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Geneva Stars of the show


Million dollar extravagance alongside budget buggies, runaway horsepower side-by-side with eco warriors. Its the eclectic mix that makes the Geneva one of the most anticipated events on the annual motor show circuit.

As major car manufacturers battle for survival in the most severe economic crisis since the Great Depression, its all spit, polish and business as usual inside the Palexpo complex in the world's banking capital.

Bentley, Aston Martin, Rolls Royce and Maybach spruiked their million-dollar babies alongside a tiny Smart, Chrysler's European debut for its vision of an electric future and a full range of real-world hybrid and dual-fuel models.

There were the wild and wacky concepts — fewer than in the halcyon days, an acknowledgement that times are tough — and a mix of models that will grace showrooms in the coming year.

Also fighting for attention were the usual array of specialists like Brabus, Startech and Zagato adding even greater gloss and performance to mainstream models as well as tiny Euro operations producing outlandish stars of their own imagining — badges such as Sbarro, Gumpert, Spyker and Koenigsegg.

So, what were the stars of the 2009 Geneva Show?

Ask a hundred people and you will probably get 100 different answers, but from a purely personal point of view here is one version of a Top 10. Citroen DS Inside Concept: A concept in name only, the little Mini rival will spearhead Citroen's new DS naming convention when it launches next year. Sleek, stylish and boasting a hybrid-diesel powertrain, the DS (the manufacturer says that stands for different spirit) caught the eye and the imagination with emotional, if not styling, hints of the truly radical DS on the 1950s.

Hyundai ix-onic concept: Gone are the days when you looked on a Korean concept with a sense of synmpathy. While the ix-onic is clearly an exaggeration of the marques next SUV generation there is enough about it to whet the appetite. As important as the styling is the news that the ix-onic carries DSG gearbox and stop/start eco-technology. Look for for it all in the next generation of Tucson compact SUV next year.

Pagani Zonda Cinque: A personal favourite. Not so much a car as a piece of very, very fast art. The latest offering from designer Horatio Pagani uses the company's own bespoke carbon-titanium material to shape a truly gorgeous body — and it goes. Zero to 100km/h in 3.4 seconds and back to zero in 2.1. Enough sauid. Chevrolet Spark: Far more super-realistic than super-car, the little Spark is none-the-less an excellent example of its kind. Developed from the General Motors Beat concept shown in New York two years ago, the Spark is a bright rendition of a city car which, despite its name, is not electric nor even hybrid. On sale in Europe this year, don't be surprised if it comes under serious consideration for life with a Holden badge.

Mercedes E-Class Coupe: The outstanding model from the new E-Class range. While the sedan version of the new generation E-Class had been seen in Detroit in January this was the Coupe's first outing — and well worth the wait. A really pretty rendition of a true coupe style.

Audi TT RS: There was no shortage of new Audis in Geneva with the A5 and S5 Cabriolets on show but they were put in the shade by this hot version of the cool TT. What really sets this one apart is the use of a rorty 5-cylinder engine which is a hint to a wider future use of the powerplant behind the four-rings badge.

Maybach Zeppelin: Outrageous, outlandish and unapologetically designed to shout "look what I've got that you don't", the latest Maybach earns its spot in the top 10 for offering a stone interior as an option. The high-tech process for bending Indian granite around complex surfaces is more Jetsons than Flintstones and about as left-field as anything seen in a production car. Aston Martin One-77: Another conspicuous statement of wealth, this super-exclusive super-car — only 77 are being made — exudes power and style. Everything about this car is special, right through to the unique 7.3-litre V12 massaged out of the company's standard 6.0-litre unit by Cosworth. It is believed at least one of these beauties is heading for Australia.

Jaguar XFR: It has been a little while coming but Jaguar has put some real bite into its award-winning XF range with the arrival of the high-performance R version. Without over-burdoning the car with fancy, garish aero bits there is little doubt the XFR looks the biz. The 5.0-litre supercharged V8 under the bonnet doesn't hurt, either. Fiat 500C convertible: Not really a convertible in the contempory sense of the word, this latest rendition of the insufferably cute Fiat 500 is a must-have fashion accessory. The rollback sot top is true to the style of the original 1950s car with the centre of the roof rolling back to open the passengers to the skies without the complicated engineering of removing roof rails or C-pillars.

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