If you want a true Genevan experience while you’re in the city, seek out the Restaurant Hôtel du Parc des Eaux-Vives. Their dining room has a splendid view out over a lawn on a small hill in the south east of the city, and said view extends onto the lake and on to the Swiss Alps in the distance. I’m sitting near one of the massive windows eating the restaraunt’s acclaimed traditional veal blanquette, and while I’m no food reviewer, I can certainly say that I like it it.
Sitting with me are a group of car enthusiasts; two of the engineers I met at the EADC rally day, some guys from DSD and some DSD fans who’ve come down to the show from France. Apparently they’re fans of my work, which is saying something, as I didn’t think I had any. The conversation is, of course, about cars, and more specifically, the cars we’ve seen at Geneva this year. The Grandea GTR and Ginmei 38RS debate finds its way into our talk, and it’s fair to say that opinion is split. Among other things, we also discussed the Impakt 260R - the EADC guys seem very keen to have a go in it.
Lunch over and it’s time to go do some driving. It’s a glorious spring saturday afternoon, the lake is looking beautiful and the mountain roads are calling. In the carpark of the restaurant-hotel is a selection of the sports cars displayed at this years show, including two version of the Saratoga - the R+ and the Turbo -, a DSD Puissant, a DSD-tuned Maesima MRZ-384, and two very special cars indeed - the Sachiuri Sagitta and Auxuras Arrow. These two are still works in progress, but holy hell have I been waiting to get my hands on one…
Just about managing to squeeze all the cars in to one shot. Don’t tell the police we drove on the pavement, you know what they’re like in Switzerland…
Left to right: Puissant, MRZ 384, Arrow, Sagitta
…and that will have to wait. The joint Saminda-Maesima accompanying these cars are not letting me drive it, but they are going to be following our convoy. It’s incredible to finally see these things in the flesh; both based on the Maesima DRV concept, they’re expected to be the two new defining stars of the sports car world when they’re released soon, and there’s no doubt that this partnership has sent shivers down the spines of their rivals. No specs, no details, no nothing about these cars as of now. No one but us even knows they’re in Geneva.
We head back towards the city centre, passing through it on our way into the Swiss Alps. I’m in one of my personal favorite cars from this year’s show, the Saratoga, with an excited CEO Noble Romeo sat next to me. This car is the product of years and years of R&D, and is undoubtedly one of their finest achievements, and the pride in Romeo’s voice gives that away.
“It’s our finest car in years. I think of it almost as my child in some ways” he says in a prophetic manner.
It’s a proper, proper sports car. Such a vague phrase, I know, but it feels like a type of car we’re seeing less and less of today in the ever-corporaratising world of the auto industry. That makes it all the more glad to hear that not only do companies still want to make these cars, but there are people with huge passion for them behind such projects.
The Saratoga, however, is not too well suited to city driving. It’s a bit too wide for some of the narrower streets in the old town, unlike its new baby brother, the Puissant. It’s the automotive equivalent of a toddler shoe, yet it drives like a go-kart. The retro styling feels unique, while the hybrid powertrain is, for lack of a better word, electrifying.
These cobbled streets are no place for a supercar, but this shot could not be missed.
Left to right: Saratoga Turbo, Saratoga R+
We cruise up the E62 for an hour, passing Lausanne before turning north toward the mountains. Through the towns of Penthalaz and Cossonay we go, and we’ve made it into the Swiss countryside. Graceful roads, open fields and ever-increasing-hilliness greet us, and there’s a sense that the cars can feel that too. The Saratoga is at home here. This R+ trim is the best one in the range as a balance between power and finesse, less extreme than its Turbo cousin which is sitting in front of me, but more exciting than the less powerful entry-level trims.
On the straights, the Turbo is the king. It blasts away every time, and I get to enjoy watching that stunning rear-end design creep further into the distance before coming back again as we go into more corners. Behind us, the Sagitta and Arrow swoosh along, looking incredibly balanced and smooth. The low, wide nose of the body of those cars coupled with their massive grills really does create some serious presence, almost as if they’re always on the attack.
