81st International Geneva Motor Show

The 81st edition of the annual International Geneva Motor Show concludes this weekend, soon to leave the automotive world buzzing about the latest assortment of production automobiles and concept cars.  Though I could opine rapturously about exotic supercars like Artega, Gumpert, or Weisman, here’s a rundown of the most impressive just-unveiled cars that you might actually see here in the United States.  In descending order of my delight:

1.  Alfa Romeo 4C Concept

As its name implies, Alfa’s 4C is a junior cousin of the recent 8C supercar, transferring that car’s design language and use of weight-shaving and carbon fiber onto a shorter wheelbase with a milder powerplant.  The rear-wheel-drive 2-seater features a rear-located 1,750 cc 4-cylinder turbocharged engine from the Giulietta that delivers 200 hp.  Planned for sale in 2012, the sprightly looking 4C is expected to reach 60 mph in less than 5 seconds with a top speed in excess of 155 mph.  The designers definitely got this one right, and if the price tag is as moderate as the reports suggest (less than $60,000), then Alfa may have finally made a most welcome return to the realm of everyman sports cars.  Lotus Elise and Porsche Cayman beware…

2.  Lamborghini Aventador LP 700-4

Lamborghini’s long-awaited replacement for the Murcielago offers a completely redesigned 6.5 liter V-12 that boasts 700 hp and 509 lb-ft of torque, both jaw dropping numbers.  In combination with a low weight of 3,472 lbs, the all-wheel drive car reaches 60 mph in 2.9 seconds with a top speed of 217 mph; nothing short of awesome!   The styling is typically Lamborghini, a natural extension of prior Lambo wedge motifs whose lower-than-low silhouette and gaping front vents are arresting by any measure.  Lamborghini has already sold 12 months worth of production for the $379,700 Aventador, which is scheduled to begin taking deliveries in late summer of this year.

3.  Aston Martin Virage

Apparently the price gap between the $181,000 DB9 and the $266,000 DBS is wide enough to include another model, so Aston has updated its venerable grand tourer and resuscitated a model name from the late 80s to result in a new Virage.  Essentially using the same wheelbase and hand built 6.0 liter V-12 powerplant of the DB9 and DBS, the Virage offers a remodeled front fascia influenced by the One-77 supercar, as well as swan-wing doors first demonstrated in the Rapide.  Capable of 490 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque, the Virage will also be offered in a Volante convertible bodystyle.

4.  Jaguar XKR-S

Jaguar is using the 50th anniversary of the iconic E-Type sports car (known domestically as the XKE) to launch a performance variant of the XKR.  Claiming to be the most powerful Jag ever, the XKR-S features an uprated version of the AJ-V8 engine that is capable of developing 542 hp and 501 ft-lbs of torque, figures good for 4.2-second 0-60 mph launches and a top speed of 186 mph.  A retuned suspension and minor design alterations round out the car’s improvements from the standard XKR.

5.  Maserati GranCabrio Sport

In another refinement of a previous model, Maserati has performance-tuned its GranCabrio to result in the GranCabrio Sport.  Now delivering 450 hp and 376 ft-lbs of torue, Maserati’s 4.7 liter V-8 propels the car to 62 mph in 5.2 seconds with a top speed of 177 mph.  Revised handling, a reprogrammed transmission, and a redesigned exhaust system purportedly add further sporting zest to the luxurious Maser experience.

6.  Bentley Continental GT Supersports “Ice Speed Record “ Convertible

In what is surely the final iteration of the first generation Continental GT body style, a limited edition of 100 examples of this variant of the GT Supersports Convertible will celebrate Bentley’s latest world speed record, in which 4-time world rally champion Juha Kankkunen piloted such a car to over 205 mph on the Baltic Sea ice off the coast of Finland.  (How’s that for some cajones?)  The all-wheel-drive convertible is assured to be the most powerful Bentley ever, offering 631 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque, and reaching 60 mph in 3.8 seconds.  To boot, the car’s 6-liter V-12 is capable of running on E-85 ethanol-based biofuel.