Geneva Motor Show – the best real life stuff

2017 Porsche 911 GT3
This car basically set the internet on fire over the last couple of days.

It’s that time of year again. The Geneva Motor Show has spread its wares across the internet for us all to pore over, discuss and eventually descend into meaningless arguments over cars most of us will never drive. Ah, the life of a petrolhead!

Nevertheless, some absolutely stunning vehicles have been previewed and displayed. Granted, the vast majority are the kind of unobtanium that us mere mortals will probably never see in real life, let alone drive. Or are the kind of press-fodder vapourware that will never actually appear, or appear in an almost unrecognisable form. Yes Renault, a 400bhp+, all-wheel-drive, electric hatchback sounds fantastic. But we all know that when it arrives it’ll be a 150bhp front-wheel-drive “warm-hatch” with an embarrassingly inappropriate bodykit.

Still, it’s fantastic to know that there’s enough passion (and cash) in the automotive fraternity to make these kind of projects possible. Let’s face it, it’s the poster stars that get us hooked on cars as kids. So let’s hear it for the mad, bonkers and astonishingly capable super/hyper cars of Geneva 2017…

MR JALCO’S UNOBTAINIUM GENEVA HIGHLIGHTS

  • Bentley EXP 12 Speed 6e – I’m not a fan of convertibles, but this thing’s seriously pretty.
  • McLaren 720S. I’m not for a second going to pretend I understand the aero package on the 720S. It’s horrendously complex and more than a little astounding. Instead, consider this: 720bhp, 0-62 in less than 3 seconds and less than 1300Kg dry weight. McLaren’s progress to the top of the supercar pile in such a short space of time is mind-boggling.
  • Ferrari 812 Superfast. Yes, it’s an incredibly silly name. But it’s a new Ferrari with a naturally aspirated 780bhp V12. And it’s very, very pretty. As self-proclaimed petrolheads, if we can’t get behind that kind of thing then we’re doomed.
Ferrari 812 Superfast
I really don’t care what it’s called. It’s a naturally aspirated V12 Ferrari. AND JUST LOOK AT IT!
  • RUF Yellowbird. It’s a canary yellow, 700bhp, twin-turbo slice of retro heaven. Yes, the CTR is back! Obviously it looks magnificent. But this is also a hugely capable machine. Want to win Autobahn points? Apparently this will hit “more than 225mph”. Crikey.
  • Porsche 911 GT3. Naturally aspirated (I was gobsmacked at this) 500bhp flat six, manual gearbox, massive downforce. Quite possibly the performance bargain of the century when you consider that the less capable 911R is changing hands for half a million quid.
  • Lamborghini Huracan Performante. This was very nearly my hyper/supercar of the show. The power stats don’t really tell the full story, but they are impressive (5.2 V10, 631bhp, 442lb-ft, 0-62 in under 3 seconds and 200mph+). What’s utterly staggering is the handling performance. Lamborghini’s AWD cars are, rather notoriously, a touch understeery. Not anymore. Not if a new Nürburgring record of 6m 52.01s is anything to go by. The Performante has active aero (Aerodinamica Lamborghini Attiva, or ALA) that is able to adjust levels of downforce on each side of the rear wing independently. This gives a huge advantage over traditional fixed aero package. It’s well worth reading up on this system as it really is a work of art.

WAIT, DON’T THEY COLLECT DEAD GUYS?

However, the undisputed (in my view) king of Geneva has to be the Aston Martin / Red Bull hypercar previously known as the AM-RB 001. Now simply called the Valkyrie.

Now I’m a cynical old goat, but I think this looks magnificent. Basically, it’s an LMP-1 car for the road, but Aston promises it will be as easy to drive as a “standard” Aston. We’re promised a car weighing less than a tonne, but pushing 900bhp+ (yup, that’s a 1:1 power ratio) that makes its power from a 6.5 litre V12 and features an F1-style Energy Recovery System (ERS) that will harvest brake energy for extra go.

Just 150 of these will be built, with customers taking delivery in 2019. Chances are the rest of us will never see one out in the wild (although I have hope it’ll feature at the 2019 Goodwood Festival of Speed). For the very few with the Midas levels of disposable income to drop on this (rumours are the price tag is £2-3 million), I’m certain this will be an other-worldly experience. Please don’t hide them away in garages and warehouses.

If Aston can fulfil even half of the hype surrounding this car, we’ll have a new Concorde/Veyron moment on our hands. Still unsure? Watch this video and dribble at its beauty…

BACK DOWN TO EARTH WITH A BUMP

Now for the real stuff. You know, the stuff us ‘normal folk’ actually have a chance of owning without resorting to selling a kidney or two.

For those of us that are real petrolheads but lack Bill Gates levels of wealth, Geneva 2017 still had much to offer. I’ve picked out two cars that really struck a chord with me, and that I’ll definitely be testing as soon as possible. One of them might be a surprise…

2017 Honda Civic Type R front
Anyone that gets this car in anything but white is as mad as a box of frogs.

2017 HONDA CIVIC TYPE R

I’ve had my eye on this one for a while. I’m a big fan of the previous generation Civic Type R. Yes, it had a fairly uninspiring exhaust note and it rode like its dampers were made from coal. But on a good road, in dry weather, the handling was truly rewarding. Let’s not talk about the wet weather experience. Or its propensity for being a bit vicious on the limit.

