In one of the oddest Geneva Motor Shows in recent memory only one clear theme emerged. For something completely different, it wasn't CO2 or electric cars or even high horsepower.
It was about one car and one car only. And then only a car in name... It was the Bentley EXP 9 F.
There was no proof that its name was derived from how many times VW Group boss Martin Winterkorn said the "F" word the first time he saw it, but it could be true.
Certainly, the German industrial kingpin was heard to say he was "Happy it will never go into production like that," which makes you wonder why they made it that way as a concept.
And we think we know the answer. It's simple, really. Everybody is talking about how ugly the big Bentley is and becoming absorbed with its complete lack of proportion at the front and the back. They should be talking about its lack of proportion in profile, too, because it's all steel and no glass. And they could also talk about how disappointing it was that all new VW Group models have to carry over their Brand Signatures onto every model, even if it bears no relationship to the past.
But we think Bentley is delighted people are talking about how ugly its EXP 9 F is, because it means nobody is talking about Bentley legitimacy as an SUV maker, which was what they were worried about in the first place.
The bigger concern, though, is that they think the side view is fine and they'll only fit production front and rear ends to it. Because if they do that, when the 6.0-litre twin-turbo, W12 arrives next year, it'll still be ugly.
The designers happiest with the EXP 9 F were across the aisle at Lamborghini, whose Aventador J cleaned up in the coverage-per-dollar stakes.
Designed and built by a small team in just six weeks, Lamborghini says the J (Jota, with a soft "J", when you say it in Spanish) is a one-off and has been sold to a trusted collector for €2.1 million, but who'd ever know if that was true or not?
Based around the astonishing Aventador, it uses a carbon-fibre chassis and the donor car's 515kW V12, and weighs less than 1500kg. Though forcing the driver to wear a full-face helmet might lift that a bit.
As for its neighbourhood rivals, Pagani broke out another Huayra, this time with a clear coat over its carbon-fibre skin, while Ferrari showed off its carefully previewed F12 Berlinetta.
The first Ferrari in yonks to shun jingoistic names (think: 458 Italia, F360 Modena, 599GTB Fiorano, 612 Scaglietti etc), it's a curious visual mix of a hugely aggressive nose, a neat tail and a Korean side swipe. Ferrari says this latter is an aero device (sure it is) but the two-seat 599 replacement is said to be a jet. A 0-100km/h sprint of 3.1 seconds looks to back that up.
Still, to promote such an important car, Ferrari had a relatively small stand, while Maserati had a huge piece of critical real estate to launch, well, nothing. Yes, they had a car called a 2012 GranTurismo Sport, with 27 more horses and some other fiddles, but that's not why they bought all the space.
Maserati has an E-Segment car coming, plus a Quattroporte replacement and an SUV, which will go into production as the Kubang - which was mysteriously absent from Geneva - so they're reserving room for next year...
Aston Martin bumped up against the Po Valley family love fest, but probably wished it didn't. The Zagato version at least looked different to the three minutely altered scale versions of each other that Aston normally sells (or not) and at least the brand didn't re-show its horrid precursor to Bentley's SUV, the Lagonda of two years ago.
But if Ferrari had a lot of car and no space and Maserati had a lot of space and no car, McLaren had none of either, even though its senior staffers were meandering the halls like predators. Design boss Frank Stephensen even looked over the F12 from his ex-employers, Ferrari, while admitting to his upcoming P12 and P13 models; the former an Enzo-chasing supercar with "everything you're not allowed to do in F1 anymore" and the latter out chasing Porsche 911s.
Alfa was another brand to have a mystery big stand/nothing new arrangement, with just Giuliettas and MiTos scattered around its real estate and not even a preview of the 2013 4C to be seen. Fortunately, someone else had ideas about how to fix that, so 'Touring Superleggera' turned the gorgeous 8C into the equally gorgeous Disco Volante. A spokesman told us they could build one for between half a million quid or a million quid or they might just take deposits and do them one at a time or build them in batches of 10. Or they're just making it up as they go along hoping someone lobs cash at them...
Of the other Italian design houses (which dominated this show's headlines as recently as a decade ago), the now-VW-owned Giugiaro got its groove back, while Bertone showed it was still off track.
The role they once played has shifted in-house for most car companies, which Infiniti neatly showed with its Emerg-e. The sexy hybrid beastie, based on Lotus's 414E, revolved around electric motors, a three-cylinder range extender and should go like stink as a plug-in hybrid. They say it's being considered for production, but if there are doubts about the powertrain, don't kid yourself about the bodywork. It's bound for bigger things.
Of the other major concept quirks, Land Rover's Evoque convertible was the most polarising. Without the benefit of its acutely angled roof, the Evoque went from chic to chunky, even though it borrowed its roof from the XK Jag. Still, with booming SUV sales, someone was bound to have a go at a convertible one. The only mystery was why LR bothered with it this year, when it had such a back order of three- and five-door models. If the Cabrio took, it could only cannibalise its own back order. Maybe they knew it wouldn't...
Volkswagen showed how to do a clean, crisp SUV with its Cross Coupe, which previews the next Tiguan with a diesel-electric hybrid drivetrain, while Audi's most important car of the year (maybe), the A3, got lost in the crowd by being leaked too early and by looking the same as the last one until you're within five metres of it. That's because, Audi design boss, Wolfgang Egger, said, there are two other Audi shapes coming off this car (it's the first off VW's MQB architecture), but then lost me by telling me the A3 was an "icon".
Now, the original Mustang was an icon. The GTHO was an icon. The Lamborghini Muira was an icon. The Beetle was an icon. The A3? Sorry, nice car, but nothing like an icon...
Right next door was Porsche and if you looked hard enough you could tell it was an all-new Boxster. Up the other end, fellow Stuttgarter Mercedes-Benz showed how you could introduce an all-new car without being trapped in the design of the old one. The A-Class concept has been seen for ages, but the production car still managed to look like a concept, so that's a good sign for the lower, sleeker A-Class that will itself spawn three other models.
Toyota packed in the ugly with its FT-Bh hybrid, but at least you could see its shape. Its upmarket brand, Lexus, chose a mix of jet black and dark grey cars, all of which reflected the thousands of motor show lights so heavily that you couldn't figure out which model was which. They all just looked like blobs of metal.
The World Car of the Year committee announced its short list for both the WCOTY and World Performance Car of the Year awards, too. The VW up!, the Porsche 911 and the BMW 3 Series made the first list, while the 911, the Lamborghini Aventador and the BMW M5 made the second.
But the most embarrassing was the European Car of the Year award, which was also announced during the show. Its award went to the Opel Ampera/Chevy Volt -- a car whose production had been put on ice due to lack of demand just two days earlier...