This years Geneva Auto Salon didn’t see much of the downturn the global car industry has seen. Several manfacturers presented and showed new high-profile concept cars and other took the opportunity to present new production models.
Pagani brought their road-going version of the Zonda R, the Cinque. The Cinque is limited to a run of five, together with the Zonda R run (which was supposed to be a one-off) that’s 15 cars after the Zonda range was supposed to be retired (which almost equals the entire production of Zonda F’s at 25 cars). I don’t blame them for recouperating some of the developement costs and filling up the production gap in acticipation for their next all-new model. 1210kg and 678bhp from an 7.3 litre version of the AMG V12, the first sequential gearbox in a Pagani and the body from the R will most certainly make it one of the fastest road legal cars available. In fact, I won’t be surprised if it reclaims the fastest lap around the Nürburgring Nordschelife from the 2009 Dodge Viper SRT-10 ACR.
Aston Martin finally showed the entire exterior of the beatiful and purposely aggressive One-77. The interior will remain hidden for the Aston Martins ultimate expression of design, engineering and craftmanship. The core of the car is built as a German DTM race car, a separate frame holding a front-mid engine, inboard suspension, a rear-biased seating position and non-structural body panels. It still won’t be as light (a projected weight of 1500kg) and lack the aerodynamic downforce (AM is targeting zero-lift and downforce at speed) of many of its competitors so it shouldn’t be able to pinch any performance benchmark crowns. It doesn’t need to do that to warrant itself like a Pagani or Koenigsegg, Aston Martins are beyond that and just to be able to keep up in a classic sports car package would be a feat in its own. It cerainly has the horsepower to do so from an 700bhp+, 7.3 litre Cosworth tuned version of the standard AM 6 litre V12. Each of the 77 examples will be tailored to their owners by AM engineers setting up the mechanicallly adjustable suspension and anti-roll bars to suit their owners.
Spyker presented the production version of the successor to the C8 Laviolette and Spyder, the C8 Ailereon. I like the old minimalist steampunk styling better, I find this design cluttered and fussy. Anyway, if it means that they can continue in business I’m all for it, but I call out to all current C8 owners to nanny their cars so I kind pick up a pristine one when I’ve it’s time for me to buy one.
With the Enzo and its FXX derivatives long gone from production, Ferrari has announced a similar program to turn a bunch of 599 into rolling trackday testbeds. The Ferrari 599XX the exact opposite of the Aston Martin One-77, it has the same basic front-mid rear-wheel drive GT layout but instead of the ultimate expression of a road car with race car abilities it is an race car that probalby won’t even be legal on ordinary roads. It features a lot of new technology from both the road car and F1 divisions at Ferrari, an electronic system constantly adjusts suspension, differential, gearbox, engine and airflow to produce the fastest and most consistent lap times. It probably works (there’s a reason active suspension and aerodynamics was banned from Formula 1) but if it’ll derive the driving pleasure is another matter. The car produces 280kg of downforce at 200km/h with the help of fans in the engine bay that can channel air depending on whether maximum downforce or minimum drag is desirable. The engine has also been upgraded to produce some 700bhp at 9,000rpm.
On the greener side of things Koenigsegg has teamed up with NLV Solar AG to show the 512hp Quant concept car. Judging by the styling Koenigsegg has a long way to go to before it’s viable for production. Another problem is that there’s already a couple of more powerful pure electric cars (640hp PML Flightlinks Mini and 700hp Lightning Car Co. GT) much closer to production. The power isn’t as exciting as sounds either, the in-wheel motors produce vast amounts of power but since they lack a gearbox they can’t convert that power into the desired torque, instead they have to be specified for the worst case scenarios simultaneously, acceleration from standstill (maximum torque at low rpm) and flat out top speed (maximum power at high rpm). So while it might sound impressive with 600hp, it’s not as exciting as 600bhp from a combustion engine through a sequential gearbox in a supercar at 1250kg, it’s more like a performance sedan with a limited top speed.
Infinity showed the world’s most powerful hybrid car, the 600hp concept Essence. In contrast to the in-wheel electric cars, Infinity actually made a proper parallel drivetrain with the electric machine sandwiched between the ICE and transmission. This way it can run on pure electric power and provide gearing for the EM so that both the efficiency and performance is maximized. While it may look good (like a grown up GT-R) it’s a pure concept and we can only hope that they bring some of it to the show rooms in the near future.
Closer to production is the Opel Ampera built on the Chevrolet Volt platform. With this car GM have remedied some of my concerns for the Volt, it actually looks half decent with the new and aggressive front fascia. The Cadillac Converj is more promising from a styling view but at least this one’s heading for production in late 2011, about one year after the production of the Volt is underway.