• New cars debut from Alfa, VW and BMW
  • One transmission goes all the way up to nine
  • The new Corvette rocks a soft-top

The 2013 Geneva Auto Show is coming up. And, once again, the emphasis is on quality rather than quantity. This yearly event doesn't cover a lot of ground, but it does provide a showcase for feats of engineering as well as fabulous yet fiscally challenging machines.

Whole 'Lotta Gears

One engineering feat bound to have a definite impact on the car world is the introduction of a 9-speed automatic transmission. The lucky recipient here is the Range Rover Evoque. In this case, it's a ZF transmission -- the supplier to just about every company to ever make an automobile, and founded by Ferdinand von Zeppelin ... yes, the airship guy.

Land Rover and ZF collaborated on this transmission, managing to squeeze in nine speeds. Think of gears (or ratios) as steps. It's easier to climb a distance using more steps with smaller gaps between them than negotiating fewer steps that are also larger. A transmission like this will strain an engine less, resulting in optimum efficiency, better economy and lower emissions. And should anyone want to take their fancy Evoque into the rough, the lower gears get the weight moving with greater ease.

Once one company sets a precedent, others will soon follow. But that isn't all from Land Rover. Also on its stand is an all-electric SUV, a version of the Defender, the model that virtually created Land Rover's go-anywhere reputation. It's quite an achievement for an electric vehicle to wade through nearly three feet of water. This isn't going into production, but LR sees it as a "rolling laboratory." So, some future Geneva show might display the fruit of this endeavor.

Whole 'Lotta Euros

That's the thing about Geneva: It's interesting stuff, but will it come to the States? A good answer to that question arrives with the premiere of the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible. The hardtop version stole the show at Detroit. Even though it's another major launch, this new soft-top 'Vette faces strong competition: Ferrari is introducing a successor to its highly regarded Enzo model, and McLaren's P1 supercar is making its debut as well.

At Geneva, it often seems like there's a Euro-party going on and Americans aren't invited. Excellent vehicles such as the Audi RS Q3, a small yet sporty crossover, and the VW Golf GTD, a diesel-powered yet sporty hatch, are not expected to hit showrooms this far west.

Mere Cash

But we should get the Volkswagen GTI, which is based on the seventh-generation Golf, and perhaps the 2014 Alfa Romeo 4C. Both cars debut at Geneva 2013.

For ages, we've been hearing about how Alfa Romeo is returning to the United States. And since this brand is owned by FIAT, we know it's possible. Such a comely compact coupe as the rear-drive 4C would be a perfect way to say "hello" again. Reports have the car crossing the Atlantic later this year. We'll believe it when we see it.

In the meantime, enthusiasts may have their interest piqued by a Toyota concept that's an open-top version of what Americans recognize as the Scion FR-S -- that comely, compact, rear-drive coupe that really is on sale.

From a more practical standpoint, we'll see the official debuts of the all-new 2014 BMW 3 Series Gran Turismo (a longer, taller, wagon-like variant), plus the 2014 Volvo XC60, 2014 Volvo XC70 and 2014 Volvo S80 -- all face-lifted versions.

Green Side

Green is a well-loved theme here. The organizers claim that 10 percent of all the cars on display in 2013 will meet a "clean" standard. The revised Nissan Leaf is one example. A plug-in hybrid version of the Audi A3 is another. There's also the VW XL1, a 2-seater plug-in hybrid (maybe reminding you of the original Honda Insight hybrid, in terms of appearance) capable of 261 miles per gallon. It won't be available in the United States.

Mitsubishi is also showing an electric vehicle concept and a diesel plug-in hybrid concept.

Ramble On

Other corners of the Geneva show floor are playing host to the following: the all-new Rolls-Royce Wraith, a super-luxurious coupe based on the "take the afternoon off, James, I want to drive this" Ghost; the 2014 Bentley Continental Flying Spur luxo-sedan, face-lifted for this model year; a 2014 BMW M3 performance version of the current 3 Series (fingers crossed that the rumors are true).

And chances are Porsche will be doing something special. There are so many fun ways to clear out that numbered bank account.

AutoTrader.com will be reporting from the 2013 Geneva Auto Show on March 5 and 6.

What it means to you: From First Class flyers, to regular coach types, to eco-warriors, there really should be something for everyone at the 2013 Geneva show.

See all Geneva Auto Show News

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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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