For Robertas Parazitas it’s been a strange Salon. Great for star-spotting and social interaction, but none of the new crop of premieres and concepts lit the flame of his desire, or the warm feeling that the future of motordom is going to be all right, after all.
Last year my personal favourites were the Alpine A110 and the Jaguar I-Pace, both machines I could aspire to owning in the right set of circumstances. Wim Oubouter’s Microlino, an electric Isetta hommage also appealed – it was back this year, with sales reported to start in late spring / early summer.
None of the new offerings – whether production reality, or pointers to the brave new electrified world, inspired my jaded soul. I’ve become immune to well-funded Chinese EV start-ups jostling to become the next Tesla.
We should, I suppose, rejoice at the arrival of a really good looking big Peugeot saloon, but will the new 508 be quite as alluring after three years as a staple of the rental yard?
Inside and out, the stylists have done a more than commendable job. Technically, the fact which interested me most is that all but the 128bhp 1.5 litre diesel will have eight speed automatic transmissions, and no manual option.
So much for the notion that the French were a nation wedded to the rowing of their boîtes de vitesses.
Moving to the VAG Reich, the array of future-generation I.D. VW electric cars at the rear of the extensive Volkswagen stand has become a fixture at shows for some years. We still have two years to wait for the first production offering, but the generously sized I.D. Vizzion was premiered at Geneva, a monstrous pointer to the future.
‘Premium’ is the byword, and the erstwhile Phaeton receives multiple name-checks in the lavishly produced Vizzion press pack. The car itself is undeniably a stylish thing, with its pillarless doors in the Lancia manner, and lounge-like open-plan interior. Apparently the chosen proportions give it a “fascinatingly dominant and dynamic look”, and “an overall appearance that is both coherent and very expressive”.
That’s as may be, but I’m disturbed by the notion of the “HoloLens health function screening”. Why is it needed with Level 5 autonomy – which VW say will be ready to go in 2025? Are the mobility consumers of the not too distant future going to be bored hypochondriacs?
Passengers are described as “guests”, and access would be by a “sharing agreement” rather than outright ownership. I have an unappealing vision of the cars of ten years hence being robotically managed and controlled mobile hotels. I just hope the cleaning and sanitization business has been thought out.
I’m normally immune to the allure of modern supercars, but the Ferrari 488 Pista appealed with its rawness, and evocation of the bloodline which commenced half a century ago with the Dino 206. If progress can be expressed in mere numbers, those fifty years have given us 16% more width, 42% more weight, and 344% more power.
Perhaps I’m yearning for a final fling before the freedom of the roads becomes the freedom to indulge in sedentary activity in a “connected mobility solution”, relieved of the cerebral and physical burdens of control and navigation.
Perhaps – but for me vehicles remain foremostly objects of utililty, regardless of style or performance.
While some of my companions were salivating at weniger ist mehr limited edition Porsche 991s, I felt the germ of an idea that I needed a van in my life.
The commodity and adaptability of the latest PSA Partner / Berlingo twins impressed, although the executive jet pretensions of the top-spec versions’ interiors were at odds with their essentially utilitarian character. It may be that my views are tainted by British insularity; these passenger vans never found much favour with UK customers whose sterling went the way of purpose-designed MPVs and SUVs.
Which brings me to a couple of mildly amusing asides.
Peugeot have chosen to call the passenger version of the Partner the “Rifter”, even in the UK. ‘Rift’ in popular Scottish usage means to belch, to eructate, to break wind backwards. Are they trying to outdo Renault, with their Wind and Flatulence?
Another story doing the rounds was a report of a journo asking a PSA high-up about the Opel / Vauxhall version of the new van. He was told that it was on display on the Opel stand. Would that be the Opel stand that Carlos Tavares had cancelled six weeks before?
