MAX’S MONTHLY COLUMN: A look at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show

by | Mar 26, 2019

Max Berry

Well this weather isn’t great. It had us all stumped didn’t it; that week of beautiful weather we had back in February when it seemed the dark days of winter were gone and a fresh, springy, summer was now upon us. But, and these are live updates I’m giving now from my office, or rather bedroom window; it’s apparent that we’ve got a few weeks (or months) of winter weather to sit-out just yet.

Anyhow, being March means there has been a metaphorical ray of sunshine amongst this wintery weather for petrol heads everywhere; the 2019 Geneva Motor Show.

Whether you’re physically at the show itself, or simply reading up about the latest car gossip afterwards, the GMS is an annual opportunity for car nuts everywhere to get excited because manufacturers rock up and tell us all about their future plans.

Unfortunately I am yet to bust my GMS virginity, so my understanding of this year’s show comes mostly from internet updates and social media streams.

Watch the video version of Max’s February Spidersnet Column

The Bugatti Voiture Noire

The main news which rather inevitably took social media and most of the rest of the internet by storm was the release of the Bugatti Voiture Noire, which even my puny knowledge of French can translate to “Bugatti Black Car”. As even the very slowest of people will have guessed, it’s mostly black, has nearly 1,500bhp from its 8L W16 engine and will obviously therefore go very fast indeed.

But all of that, sadly; is irrelevant. Because the only thing you need to know about the Voiture Noire is that it costs 13 million Euros.

I say ‘it’ in the singular form because Bugatti have only made one, and even if you were considering purchasing what is the most expensive new car in the history of anything, ever, you can’t; because an anonymous collector going by the name of ‘fascinated by the Atlantic’ has already paid up and taken it home, where I imagine it will stay sat forever.

From pictures, I wouldn’t say it’s a particularly pretty car; in fact the six tail pipes are almost overkill if you ask me. And although it’s powerful, in a world where electric witchcraft is rising from the depths of despair, releases such as the fully electric Rimac C_Two offer far greater stats for a much lower price. The C_Two has 1,888bhp and will launch from 0-60mph in 1.85 seconds. 

In contrast, the Bugatti Chiron which has an identical powertrain to the Voiture Noire takes almost a second longer, at 2.5 seconds (which is even slower than the Lamborghini Aventador SV which I mentioned in last month’s edition – and that costs more than 37 times less than Bugatti’s Black Car).

That means you could have the (faster) accelerating Lamborghini and €12.75 million euros – which I’ve calculated would get you roughly 3,094,660 pints of beer (although I should point out these two purchases could not be consumed and driven at the same time).

What I’m saying is, Bugatti haven’t really built a car here, they’ve pulled off a PR stunt. It dominated the news from the show which is a bit of a shame really. So, let’s stop it dominating my column and talk about a proper car – and not a marketing exercise.

The Ferrari F8 Tributo – Can Ferrari get back on top?

Ferrari attended the 2019 show with their main showpiece ready to reveal. It’s called the F8 Tributo and is the very latest in a long line of V8 coupes. With squinted eyes, one would struggle to tell the difference aesthetically from its predecessor, the 488 GTB. However, this latest GTB labelled car is updated in several key areas.

Firstly, Ferrari decided to go all out on the car’s beating heart; giving the Tributo the same 720bhp V8 as the 488 Pista. They put the car on a diet too, shedding 40 bags of sugar off of the 488 GTB’s weight. Aerodynamically, they’ve been busy adding slimmer headlights to allow for fatter brake ducts and increased braking efficiency. And to top it all off, an upgraded infotainment system has been added to the cabin.

It’s obvious from these substantial adjustments that Ferrari, perhaps more than usual, want (or need) the F8 to be a hit. And not just a hit, but a classic. As far as I’m concerned, the Italian manufacturer has had a bit of a rough patch in the last few years, due mostly to the influx of all new, all electric, almost revolutionary, super-duper speedy hyper cars. In fact, since the La Ferrari was revealed (which was one of Ferrari’s greatest hits), it just feels like the company has been pushed aside. Even longer-term competitors like McLaren have been stealing Ferrari’s limelight in recent years, releasing some extraordinary cars and making hay while the Ferrari sun wasn’t shining.

