If you like walking through an art museum or a high-end fashion shop, you'd love looking at the wild bunch of cars on display at the 85th International Geneva Motor Show, a showcase for the world's automakers and the people who love their products. No, you won't find something you'd drive to the grocery store, but each of these is an undeniable work of art.
In addition to many upcoming production models, the Geneva show treats us to a look at supercars and concepts that hint at the future direction of transportation. Here are a few of our favorites.
1. Aston Martin Vulcan
Description: Front-/mid-engined, rear-wheel-drive racing car
How much? $2.3 million
How powerful? 7.0-liter V-12, 800-plus horsepower
How soon? 2016; production limited to 24
Even the mildest of contemporary Aston Martin cars are hot stuff, but this one figures to be flat out torrid — the closest thing you can get to one of the company's 24 Hours of Le Mans racers. The competition reference is apropos, because this limited-edition hot rod is intended strictly for track use; no street-legal version. Limited edition means just that; Aston Martin plans to build just 24 Vulcans and sell them at a reported $2.3 million each. Does that sound steep? Consider that the price includes tuition from the Aston Martin racing operation, as well as company-sponsored track days at famous racing venues.
Then, of course, there's the car. Carbon fiber chassis, carbon fiber skin, magnesium torque tube surrounding a carbon fiber driveshaft, huge carbon ceramic brakes from Brembo. The suspension package includes racing-style inboard shock absorbers, cockpit adjustable, and adjustable anti-roll bars. And, of course, there's ample power — more than 800 horsepower, according to Aston Martin, delivering thrust to the rear wheels via a six-speed racing transmission. Exterior finish? Interior decor? Well, what are your preferences? As is appropriate at this price point, Aston's trim department will make sure your Vulcan is exactly as you like it.
2. 2017 Audi R8
Description: Mid-engined, all-wheel-drive sports car
How much? $185,000-$210,000
How powerful? 5.2-liter V-10, 540-610 horsepower
How soon? Summer 2015
The 2017 Audi R8 is the second generation of a car that's so good-looking, so edgy, that it inspires a thrill in everyone from 10-year-olds to the most sophisticated automotive enthusiasts. V-10-powered, with a distinctively striking exterior, it makes 540 horsepower in one version and 610 horsepower in the other. This car was a game-changer for Audi when it was introduced in 2006, and this redesign is more of an evolutionary update, a tribute to how successful the original was.
The exterior is a little more angular, overall length has shrunk a bit to 174.0 inches, width has increased slightly (to 76.4 inches), and height (48.8 inches) is unchanged. The dimensional changes give the new R8 a slightly more aggressive appearance, but the most obvious distinction is just behind the doors, where a new two-panel insert replaces the previous design. However, there's lots more new under the new skin, specifically a new chassis, the corporate Modular Sport System (MSS), which also serves as the foundation of the Lamborghini Huracán.
There is now an electric version, the R8 e-tron, also shown at Geneva. Tesla fans take note: It's no ordinary EV, with a 0-to-60-mph time of less than 3.9 seconds and a 280-mile range between charges. Audi says it will go on sale later this year.
3. Infiniti QX30 Concept
Description: Rear- and all-wheel-drive compact crossover
How much? Not yet announced
How powerful? Turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder
How soon? Late 2016
The compact-crossover segment is getting crowded, but there is definitely room for one with the more sophisticated styling that this concept offers.
The QX30, shown as a concept but expected to go into production about 18 months from now, combines the stylishness of a coupe with the high seating position, ground clearance and capability of a crossover. This is an Infiniti product that should appeal to younger buyers.
Infiniti, the upscale division of Nissan, has always been known for its unusual looks, and the curves and lines of this concept — not to mention those unusual roof rails — set it far apart from more traditional-looking small crossovers like the BMW X1 and the Buick Encore.
4. Nissan Sway Concept
Description: Five-door compact hatchback concept
From the automaker that brought us such nontraditional designs as the Quest minivan, Murano SUV and Juke compact crossover comes this stylish, innovative hatchback concept. It's intended to show the future direction Nissan will take in a segment that is always at risk of dullness. There's no danger of that here. The extreme yet enticing appearance starts with the cat-eyed LED headlamp treatment. The Sway concept has a full panoramic glass roof for a "floating" effect. Inside, there are lightweight aluminum-framed seats covered in suede-like fabric and stitched using techniques from luxury handbag construction. The two-tone paint scheme features "bluish dawn grey" with orange contrasts.
No word on whether, or how soon, there will be a production version of this concept, although chief designer Shiro Nakamura told us, "We have concepts, but we will be building all of them."
5. Lexus LF-SA Concept
Description: Ultracompact four-passenger city car concept
Lexus is celebrating its 25th anniversary, and it's a little surprising that the luxury brand went in a decidedly different direction by rolling out this tiny, odd-looking compact sport-utish concept at the Geneva show. It's like something out of a science-fiction movie, with a look that you'll either love or loathe.
There's no denying that it's totally wild-looking. Among the unusual features are a fixed, non-adjustable driver's seat — you can adjust the steering wheel and pedals — and a hologram-style digital display in the instrument panel.
6. Kia Sportspace Concept
Description: Four-passenger compact wagon concept
If you are a fan of the fast-disappearing wagon body style, you'll want to check out this one. And Kia's design chief, Peter Schreyer, wants to talk to you. "I don't know why Americans don't like wagons," he told me. "They are big in Europe and China."
If you didn't think "sexy wagon" was possible, we're guessing you do now. This concept, possibly predicting the next generation of the Optima sedan that comes out in 2016, is not necessarily intended for American buyers. But it's so compelling, we wanted you to see it anyway. The Korean automaker calls this the "ultimate getaway car," riffing off the wagon body style to create an unconventional and undeniably modern look. Notable features are a full-length panoramic glass roof and, in place of a rearview mirror, a video screen using images from a rearview camera.
The Sportspace is not really a wagon, but not a crossover, either, and it's refreshing to see something so sleek in a world of egglike vehicles. Schreyer confirmed that it's only a concept now, "but we will be building it."
ABOUT THE WRITER
Jean Jennings is a veteran automotive journalist with three decades of experience sharing her zany take on the world of cars. She is the former editor in chief of Automobile Magazine and is a frequent on-air commentator. Visit her website at www.jeanknowscars.com.
©2015 Jean Knows Cars, LLC; Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC