As the industry moves towards increased vehicle autonomy, the traditional supercar and sports car manufacturers are unveiling a host of models that will keep the driver at the heart of the action, while sport utility vehicles and crossovers are becoming ever more popular at both ends of the industry spectrum.
Outlook: After the raft of electric vehicle announcements at last year's Paris Motor Show, the industry is focusing more on the here and now at Geneva.
It also shows the ongoing demand from enthusiast drivers for exciting and engaging cars across all segments, from the new McLaren 720S to the Range Rover Velar.
The 87th Geneva Motor Show in Switzerland will open its doors to the media at the Palexpo exhibition centre on March 7, and already there have been a raft of model previews from luxury, premium, and mainstream brands.
Bentley will debut the range-topping ultra-premium variant of its Bentayga model in the form of the Bentayga Mulliner.
The work of Bentley's famous bespoke design department, the Bentayga Mulliner has a number of high-end features, including a bespoke Mulliner bottle cooler, a unique 22-inch wheel design, bespoke Mulliner interior colour split with contrast embroidery, as well as a handcrafted wooden interior that includes "marquetry depicting Monte Rosa mountain range". The model will be powered by the standard 6.0-litre W12 engine.
Citroën will show off its new C-Aircross Concept, which is said to "offer a new vision of the compact SUV ".
The vehicle, which measures 4.15 m long, 1.74 m wide, and 1.63 m tall, follows in the footsteps of the recently launched third-generation B-segment C3 in terms of its design direction, and a pretence of off-road capability with front and rear protection shields, wheel-arch extensions, and large wheels with high riding position.
The concept also features rear hinged rear passenger doors that have been used in other Citroën concepts in recent years.
The interior features a single-piece fabric dashboard that benefits from a head-up display (HUD), a single-spoke steering wheel, and a 12-inch touchscreen.
Dacia will unveil its new Stepway multi-convivial vehicle (MCV). Based on the Logan MCV wagon, the Stepway features increased ride height (+50 mm) and plastic styling adornments typical of crossovers.
The model retains the Logan MCV's standard front-wheel-drive running gear and is available with the MCV's standard gasoline (petrol) and diesel engines plus the new 75-hp, 1.0-litre turbo gasoline engine with stop-start.
The DS brand, which is now Groupe PSA's standalone premium brand within its portfolio, will show the new DS7 Crossback SUV in Geneva.
The new car, which will effectively replace the DS5 in the range as the flagship model, boasts high-end design, connectivity, and an innovative interior.
Included as part of the DS7's high-concept design are special Magneti Marelli headlamps that apparently send out a purple pulse beam when the car is unlocked and which have a host of other unusual features.
The LED beam pattern changes depending on the driving environment and the three LED beams, which form a unique light graphic, are also fully directional.
The model is based on PSA's EMP2 platform that underpins more prosaic models in the PSA portfolio.
There are six powertrain options ranging from a 130-bhp gasoline unit to a hybrid option, as well as two diesel variants.
Ferrari will exhibit the replacement for its F12 Berlinetta, the 812 Superfast.
The vehicle bears a strong visual similarity to the vehicle it replaces, but with new details including rear lights that are similar to those used on the historic 365 GTB/4 model.
It also gains some new aerodynamic features, including a multi-functional frontal section that incorporates active flaps at the front of the underbody, while the rear flank gains an aerodynamic by-pass to increase downforce.
The vehicle is powered by a new 6.5-litre, V-12 engine that achieves 800 cv at 8,500 rpm and 718 Nm at 7,000 rpm, although 80% of this is available from 3,500 rpm.
The engine is paired with a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. The interior features a new look with more sporty and ergonomic seats, new steering wheel and instrument clusters, and latest infotainment and air-conditioning units.
Kia will unveil its next-generation A-segment Picanto.
The five-door hatchback has been entirely redesigned externally. It stands at around the same length (3,595 mm), width (1,595 mm), and height (1,485 mm) as the current model, but features a wheelbase that has been extended by 15 mm to 2,400 mm, while its overhangs are 25 mm shorter at the front.
It features a far bolder look, with the emphasis on the signature "tiger-nose" grille and new wraparound headlamps at the front. The dashboard features a large 7.0-inch floating touchscreen in the centre console that can offer a 3D navigation system, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto for smartphone integration, and rear parking view camera.
On the powertrain front, the 1.0- and 1.25-litre naturally aspirated gasoline engines that have been carried over from the second generation are joined by a new 1.0-litre turbocharged engine developing 100 PS and 172 Nm of torque.
McLaren Automotive will introduce the next generation of its Super Series, which will have the 720S nameplate.
The replacement for the 675S features a newly designed dihedral door that features two separate air ducts – one directing air towards the radiator to improve cooling and another that draws air out of the front wheel arch to increase downforce.
The model will also use a new 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V-8 engine known as the M840T, which uses a new ultra-low-inertia, twin-scroll turbocharger.
