2005 Geneva Motor Show, Part I

March 1, 2005

2005 Geneva Motor Show Index by TCC Team (2/28/2005)


Geneva’s motor show now follows the Detroit example of a rigid schedule of press conferences that sees journalists travelling through the halls of the show like a herd of migrating wildebeests, looking desperately for the information on which they feed. Every fifteen minutes they pause to graze where the show organizers and the PR people lay on a supply of news, be it fresh and nourishing or outdated and lacking in nutrients for their laptops.


SEAT Leon Prototype

After starting at 8:00 a.m. and visiting Opel, Saab, Chevrolet and Cadillac, Subaru, and Audi, the herd fell upon SEAT. VW’s Spanish brand is in the midst of renewing and refreshing its range, and the fodder put in front of the press was a concept that closely foreshadows the way the next generation of the company’s Leon performance sedan will look.

SEAT has a habit of showing concepts that are very close to production reality; its Altea mini MPV is almost exactly the same as the concept car that preceeded it, and the Leon Prototype is almost certainly a very close approximation of the car that will be produced in the not-too-distant future. With an aggressive snout carrying low-slung air-intakes obviously designed to hint at power, the Prototype has a turbocharged direct-injection four-cylinder engine under the hood that produces 200 hp. It drives the front wheels through VW’s highly efficient DSG gearbox and gives the car a top speed of over 145 mph.

2005 SEAT Leon concept

2005 SEAT Leon concept

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Inside, the car is equipped as a 2+2, a format that could carry through to production. But this is a concept, so there have to be some way-out features that won't see the light of day. In the case of the Leon Prototype, it's the four TV cameras that provide views from the front, rear and side of the car to in-car displays that enable the rear-seat passengers to play editor and produce their own road movie on a screen mounted on the center console.




Bentley Continental Flying Spur

2006 Bentley Flying Spur

2006 Bentley Flying Spur

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The SEAT was a concept foreshadowing a production car. Half an hour later, Bentley presented the wandering journos with a production sedan that had been foreshadowed by a production coupe. The Continental GT coupe has breathed a new zest into Bentley under VW ownership, and sales are higher than at any time in the company’s history. It’s been common knowledge for some time now that a four-door sedan was on its way, and Bentley chose Geneva as its launchpad.

The importance of the event was underlined by the fract that as Bentley’s Chairman Dr. Franz-Josef Paefgen made his introductory speech, he was being watched by current VW boss Bernd Pischetsrieder and the man who drove VW’s purchase of Bentley, former VW chairman Dr. Ferdinand Piech. Piech is now retired, but he is still a force on the VW board and obviously takes a close interest in what is possibly the most successful of his luxury-brand purchases.

Despite its German owners, chairman, and engineering boss, Bentley is fiercely British, a fact underlined by the military bearing of the group that marched out to lift the silk sheet that covered the new car. They were members of the team that developed the car they call the Continental Flying Spur, but their military bearing and the precision with which they lifted the sheet and then folded it would have been a credit to Her Majesty’s Guards.

The car they revealed has been seen in photos that have been well-received, but in the metal it looks even better. The wheelbase hasn’t been stretched to accomodate two extra doors, but the car doesn’t look awkward. It’s an unusual move, to convert a coupe to a sedan; usually it’s the other way around. In this case, however, it has come off very well. The look of the car is nicely balanced, and the extra length of the roof sits well in the area that in the coupe is a flowing fastback.

The four-door has been in development ever since the coupe first went into the design process, and Bentley design director Dirk van Braekel says that running the cars through the design process side-by-side made sure that there was an unmistakeable relationship between them. There is definitely a new Bentley design language at work here, and the company’s new, younger, clients are likely to be happy with the new car, which shares the coupe’s 525-hp V-12 engine and four-wheel drive and offers performance that will ensure it lives up to what is expected of  Bentley.

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