Then there were those looks. Personally, I liked it, but then I love to see a race car being used as a daily. The styling was definitely best described as “fighty”, Honda taking the ‘touring car for the road’ ethos pretty much to its limits.

Or so we thought. The 2017 Civic Type R is madder, badder and… er… wingier. It really does look like it just stepped out of a Manga comic. Completely bonkers. But, in my opinion, it works. And whatever you think of the styling, you’ve got to give Honda credit for not taking the easy path of Q-car whispering. No, the new Civic Type R boldly shouts its sporting intent. Through a megaphone. And a PA system.

2017 Honda Civic Type R back
I adore that rear wing and the 458 style triple exhaust. Lovely stuff.

Initially, it seems that not much has changed technically. It’s still front-wheel drive (through an LSD), and the engine (2 litre 4-cylinder turbo), brakes and manual gearbox are basically carried over unchanged. There’s a slight increase in power (up 10bhp to 316bhp) but torque remains at  295lb-ft. So is this simply a new set of togs for an old car?

Oh no. It’s much more than that. The drivetrain was never the problem with the old Type R, but as I’ve already mentioned, the ride and handling could be challenging. Honda have recognised this and done much to address the issue. For starters, the new Type R is much stiffer, has a lower kerb weight and sits lower. The driving position is also significantly lower, so feel and feedback should be improved. Tied into new independent rear suspension this should really help the Type R be more predictable at the limit.

2017 Honda Civic Type R inside
The cabin madness of the last two generations has been toned down. The new cabin look sporty, purposeful and really rather good. ice work, Honda.

But what about that ride? The old model was pretty unforgiving, especially on a bumpy British B-road. Initial signs aren’t good – the new Type R rides on 20″ rims. Bigger than before and with even less tyre wall to soak up the bumps. They look fabulous, but they could be the car’s Achilles heel. In fairness, Honda have added a new ‘Comfort’ mode, so maybe that will address the spine-shattering ride issues of the previous car. I certainly hope so, because the new Type R has the potential to be a real classic. Plenty of power, proper racer-for-the-road looks and the promise of even better handling.

If you just can’t wait for the reviews, you can order a new Type R now and it should be sitting on your driveway in the summer. I’d like a white one please, Honda.

2017 Yaris GRMN front
Ignore the silly graphics. This little hatch has the potential to be a real B-road weapon.

TOYOTA YARIS GRMN

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved Toyota’s fast cars. They’ve made some belters over the years (the Celica, MR2, Supra and 2000GT really stand out). But it’s ben a while since they’ve made anything properly quick and sporty. The late nineties and new millennium came, and the wheels well and truly came off. It seemed Toyota were content to make family wagons, rep mobiles and reliable but dull hatchbacks.

But, all of a sudden, Toyota seem to have woken up and decided to go racing. A few years ago they collaborated with Subaru and we got the GT86/BRZ, a cracking little RWD junior sports car. A new Supra is in the works (in collaboration with BMW) and now we have this, the Yaris GRMN – which stands for Gazoo Racing Masters of Nurburgring. Yes, really. I know.

Anyway. The Japanese are great at making small, fast, fun little hatches so, potentially, this is big news. After all, what’s better for a B-road blast or zipping around crowded city streets than a hotted up supermini?

The Yaris GRMN certainly has potential to be a bit special. Gazoo Racing are the team behind Toyota’s WRC and WEC campaigns, so they definitely know how to make a fast car. The Yaris may seem a strange place to start, featuring as it does handling that can be described as “safe” but is more accurately described as “anaemic and insipid”. However, Gazoo have chucked the suspension in the bin and started again with racing springs, Sachs dampers and sports-grade anti-roll bars. They’ve stiffened and braced the chassis, installed a Torsen LSD and thrown huge vented brake discs and four-pot calipers in for good measure. Then they went and tested the whole set-up comprehensively at the Nürburgring, a place (as their name suggests) that they’re enormously familiar with.

2017 Toyota Yaris GRMN back
Central exit exhausts improve everything. Fact. Those graphics are eye-burningly awful though.

How about firepower? This is where is gets interesting. The naturally-aspirated GT86 (Toyota’s sportiest model at the moment) makes do with just 200bhp, quick but fairly paltry these days. But the Yaris GRMN promises more than 205bhp from a 1.8 litre 4-cylinder supercharged unit. Pretty spicy for a supermini, and putting it head-to-head with Ford’s new ST and the Mini JCW. So expect a 0-62 time in the low 6s and a fistful of mid-range grunt from that blower. Does this mean a more powerful GT86 might be on its way? I hope so, it’s always felt like it could handle significantly more power – something with about 300bhp would be ideal. But I digress, back to the GRMN.

2017 Toyota Yaris GRMN interior
It’s not exactly Audi levels of design in here, but those seats look lovely.

Shiny new 17″ alloys, an oh-so-sporty bodykit, some rather nice-looking racing seats and a “look at me, I’m a mini Aventador” central exit exhaust top things off nicely. All in all, I think it’s a handsome little thing (obviously, the graphics are horrid, but I’m assuming you can delete those on order) and has some real promise in the B-road blast stakes. Okay, other than the seats, the interior looks a bit unexciting, but interior design has never been a Toyota strong point. What they do incredibly well is make tough, reliable cars. If they can marry that to some of the sporting prowess they displayed in the 80 and 90s, we might be onto a winner here.

Ford, Mini, Seat, Peugeot and (very soon) Hyundai could well be nervously looking over their shoulders at the moment.

 

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