The F8 will do 211mph, reaches 60mph from a standstill in 2.9 seconds and lapped Ferrari’s Fiorano test track faster than any 458 special edition model. That’s great, but what’s far more important, is the Tributo’s character. The thing that’s held me back from properly loving Ferrari’s very recent work is the slight lack of panache and flair. There’s been nothing definitively wrong with their recent cars – they’ve just not been all that outgoing and fascinating in the way a proper Ferrari should be. It’s been a strange few years for what is, let’s be honest – the world’s most famous supercar maker, but perhaps the F8 Tributo can change that.

Let’s talk about Morgan…

Morgan, in utter contrast to Bugatti are a tiny, little, UK-based car manufacturer. The company operate from a small headquarters, nestled within the British countryside of Malvern. 2017 brought the ever-unique firm just 472 vehicle sales – almost 10 more than the 2015 figure. The very workshops in which Morgan’s engineers craft their creations, could be a backdrop from ‘Good Night Mr Tom’.

Unlike Jaguar, Ford and Land Rover; Morgan attended the 2019 Geneva Motor Show, showcasing their latest effort – the Plus Six. There’s no messing – Morgan bolted in a BMW B58 straight six engine, splurting out 335bhp and an 165mph top speed. A well-informed decision on the engine I’d say – considering the same unit also powers the BMW M340i, Z4 M40i and Toyota Supra.

Similarly, the chassis is an almost offensively technical (for Morgan) bonded aluminium ‘CX generation’ affair, but in classic Morgan fashion, still features a strip of ash wood. Externally, only the very geekiest of Morgan anorak would notice differentiating styling tweaks from any other basic shape Morgan.

Unlike so many manufacturers now, Morgan still have their innocence. An ability to do just about anything they like and come away with some fairly crazy products.

– Max Berry

The Plus Six’s secret weapon however, is power to weight ratio. It’s an important point which is so commonly forgotten about in regard to power. Think of it this way, you could have an enormous, 800bhp V12 engine from a supercar, but then go and slot it into a poorly aerodynamic, incredibly heavy and therefore vastly inefficient military tank. Just because the tank now has 800bhp, doesn’t mean it’ll be fast. Power to weight ratio relies, very simply, on two factors – the amount of power from the engine and the total vehicle weight. This allows for a more even playing field when it comes to analysing power.

Take our tank for example, which despite having 800bhp, also probably weighs the average tank weight of 50 tonnes. So actually, it’s power to weight ratio is rather flimsy, with only 16bhp’s for every tonne it weighs – making its performance about as responsive and snappy as wind erosion. Morgan’s Plus Six is quite the opposite – with almost 320bhp’s for every tonne of its total weight. It’s the same combination that made hot-hatchbacks and little sports cars a hit in years gone by.

I hope, almost more than anything else in the world that the Plus Six gets a great applause from the big-name car reviewers once they’ve had a spin. Unlike the billion-pound Bugatti I mentioned earlier, the Plus Six is a proper car – an automotive piece of craftsmanship, designed mostly to allow a middle-aged property developer to splash his trust fund, don his flat cap and Plus Fours and belt around the British countryside in a cloud of six-cylinder smoke. I hope it’s an absolute laugh.

It needs to be really, because the Plus Six was born at a difficult time for Morgan. At the GMS this year, having revealed their new model, the firm also announced that the Morgan family had given up control of the Malvern-based car maker. ‘Invest Industrial’, an Italian venture-capital fund had bought a majority stake – bringing to an end 110 years of family ownership.

The company have just 190 staff and made profits last year of £3.2 million. So what does this change actually mean? You’d expect that the venture capitalists would want to take the company to the next level for sales and revenue – and I’ve little doubt that they will. But for the sake of Morgan, and everything they’ve ever stood for, I really hope they continue to operate as usual.

Unlike so many manufacturers now, Morgan still have their innocence. An ability to do just about anything they like and come away with some fairly crazy products. Morgan make cars in a way no one else does – and the Plus Six’s job is to demonstrate that. I really just hope they aren’t forced to change.

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