The Geneva Motor Show is an important date on the automotive industry calendar, previewing what will roll out of Europe's car factories. Manufacturers from outside Europe also get a chance to show their wares in their push to break into the continental market. Mercedes-Benz F800 Style Concept Mercedes-Benz says its F800 Style concept is a future-thinking showcase that can run with traditional power, cleaner, hybrid power or ultra-clean fuel-cell power - and they're right. It's fast, advanced and clean, but Benz's first job is to prepare the public for the look of its baby brother for the CLS sedan when it lands in two years.
Its swoopy new look will be a harbinger of things to come for all of Benz's sedans. The F800 Style's body, with sliding rear door, came from its design studio in Sindelfingen, Germany, while its radical cabin came from its interior design studio on Lake Como, Italy. The fuel cell version will run on zero-emission electric power for 600km, while the petrol-electric hybrid hits 100kph in 4.8 seconds.
Both the F800 Style's fuel-cell electric and hybrid systems are nearly production ready and being tested in Germany. Lamborghini Gallardo LP570-4 Lamborghini has added more power and stripped 70kg from its Gallardo supercar to combat Ferrari's 458 Italia. Debuting at Geneva, the LP570-4 Superleggera is the fastest Gallardo yet, sprinting to 100kph in 3.4 seconds, with a 325kph top speed.
The 1,410kg, 570hp V10 powerhouse also gets a launch-control mode, cranking the 90-degree, all-alloy V10 up to 5,000rpm before bursting off the line, hitting 200kph in 10.2 seconds. Even with this performance, the Superleggera's light weight gives it a 20.5 per cent fuel consumption and CO2 emission improvement over its 2007 predecessor. After cementing its carbon-fibre research alliance with the University of Washington's Advanced Composite Structures Laboratory, the Superleggera uses carbon-fibre for the rear diffuser, underbody panelling, exterior mirror housings, door sills and rear spoiler.
Lotus Evora 414E hybrid British sports car maker Lotus has claimed a raft of patents with its hi-tech Evora 414E concept that turns a humble 1.2L engine into 414hp. The concept Evora is fast and clean, debuting engineering breakthroughs on its way to a sub-four second zero-to-100kph time, about a second faster than the standard 3.5L, V6 petrol-powered Evora. The rear-drive Evora 414E uses a light three-cylinder petrol engine to power a revolutionary new battery. It then uses two electric motors to independently drive each of the rear wheels via two single-speed gear sets. The car can travel 483km before it needs either electrical or conventional refilling. It can be charged to a 50km range from a home electrical socket.
Given how quiet the car will be, Lotus worked with the audio supplier, Harmon, to simulate engine noise from speakers in the front and rear bumpers so pedestrians can hear it. The lithium polymer battery is another step forward from lithium ion, holding the battery's electrolyte in a solid polymer composite. It has been designed for high-performance work, capable of discharging 100kW while the 1.2L petrol engine musters only 35kW.
Called the Lotus Range Extender engine, it will also be seen in the Giugiaro-Proton hybrid concept. Proton by Giugiaro Proton, the Malaysian government-owned automaker, has enlisted Italian and English help to catch up with leading car companies. At Geneva, Proton launched two cutting-edge hybrid drive concepts from the Italian design legend, ItalDesign-Giugiaro. One is a city car and the other is a crossover, something Proton has yet to create successfully.
Designed to give a midsized, SUV-style cabin space in a small, A-segment body, both concepts use a sandwich-style false floor to house the hybrid's battery. Lotus has engineered the drivetrain and the car's 1.2L, three-cylinder petrol engine can also operate on ethanol or methanol. While the raised cabin floor could have been an impediment, Giugiaro has used it to provide a seat hip-point that is at the normal standing height for most people.
The five-door city car is just 3.5m long and has four identical seats, all of which slide back and forward independently. The three-door Crossover version is the same length, but with a slightly higher ground clearance, plus five seats. Audi RS5 An embarrassing internal leak has forced Audi to release the full details of its new, stove-hot RS5 coupe a week before Geneva. It's a 443hp V8, based on the hot-selling A5 coupe, with its seven-speed double-clutch gearbox and new centre differential for its all-wheel drive system.
A high-revving, direct-injection V8, the RS5's engine will share its mechanical features with the R8 super coupe. It will deliver its maximum power at 8,250rpm, yet will still have 430Nm of torque between 4,000 and 6,000rpm. All of this will be enough, Audi claims, to propel the coupe to 100kph in 4.6 seconds on its way to an electronically limited 250kph top speed. The Quattro-built super coupe will post 10.8L/100km for the combined cycle of city and country work.
Porsche 918 Spyder Under the Porsche 918 Spyder concept's gorgeous monocoque skin made of carbon fibre-reinforced plastic lies a hybrid petrol-electric drivetrain that delivers outstanding performance and efficiency. A mid-mounted 3.4L V8, developed from the RS Spyder racing programme and producing more than 500hp, powers the rear wheels, while two electric motors powered by a fluid-cooled lithium ion battery power the front and rear axles. While acceleration from 0-to-100kph is a swift 3.2 seconds and it gets to a top speed of 320kph, Porsche says the 918 will deliver a mileage of just 3L/100km.
The gearbox hooked to the rear wheels is notable not just that it has seven speeds, but for the name the company gave it: Porsche-Doppelkupplungsgetriebe. Power from the V8 and one electric motor goes through this tongue-twister, while the front electric motor at has a single-speed transmission. The driver will have a choice of four modes: an electric-only mode; an efficient hybrid mode; a sport mode that focuses on performance; and a Race Hybrid mode that features a "push-to-pass" button for limited extra power.
* With additional reporting by Neil Vorano