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The Most Significant “Debuts” of the Canceled 2020 Geneva Auto Show

Coronavirus fears shut down the show, but automakers debuted these viral rides anyway.

Coronavirus fears shut down the show, but automakers debuted these viral rides anyway.

The novel coronavirus, more specifically the disease it causes, COVID-19, single-handedly brought down one of the biggest events on the automotive calendar: the 2020 Geneva International Motor Show (GIMS). Fearing that its annual international auto show would serve as a breeding ground for the newest coronavirus strain that has spread rapidly across the globe, the Swiss government temporarily banned all gatherings of more than 1,000 people. But, even before that, automakers had started pulling out of the show for the same reasons, not wanting to put their people in the virus’s path.

But even without a physical venue, the show must—and did—go on. Many new cars that were set to make their debut at the Geneva auto show were still revealed digitally online, and some automakers even put on virtual press conferences live-streamed to the web. Geneva has historically been the show where automakers debut their fastest, most exclusive, most high-tech, [insert any other relevant superlatives here] new production models and concept cars, and this year’s remote event was no exception.

Alfa Romeo turned its Giulia Quadrifoglio sedan up several notches with the 540-hp Giulia GTA, the car that Alfa will no doubt field in an attempt to reclaim the fastest production sedan lap record at the Nürburgring. Meanwhile, Porsche unveiled its most potent variant of the 992—and the most powerful 911 to date—the 2021 Porsche 911 Turbo S. And what would a Geneva auto show be without a multi-million-dollar, ultra-limited-edition exotic? The $1.9 million Bentley Mulliner Bacalar, with its beautiful and entirely bespoke design, debuted as Bentley’s most expensive car to date, and one of its most exclusive at only 12 units planned for production.

But there were many, many more important and lust-worthy vehicles unveiled than that, which is impressive considering the show was, technically, cancelled. Keep reading for the most significant cars we didn’t see in Geneva.


2021 Alfa Romeo Giulia GTA

The 2021 Alfa Romeo Giulia GTA is a pretty, powerful, and pretty powerful challenge to the mightiest from BMW M and Mercedes-AMG. Based on the Giulia Quadrifoglio, which even in its regular 505-hp form stands on its own against the 444-hp BMW M3 and 503-hp Mercedes-AMG C63 S, the GTA is an even more horsepower-stuffed helping of sport-sedan braciole. And it’s a much more aerodynamically performative Giulia, with an even meatier wrapping of spoilers, wings, and flares. Hungry yet? Alfa Romeo‘s latest Italian sports sedan dish is on special, so act soon—only 500 GTAs will be built.


2021 Bentley Mulliner Bacalar

The Bacalar is essentially a Bentley Continental GT Convertible with a unique exterior and interior hand-crafted by Bentley Mulliner, the company’s storied coachbuilding division. Mechanically, not much has been changed. The W-12 under the Bacalar’s pricey hood has been tweaked to deliver 650 hp and 667 lb-ft of torque—increases of 24 hp and 3 lb-ft over the regular Conti GT engine. And the rear track has been widened 0.8 inch to give the car a more muscular stance. Only 12 will be made, each priced at just over $1.9 million (before options and taxes).


BMW i4 Concept

The Concept i4 is the start of a new chapter for BMW, and in a world that’s quickly moving toward electrification, the car is a big deal for one of the automotive world’s oldest marques. BMW’s designers know full well what they’re doing is going to ruffle a few feathers, but it doesn’t bother them at all. Their aim is to push BMW into the future, and they can’t do that by catering to those who want every BMW to look like an E28 5 Series. They aren’t sorry about the way this car looks. The i4 concept’s range is 373 miles on the European WLTP cycle (WLTP numbers are more generous than EPA figures, but the long-range Model S has a similar WLTP rating), and BMW says the powertrain makes up to 530 hp. The i4 concept is estimated to do the 0-60 sprint in 4 seconds and continue on to a top speed of 124 mph. Inside, there are almost no physical buttons, and everything is either controlled via the curved infotainment display or by touch buttons on the steering wheel or in the center stack.


2021 Mercedes-Benz E-Class

Mercedes has one of the largest rosters of fresh debuts of the show, particularly for the E-Class family. The entire E-Class lineup is refreshed from top to bottom, including a touched-up Mercedes-AMG E 53 and a reworked E-Class All-Terrain that’s coming to America. The W213-generation of E-Class we’ve enjoyed since the 2017 model year also gets a new face, new interior trimmings, and new technology for the 2021 model year, along with America’s first crack at the plug-in hybrid E 350e sedan.


2020 McLaren 765LT

The 765LT is based on the McLaren 720S, the stupendously fast yet remarkably approachable hypercar that just got edged out of the MotorTrend 2018 Best Driver’s Car by the Lamborghini Huracán Performante. For the record, the 765LT’s tail, which features a new rear bumper and the “Longtail” active rear spoiler that boosts downforce by 25 percent, is longer—by 0.4 inch—than the 720S’. But, ironically, aerodynamic upgrades at the front of the car that include a new front splitter, front bumper, and front floor mean the nose has been extended by 1.6 inch. “Longnose” doesn’t have quite the same cachet, though …


2021 Porsche 911 Turbo S

Anyone who follows Porsche‘s 911 variant release cycle knew the 2021 Porsche 911 Turbo S coupe and Cabriolet models were coming, and for some time. After all, a new 911 always means a new Turbo. For our part, we drove prototype versions of the cars late last year and came away mighty impressed. And after a series of leaks, the full-on production versions of the coupe and Cabriolet models are here, meaning we finally have all the juicy details on the most powerful 911 Turbo in Porsche history. The new Turbo makes 640 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque from a twin-turbo 3.8-liter flat-six, and is estimated to run from 0 to 60 mph in 2.6 seconds (or 2.7 with the drop-top).


2021 Volkswagen GTI MkVIII

Despite Volkswagen‘s harried push toward electrification, the automaker is letting one key sleeping dog in its stable lie: The iconic Golf GTI. The all-new MkVIII GTI hot hatchback arrives for 2021 with its tried-and-true turbocharged four-cylinder engine, standard manual transmission, and available tartan plaid seats in place. The closest VW gets to electrifying the GTI formula is the updated European-market GTE gasoline-electric hybrid. American hot-hatch fans needn’t concern themselves with that dog, though.


2021 Volkswagen ID 4

Volkswagen makes good on its promise to upgrade American consumers from its ID 3 compact electric car to the larger electric ID 4 compact crossover SUV, thus ensuring the first of its ID-branded EVs for the U.S. market is more appealing. Originally planned as part of the since-canceled 2020 Geneva motor show‘s round of debuts, the ID 4 was unveiled digitally in prototype form. As expected, it appears to be a production-ready version of the ID Crozz concept, and carries over many of its inspirational forebear’s styling details, including its swooping shoulder line, militant mug, and wide rear haunches. The first vehicle built on the modular MEB platform that Volkswagen will offer in the U.S. is expected to get 310 miles of range based on the notoriously optimistic Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicle Test Procedure, but expect EPA numbers to be lower.