Making a debut

The Geneva Motor Show is one of the biggest annual events on the global automotive calendar. For Europe it’s probably the most glamorous event with many car makers choosing to introduce key new models which often means new technology too. Let’s take a look at a few of this year’s debutants…

Ferrari chose to debut the new 488GTB (pictured) with its V8 turbo-charged engine and seven-speed transmission. The technology includes traction control and active damping, which is probably beneficial to keep control of 660bhp and 760Nm of torque. But if the engineering from the legendary ‘Prancing Horse’ [or the price tag – Ed] isn’t for you, Ford displayed the new GT.

Ford has been working hard on developing a carbon fibre strategy and its GT will show where it is in its research as it features a carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) monocoque with aluminium front and rear sub-frames, typical of many of today’s supercars. When it goes into production next year we can expect this car too to have in excess of 600bhp.

Honda was probably not too worried about the long awaited production-ready debut of the NSX alongside such exalted company as its order books have already closed with over 100 customers waiting for delivery.

Of more importance for Honda is the success of its key new trio of Jazz, HR-V and the Civic Type R. The Jazz and HR-V are built on a new evolved platform set and will feature high grade materials and some unique joining challenges. The Type R now holds almost iconic status and Honda is hoping that this and the NSX will add some excitement to its model range.

Release

Mazda continues to release vehicles built on its Skyactiv strategy with the Mazda 2 arriving in showrooms this month, the small CX-3 SUV arriving in June and the MX-5 following along later this summer. Even the little Mazda 2 model has a body that is nearly 63% high strength steel (HSS) and ultra-high strength steel (UHSS)/advanced high strength steel (AHSS) with some clever profiling of the chassis legs and other key panels within the impact load paths to dissipate energy more efficiently. It also features automated emergency braking (AEB), lane keep assistance (LKA) and some models could also have light emitting diode (LED) headlamps or a heads-up display (HUD). The CX-3 is derived from the Mazda 2 (much as the HR-V is derived from the Honda Jazz) and will be equally sophisticated, whilst the MX-5 epitomises Mazda’s lightweight strategy.

Hyundai has already released the European engineered i20 this year, to be followed by a coupe version, and a refresh of the i30, as well as the range topping Genesis saloon with a variety of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) including AEB and a HUD. The Tucson includes LED headlamps and also features AEB and LKA. Add to this the active bonnet and rear radar scanning behind the vehicle, and you can see the Tucson is a very sophisticated vehicle.

Moving

If we think we’re getting to grips with ADAS and hybridisation then perhaps the Audi Q7 e-tron shows us again how fast this technology is moving forward. The radar for the adaptive cruise control, when detecting a slower vehicle ahead, will slow the Q7 by applying regenerative braking to provide electrical charge to the battery, rather than mechanical braking.

Two interesting concept cars were also shown; the Lexus LF-SA and the Nissan Sway. The little Lexus signals a new small car coming from the Japanese manufacturer with its sights set on the MINI and Audi A1. The Sway from Nissan is clearly intended to see public reaction to a next-generation Micra that is less of a bubble shape than the current car, with a design language more in keeping with Qashqai and X-Trail.

Sophistication

What all of these cars feature is an increase in sophistication with sensor-based ADAS systems. This is far more than AEB, with lighting and other systems taking advantage of cameras and other sensors. We’ll increasingly see headlamps and even door mirrors linked to sensors and requiring some kind of initiation procedure.

High grade material content is not often visible amongst the glitz and glamour of Geneva, but the material and joining challenges, along with the sophistication that we’ll be required to handle in repair is very much evident.