• Where Europe's iconic brands come out to play
  • The place to see upcoming design trends
  • Quality trumps quantity

The 2012 Geneva Auto Show is a car buyer's paradise, but there would probably have to be some kind of divine intervention for most of us to afford one of the many breathtaking machines on display.

It's true that many of the cars normally seen at Geneva are not for the faint of heart or light of wallet. This is where Ferrari decided to premiere its newest creation, the F12 Berlinetta, the fastest street car to ever wear the Prancing Horse emblem - standstill to 100 mph in a blink over eight seconds.

Just a few yards away is the Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse, the world's most powerful roadster (1,200 horsepower, top speed in excess of 240 mph) and - if previous Veyrons are anything to go by - one of the most expensive. Lamborghini unveiled its one-off Aventador J without even mentioning how much it will cost, which is never a good sign.

However, there are some vehicles within reach of those of us who might twitch at spending around $20 for a cup of hot chocolate in very pricey Geneva. Like the revamped Lexus RX crossover SUV, with its enhanced hybrid version and a new sporty trim level. Or the fetching (but possibly not for the US) Volkswagen GTI Cabriolet.

One small yet classy machine that's a fairly definite contender for North America is the new Mercedes-Benz A-Class premium compact, which was introduced at roughly the same time as one of its principal potential rivals: the new generation Audi A3. Going even smaller is the go-faster Ford Fiesta ST and the stretch-out-a-bit-in-the-back FIAT 500L five-door.

Amid all the glitz and glam, the debut of the 2013 Mitsubishi Outlander might have been overlooked. This midsize crossover SUV is an all-new model (Mitsubishi claims to have coined the term "crossover") and the first vehicle to exhibit the company's new styling approach.

There was also the 2012 BMW M6, the sportiest iteration of the 6 Series coupe, which made its world debut here along with a four-door sibling: the Gran Coupe. Oh, and Geneva 2012 may best be remembered for the launch of the third-generation Porsche Boxster. It's hard to get away from pricey stuff here.

Geneva is the place where many design concepts are on show, such as the wagon-like Jaguar XF Sportbrake, the Range Rover Evoque Convertible, the Bentley SUV concept and the curvaceous Infiniti Emerg-E all-electric sports coupe concept. This event often acts as a signpost regarding the direction of car styling and it's good to see a return to more conventional design aesthetics after some deliberately "challenging" looks over the past several years.

What it means to you: Brands like Audi, BMW and Porsche are finding more and more American buyers, so Geneva is ideal for keeping up to date.

See more Geneva Auto Show articles.

author photo

Colin Ryan has driven hundreds of cars thousands of miles while writing for BBC Top Gear magazine, Popular Mechanics, the Los Angeles Times, European Car, Import Tuner and many other publications, websites, TV shows, etc.

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