The best new launches and premieres at the Geneva International Motor Show

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It’s the first major event on the annual motoring calendar, and in the eyes of many, the most important. And there’s always one reveal that “steals the show” at Geneva. Nobody, however, expected it to happen during the Volkswagen press conference.

It wasn’t a car that stole anything, though, never mind the entire show. Rather it was the anarchic British comedian Simon Brodkin who stole the thunder from Jürgen Stackmann, a board member for the VW brand, as he began to unveil a succession of cars that might otherwise have remained clear of the headlines. In a stroke of genius, Brodkin, dressed in overalls bearing the VW logo, managed to get onto the stage, wielding a large spanner and a device labelled “Cheat Box”, in reference to the recent diesel emissions scandal that rocked the German colossus – and continues to do so months later.

Remarkably, Brodkin made it to Stackmann, unhindered by burly security guards, as the world’s media watched on. Offering to “fix” the all-electric Up! city car as he began to crawl underneath its front end, he said to Stackmann: “Excuse me, I have the new Cheat Box. No one’s going to find out about this one, I’m just going to fit it now.”

But while that embarrassing spectacle, which lasted a few seconds, practically demolished VW’s own unveil, some of the companies that sit under its protective group umbrella could claim to have grabbed the headlines for all the right reasons.

So let’s take a look at the big reveals from across the spectrum.

Bugatti Chiron

To call the Chiron pointless is to miss the point entirely. Yes, its owners will be unable to reach its electronically governed 420kph top speed, which comes courtesy of a reworked Veyron engine tuned to punch out a frankly absurd 1,500hp. The point is human endeavour – pushing the boundaries to the limits and beyond, operating on the very edge of the laws of physics.

Bugatti says 500 will be built, and that the order book already has 150 confirmed names in it, at approximately Dh9.6 million a pop. It could never be described as pretty, but it’s certainly impressive, with a more aggressive nose than the Veyron’s, and a signature arc that features on both flanks and bisects the interior space. But it’s those numbers that leave the biggest impression, and the Chiron has got the world talking again about motoring absurdity. For that reason alone, we should doff our hats in the general direction of Molsheim.

Porsche 911R

While the Chiron is undoubtedly more complex than practically any car in history, Porsche has listened to its purist fans, and given them what they’ve been desperate for: a lighter, more focused 911 with a manual transmission and no turbochargers. The R nomenclature has always been reserved for the most hard-core Porsche models, and hasn’t been seen on a 911 for decades.

While nobody has driven it yet, it’s already being hailed by some as potentially the greatest car the German outfit has ever produced. By Porsche’s own admission, it has been launched to bring the fun back to driving high-performance cars – something it should be good at, having an engine from the GT3 RS and next to no downforce thanks to its lack of the usual huge rear spoiler. With no rear seats, not even a radio or traditional door handles, it won’t be for everyone. But if it flicks your switch, put your order in quick, because production will be limited to 991 examples.

Aston Martin DB11

Aston Martin has been making beautiful cars for 103 years now, but the DB11 is perhaps the most important one of all. The DB9, now 13 years old, is dead, and the DB10 was a one-off for the recent Bond film, so DB11 was the next logical numerical step. And while it looks similar to the art form it replaces, it’s different enough to get (almost) everyone very excited indeed. It’s more aggressive-looking than the DB9, with more than a little bit of One-77 in the mix, yet its design incorporates a number of exceedingly clever touches that aid downforce and stability – which it will need, because it now offers genuine supercar performance.

It features electrical architecture from Aston’s new partner, Daimler (read Mercedes-Benz), and has an all-new, 5.2L, twin-turbo V12 that sends 600 horses galloping to the rear wheels via an automatic gearbox (a manual will be available, too). This looks like the start of a new dawn for Aston Martin.

Audi Q2

Plugging every possible gap in its range is Audi’s game these days, and the latest model nobody ever knew they needed is the Q2, a compact crossover with front-wheel drive, plus styling, its maker says, that’s indicative of the brand’s future – inasmuch as it doesn’t look like all the others. From now on, it promises, each new Audi will be quite different in appearance, not only compared to its predecessor, but also with the rest of the company’s line-up. At long last, we’re about to have some diversity from a mainstream German manufacturer. In the meantime, if you want to cut a dash with a city car that’s prestigious and well made, the Q2 could be just the thing for you.

Morgan EV3

A glorious amalgam of older-than-old style and future tech, the all-electric Morgan EV3 is a Three-Wheeler for those with an eye on the environment as much as the ability to stop other road users in their tracks as they stare in disbelief. Where the Three-Wheeler’s V-Twin motorcycle engine normally sits (outside, ahead of the bonnet), there’s simply a recessed panel featuring a single headlamp. The liquid-cooled electric motor will propel this unique machine to 100kph in less than nine seconds, and on to a top speed of approximately 150kph. This is no pipe dream – thanks to government funding, Morgan says it will go into production before the end of the year.

Abarth 124 Spider

Small, powerful, full of character and Italian – there’s not much to complain about when it comes to the heated-up Fiat 124 Spider, courtesy of Abarth. Ultimately based on Mazda’s new MX-5 (which is as good a place to start as any), the Abarth produces 170hp, and is available with a six-speed manual gearbox if you want ultimate thrills (an auto is available, if you really must). There’s a mechanical limited slip differential for tail-out hooliganism, and its low kerb weight means it will shift along with delightful rapidity. It also looks just the right side of sporty. Let’s hope it makes it to the Middle East.

So while the Chiron is the car that will be grabbing the headlines for a long time to come, perhaps this year’s Geneva show is an indicator that some car manufacturers have recognised that fun and involvement needs to be put back into motoring. For those of us who still get goosebumps from the sheer enjoyment that the right car and the right road can provide, this is the best possible news.

motoring@thenational.ae