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What's Geneva without supercars?

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GENEVA -- What with their secretive banks and renowned watchmaking shops, the streets of Geneva reek of European aristocracy.

So it's only fitting the Swiss city's annual auto show also showcased the top echelon of European marques, led arguably by the Continent's most powerful auto brand -- Ferrari -- and its new LaFerrari, the long-awaited successor to the 2002 Enzo and a direct rival to the McLaren P1 that also debuted here.

Although many recent Ferraris have been penned by Italy's Pinanfarina design house, the LaFerrari was designed in-house, supposedly because of the high-tech nature of its active aerodynamic bodywork, as the scoops and spoilers have specific functions.

Beyond its super sports car's mid-mounted 950-horsepower, V12 gas and electric motor hybrid, dual-clutch autobox powertrain (yes, it's a "hybrid"!), Ferrari says a total of four types of hand-laminated carbon-fibre (built in the same department as Ferrari's Formula One race cars) were needed to create a chassis that is as light and stiff as possible.

As a result, this "hybrid" Ferrari is more about going fast instead of saving fuel. The LaFerrari's zero to 100 km/h time is under three seconds, and it tops out at 350 km/h -- the fastest Ferrari road car ever.

McLaren P1 unveiled in Geneva

The Geneva Auto Show has traditionally been known as fertile ground to show off the latest and greatest exotic cars on the planet. This year it appears that to make any sort of impression a headliner needed to boast of over 900 horsepower and sprint from zero to 100 kilometres an hour in under three seconds.

One company with the race-bred technology to build such a car is McLaren and the fruit of their efforts is called the P1. Some have taken to calling the all-new McLaren P1 a hyper-car and I can forgive them this bit of hyperbole: The P1 has a total horsepower output of 903 hp and tops out at 349 km/h.

Considering McLaren's racing history in Formula One, it should come as no surprise that the P1 has adapted some of the technology found in F1 racing's machinery. The P1 utilizes a hybrid powertrain with a seemingly small twin-turbo 3.8 litre V8 producing 757 hp and an electric motor contributing an extra 176 hp.

The electric supplement is available at the touch of a steering wheel-mounted button. The system is similar to the KERS system found on F1 cars. The rear-mounted spoiler can also be adjusted to decrease drag by as much as 30 per cent, much like the systems F1 cars utilize when trying to pass one another at full speed.

The other similarity the P1 shares with an F1 car is its cost -- few vehicles rolling around public roads will set you back the $1.4 million U.S. it will list for. Any buyers will be among a select group, as McLaren only plans to produce 375 units.

Lamborghini Veneno to challenge Ferrari, McLaren

GENEVA -- "Bruce Wayne called. He wants his Batmobile back," was only one of the pithy remarks floating around the halls of Geneva's Palexpo after the unveiling of Lamborghini's cartoonishly styled Veneno super sports car. "It's gonna cost how much?" was another.

The mid-engine, Lamborghini Aventador LP 700-4-based Veneno is yet another of the Italian super sports car maker's ultraexclusive models, similar to its Reventon (a rebodied Murcielago of which only 35 copies were built), and the one-off Aventador J.

Funnily enough (or maybe not, if you've already written Lamborghini a cheque), the Veneno isn't as exclusive as the $3.2-million Aventador J. Three times as many Venenos will be made, yet Lamborghini is asking for a cool $4.7 million for each. As such, the Veneno seems more like an exercise in one-upping the Ferrari LaFerrari and McLaren P1 than anything else. With "only" 740 horsepower on tap from a retuned V12 borrowed from the around $400,00 Aventador, the new Lamborghini "racing prototype" looks a bit pricey when compared to the $1.4-million McLaren P1's 903 hp rating and the estimated $1.8-million LaFerrari's 950 hp number.

Lamborghini hasn't released acceleration times for the Veneno, but based on its power-to-weight ratio it should equal the Aventador's 2.9 seconds zero-to-96 km/h run. But at least for the additional (cough, cough) $4.3 million, the Veneno's top speed has been raised from 350 km/h to 357.

Ultrarare Koenigsegg supercar on display at Geneva

Koenigsegg, the Swedish builder of hand-assembled supercars, brought its 100th car to the Geneva show.

The Agera S Hundra (meaning one hundred) is a $1.3M supercar capable of zero to 100 km/h in 2.8 seconds, thanks to 1,030 horsepower from a 5.0-litre V8.

The carbon-fibre car was inlaid with real gold leaf and took approximately three months to build.

Spyker, Pininfarina reveal exotic concepts

Dutch exotic car maker Spyker appears to be bringing itself back from the brink of disaster after unsuccessfully trying to save the Saab brand. It needs a volume seller to add cash to the coffers. To that end, Spyker took the wraps off the B6 Venator concept, billed as a potential Porsche 911 competitor. The only details provided indicated a mid-engined, rear-wheel drive sports car powered by a 375 hp V6 engine. As far as concepts go this one seemed pretty close to production specs and sure enough, Spyker announced plans to bring the Venator to European, Asian and Middle Eastern showrooms in 2014. North American sales are slated to commence later that year. On paper the Porsche comparison seems plausible with potential pricing between $125,000 and $150,000.

Design house Pininfarina had its own exotic offering in Geneva in the form of the Sergio Concept, in tribute to its founder, Sergio Pininfarina, who died in 2012. Based on a current Ferrari model, the Sergio Concept features a roofless, two-seater "barchetta" design. The sleek, stunning vehicle stood out as an example of what elegant car design could and should be.

BMW, Maserati unwrap GT models at Geneva

A new addition to the BMW 3 Series model range, the Gran Turismo embodies "a unique reinterpretation of the need for space and functionality" that, according to BMW, unites the sporty-dynamic genes of the sedan with the practicality and versatility of the Touring wagon.

The Gran Turismo is 200 millimetres longer than the 3 Touring, 110 mm longer in wheelbase and 81 mm taller. The 3-series GT is BMW's first model to have an active rear spoiler, which extends automatically when the car reaches 110 km/h.

The car arrives in Canada this fall as a 2014 model. It will be offered in 240-hp 328i and 300-hp 335i versions. An M Sport package will be available.

Meanwhile, fans of Italian exotica who also need a family vehicle need look no further than the new four-seat Maserati GranTurismo MC Stradale, the "optimum expression of sportiness combined with the luxury of a coupe," says the company.

Just like the previous two-seat version, the GranTurismo MC Stradale boasts a cabin that has four cushy seats and a posh interior.

Motivation for the MC Stradale is courtesy of a 460-hp 4.7L V8 mated to a "race shift" six-speed manual gearbox. Stopping power comes from Brembo carbon ceramic brake discs.

Corvette Stingray Convertible gets international audience

Chevrolet made clear its intentions to sell the Corvette around the world with the reveal of the Corvette Stingray Convertible.

Weighing no more than the coupe, the new Corvette, revealed in Coupe form at the Detroit Auto Show, was designed from the beginning as an open-top car, Chevrolet says. It gets no extra structural reinforcements over the Coupe, and the top can open with the push of a button at speeds of up to 50 km/h.

The Convertible is the same weight as the Coupe and is 57 per cent stiffer than the previous car. It uses the most carbon fibre in the industry and gets a 7-speed manual with downshift-rev-matching.

The 6.2L V8 is the same engine as in the Coupe, pushing 450 horsepower and 450 lb.-ft. of torque. Zero to 100km/h is accomplished in four seconds.

-- Postmedia News

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 22, 2013 F1

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