Automobiles

Geneva hosts a hatchback showdown and a wealth of exotic horsepower

This year's Geneva auto show went to the stratosphere as a collection of the world's most exclusive cars, but also gave us two extreme hatchbacks, the Honda Civic Type R and the Ford Focus RS.

Koenigsegg Regera
The Koenigsegg Regera, a hybrid with 1,500 horsepower, was just one of the rare and exotic cars on display in Geneva. Wayne Cunningham/CNET

Over the last two days, CNET automotive was getting a preview of the International Motor Show in Geneva, which this year will host an extraordinary set of exotic cars, a designer's fantasy of concept cars and two extreme hatchbacks that set a new bar for "hot."

Ford and Ken Block gave the Focus RS a public airing, introducing this all-wheel-drive 315-horsepower hot hatch to the world. All we need say is that this car comes with a button labeled "Drift." Meanwhile, Honda took the wraps off its Civic Type R, a front-wheel-driver with 306 horsepower from a 2-liter turbocharged engine. An adaptive suspension helped this car achieve a lap time of 7 minutes, 50.63 seconds on the famed Nurburgring Nordschleife.

Editors Tim Stevens and Antuan Goodwin debated the merits of both, but had to lean toward the Ford, as the Honda won't be available in the US.

Ford Focus RS
The Ford Focus RS was one of the few attainable cars in Geneva. Josh Miller/CNET

Those cars represented the few attainable by the public at large, as this year's Geneva auto show was dominated by supercars. Lamborghini brought out a new edition of its Aventador, with more power and less weight than the previous one. The Aventador LP 750-4 Superveloce puts 750 horsepower to all four wheels, with an adaptive suspension helping maintain its composure, yet drops 50 kilograms (110 pounds), giving its power-to-weight ratio a big boost.

Bugatti gave its incredible Veyron a fond farewell, ending production with an edition called La Finale. The Veyron ends its 10-year production run with this 1,184-horsepower model featuring unique design characteristics. Being such a special car, it is no surprise that La Finale is already sold, but we can always look for a new supercar from Bugatti.

G and T were popular letters in Geneva, but not for gin or tonic. Instead, those letters appeared in car names such as the Ferrari 488 GTB , Porsche Cayman GT4, Porsche 911 GT3 RS and Mercedes-AMG GT3. These cars represent race-ready versions of their road-going counterparts, although sometimes taking quite a leap from the original, such as the Ferrari 488 GTB derivation of the 458 Italia. McLaren opted for the letter LT in its 675LT, essentially a faster, more race-ready version of its 650S.

Swedish automaker Koenigsegg showed up with the Regera, a plug-in hybrid that looked less like a race car than the company's other offerings. Access to its plush cabin was made easy by a removable roof, and aerodynamic humps in back echoed 1960s styling. But carbon-fiber wheels and a rated output of 1,500 horsepower from the hybrid system made it clear that this car would cost a bit more than a Prius.

Beside these rarest of rare cars, automaker design studios had a lot of work to show off in the form of concept cars. Giving a taste of a new production car, Infiniti brought out its QX30, a compact SUV that will extend the company's model range. Volkswagen showed off the Sport Coupe GTE, which suggests a move toward larger cars. Although no production plans were mentioned, the Sport Coupe GTE uses Volkswagen's performance-oriented hybrid drivetrain, similar to that offered in the European Golf GTE .

Kia showed off a new wagon as a concept, the Sportspace, low-slung and covered in red paint. The wagon is a form more appreciated in Europe, so if this one finds its way to production it probably won't be sold in the US.

Bentley EXP 10 Speed 6
The Bentley EXP 10 Speed 6 was one of the more beautiful concepts shown in Geneva. Josh Miller/CNET

Things got a little weird in the concept pit with the ED Torq, an autonomous race car. Torq uses four electric motors to drive the wheels, and design firm ED included specs on how it would perform versus a Le Mans race car. Positioning it as a Mobile Autonomous Automotive Laboratory, ED noted that it could carry a driver, and suggested that companies and institutions could use it to explore how an autonomous driving AI and a human driver would interact. Rinspeed kept the level of future weirdness high with its Budii, a concept based on BMW's i3 electric car. Using a tag line of "Reach out to Robots," the Budii explores ways in which we humans might interact with robots. As one example, the Budii can drive autonomously, but when the human wants to take control, a robot arm hands over the steering wheel.

Finally, Bentley showed up with an exotic concept, the EXP 10 Speed 6. With gorgeous styling and a stunning green paint job, the EXP 10 Speed 6 suggests a future design direction for the Bentley Continental, and the press materials hint at a hybrid drivetrain, which could mean much-improved efficiency in the Bentley fleet.

The relative lack of new models for the average buyer was disappointing, but we aren't going to complain about getting to see such a fantastic and rare set of cars in one place.