Automakers show off unique designs at Geneva show

FRANK JORDANS Associated Press Published:

GENEVA (AP) -- Some people go to auto shows because they're looking to buy a new car.

Others want to catch a glimpse of models they have no hope of ever driving, let alone owning.

Visitors at this year's Geneva Motor Show starting Thursday will get to see Lamborghini's Aventador J, a one-off topless design already sold to a European buyer for €2.5 million ($3.3 million).

With no windshield or roof, and an all-carbon interior, Volkswagen's Italian supercar marque had to attach a rear wing to prevent the vehicle from lifting off. Needless to say driver and passenger will be expected to wear a helmet when they take this 700 horsepower four-wheel drive for a spin.

"Our aim is to show visitors that we are still at the cutting edge of the supersports brands," said Enrico Santinato, a product manager at Lamborghini.

Some of the design of the 'J' version will feature in a future Aventador roadster, which will be priced from €270,000, he said.

Nissan's luxury brand Infiniti showcased its electric Emerg-E concept sports car, of which only two will be made.

The two-seater with its bubble top can reach 200 kilometers per hour (120 miles per hour) thanks to its twin 150 kilowatt electric motors. At that speed the batteries will last just 15 minutes though. Infiniti puts the Emerg-E's range at just 48 kilometers (30 miles) before the gas-powered range extender engine has to take over.

Gert Van Avondt, Infiniti's product manager for Europe, said there are no plans to sell the concept once its tour of car shows is over.

Not so for Bugatti -- another VW brand -- whose Grand Vitesse is a rare supercar visitors can actually buy -- if they have the cash to spare, that is. About 75 will be made and sold for upward of €1.6 million, said Oliver Cramm, the company's head of quality control.

Bugatti says the car is the most powerful roadster ever. With 1,200 horsepower under the hood and a top speed of 410 kph (255 mph), the Grand Vitesse can go from 0 to 300 kph in less than 15 seconds, according to Cramm.

Italian design house Touring Superleggera has brought a touch of nostalgia to the show: an exclusive 60th anniversary edition of the legendary Alfa Romeo Disco Volante that inspired Jaguar's classic E-Type.

Design chief Louis de Fabribeckers said he took the same brief that designers of the 1952 version received, and updated it for the 21st century.

The result is a profile that from above resembles a Coke bottle, with a bulbous cabin and a rear end straight out of a sci-fi movie. That's no coincidence, given the car's name means "Flying Saucer" in English.

The Disco Volante 2012 was custom built for a wealthy client who already had every car he ever wanted, but other interested buyers may get a chance to pick one up too if the company goes ahead with a limited-edition series, said de Fabribeckers. He declined to say what the eventual price might be.

Similarly futuristic, but even less available, is the Sbarro Espera Intencity. It's an electric two-seater concept car with a cockpit straight out of Top Gun. The passenger seat is right behind the driver's and the door opens upward like in a fighter jet.

The car was built in just 12 weeks by a group of French design students. One of them, Charles-Louis Oudin, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that their prototype is unlikely to ever hit the road.

Without the backing of a big carmaker to fund safety and durability tests, driving the Intencity will remain a dream for even the richest.

The show opens to the public March 8 to 18.

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Geneva Motor Show: http://www.salon-auto.ch/en/