12C and to a lesser extent 650S. Thus we get sultry body panels that do away with the now-common air intakes ahead of the rear wheels on most cars of this ilk. But the lights, man, the lights. They’re weird. They make the car look like it put on too much mascara and then went for a run in a rainstorm. So close!



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