2020 Geneva Motor Show: Favorite debuts from the car show that wasn't

The Geneva Motor Show may have been canceled, but there was still a whole lot to ooh and aah over this week.

CNET Cars staff
8 min read
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The Precept concept is an exciting preview of what's to come at Polestar.


Right about now, the Roadshow team should be on a plane heading home following a successful week at the 2020 Geneva Motor Show. A little thing called coronavirus foiled those plans, but that didn't stop automakers from showing off their important new debuts anyway.

From mainstream SUVs to wild supercars, Geneva tends to bring out the big guns. So on that note, here's a look at our editors' picks for the best cars and concepts from what would've been the 2020 Geneva Motor Show.

Polestar Precept EV concept is a look at the brand's near future

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Polestar Precept

The car I was most looking forward to seeing, and alas most regret having missed, was the Polestar Precept. Though not as outrageous as the offerings from Koenigsegg or Czinger or McLaren, the Precept was to be the moment when Polestar finally started to strut its stuff. This, in effect, was to be Polestar's real coming out party.

The Polestar 1, though lovely and fast and compelling in many ways, started life as the 2013 Volvo Concept Coupe. Its status as a hybrid, too, makes it a bit of a curious offering from a company that's pledged to be all-EV going forward. The Polestar 2, while all-electric, likewise started out its life as a Volvo -- in this case the Concept 40.2. The Precept is fresh and clean and, while it's dimensionally a bit on the large side for my tastes (its wheelbase is as long as that of a Mercedes-Benz S-Class), it puts a fresh face forward for the brand. 

I love the way the sensors are cunningly integrated into the shape, I'm excited to use its Google-powered infotainment system for real and the focus on sustainable materials for the interior is definitely an encouraging sign for the future of the brand. In general, it's all the things I'm hoping for from Polestar down the road, and so I hope something like this hits production sooner than later.

-- Tim Stevens

2021 Kia Sorento sharpens up for Geneva Motor Show debut

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Kia Sorento

I know it might not be the sexiest choice of them all, but I picked the Sorento as my favorite car of the faux-Geneva Motor Show because struck gold once with the , and I think the automaker is poised to do it again.

I am completely smitten with the way the new Sorento looks. There's a lot of the Telluride's flavor in here, thanks to strong lines and a rectilinear body. Heck, I think the Sorento might actually have the Telluride beat in the looks department. The interior is littered with riches, too, giving off the appearance of a far fancier cabin than one might expect.

Normal family transportation isn't exactly high on glitz and glamour, especially in affordable price ranges, which is why I really like the new Sorento. It's not a luxury car, but trim it right and you'll basically have one in your driveway.

-- Andrew Krok

The Koenigsegg Gemera is a technological tour de force

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Koenigsegg Gemera

There's a lot about the Koenigsegg Gemera that makes it worthy of being chosen for this list. It's powered by a Koenigsegg-designed twin-turbo, 2.0-liter, three-cylinder engine that has no cams and makes 600 horsepower. It's also got a single-speed transmission and three electric motors, making it an all-wheel-drive hybrid that'll do 31 miles on electricity alone. Max output? 1,700 hp. It also has an 800-volt architecture, rear-wheel steering, ride height that adjusts based on driving style... The list goes on.

But most importantly, to me at least, the Gemera is rewriting what a luxurious GT car can be. Not only is it Koenigsegg's first front-engine car, it's also the brand's first four-seater. And this is no cramped two-plus-two, either. The wild (and huge) dihedral doors swing upward to reveal a spacious, luxurious interior with real room for four adults. It even has eight cup holders!

Oh, and did I mention that the Gemera is beautiful? For a hypercar with 1,700 hp it actually looks fairly soft and subtle, with more interesting details to find the more you look at it. With the Gemera, Koenigsegg basically took the GT-car rulebook, shredded it and then set it on fire. It's exactly the kind of fresh thinking the car world needs more of, even from million-dollar absurdities.

-- Daniel Golson

Aston Martin's V12 Speedster is a roofless, Vantage-based wonder

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Aston Martin V12 Speedster

At this year's Swiss auto show that wasn't, Aston Martin had planned to publicly unveil its new V12 Speedster, an open-top exotic based on the sports car. And even though I haven't seen it in the flesh, this machine looks absolutely stunning in photos. With an open-air cockpit, seating for two and a carbon-fiber body, this exotic beauty is a little bit retro yet totally modern at the same time. The absence of a roof and windshield are old-school, but this car's construction, appointments and powertrain are anything but.

Engineers in Gaydon turned up the wick on Aston Martin's delightful 5.2-liter, twin-turbocharged V12, coaxing a mean 700 hp out of it. Torque clocks in at 555 pound-feet. Aided and abetted by an eight-speed automatic transmission, and exhaling through a bespoke exhaust system, the V12 Speedster can hit 60 mph in a mere 3.5 seconds, topping out at 186 mph.

If you fancy owning one of these British exotics, well, you probably can't have one. Production is limited to just 88 units and they're priced at a whopping $950,000 each.

-- Craig Cole

Citroen Ami could be the digital age's 2CV

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Citroen Ami

It's not the prettiest, the most powerful, the most luxurious or the most exclusive debut car that was slated to be on display in Geneva. In fact, the Citroen Ami very likely lives at the opposite end of all of those spectrums. But it that doesn't mean this EV isn't the most ambitious new model associated with the expo -- and perhaps the most important, too.

At just 95 inches long and 55 inches wide, the Ami is more of an electric quadracycle than a full-fledged automobile. Much smaller and narrower than even a Fiat 500, the Ami is exactly the sort of stripped-down-yet-whimsical people's car that the French do extraordinarily well, and it could well be this generation's 2CV.

