Crossovers, eVs, and performance pieces

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By Kap Maceda Aguila

FOR 11 days until the 18th of this month, Switzerland again becomes the center of the automotive world with the staging of the Geneva International Motor Show. The 88th edition of the Salon de l’automobile first happened in 1905, then featuring benzene- and steam-powered vehicles.

This year, Palexpo convention center located near the Geneva Cointrin International Airport once again hosts the spectacle that showcases close to 900 vehicles spread out over six pavilions. As one of the five most important car shows in the world (the others being the Tokyo, Los Angeles, Paris and Frankfurt auto shows), Geneva is a vital stage that car brands take advantage of to launch new models. We take a look at some of the important world premieres that got our attention.

Described as the brand’s “first-ever urban compact crossover,” the UX boasts aggressive design inside and out. Powered by either a hybrid or conventional gas power train, the subcompact crossover is said to be “tuned to drive like a hatchback,” with a low center of gravity.

Hyundai unveiled the fourth generation of its Santa Fe sport-utility vehicle at Geneva, with the newest iteration featuring, among other things, a new head-up display, new HTRAC AWD system with variable torque distribution, and Euro6c-compliant engines. The Santa Fe will also be available as a seven-seat model.

Ferrari’s “most powerful eight cylinder” rumbles under the hood of the 488 Pista. The 3.9-liter V8 churns out 720 hp to propel the Pista (which is 90 kilos lighter than the GTB) from zero to 200 kph in 7.6 ticks — onto to a top speed beyond 340 kph. The rear wheel-driven vehicle is made extra-fun to drive courtesy of a seven-speed manual transmission.

The folks at Jaguar aren’t going to let Tesla have all the fun. The I-Pace, the company’s first electric car, is quite an impressive number. The five-seat SUV can apparently muster a range of 480 kilometers, courtesy of a 90 kWh battery. It’s no performance slouch either — with a capability to attain 100 kph in 4.8 seconds.

The Stuttgart-based sports car brand further refines the 911 GT3 “for maximum dynamics and precision,” yielding an even sharper track weapon in the RS. While it shares the same naturally aspirated 4.0-liter, six-cylinder engine with its sibling, the RS extracts 20 horses more (for 520 hp) and shaves two-tenths of a second off the GT3’s 3.4-tick time to get from a standstill to 100 kph.

This most rarefied of SUV nameplates gets a new V8 heart, and the variant now takes its place as the Bentayga centerpiece. Luxury and sportiness converge with “specially tuned, more direct steering.” The aforementioned V8 is no pushover, either; the twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter serves up 550 hp, and hurls the Bentayga from zero to 100 kph in 4.5 seconds, with a top speed of 290 kph.

Audi has always been known for bringing technology ever forward. The eighth-generation A6 is further proof of its “Vorsprung durch Technik (Advancement through Technology)” ethos. Even greater connectivity, all-wheel steering, and novel assistance systems (such as garage self-parking) are tasty new features to keep devotees interested while enticing new ones into the fold of the four rings. In addition, a mild-hybrid belt starter generator comes standard, enabling “engineless sailing” between 55 kph and 160 kph.

Is there such a thing as a hatchback limousine? Well, the new Peugeot 508 is exactly that — with a tailgate, sleek coupé-like profile, frameless side windows, and a new cockpit to boot. A slew of improvements includes assistance systems like night vision, lane-keeping assistance, and stop-and-go adaptive cruise control. There are (count ’em) six engine options, with a hybrid due next year.

The second-generation of BMW’s sports activity coupé SUV is now a longer, wider, yet lighter. The emphasis, according to the Munich-based car maker, is on sportiness. An array of choices from three gasoline and three diesel engines deliver anywhere from 184 hp to 360 hp. An eight-speed automatic transmission and xDrive AWD come standard.

Based on the so-called TNGA (Toyota New Global Architecture), the third-gen Auris assumes a more dynamic exterior design and, “with a brand-new 2.0-liter full-hybrid power train joining the engine lineup, marks the debut of Toyota’s dual hybrid strategy.” Derived from the iconic Corolla, one wonders if we will ever see this nifty hatchback here. Here’s hoping the answer is yes.