The infancy of the Chinese car industry dictates that the general public has zero perception of what brands – some of which have been around for ten times longer than this country’s entire mass car market – have achieved.
When westerners think of MG or DS, images of historic, evokative cars appear, yet here they are simply two letters. Even Ferrari has none of its mystique here. And so to contextualise brands and their new products, many brands are educating visitors of their past glories. While Ferrari, Lotus and MG use video montage to create an impression of their histories, Citroen’s solution is far more appealing – simply park a gorgeous DS 23 Pallas on the stand.
By Owen Ready
Its name may sound ill-advised to English speakers such as myself, but the Fiat Viaggio is more significant than its suggestive name.
The car itself is, in fact, completely unremarkable, bringing nothing new to either the C-segment sedan market, nor the Fiat brand. What it represents is the first product from Fiat/Chrysler that spans two brands (it’s the sister car to the Dodge Dart) by more than simply attaching Lancia badges to Chryslers and vice versa.
It’s clearly something we’re going to see far more of as new models are co-developed and, while it appears to work reasonably well in this this case, makes us wonder how such as strategy will work in terms of design across such seemingly disparate brands. Is it possible, through relatively minor changes, to make a car that can genuinely feel either a Lancia or a Chrysler, for example?
By Owen Ready
It’s hardly a revelation to write that the Lamborghini Urus (the Italian brand’s SUV concept revealed here in Beijing) has received a more favourable response than the Bentley Exp 9F with which it notionally shares a platform.
But what may surprise you is that, in the real, this concept is shot through with a deep and impressive level of execution and a set of volumes which are not at first apparent from the photos. For those who were privileged enough to get a peep inside, the interior is really worthy of note. It features some of the same carbon-based material structure we first saw on the Sesto Elemento (and which Lamborghini wants to ‘own’) on the centre console and around the binnacle and works exceptionally well, thematically.
Reminding us from some angles of the BMW X6 and Range Rover Evoque (that low, wide rear view) you’ll not find us and the rest of the design world bemoaning this Lamborghini SUV for the same design failings leveled at the Bentley.
We have two reservations however. Firstly, can Lamborghini as a brand legitimately do an SUV? For two very different answers to that question, see Porsche or Ferrari’s stated aim: “we don’t make SUVs and never will.”
Secondly, while well executed, there’s a part of us that is sad this SUV appears to cement the loss of over-the-top drama and wildness that was once a Lamborghini hallmark. As the change from Murcielago to Aventador suggested and this appears to confirm, Lamborghini is growing up and calming down in its graphics and surface language. The question is, should it be? Or is this a wrong turn for the brand? Answers and opinions in the comments please…
By Joe Simpson
Citroen announced its intention to launch three new DS models due for production at Beijing: an SUV, C-segment compact sedan and an as yet unknown large limousine-style car to sit above the DS5.
In the absence of those production vehicles, it whet showgoers’ appetites with the Numero 9 concept. According to head of advanced design Carlo Bonzanigo, the shooting brake-style large hatch with suicide doors “announces the new face of DS” with its 3D grille fusing into full LED headlamps. The car is large and long at 4930mm, but Bonzanigo says the Numero 9 is actually smaller than the current C6, only looking longer due to its low roofline.
Not based on any existing platform, he told CDN that it is “a true concept and design study” rather than a pre-production marketing exercise, although he did concede that his team had already investigated how a feasible production version could be made by adjusting the proportions suitably. Bonzanigo also said the car’s simple and elegant lines reflected Citroen’s desire “to separate the aesthetic universes of the two brands,” steering the mother brand Citroen more towards simple shapes and classic lines and to tone down the DS line too, making it “less overwrought by using warmer chrome finishes for example”. It’s a shame there’s no proper interior, but that aside, another accomplished Citroen concept.
By Guy Bird
The naysayers have been numerous and vocal when it comes to Victoria Beckham’s involvement in the Range Rover Evoque as a brand ambassador. At Beijing 2012 Range Rover went one step further and revealed its “special version with Victoria Beckham”. But before your shudder to the very heels of your self-righteous colour and trim boots, fear not, it’s actually not that bad. Yes there’s some real rose gold plating on the grille, side and rear Evoque badging plus around the some of the interior knobs, but the rest of the additions are pretty subtle.
The cool satin matte paint finish and clear rear lights – the red circular surrounds were deleted at Victoria’s request – are credible additions and on the interior the semi-aniline leather seats and wonderful mohair carpet and mats are good enough to grace bare feet. According to the Range Rover design team Ms VB made a dozen or so visits to Land Rover’s Gaydon HQ and London to talk through the collaboration and was keen that the car wasn’t heavily branded with her name. The only reference to her involvement is a personally signed ‘care book’ in the glove box to match the bespoke luggage set in the boot.
Limited to 200 units worldwide and costing £79,995 it won’t be to everyone’s taste or wallet but then it’s not meant to be, and it’s certainly less corny and considerably more thoughtful than many other fashion/auto mash-ups.
Verdict: Logical, profitable, no brand killer, and better than feared.
By Guy Bird
The Beijing motor show experience isn’t just about the show itself. Getting there deserves a mention too, for both good and bad reasons. Leaving my central Beijing hotel at 8am sharp in good time for a 9am show opening my journey quickly turned from the sublime to the ridiculous.
The sublime was easy to appreciate as the chauffeured Mercedes S-Class glided past the wonderfully futuristic Rem Koolhaas-designed CCTV building. Modern Beijing at its best. Unfortunately the ridiculous followed shortly afterwards as the car got nearer to the show, and the three-lane stream of traffic heading towards the show decided – in a bid to beat the traffic in front of them and almost en masse – to cross over into two of the three remaining lanes going in the other direction, blocking all but one lane of traffic for those unluckily enough to want to go mewhere else.
Monumental gridlock followed despite the best efforts of whistling traffic police and honking drivers until it became clear that walking the last mile for 20 minutes was highly preferable. So I did. Given this scenario is a carbon copy of 2008 – minus the torrential downpour – I should have learnt my lesson, but on a broader scale it sends out a terrible message about the chaos the car industry can create at its worst. I’ll be getting the subway back (taking a leaf out of my CDN colleagues‘ more sensible outward travel plans). Longer term, something needs to give. This automotive gold rush has downsides.
By Guy Bird
As the overall level of Chinese design rises so the clangers become more apparent. As JAC unveiled its very competent (Italian-designed) S2 SUV on one side of its stand, the S11 sat at the opposite end, most physically and metaphorically.
It’s the kind of mashup that perpetuates the myth that Chinese car design is purely a case of ctrl+C, ctrl+V. You can see for yourself that each third of this miserable debutant has been lifted from a familiar source – the front of a Lotus concept (circa Paris 2010), the center of an Audi R8 (complete with side blade and air inlet) finished off by a Ferrari California tail.
But if the copycat elements weren’t bad enough, there’s a blindness to the application of the elements – why add mock air intakes behind the doors when the engine’s in the front? And why add the awkward roofline and rear deck of a folding hardtop model when the roof is fixed?
There is good, original car design in China. However this isn’t it.
By Owen Ready
In the scheme of Chinese copy-cat designs, this obviously Hummer-aping Dongfeng really has to be seen to be believed. What really took us by surprise was the interior design though. Incredibly, it’s actually managed to be less-well packaged than the Hummer itself.
But the interior design execution is better than the hummer with quite a neat gauge pack and some nice enough purple-blue lighting. Pity it’s all so plastic and none of the knobs actually move or turn though.
By Joe Simpson