It'd be tempting to think that the only thing more modest than the Ami's footprint is its 43 miles of range, but consider these numbers: 22, 14 and 6,000. That's 22 as in $22 a month -- the amount Citroen plans to charge for this EV. That's 14 as in how many years old you'll need to be to drive one of these in France (you don't need a license). And that's 6,000 as in euros -- the Ami is going to be sold for roughly $6,600, or you'll be able to score one via a car share for under $1 a minute.

Forget Volkswagen -- Citroen wants to build the new people's car. At least for citygoers, this little Ami has all the hallmarks of a transportation revolution.

-- Chris Paukert

Bentley Mulliner Bacalar is a hyper-rare, exotic and sustainable convertible

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Bentley Mulliner Bacalar

The Bacalar is much more aggressive and "out there" than your typical Bentley, but that's kind of why I love it. It takes a ton of design elements that shouldn't go together and somehow makes them work.

Sure, Bentley wants well over a million bucks for it, but there will only ever be 12 of them. And with 650 hp, it's not as if it's only good to look at. Standing out in the South Coast Plaza valet line is gonna cost you, after all.

The Bacalar is also Bentley's return to proper coach-building. Underneath, it's a Continental GT Convertible. On top of that, it's totally different. It's not cheap, but that's not the point. Strap on those wings made of money and fly as close to the sun as you want, Rich Icarus, while all us plebes watch from the ground.

-- Kyle Hyatt

The Volkswagen Golf GTI keeps things fresh and familiar

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Volkswagen Golf GTI

I've always loved the . It's not the most powerful compact sports car out there. It won't wow you with an impressive 0-to-60-mph time. It doesn't snarl and growl and isn't festooned with giant wings and angular bodywork. Instead, it's just endlessly pleasant and enjoyable to drive every single day.

The new GTI gets a few welcome upgrades in terms of styling, interior refinement and, yes, power. With 245 hp and 273 lb-ft from a new 2.0-liter I4 engine, the GTI should have a little more pep in its step. A six-speed manual transmission is still standard. Inside, there's a host of new cabin tech, too, thanks to the addition of Volkswagen's Virtual Cockpit gauge cluster. I even love the little cluster of LED running lights in the lower grille.

What's best about the GTI is that it doesn't try to reinvent the wheel. It's a functional, frugal, enjoyable little hatch, and one that's better poised to stay relevant for the next few years. Oh, and it still comes with plaid seat fabric. If it didn't, I'd be furious.

-- Steven Ewing

Alfa Romeo Giulia GTA and GTAm are super-hot tamales

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Alfa Romeo Giulia GTA and GTAm

From a pure driving standpoint, the ranks at the top of my sport sedan list with a potent twin-turbo V6, magnificent steering, great chassis balance and gorgeous looks to boot. The arrival of the Giulia GTA punches things up a notch with more power, handling upgrades, reduced weight and more aggressive looks.

Engineers extracted an extra 35 hp from the 2.9-liter engine, bringing total output to a stout 540 hp. Those same engineers whacked 220 pounds off the car's curb weight. Suspension revisions bring a wider front and rear track along with altered shocks, springs and bushings. And visual changes include a new front fascia, side skirts, rear diffuser and rear wing, all of which were developed with the help of Alfa's Formula One partner Sauber. The result should be a wicked dance partner.

If that's not enough, Alfa is also building a GTAm with even more extensive aero enhancements and a track-focused interior with race bucket seats up front, a roll bar, six-point harnesses, fire extinguisher and no back seats. Unfortunately, the GTA and GTAm are only confirmed for Europe at the moment, but Alfa is looking into the business case for bringing them to North America. I'm definitely hoping the numbers work because I want to drive these hotter Giulias badly.

-- Jon Wong

Hyundai Prophecy EV concept goes heavy on the curves

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Hyundai Prophecy

If electric cars let designers rethink exterior style, the Hyundai Prophecy shows off that ethos in spades. I truly think this car looks like something special.

At the front, I can't quite put my finger on it, but there's a nostalgic blend going on here. The fascia and the lack of angry, slanted headlights are refreshing. It almost reminds me of some sort of concept car an automaker might have shown in the early 2000s. Perhaps it's the lack of sharp edges and the plentiful curves that strike me as being so well done.

The real winner is the rear end for me, though. It easy evokes some of the best classic looks from the . The interior looks properly futuristic, too, and takes advantage of the electric powertrain for packaging purposes. Clearly, there's something in the water over at Hyundai, and if this is what we have to look forward to, sign me up.

-- Sean Szymkowski

McLaren let its engineers run free with the hyper-limited 765LT

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McLaren 765LT

What's not to like about this long-tail McLaren? Based off the 720S, this mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive monster sports a 4.0-liter, twin-turbocharged V8 engine pushing out 765 metric hp (about 754 hp in our terms) and 590 lb-ft of torque. It's lightweight, coming in at just 2,709 pounds, and can scoot to 60 mph in just 2.7 seconds.

A revamped seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission puts the power down and keeping things planted are all kinds of crazy aero, with the requisite large wing and a superaggressive rear bumper, diffuser and side skirts.

And just to cement the fact that the 765LT is essentially a street-legal race car, it's offered with no radio, air conditioning or carpet (in Europe, anyway). Because really, who needs such luxuries when you're diving into a tight corner of a race track at crazy speeds?

-- Emme Hall

Watch this: AutoComplete looks at the Geneva Motor Show that might have been

Originally published March 5.