BMW’s Vision ConnectedDrive Concept is one of the real show stars in Geneva. BMW’s Director of Group Design, Adrian van Hooydonk talks more about the overall strategy behind the concept here. And Head of Interior Design at BMW, Marc Girard has talked us through the interior here and here.
This car had a tough act to follow in the form of the acclaimed Vision EfficientDynamics Concept shown at the IAA in Frankfurt in 2009. Based on pictures released some weeks before Geneva, some were also questioning whether this car would live up the high standards of design and originality set by that car. In photos, some of the resolution and surfacing made this car look a little slab-like. Yet in the flesh the car has a lithe, elegant form and a lightness of execution that belies its complex technology.
There is some surprisingly poor surfacing on show on other cars here in Geneva, but the BMW is not one of them . It might not have quite the level of originality the Vision EfficientDynamics Concept displayed, but it’s still an impressive piece of design in its own right and a logical evolution of a set of ideas. Along with the Mini Rocketman, it illustrates the depth of talent within design at BMW right now. Hidden throughout the concept are a series of incredibly complex, yet ultimately quite background technology features, which we’ll explore in greater depth in a longer design review. For now though, here are some of our favourite detail elements of the car, and our flickr photo gallery.
The FT-86 II is the latest interpretation of the much-lauded FT-86 concept originally shown at the 2009 Tokyo motor show. But, as the design nears production (or – given Toyota’s reticence to name an on-sale date – should that be creeps towards?), the no-nonsense sports car from the Japanese automaker appears to be becoming much more compromised in terms of its design.
The original showcar had massive appeal – thanks largely to its elegant proportions and exquisite detailing, particularly in the interior. However, this latest variant is devoid of an interior and features a slew of what almost feel like Lexus LFA-referencing elements that have not transitioned well. At the front, the LED strips in the lower bumper are met by LFA-style headlamps, which aren’t as successful as the original, simpler units. Meanwhile, the gaping-mouth grille gives the car the appearance of something you’re more likely to find feeding close to the bottom of a murky sea-bed.
Fender blisters appear at the front and a pronounced air inlet adorns the bodyside. Yet more changes have been made to the rear, where the haunches appear just aft of the crude shoulder that disappears incongruously into the DLO. LFA-like taillamps also adorn the truncated rear end, whilst further addendum – such as a large, tuning-style decklid spoiler and an aggressive diffuser – shout its sporting intent. These are necessary as this latest version has even less tumblehome than the original.
The elegant lines of the original FT-86 didn’t require such ‘go-faster’ bits; the design was much more successful for the lack of them. This car may, perhaps, be more production ready, but the FT-86 II concept regrettably lacks the appeal of its Tokyo forebear. As such, it leaves us wishing that Toyota had left the design alone, and appears to prove true that – as far as FT-86 designs are concerned – less truly does equal more.
It would have been easy to walk past the VW Bulli concept and mutter something under your breath about “just another UP! Concept, when are they going to build it etc. etc…” and if you did the above, shame on you as you missed out on one of the highlights of this year’s show – specifically its interior.
Look past the glitzy showcar colour and trim and the iPad integrated into the IP and what you would have seen is around 85 per cent production ready. The exposed screws where the door cards mate with the door shuts, the switchgear and, most importantly, its seating.
Two rows of bench seating that fold into a double bed. Ok, not entirely new in concept but beautifully executed and all fully production engineered to typically slick VW standards. The truly accessible VW Camper is back, and how.
Judging by the design chatter, Renault’s two concepts are stars of the show. While most seem particularly taken with the Captur concept, a Crossover SUV rumored to be foreshadowing a Clio crossover sometime next year, the R-Space showcases some interesting design cues in a small MPV package.
Rear ‘seating’ area
On the inside, the rear seating area is a beautifully abstract cubist arrangement (apologies for the art-based contradiction in terms), which sharply contrasts with the modern front seating and dashboard layout featuring lots of white leather, aluminium, and long sweeping curves.
Front seat area
This contrast is meant to epitomize the differences in viewpoint between children and their parents, and as as a way of summing up the third in Renault’s circle-of-life stages, ‘family’, it works very well. It also more accurately reflects a growing trend at Renault towards strong graphics in unexpected places.
These graphics as design elements reach to the exterior of the car as well, with those same long sweeping curves of the interior cutting a swathe across the side of the car, creating the rear door shut line and a unique DLO at the same time. This use of looping curves continues across the now familiar ‘new’ Renault DRG, as well as through the door sills, the lighting details, and accent materials.
Although the Captur is perhaps the more refined concept from a form and development standpoint, the unique use of strong graphic elements on the R-Space seem likely to be showing up on Renault vehicles in the near future.
The BMW ConnectedDrive is undoubtedly one of the stars of the show, here, Marc Girard – Head of Interior Design, BMW, demonstrates one element of the concept’s technology-rich interior. The passenger interface is a working gestural control unit, with LEDs and sensors woven into the material panel of the IP…
A city car with brown saddle leather butting up to metal detailing; circular dial pods; my-first-racer seat harnesses. ‘Mini’ would be the obvious brand association with these elements but in fact they belong to Smart’s Forspeed concept, which marks a shift in the brand’s positioning.
It seems Mercedes’ smallest brand – after years of almost unforgivable neglect – has decided Mini’s ‘premium’ approach to flogging teeny cars can work for it too.
Indeed, there’s nothing wrong with the interior of the Forspeed – it’s beautifully detailed, feels high-end and is full of character. It just feels a little incongruous with Smart’s core message. Let’s not forget that the neat and deeply engaging brief for the original was to “transport two students and a crate of beer to a party across town”.
Was the Lotus press conference at last year’s Paris motor show just a (bad) dream?
Head to the British sports car manufacturer’s stand in Geneva and you’d be forgiven for thinking so. Despite declaring ‘a new dawn’ for the company to slacked-jawed onlookers last year, the only cars on the stand here are existing the Evora and Elise. And a carbon fibre-laden Evora by notorious tuners, Mansory.
The only sign of the six new cars was a hidden row of scale models. Quite why the company didn’t simply repaint one of its Paris show cars to remind people of its about-turn is confusing if not entirely unpredictable.
As it seeks to cast its metaphorical net wider than its traditional home of the US, the Infiniti stand (notable for being as physically far way from Nissan’s as possible) held host to the Etherea concept.
While all previous Inifiniti designs have followed the ‘premium’ convention in terms of format (think SUVs and rear-drive sedans) the monovolume Etherea is resolutely front-wheel drive – the traditional antithesis of ‘premium’.
And how refreshing it is to see the brand pluck up the confidence to plough its own furrow; offer a point of difference.
Some feel its execution overwrought, yet while its surfacing is dramatic – particularly its hood-to-fender transition – it manages to hang together in a relaxed, non-aggressive gait.