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Josh Miller/CNET

Geneva auto show's perfect storm of tech and exotica

This year's Geneva auto show was one for the record books, featuring rare supercars, concepts, important new models, and the debut of Apple CarPlay.

Lamborghini Huracan
The Huracan, Lamborghini's replacement for the Gallardo, was just one of the big product unveils at the show. Josh Miller/CNET

Some auto shows fizzle, hitting a dead zone in product cycles so that manufacturers have little of note to announce. This year in Geneva, the opposite happened, with automakers from every segment showing off exciting new models and concepts.

There were supercars and hypercars. There were compact SUVs and hot hybrids. There were cars of the past and of the future. And Apple joined a couple of automakers to give the first public look at CarPlay, formerly known as iOS in the Car.

The show stealers were the exotics, vehicles that sell in limited quantities at prices ranging from a hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars. The Lamborghini Huracan was actually the most accessible of these cars, the one you might see on the Strip in Vegas or racing around Miami. It updates Lamborghini's entry-level model with new styling language and 601 horsepower.

Brit-company McLaren attempted to show up the Italians with the more clinically named 650S, a supercar that works as an evolution of the company's MP4-12C model. Boasting 641 horsepower and carbon-fiber construction, the 650S is a car you would be lucky to see at a track day.

However, for sheer power, the Huracan and McLaren pale in comparison to the Koenigsegg One:1, which the Swedish company variously referred to as a hypercar and a megawatt car. The term "megawatt" comes from the One:1's 1,000 kilowatt power output, which converts to about 1,341 horsepower. The car on the show floor exhibited insanely impressive engineering and detail, not to mention cleverly placed '1' badges. Also, carbon-fiber wheels turn it up to 11.

Koenigsegg One:1
The exquisitely engineered Koenigsegg One:1 boasts 1,341 horsepower. Josh Miller/CNET

CNET editor Antuan Goodwin added up the horses of these extreme cars, finding a figure of over 11,000, and collected them all in an exotic cars gallery. Fun fact: Bugatti sold all three planned models of its Veyron Vitesse Rembrandt Bugatti edition after the first weekend, at over $2 million each.

As CNET focuses on technology in cars, the big story for us was the public demonstration of Apple CarPlay. I showed up at Mercedes-Benz's demonstration first thing, but had to wait half an hour for one of the Mercedes-Benz board members to look at the new iOS integration. When it was my turn, an Apple employee walked me through CarPlay in a Mercedes-Benz C-class, the first model in which CarPlay will appear. I was impressed at the smooth interaction between the Mercedes-Benz in-car controls and the iOS apps. It looked to me like an evolution of how iOS devices currently work in cars for music playback.

Among the concept cars on display, Maserati and Volvo split honors for most desirable. The Maserati Alfieri is a gran turismo-style vehicle, a two-door with a long nose and a little cargo area. Its liquid lines showed off what Maserati suggested was its styling language for the next 100 years. The Volvo Concept Estate was not quite as sexy, but, to the delight of Volvo aficionados, it hearkened back to the historic 1800 ES wagon. The Concept Estate showed that Volvo has big plans for its newly independent future.

Other notable concepts included the Mazda Hazumi, a thinly veiled Mazda2, and the Volkswagen T-Roc, which looked like the muscle beach version of the Golf. Honda showed off its Civic Type R concept, which only made me sad due to the fact that it is based on the European version of the Civic, which we don't get in the US, as well as being a Type R, which we also don't get in the US.

Honda Civic Type R
Honda's concept Civic Type R is based on the European version of the Civic, very different from the US version. Wayne Cunningham/CNET

For a roundup of the concepts, check out our weird and wonderful gallery.

On the practical side, there were the cars that normal people actually buy. Automakers launched their newest models at the show, and since I find it hard to name the best, I will focus on my favorite, the 2015 Nissan Juke. The exterior changes to this funky compact SUV were minor, merely accentuating its styling cues without redesigning the overall look. Likewise, the basic drivetrain specs should remain the same for the US market, although Nissan refined the engine, transmission, and all-wheel-drive system. The 2015 Juke benefits from Nissan's new connected cabin tech, adding Google search to its navigation system.

Audi used the Geneva show to unveil the third generation of its TT sports car. From the outside, changes are minor, with the little coupe adopting Audi's more recent styling language. Gone is the V-6 engine option in favor of a high-output 2-liter turbo engine. The biggest change comes in the cabin, with the Virtual Cockpit Audi showed off at CES two months ago. The Virtual Cockpit replaces physical gauges with a large LCD showing all infotainment functions. Destination entry also gets a new paradigm, a free-form search that matches entered text to streets, cities, and businesses.

Jeep joined the compact SUV set with its new Renegade model, borrowing a platform from owner Fiat. In Jeep style, the Renegade has been made offroad-worthy, earning Jeep's Trail-rated designation for the Trailhawk trim level. Notably, Jeep will offer a 2-liter diesel engine in the US Renegade, along with the a 2.4-liter gasoline engine.

For the full range of new model launches and other sights from the show, check out CNET's full coverage of the 2014 Geneva auto show.