We’re not allowed to see them at full pelt, however. Not just because to do that, we’d have to break the law, but because we aren’t allowed to know just how fast they’re going to be yet. Still, we can confirm that Auxuars and Sachiuri have got the looks right.
We hit Mont-la-Ville for a quick regroup, and at last its time for some mountain driving. The DSD fans chose this route specifically for this. One of them says “I found this road while on holiday here last summer. We were in this hired Adenine of some sorts, I think it was some entry-level model as it had minute amounts of power, and we took it out here for blitz, never had so much fun in such a slow car!”. That’s the kind of enthusiasm I like to see.
The Puissant leads the way, being very well suited to these tight roads. As we climb up Mollendruz, it tackles each switchback bend and cliff-hugging turn with ease. It may be the baby of the DSD range, but it’s grown-up enough to know what it’s doing.
The MRZ-384 shoots past me to join it - two low-end sports cars battling it out on these roads, both with DSD underpinnings. The MRZ is a great car all round, but this DSD tuned version is properly exciting. Perhaps a bit too brash for a customer in search of a purer sports car experience, but it’s such a great car none the less. Plus, with the roof down, the added beauty of the smooth body not being disrupted by the folding roof is something to behold.
I wish I could tell you about the noise I experienced when we ducked into the valley along the Route de Marchairuz. It was something else. The thrummy i4’s of the MRZ and Puissant, the refined brashness of the V8s in the Saratogas, and the…broader and lower V8s, I think?, of the Sagitta and Arrow to add a bit apocalyptic bass to the soundtrack. What a joy to hear them all building up revs and then cascading down through the gears all at once. The hairs on my arms were on end.
We stop in the village of Saint George for a quick drink and some food. The DSD fans are having an amazing time, to say the least, while everyone else is concerned about how everyone else found the cars they were driving to be. The one everyone is talking about though is the Puissant. It holds up incredibly well against much more powerful contemporaries on roads like these, and by the looks on the faces of those who got to drive it, it made them very happy indeed.
Our convoy returns to Geneva and stops at the Palexpo, where I leave them to go and do another drive. Romeo and I are off to dinner in the city with some other journalists and DSD engineers before the big Hodan After Party, and I’m being joined by some contacts from Maesima and Znopresk. They’ve set aside a Maesima Devina and Znopresk Zap to be our rides for the evening.
The European city is the natural home of the supermini, and it’s no exception with the Zap and Devina. Even if the Maesima is not from round these parts, the international aspect of this little road test feels well suited to a city that is a world capital of science, politics and economics. On the motorway in, both cars do very well, as you’d expect. The sequential gearbox on the Zap was dismissed as a novelty by some reviewers, but for ease of usage, it’s absolutely brilliant.
We turn off onto some side streets around the Saint-Jean area for some tight city driving. Both cars are pretty indistinguishable here; small form factor, nice steering and good low-end performance. Romeo is certainly impressed by the quietness of the Zap - “I can’t believe this is sub-£15k car if I’m honest” he remarks.
The Devina certainly feels more at home here though. Not for physical reasons, but just because it’s more exciting. The Zap is great for those wanting a car that’s as easy to drive as cooking peas in a microwave, but the Devina feels like something with a more wide appeal. And on the stylish city streets of Geneva, it manages to blend in and still turn heads all at once.
Supermini chic, amirite? Either way, both cars look good here, and the cream of the Zap manages somehow not to look overly elderly …
Left to right: Devina, Zap!
A quick cruise around the Plainpalais and we sift down into the heart of the city. We arrive at our destination, the Restaurant Le Flore on a cosy backstreet. I’m told they serve some amazing Alpine puddings here, as well as some German inspired main courses with a home-made twist. Sitting with my new friends for the next 9 hours, I glance out to the Devina and Zap parked outside. Few could deny how at-home they look here.
A few hours later and fresh change of clothes and it’s time to go the after party. Days like these are what I live for as a motoring journalists - spending time with enthusiasts who love driving as much as I do, and talking with them is always so enlightening and interesting. And of course, one of the perks of the job is being able to go night-outs like this. Here’s hoping we won’t have a repeat of last time…