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(Belated) 2010 Geneva Auto Show Recap

(A quick side note from the editor:

I’d like to apologize for the lack of postings these last few weeks. This site is a labor of love, but unfortunately, it doesn’t pay the bills as well as I’d like, so I work another job to cover the rent/food/gasoline I so depend on. A couple of weeks ago, I finally got a job in journalism that’s exponentially better than my old job was, but since that time, I’ve been so busy settling in I haven’t been able to post here. But three weeks without updates is long enough. I owe you more. )

Wow! Our editor is one sappy son of a bitch, ain’t he? God, you can’t believe what we have to put up with, the sh…

Still here.

eer number of nice things he does for us. He’s so generous. And kind. Unfortunately, while his generosity is limitless, his credit card isn’t, so we weren’t able to personally go to this year’s Geneva Auto Show. Thanks to the magic of the Interwebs, though, we can cover it like we were there! Isn’t that awesome? In fact, forget the last three sentences. We DID go to the Geneva Auto Show, and it was out of this world! We’ve just been drunk on Toblerone the last couple weeks.

So, behold – our favorite cars from this year’s Geneva Auto Show, presented in completely objective fashion by being ranked in order of how cool we think they are.

1. Porsche 918 Spyder concept

Just being a leaner, meaner, less El Camino-like successor to the Carrera GT would have probably been enough to land the 918 on the top of this list. Being a hybrid made it pretty much a shoo-in. But the real reason this bad mother(shut yo’ mouth!) ranks as the coolest car of the Geneva Auto Show? Nobody had any idea it was coming. The Carrera GT only wrapped production four years ago. Who would have thought Porsche would bust out its replacement so quickly?

This baby is the future of the supercar, folks. This is what our children will be driving in their heads when they should be studying. Lightness fused with technology. A plug-in hybrid coupled to a powerful engine. Styling that doesn’t shamelessly ape the past, but sets a brave new course without forgetting where it comes from.

The 918 Spyder concept comes equipped with a 3.4-liter V8 making more than 500 horsepower, combined with a plug-in battery-electric powertrain making a maximum of 218 horses. The electric motor drives the front wheels, the gasoline engine powers the rear tires through a seven-speed DSG. Porsche claims the car can go up to 16 miles on electric power alone, can achieve 94 mpg, yet also cook off 0-60 runs in 3.2 seconds and top out just under 200 mph. Don’t be fooled by the “concept” moniker. Porsche has never made a concept they haven’t produced in one way or another, and they’re not gonna start now.

2. Ferrari 599 HY-KERS Hybrid

The bad news: rumors of an all-wheel-drive hybrid 599 were incorrect. The good news: going hybrid doesn’t look like it’ll make Ferraris any less fun. In fact, it’ll just make living with one easier.

Which is certainly promising, given what could have been a piece of very ominous news: to conform with new EU regulations, very soon, every Ferrari might be a hybrid.

Whoa, whoa, whoa – no need to buy that Rapture insurance just yet. Judging by the 599 Hybrid, autophiles have nothing to fear. The concept features a 100-horsepower electric motor smooshed in with the seven-speed DSG transmission; at low speeds in town, the car can cruise along in electric mode, or the batteries can summon up a nitrous-like boost for the 612-horsepower 6.0 liter V12. Ferrari claims the 0-124 mph dash is shortened by 0.6 seconds over a stock 599.

Nobody outside of Ferrari has had any seat time in the 599 Hybrid yet, so we don’t yet know what it’ll be like to drive; however, given the company’s entire multibillion dollar reputation is on the line, we’re fairly optimistic Ferrari’s legendary passion and performance will be pretty much unharmed by the hybrid conversion. In addition, we’re hoping the presence of the dual-clutch gearbox here heralds its inclusion in the uber-bitchin’ upcoming 599 GTO.

3. 2010 Audi RS5

We previewed the RS5 in our last post, and nothing’s really changed, mechanically speaking – still a 450-horsepower 4.2 liter V8 with a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, still a body that’ll make your girlfriend jealous, still causing hundreds of automotive to wake up with erections after dreaming about the eventual comparison with the BMW M3. Nothing we didn’t know.

