Take the rar­efied road

Europe gives a glimpse of the high-per­for­mance fu­ture, writes John Carey

The Courier-Mail - Cars Guide - - Prestige -

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.

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