Anyway, the new vans are a big deal for PSA. The Berlingo is Citroën’s second best selling product after the C3, and in-demand LCVs deliver profit margins manufacturers of premium passenger cars can only dream of. The new vans don’t deviate much from the style of their predecessors, but are more capacious, and adopt the EMP2 scalable platform. The Opel version was co-developed with PSA long before they were married, under an agreement made in 2012 to replace the re-badged Fiat / Tofas Doblò.
There’s further bad news for Turkey in the demise of the Bipper and Nemo – the Peugeot and Citroën badged Fiorinos/Qubos are no more. If you want a small Tavares van – and lots of people do – buy a Partner or Berlingo.
There’s good news for the Portuguese industry, where the former Citroën 2CV plant in Mangualde becomes the second Berlingo / Partner / Burper / Combo production base, backing up Vigo in Galicia.
My van search then took me to the honest Dacia Dokker ‘Combispace’, recently facelifted. This one is in Stepway trim. Probably half the price of the eructating Partlingo, it’s just as useful, and has a decent variety of Renault engine options, and even an automatic option.
The show van had a leather-clad steering wheel heavily inlaid with ‘media’ controls, the obligatory ‘infotainment’ screen, and a modicum of pl-alloy. Are Dacia on the path to Škodafication, where the quality and specification offered challenges the parent group’s core brands.
This hypothesis wasn’t interesting enough to set me on a 360 degree quality analysis on the Renault and Nissan stands, but I can humbly report that the Dokker’s interior hard plastics are no nastier than those in the VAG Troc I’d been sitting in a few minutes before.
Anyway, the Dokker remains a faraway bird with fine feathers for the UK and Ireland as RHD is not on the menu.
The hipster hang-out above celebrates the the arrival of SEAT’s Cupra stand-alone sub-brand, hopefully more Abarth or Gordini than (don’t call it Citroën) DS.
How does a sub-brand define itself when the parent business struggles to find its own purpose? Beyond the worthy and stylish Ibizas and Leons, VAG’s Protean Spanish outpost’s ambitions have wavered from being the Spanish Alfa Romeo, to majoring on MPVs, because Renault and Citroën did very well from these things.
It’s no surprise that SEAT are now offering a comprehensive portfolio of competent but uninspiring SUVs, nor that Cupra’s debut offering is a 296bhp version of the Ateca, originating from a production facility in Kvasiny, one of Barcelona’s more easterly suburbs.
So was the 2018 Salon devoid of magic? Absolutely not. As Herr Kubrick and I toured the last minute preparations on Monday evening, we spotted a 51 year old piece of Gandini gold, recognisable even when shrouded in subfusc.
I first encountered the Lamborghini Marzal in an old copy of Motor, discarded by a neighbour, which covered the 1967 Geneva Motor Show. I was probably ten years old at the time, and the Geneva Salon seemed as unattainable and exotic as the Lamborghini concept itself.
Half a lifetime would pass before I experienced the Salon, and it has been a fixture of my life for the last ten years. I never expected to see the Marzal in real life, and its clarity of concept and ‘otherness’ are as strong as they were in the over-inked monochrome pages of that dog-eared magazine some time in the late 1960s.
Car magazines were discouraged in my household – they were considered a worthless distraction from my studies.
Some of my more indulged schoolfellows had access to Autocar and Motor, possibly even CAR, long before it was Boring Boring. They often talked of something called a Bizzarrini Manta, shown at Geneva a year after the Marzal.
Without the universal access to images and information we take for granted now, it existed only in imagination. When I finally saw one on the printed page it didn’t disappoint but – sorry Giorgetto – it was no match for the Marzal.
Having the opportunity to make the comparison in three dimensions, was an experience I never even dreamed of, but – suitably awed and humbled – I think they’re both great.
However, the Manta is a dramatically-clothed racing car, whereas the Marzal is a precognition of a future nobody quite expected. Contemplate that interior and ask yourself if it is not the avatar of the autonomous, hyperfast, electric lounges on wheels which are set to be the future of personal terrestrial mobility.
As for these spoiled kids – they’re probably driving Audi Q5s or Volvo XC60s now…