But that doesn’t make it any less badass. Or make us want one any less. As much as we love the M3, quattro is handy if you ever venture into the snowy north.

4. 2011 Ruf 911 RGT-8

While perhaps best known as builder of the car Automobile Magazine accidentally incinerated during a post-supercar-comparo dance party with inopportune song selection (“No, dude, the Ruf is actually on fire! We do need water!”), Ruf has a long history of taking Porsches and, like Kanye West did to Daft Punk, making them harder, better, faster and stronger, then slapping their own name on it.

But so far as I’m concerned, this lime-green beaut can drive right in front of Taylor Swift at the next MTV Awards, because Ruf has done what no one thought could – build a 911 with a V8.

Developed and built in-house in just two years, the RGT-8’s 4.5 liter engine pumps out 542 horsepower and 369 lb-ft, giving this naturally aspirated 911 more ponies than the new 911 Turbo S also unveiled at the show. Granted, it may not match the S’s Kryptonian acceleration (Car and Driver ran the less powerful Turbo with 7-speed PDK from 0 to 60 in 2.9 seconds, which is about as long as it took us to string together the expletive chain we used when we heard that), but it gives us hope that if Porsche runs out of ways to make the 911’s six-cylinder more powerful…life will find a way.

5. Lotus Evora 414E Hybrid Concept

This last spot on the list was neck-and-neck between the Evora and the Koenigsegg Agera. The Agera has 910 horsepower, a carbon fiber/aluminum chassis, a top speed of 245 mph and looks cooler than Timothy Olyphant in a gunfight.

But like the 918 Spyder, the Evora represents the future, a world of simultaneous pastry-consumption-and-preservation. Each rear wheel is powered by its own electric motor; together, they produce 408 horsepower – 132 horses more than the V6-powered production Evora, and 120 more than the Lotus Elise-based Tesla Roadster. Unlike the Tesla, though, the Evora Hybrid isn’t limited to the amount of energy it can suck out of your wall; should the batteries dip low enough, a 1.2 liter three-cylinder engine kicks in to recharge the battery.

Regular Lotus Evora shown. But you didn't know that, did you?

Lotus says the three-cylinder produces a meager 47 horsepower, which means drivers could be in for an trouser-soiling surprise if the battery goes dead while trying to pass a minivan on a two-lane road. Since the engine isn’t driving the wheels, it’s not like the car will suddenly lose 85 percent of its horsepower – but if you believe the performance won’t suffer significantly, then don’t listen to Alfred Molina when he advises you to throw you the idol first.

Honorable Mention:

2010 Koenigsegg Agera:

Did you read the first paragraph about the Lotus?

2010 Brabus E V12 Coupe:

Since Christian Bale’s Batman lost his Tumbler to Heath Ledger, I nominate this 788-horsepower, 1047 lb-ft beast to replace it. Let’s see the Penguin fuck with this thing.

2010 Pagani Zonda Tricolore:

It pulls 1.45 lateral g, and while the 7.3 liter Mercedes-Benz/AMG-sourced V12 isn’t new…it’s still an enormous custom AMG V12. Plus, like the Highlander, There Can Be Only One.

Dishonorable Mention:

2011 Aston Martin Cygnet:

Somewhere, Sean Connery’s balls have retreated into his body.

2011 Bentley Continental Flying Star by Touring Superleggera:

We were unaware anyone had asked for this.

Honda 3R-C Concept:

If there’s one thing people want, it’s a one-person electric scooter to replace walking around. How could that go wrong?

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Fantasy Files – 2008 Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano

The Good: Everything.

The Bad: Eleven miles per gallon. Oh, and you can’t have one.

The Verdict: It will be mine. Oh, yes – it will be mine.

You have to be a certain age to appreciate a car like the Ferrari 599. Oh, not just because even the smartest, most dedicated of us will have to work decades before our salaries approach the realm necessary to afford this car. There’s another reason.

You have to know what sex feels like.

You don’t drive this car. You dance with it. You love it, romance it along the roads, building to a crechendo in each gear. You merge together, man and machine combining into something bold, beautiful and heroic. It makes you feel like a god.

