The Volvo V40 is perhaps the surprise of the show, coming across far better in the real than in the initial press shots. Things arguably get even better when you tug open one of its five doors and slip into its cabin.
Yes the IP architecture is perhaps a little overbearing but its detail execution is really impressive. The more you look and touch the deeper the sense of integrity. From the graphics in its digital gauge pack to its single piece metal door card accents via the lovely, bezel-less rear view mirror, in the best Swedish tradition this has the feeling of a product that will continue to quietly please over time.
By Owen Ready
The Volvo V40 has caused a fair amount of discussion in Geneva, mostly for being surprisingly more likable in the metal than it was in the press photos. But one of its design details has us discussing a new trend as well – the cupshoulder.
Previously seen on the Citroen DS5, the cupshoulder is a gratuitous “swirl” at the end of the shoulder line, coming back towards to the front of the car and allowing for an abrupt surface change that moves towards the rear of the car. This creates a small flat spot that seems like a perfect place to set down your roadside double espresso while making a cross-country (or cross-town) trip.
The cupshoulder on the Citroen DS5
On the Citroen, the swirl visually connects the shoulder crease to the C-pillar. On the Volvo, the swirl tenuously ties to the chrome-tipped tail fins of the P1800ES shooting brake. On both, we find it to be overly ornamental on designs that are otherwise quite well executed.
The cupshoulder on the Volvo V40
By Drew Meehan
The aero wheel trend has been knocking around for a few years now (again) and there’s no sign of it stopping. But there is also a new – and rather encouraging – sign that tire sidewalls have started to grow a little more generous and wheel diameters, while still big, have reached a plateau even on concept cars. Somebody even reported seeing an Audi on hoops smaller than 18-inches.
But big, small, fat or thin, these four are our favourites (and yes, one is an outsized Audi).
Clockwise from top left: Volvo V40, Lamborghini Aventador J, Audi A1 quattro, Hyundai i-ioniq
By Owen Ready
It’s a difficult thing to judge, the 500L. The response of many at this show seems to be that this car is a jump too far for the 500 identity. But standing and really taking it in – and after talking extensively to Fiat Design Director Roberto Giolito – it certainly begins to make more sense. This is the first step in a wider strategy, that should lead to a much expanded 500 (and versatile Fiat) range. It also shows some of the first fruits (and logic) of the Fiat-Chrysler marriage.
Clearly, Fiat – like Mini – want a big share of the premium A/B/B+ market. And given the brand’s move back into the American market, a car with the 500′s identity but a lot more space is, as Giolito says the clinics confirmed, a bit of a no-brainer. Many designers we’ve spoken to quibbled with aspects of its execution though. It seems tall and teetering where the 500 hatch is planted and robust.
The volume over the rear wheel feels problematic, partly because the 17 inch wheels seem completely lost in the arch. Others felt that the robust, lower body qualities – which are reminiscent of the new Panda – didn’t work that well with the 500 facial graphics.
Yet when you understand that this platform will spawn Jeep derivatives and – more importantly a 4×4 Fiat variant, in the mold of an Audi Allroad – some of the design constraints become apparent.
Like the Mini Countryman, it’s one case where many designers will roll their eyes and talk wistfully of the model-line heritage… but where the market seems likely to lap up the product. It clearly makes good sense for the brand to use an identity which is seen as premium – and they can therefore charge more for.
We’ll reserve full judgement on the 500L then, until we understand it in the context of a wider strategy set to be unveiled over the next year. And until we’ve sat in and experienced the interior which was sadly locked on the second press day, because it’s not 100% production on the cars in Geneva.
By Joe Simpson
Here’s the most talked about aspect of the Ferrari F12 Berlinetta. Ferrari call it the ‘aero bridge’ and it’s supposed to be a device that integrates the best of Ferrari’s learning in the windtunnel while working on F1 cars. A lot of designers we’ve talked to have questioned how this system actually works, suggesting that they (and their engineers) can’t work out how this won’t generate lift. Yet earlier, when we spoke with Flavio Manzoni, he seemed more than confident about the device’s value, calmly quoting facts and figures about it, that made us suspect that it really could work. Here’s a picture from above, below and the side. What do you think?
Posted by Joe Simpson
Geneva, in the minds of the CDN team, has always been a show where concepts rose to the fore. Of course, this is an important show for production debuts historically too, but it’s always been about great concepts – particularly when we turn to the likes of Renault, BMW and of course, the Carozzeria. This year, concepts – new, truly impressive concepts – are notable by their absence. But there’s a wealth of new production cars here. Three in particular stand out.
First – and perhaps most surprisingly – is the Volvo V40. The consensus on this car from most, seems to be that – in photos – they didn’t like it much. Yet in the metal it feels well judged for its market. It’s perhaps flattered by the A-class, which slightly underwhelms. Most importantly, it feels premium but genuinely ‘Volvo’ in quality. We particularly like the gauge pack.
Next is the Peugeot 208. It’s a real sign of Peugeot on the up and we’d put money on it being a massive sales hit (which the brand really needs). Many people think that the exterior is somewhat busy, but it’s a great improvement over the last generation 207 (and other guppy-mouthed Peugeots). But the real innovation’s on the inside. Where Peugeot’s extensive user research and determination to do something not only new – but better – really shines through.
And completing the triumvirate is the new Porsche Boxster. Evolutionary? Sure. Conceptually new? Of course not. But a beautifully judged, refined piece of design that moves the game on further than other recent ‘new’ Porsches? Yes. This design endows the car with a distinction of its own. That fails to come across in pictures, but it’s well judged and side-by-side with the 911 doesn’t feel as similar as it might first appear. The interior does borrow much from the 911 though – and is therefore a massive step up in quality. Easy to walk past and dismiss as ‘just another evolutionary Porsche’, it’s worth lingering longer over this Boxster.
Posted by Joe Simpson
After a long day walking around the Palexpo floor, I finally got my chance to track down the last of the bikes on show by a major manufacturer, the RADe from Opel. In the style of the Smart/Brabus bikes, the Opel is also a battery-powered two wheeler, although in a more sporting style that seems to be slightly contradictory to me.
Beautifully designed, the RADe is an extremely modern and sleek bike, with a more mountain bike layout than the others we’ve seen, but also cleverly integrating a plug-in battery pack and electric motor. I have to admit that this combination is a bit confusing to me, as electric-assisted bikes are typically more common for city riders lugging groceries or those in need of extra assistance, but the execution is flawless, bringing Opel’s design language into a vastly different format.
By Drew Meehan
The Rolls-Royce Phantom has received a mild facelift, seen for the first time here in Geneva. Arguably it didn’t need a nip and tuck from a purely aesthetic perspective – it’s still peerless in the super-luxury sector. Yet legislation for DLRs and the fact that the buyers of the first models (don’t forget it’s nearly 10 years old) have dictated a little sprucing.
Unfortunately the change from round, porthole-sized lower lamps to rectangular units. It might seem like a minor point – and it is – but some of the majesty and character has been lost and it brings it a little closer to the pauper’s Ghost.
By Owen Ready