We're back from Geneva, and as expected, this year's show didn't disappoint. Being held in Switzerland, the Geneva expo is one of the few neutral zones where major OEMs and niche automakers can show off their wares and get equal time in front of the cameras. And as connectivity and alt-fuel continues to take center stage, nearly every exhibitor had something worth getting excited over. If you're interested in a comprehensive look into what makes the Geneva show unique and what concepts and production models are leading the way, then let's get to it...
What Is It? The BMW Vision ConnectedDrive Concept
Why Do I Care? We spilled plenty of virtual ink on BMW's connected roadster in the lead-up to the show, but in short, the Vision is the embodiment of BMW's plans for a fully-connected car. Dual displays, WLAN, tons of sensors, internet connectivity and a new interface that breaks up safety, infotainment and comfort into three zones designated by color. If you're looking for more details on the Vision, check out our initial deep dive and BMW's video on the concept's development and ideas.
Can I Buy It? The Vision is an elaborate showpiece for BMW to preview its next generation ConnectedDrive system, but the Bavarians plan to build both a coupe and roadster based on the original Vision concept and this roofless version. The coupe will hit the market first in 2013, with the roadster arriving soon thereafter, each powered by a new hybrid drivetrain.
What is it? The BMW Active E
Why Do I Care? BMW's electrified 1 Series is the next major development in the automaker's EV strategy. The Active E is the follow-up to the Mini E program which had 600 electric Coopers testing around the world with customers behind the wheel. This Active E uses a pack of liquid-cooled SB LiMotive batteries and an electric motor to generate 170 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque, propelling the rear-wheel-drive coupe to 60 mph in around nine seconds and providing a range of around 100 miles.
Can I Buy It? Not quite. BMW will be leasing the Active E this fall, with 1,000 examples hitting the U.S., Europe and China. Pricing hasn't been announced, but you can get notified of availability at BMW's website.
What Is It? The Saab Phoenix Concept
Why Do I Care? With Saab freshly sold by General Motors, the Swedish automaker is finally getting its identity back, and the styling elements of the Phoenix will lead the way. The first concept penned by Saab's new designer, former Pininfarina ace Jason Castriota, the Phoenix blends high-style with wind tunnel-tested aerodynamics, packing a two-plus-two seating arrangement and a turbocharged, 200-horsepower 1.6-liter four-cylinder that sends power to all four wheels.
Can I Buy It? The Phoenix could form the basis for a future coupe, but we wouldn't bet on it. Instead, look for its Google Android-powered IQon infotainment system to make it to the 2012 Saab 9-3.
What Is It? The Nissan Esflow Concept
Why Do I Care? The Leaf was Nissan's first foray into the world of electric cars, and the Esflow will be its sophomore effort. But rather than create another simple, electric runabout, Nissan is taking the fight to the Tesla Roadster. The Esflow is a full EV, packing the same lithium-ion battery pack as its hatchback sibling, but sends power to two rear-wheel-mounted motors good for a 0-60 mph run of under five seconds. And if you're liberal with the throttle, Nissan claims you can get up to 150 miles on a full charge.
Can I Buy It? Patience. Nissan has said that it plans to bring an electric sports car to market, but it won't be available for at least another two years, and when it comes, it could be wearing an Infiniti badge.
What Is It? The Volkswagen Bulli Concept
Why Do I Care? If you've got a family of four and want a VW bus, you're stuck rocking a Routan. And that simply won't do. Taking cues from the original Microbus, the Bulli reimagines the iconic people mover with a lithium-ion battery pack and a 113-horsepower electric motor that V-Dub claims can be charged in under an hour. Oh, and it's packing a Fender-designed audio system and an iPad to control it all.
Can I Buy It? Don't hold your breath. VW is contemplating building another van, but the chances of it being half as cool as the Bulli are slim to none.
What Is It? The Rolls-Royce 102EX Concept
Why Do I Care? The crew from Crewe swapped out ye old 6.75-liter V8 and stuffed 96 battery cells to output 338-volts in its place – the largest battery pack ever fitted to a road car. And it needs it. The 102EX tips the scales at over 6,000 pounds, and the pair of rear-mounted electric motors are supposedly good for a blast to 60 mph in under eight seconds. And since Roller owners shouldn't be bothered with some plebeian charging cord, the 102EX fills up on juice through an inductive charging system.
Can I Buy It? How much you got? Rolls says this is a concept for now, but don't be surprised to find the all-electric Phantom in showrooms within the next five years.
What Is It? The Rinspeed BamBoo Concept
Why Do I Care? Rinspeed is known for its wacky concepts – from the iChange EV to its submersible Lotus Elise – and the BamBoo is no different. Designed to appeal to new-age beach-bums, the BamBoo is an EV that gets power from 54-kW motor and can motor along for up to 65 miles on a single charge. Harman collaborated on the infotainment system, which integrates Twitter, Facebook, Aha Radio and wireless broadband, partners with as many WiFi devices as you can throw at it and packs next-generation text-to-speech technology.
Can I Buy It? Never. But with the right aftermarket kit and enough Redbull, you can build your own out of a retired golf cart.
What Is It? The Artega SE
Why Do I Care? The original Artega GT was a 300-horsepower, V6-powered coupe penned by none other than Henrik Fisker. But despite a slow start, Artega has decided to expand its range with the addition of a new all-electric model. The SE packs a 380-hp motor mounted amidships which can thrust the Miata-sized coupe to 60 mph in a claimed 4.3 seconds – a half-second quicker than its gasoline counterpart. The downside is the lithium-ion battery pack that tacks on several hundred pounds (total curb weight is just over 3,000 pounds) and a rather low range of around 120 miles.
Can I Buy It? Artega claims the SE will go on sale later this year for a whopping €140,000 – just under $200k at current exchange rates – but considering the original never made it Stateside, the Tesla Roadster can sleep easy.
What we want
It's an electric Se7en. And we need one. Desperately. It's equipped with a lithium-ion battery pack, 144 volt DC motor and comes in under 1,700 pounds. 0-60? Three seconds or so. Price? Under 90,000 euro when it goes on sale this summer.
What we really want
RUF has brought back the O.G. 911 Targa, but in place of its boxer six, it's packing a 180 kW electric motor and 29 kWh lithium-ion batteries. If that's not enough, they're planning a twin motor version with a two-speed gearbox and torque vectoring.
What we can't have
Espera Sbarro Evoluzione
25 students, 13 weeks and one concept. That's what the Espera Sbarro design school pulled off for the show, and it's an impressive creation. Power is provided by a turbocharged 1.8-liter four-pot putting out 180 hp.
[Lead Image: Martial Trezzini/AP/Getty]