The Ferrari flows along mountain roads like liquid mercury, blasting along at speeds that astoundingly fast and incredibly controlled at the same time. Colors seem brighter, sounds seem sharper as the Ferrari’s V-12 races through its range with orgasmic fury. This isn’t a car, you realize. This is a state of mind.

 

Wherever it went, the Ferrari drew crowds.

Wherever it went, the Ferrari drew crowds.

Of course, when you’re paying at least $318,045 for a car, you’d hope for a pretty transcendent experience – and not just in terms of how it handles the road. You want that baby to be perfect, inside and out. Thankfully for Ferrari (and for humankind), the 599 pulls it off. Inside, anything not covered in contrasting cowskin is made out of carbon fiber. If you’re worried about damaging the leather, you may want to invest in some gloves, because the urge to touch everything in sight is hard to fight. You’ll be hard-pressed to find leather smoother or softer in any wallet.

But it’s more than just the quality of the interior that makes this car a gleeful place to wile away the miles – it’s the styling, too. Vents jut out of the center console like afterburner nozzles on an F-15. Every control falls directly to hand, importance dictating proximity to where the driver’s hands should be. Shift paddles? Right at 9 and 3, an inch away from your index finger. The button which drops the car’s sequential manual gearbox into automatic mode lies down where the cupholders would be in a lesser automobile, far enough away to make you think twice about pushing it. And the radio lies concealed beneath a retractable plate, out of sight and mind. Press the plate, and it slides up like Iron Man’s mask – but like that mask, any millionaires planning on on taking their new toy out for a spin would be better served keeping it closed.

Of course, no review of the 599 could be complete without mention of the marvelous manettino, the small red switch on the lower right of the steering wheel. While it might look like the sort of device used to launch missiles against Tupolev Tu-160 bombers, it in fact controls an arsenal of on-board electronic systems, from how fast the transmission swaps gears to the stiffness of the suspension. Five settings are available (although Nigel Tufnel’s car goes up to 11); turn it all the way to the left, and your Ferrari is ready for driving on icy roads (ha!), whereas turning it all the way to the right disengages everything traction control, stability control and everything short of the power steering to give you the full Han Solo experience. I kept the dial in the middle position – “sport” – the whole time, and I expect most people will do the same.

As for the car’s exterior, there’s been plenty of discussion in the automotive world as to whether the 599 is as pretty as it could be, with some going as far as to call it “ugly.” While it may not be the prettiest car on the road, it certainly has presence, and anyone who’s seen it in the flesh and still calls it “ugly” could probably use a vision check or a whack upside the head.

Then again, it’s probably wise to give people the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the car’s appearance – they’ll have to be pretty quick to catch a good look at it, given its performance figures. In their September 2008 issue, Car and Driver ran a Ferrari 599 GTB from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 3.3 seconds, and blazed the car through the quarter-mile in 11.2 seconds at 131 mph. (Interestingly, C/D mentioned in the article they thought Ferrari might have slipped the 650-horsepower engine from the Ferrari Enzo under the hood of the test car in place of the 599’s specified 612-horsepower V-12, but considering every other test of the 599 – including an earlier one by C/D – displayed similar acceleration figures, it seems more likely to me that the folks at Maranello are simply understating the power figures on the 599’s 6.0 liter engine out of respect for the Enzo.)

Of course, power corrupts, and in the Ferrari’s case, the atmosphere ends up getting the bad end of the stick; the EPA rates the 599 at 11 miles per gallon in the city and 15 on the highway. This may be a little optimistic; Car and Driver managed to eke out only 9 miles per gallon in their comparison, and a recent test by British TV show Top Gear found the Ferrari capable of only 1.7 miles per gallon during a five-car track race. (You can see footage of the latter here.)

But in the end, it doesn’t matter whether the 599’s engine makes 612, 620 or 650 horsepower. Even for the folks who forked over enough money to buy a nice house and waited two years for their car, the numbers are, in the end, beside the point. The point of the Ferrari 599 is that it is, right here and now, the evolutionary peak of the automobile. No other car synthesizes state-of-the art technology with raw emotion to such magnificent effect. Should you ever find yourself tripping over a thirty-pound gold nugget and wondering what to do with it, I’ve got a damn good suggestion for you.

Grade: A+

   

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