Take the rarefied road
Europe gives a glimpse of the high-performance future, writes John Carey
VOLVO One of the best-looking production cars unveiled at Geneva was inspired by … driftwood. Volvo design chief Thomas Ingenlath even had a chunk of sea-sculpted lumber on stage as he revealed the Swedish brand’s new XC60.
The original and still current XC60, now nine years old, was a huge hit for Volvo. More than a million have been built and it accounts for about 30 per cent of the car maker’s sales worldwide. Its replacement will go into production at a factory in Sweden in April and it should reach Australia late this year.
If the exterior of the new XC60 is attractive, the interior —including its driftwood-inspired instrument panel—is even better. It’s elegant, simple and classy. The new XC60 will also feature the same portrait-oriented centre screen as larger Volvos, but with an improved layout.
When it comes to safety, on the other hand, the XC60 will leap to leadership. It will be first with several new-for-Volvo driver aid and accident avoidance/mitigation technologies.
Engines will come from Volvo’s new family of fourcylinder petrol and diesel turbos. These are already being installed in the company’s 90 Series SUV, sedan and wagon models (XC90, S90 and V90).
AUDI It looks like a sporty restyle of the Q8 Concept shown by Audi at the Detroit show in January, because that’s just what it is. But Geneva’s Q8 Sport Concept gives a glimpse of Audi’s highperformance future.
Its 3.0-litre V6 petrolelectric hybrid makes the power of a V8 but is as thrifty as a four, Audi claims — thanks to an electric-powered turbocharger, as in the turbo diesel in the recently launched SQ7.
The Audi’s battery stores energy harvested while braking and this can power the electric turbo or give a direct boost to the engine. It’s clever stuff and certain to go into production.
Expected in showrooms next year, the Q8 will be Audi’s sporty SUV flagship, sitting above the more practical Q7. The promised 350kW wallop of the Sport Concept would make the Q8 super-quick and ultraefficient.
Geneva was a big show for Audi. It also revealed the sporty RS5 Coupe, slated for Australia before the end of the year. The big change is that it packs a twin-turbo 2.9-litre V6 producing the same power (331kW) as the 4.2-litre V8 in the previous RS5 Coupe. But the new V6, which is basically the same engine Porsche uses in the new Panamera 4S, delivers way more torque …
An updated RS3 Sportback hot hatch runs the same (294kW) engine as the TT RS coupe. Turbo five-cylinder engines are an Audi speciality, and the latest is both lighter and more powerful. Audi claims a 0-100km/h time for the allwheel drive RS3 Sportback of just 4.1 seconds.
MERCEDES-AMG The first hybrid from MercedesAMG, the GT sedan might look like a stretched four-door version of the Mercedes GT coupe but underneath this sleek body is the latest E-Class sedan. The twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 (from the E63 sedan) is backed up by an electric motor to make a combined 600kW and deliver astonishing performance — 0-100kmh in 3.0 seconds.
When the GT sedan goes on sale next year, the “regular” version will bow first, powered by the E63’s stonking V8 (450kW/850Nm) and, with allwheel-drive, capable of sprint to 100km/h in 3.5 seconds.
Price is yet to be announced, but it could be double that of the $250,000 E63.
PORSCHE Porsche revealed models from opposite ends of its current spectrum. One was exactly the kind of car that made its reputation, the other something it has never done before …
The new 911 GT3 is Porsche’s response to brand fans who lamented that the previous GT3 came only with a sevenspeed double-clutch transmission, even though it filled the brief of being quick round a racetrack.
Now this top-end 911 line-up looks racetrack ready with fixed rear wing and front-end aerodynamic aids, plus a frantic non-turbo 4.0-litre flat-six in its tail, and a manual transmission option.
Porsche has never before made anything like the Panamera Turbo Sport Turismo before. It’s a wagon version of the company’s big luxury hatchback, with twinturbo 4.0-litre V8 propulsion — so you could fill the spacious cargo compartment with gold bars, and barely notice the extra weight when accelerating away from the lights.
FERRARI The 812 Superfast unveiled by Ferrari is the latest evolution of its big V12 GT. The front-engine and rear-drive two-seater delivers an interior with updated look and tech to go with its restyled exterior.
Ferrari’s trademark V12 grows to 6.5 litres for the 812 Superfast (up from 6.3 in the earlier F12 Berlinetta). Maximum power rises a little, to 588kW, and Ferrari claims the Superfast will be, well, super fast. As in 0-100km/h in just under 3.0 seconds.