Motoring: Four ways forward

The Geneva Motor Show offers glimpses of the future.

Every motor show has its concept cars. Often they are just showing- off exercises to test the world's reaction to new ideas. But at the Geneva Motor Show, which opened last Tuesday, concepts from Opel/Vauxhall, Renault and Toyota pointed to real cars for the next millennium.

Alternatively, there was the Bentley. Imagine a mid-engined supercar, something like a Lamborghini Diablo, with a metal-meshed cut-out in the front shaped like a Bentley's radiator grille. It's the Bentley Hunaudieres, named after the restaurant half-way down the Mulsanne Straight at the Le Mans race track, scene of famous Bentley race victories in the late Twenties.

Volkswagen, which now owns Bentley, believes the marque should race at Le Mans again. So are the Germans messing around with precious British heritage? No, says Rolls-Royce and Bentley product development director Rob Oldaker. "The first ideas came before VW ownership, and last July we talked with Volkswagen about moving it forward. It was the right thing to do for this show."

The design might be Bentley-flavoured, and the 8.0-litre, 16-cylinder, 623bhp engine might be Bentley-tuned for effortless thrust rather than race-car pace, but the car was built in Germany using the chassis of another VW Group product - the Diablo. And the W16 engine is four-thirds of the W12 unit seen in Volkswagen's own supercar study a year ago. The Hunaudieres is an intriguing idea, but the notion of an engine behind the occupants seems deeply odd in a Bentley.

And so to relative reality. Lotus reinvented the stripped-out, pure-pleasure sports car with the Elise, and two big-name makers are now chasing Lotus. Opel, or Vauxhall as it's called here, is even basing its angular Speedster on the Elise's bonded-aluminium chassis, but power comes from a Vauxhall engine of 2.2 litres and 147bhp.

The driving experience won't be as extreme as the Elise's, but engineering chief Peter Hanenberger promises he "won't put in too much comfort". Vauxhall's first sportster since the Twenties goes on sale next July. VW-owned Seat's interpretation of the idea, styled mainly by Julian Thomson who also shaped the Elise, is less certain for production, but the will is there.

Opel/Vauxhall also showed "Concept A", a cuboid with a rounded nose and a price less than a Corsa's. This van-like vehicle with four fold-flat seats uses the doors and centre section from GM-affiliate Suzuki's Wagon- R. "This is the first time in Europe that anyone has done such a car," says Hanenberger. "If we had just made a smaller Corsa, then we might not gain so many sales." It will be launched next spring.

Toyota's cute Yaris supermini has just gone on sale, and Geneva saw a mini-MPV version called Verso. It's slightly larger than Concept A, and Toyota hasn't yet decided whether to sell it here. Also rooted in MPVs, but intended as a new concept in grand touring, is the Renault Avantime. Imagine an Espace coupe with a hi-tech but discreet interior, and you'll get the idea. Made by Matra, like the Espace, the Avantime is Renault's alternative to big, prestigious German saloons. You can buy something similar from next March.

Citroen's C6 signalled further confidence in the once-moribund notion of a French prestige car. It's a study for a possible XM or Xantia replacement, which looks individualistically Citroen without resort to pastiche. "Retro is a dead-end street," declares design chief Art Blakeslee. It is a beautiful, curvy thing. So are Aston Martin's V12-engined DB7 Vantage and Ferrari's aluminium-structured, 360 Modena, proper production cars and Geneva debutantes both.

At the other aesthetic extreme is Mitsubishi's Pajero Pinin, a sort of mini-Shogun part-styled by Pininfarina, which will build it in Italy. It comes either togged-up for off-roading or smoothed-off for urban crawling. Someone once said something about form following function, but this isn't quite what was meant.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist / Physio / Osteopath

    £12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for o...

    Recruitment Genius: Account Manager / Sales Executive - Contract Hire

    £35000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leader provides c...

    Recruitment Genius: Project Coordinator

    £28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

    Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - Midlands

    £20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Day In a Page

    John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

    Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

    'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
    Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

    Forget little green men

    Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
    Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

    Dying dream of Doctor Death

    Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
    UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

    39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

    There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
    Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

    Computerised cooking is coming

    From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
    Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

    Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

    The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
    Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

    Education: Football Beyond Borders

    Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
    10 best barbecue books

    Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

    We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
    Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

    ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

    Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
    Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

    Making of a killer

    What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
    UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

    Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

    Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
    Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most