It’s great to see so many concepts being unveiled in the Cobo hall this year. Compared to last year when we were practically ready to come home halfway through the first press day, it makes a refreshing trend. But we can’t help wondering if there’s a back story we’re missing here, because a good proportion of these concepts are missing one crucial aspect – an interior.
Honda/Acura for instance, whose designs we’ve criticised perhaps more than most over recent shows, are exhibiting some interesting and well-resolved designs here. Between the NSX, Accord Coupe and ILS, three in fact. Yet they’re all missing an interior. So are the pair of Chevrolet Coupes and the Nissan Pathfinder. Meanwhile, in a game of runaround that was worthy of some of our experiences in China, we couldn’t get access to the Dodge Dart interior, despite it – unlike the others – having an obviously finished cabin.
All of which seems a little strange, given the importance of the interior in the modern lexicon and the wealth of new tech tools at the designers’ disposal. Given that it clashes with CES this year, perhaps we’re suffering from the fact that most manufacturers were (logically) saving their big tech-based interior announcements for the show in Las Vegas. It’s just a shame that if that’s the case, it means we’re seeing so many half-designed cars.
We’re just grateful that two cars in particular – the Lexus Lf-LC and Smart for-US – show that for some manufacturers at least, showing a ‘true’ concept means one that comes with an interior that’s just as capable of grabbing the headlines as an exterior.
Posted by Joe Simpson
Unlike the larger XTS which we reviewed last month, Cadillac’s new 3-Series sized ATS appears to measure up to the premium D-segment class standard. Whereas the XTS is hurt by its proportions and package, the emphatically rear-wheel drive ATS matches the 3-Series almost millimeter for millimeter, and is none the worse for it. Detroit 2012 has been a show which has reminded us that, if you get the proportions right, then you’re halfway towards creating an appealing piece of car design – and the ATS is perhaps the best example of that.
It’s quiet and calm, and hardly innovative, but then breaking away from the norm in this segment’s hardly ever proven a recipe for success. The proportions are good, surfaces are well resolved and some of the material treatment – such as the chrome DLO surround – feels appropriately expensive and premium. Inside, there’s Cadillac’s new CUE user interfaces, which (while struggling to function fully in the reception black hole that is Cobo hall) is an impressive UI. We particularly like the haptic feedback and speedyness with which the system responds. What it’s like on the move is another matter and one we can’t currently call.
While we’d still be surprised to see this Cadillac keep Europe’s premium brands awake at night, in the US, this car raises the bar in the second-rung of premium brands occupied by the likes of Infiniti, Lexus and Lincoln. It’s not a car that will stop you in its tracks, but the more time you spend looking at it, you understand that it’s been imbibed with a sense of design depth and quality that’s not without appeal.
by Joe Simpson
It’s a cliche to say that the original Honda NSX (Acura NSX in North America) was the first truly modern, useable supercar. Back in 1989, a 276bhp, mid-engined supercar from Japan and constructed of aluminium was big news but 23 years and these stats are far less impressive. You can find 276bhp in front-wheel drive hot hatches these days, and of course many car makers now use aluminium in their structures, most notably Audi.
In fact, it was an Audi – the R8 – that first came to mind when we viewed the NSX Concept. From the front three-quarters it all feels very R8, particularly as your eye falls on the DRG, then into the surface that forms the front fender and wheelarch. But the more you look at this car, the more it grows on you.
You can see the intentions of the Honda/Acura design team. It’s far from perfect, but then perhaps the world of the modern supercar has become a little anesthetized, some character is welcome. You can almost see, looking at the surfaces, the freedom that the Acura design team and clay modellers have been allowed. There’s some stuff that you’d never find on a German design, but it’s all the better for it. And when we say we can see aspects of the R8′s aesthetic, that’s not necessarily a criticism. Let’s not forget that, without the orgininal NSX, the R8 (and its modern peers) might never have come to exist in the form that they do.
Above all, the Acura NSX Concept looks compact, lightweight and lithe. It has believeable supercar proportions, but in a world of bloated designs, it’s refreshingly small, low and not even unnecessarily wide. We hope that Acura’s designers won’t mind us saying that, given some of the brand’s recent efforts, it’s a mighty relief to be writing that.
Posted by Joe Simpson