McLaren has said that this will make the vehicle capable of accelerating from a standstill to 200 km/h in 7.8 seconds, while one standing quarter mile will take 10.3 seconds. The 720S will also feature a brand-new digital dashboard concept.
Mitsubishi is to show its new Eclipse Cross crossover.
This, it says, is the "first of a new generation of Mitsubishi Motors vehicles" and will stand in its line-up alongside the ASX (Outlander Sport) and Outlander.
It is heavily design-led, with the automaker pointing to the "highly chamfered contours with a wedge-shaped belt line and a distinctive V-line in the rear quarter stemming from the forward-slanted C-pillar and the chunky, muscular rear fenders".
Opel has performed a complete about-face on its Geneva plans as a result of the mooted acquisition of the company by PSA.
Instead of the original plan to focus its Geneva launch plans on the Insignia Grand Sport and Insignia Sports Tourer, Opel will now introduce the Crossland X to the public at the show. The model was not previously scheduled to make its debut at the show.
The decision appears to confirm that Opel and PSA are advancing towards an agreement, with Opel stating in a press release: "As the first car to be launched out of the PSA-Opel cooperation, the Crossland X is a convincing statement of how the fruitful collaboration between the two brands has resulted in a great product."
The Crossland X is a B-SUV crossover that will effectively replace the Meriva MPV-B and will sit alongside the more SUV-like Mokka in Opel's range, with the model sharing the same EMP2 platform as the Citroën C3 and a host of PSA models.
Porsche will debut the Panamera Sport Turismo in Geneva.
This model has a sports estate bodystyle based on the Panamera sedan.
It is the first estate-bodied road car that Porsche has ever released and the model is closely related to the Sport Turismo concept that made its debut at the 2012 Paris Motor Show, although the trunk (boot) is only 20 litres bigger than the standard Panamera.
The rear tailgate has an active spoiler system mounted atop of it, which deploys in three stages. There will be five variants at launch: the Panamera 4, Panamera 4S, Panamera 4S Diesel, Panamera 4 E-Hybrid, and Panamera Turbo, which has a twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre, V-8 engine delivering 542 bhp.
Seat will showcase the latest version of its B-segment Ibiza.
The biggest engineering change with the new model is the move to the short-wheelbase variant of the Volkswagen (VW) Group's MQB platform: the MQB A0 modular platform.
As is inevitable with each new model iteration, the new Ibiza is larger than the car it replaces.
It is 87 mm wider and its wheelbase is up by 94 mm to 2,564 mm. In terms of powertrain options, the new Ibiza has an entry-level 3-cylinder TSI with 95 or 115 PS, with a 1.5-litre TSI engine available later in the year with 150 PS.
There will also be a 1.6 TDI diesel option with 80, 95, or 115 PS, while as a first in class Seat will also offer a compressed natural gas (CNG)-powered 90 PS 1.0 TSI engine.
The lower-powered variants will have a five-speed manual gearbox, while the higher-powered versions will feature a six-speed manual. There will also be a DSG seven-speed gearbox available as an option.
One of the key premium launches at the Geneva show will be the new Range Rover Velar.
The model will slot into the brand's range between the Evoque and the Range Rover Sport and will be the most sporty vehicle in Range Rover's range, and will be a natural rival to the Porsche Macan.
The model features a strong new interior concept with a fully digital dash and two centre digital displays that can be configured individually, with all heating and air-conditioning controls also fully digitised.
On the technical side, the Velar confirms its status as the most driver-focused Range Rover product ever with a standard Torque Vectoring by Braking system, with the model having a double-wishbone front and integral-link rear suspension.
Air springs are standard on V-6 cars and optional on the more powerful four-cylinder models. It also has a system called configurable dynamics, which allows individual suspension, steering, and damper settings.
Outlook and implications
After the raft of headline-grabbing electric vehicle launches by the likes of Mercedes and VW at last year's Paris Motor Show, the industry is getting back to basics at Geneva.
Interesting and important launches are set to take place across the industry's entire brand and segment spectrum in Switzerland next week, although it is the high-performance models and the range of crossovers and SUVs that most catch the eye.
The unusually named Range Rover Velar is the result of a company that is full of confidence in its engineering abilities and appeal of its brand.
The company is looking to attract a new kind of customer that is more concerned with driving dynamics, with the model squarely targeting the Porsche Macan as the most dynamically focused mid-sized premium SUV.
There is an obvious customer demographic that is also being targeted with these models.
Successful young professionals who have already owned and enjoyed high-performance cars and sports cars of various kinds, but who now have a young family.
The Macan and Velar fit the bill perfectly for this kind of customer. Buyers still care about driving pleasure.
This is best exemplified by the presence of the McLaren 720S, Ferrari 812 Superfast, and Lamborghini Huracan Performante at the show.
These cars are admittedly at the extreme end of the enthusiast market but they illustrate that even as we move towards vehicle autonomy, there will always be a market for cars that can thrill and put the driver at the centre of the experience.
Authors: Ian Fletcher and Tim Urquhart, automotive analysts, IHS Markit