When Kia starts adding quilted seats to its concepts you know the upmarket stitching technique has hit the automotive mainstream.
Of course, carefully designed quilting has added quality definition, pattern and pleasing volume to all manner of products well beyond cars for decades, finding favour on everything from the consistent button-back style of Chesterfield sofas to diamond-style stitching on Chanel handbags and Barbour jackets. But now designers are implementing different patterns, sizes and styles of stitch often contrasted with non-traditional colours and materials.
For instance, Audi chose a small hexagonal quilt theme on the seats of its RS6 production sports saloon while the designers of the Kia Provo concept chose a classic diamond-style on black leather, but delivered it on a wonderfully flowing manta ray-shaped door-to-door-wide front seat design. Spyker went even more quilt-crazy than usual on its new B6 Venator concept, cladding passenger footwells, transmission tunnel sides and even the rear parcel shelf.
But can such overdone examples by Spyker and the upholstery style’s greater proliferation mean we’re getting near to quilt overload for cars? Head of Bentley design Luc Donckerwolke – a brand very closely associated with the quilted look – thinks not, as he revealed to Car Design News: “Quilting is a Mulliner thing, but I guess there is quilting and quilting. We do perforation on leather that stops where the stitching starts which is extremely difficult to do. Quilting opens so many doors, and in the Bentley design department we’re still exploring new perspectives.”
After decades in pursuit of smaller and smaller exterior panel gaps in the name of slicker design and sharper fit and finish, at the 2013 Geneva motorshow we noticed some cars’ gaps getting bigger again. Really big. But fear not, the inch-plus gaps on Giugiaro Italdesign’s Parkour, McLaren’s P1 and Ferrari’s La Ferrari do not reflect a backward design step or engineering inability, but merely new opportunities to add graphic interest and lines that help define proportion, shape and surface direction.
McLaren makes its incision on the yellow P1 supercar behind both front wheel arches. Big cuts feature at the back of the front wheel arch of the La Ferrari supercar too, but the design team at the famous Italian marque also elected to add deep and dark slashes in front of the rear wheels that continue upwards behind them towards the circular rear lights and horizontally along the rear of the car too.
But the award for the longest, deepest and widest panel gaps goes to Italdesign’s beefy 4×4 coupe and cabriolet Parkour concept duo, that had gaps running along both front and rear fenders with shiny dark carbon fibre gullies to complete the picture. We like the look a lot.
One of the fun features of the Kia Provo concept is the customizable headlight clusters. Using over 800 robot-assembled LEDs per side, the lamps on the new Kia were designed to be a functional but original customization element. Using a USB stick and some simply software, drivers would be able to create their own designs (static for driving, movement when stopped) in order to create a truly unique face to your retro-inspired runabout.
We can imagine that a production version would possibly result in some interesting results with Kia’s typically young buyers, but it’s a nice thought and a welcome execution in light of Alfa 4C’s cheese grater headlight tragedy.
Stood at the back of the Citroën stand, rendered in a milky, pistachio green is the Technospace concept.
A lightly disguised next generation C4 Picasso, most people who’d actually noticed it were rather disappointed with this car. Citroën had something quite unique (read good) going with the C3 Picassso, which felt like it could have evolved into a wider ‘Picasso’ line up set of design cues.
But this car’s a departure from those ideas and heads in a new direction – complete with some frontal DS cues, the tailgate shutline off an Audi Q5 (we’re starting to see a lot of that) and a the rear lamps from a previous generation VW Golf.
The most interesting element is undoubtedly the DRG with its wide strip of chrome incorporating the double chevron and the thin, horizontal LED upper lamps hooked underneath. Pity about the big halogens below them though.
The interior was a real disappointment though and overall we got the sense this was a real missed opportunity from Citroën. The concept being almost hidden at the back of stand made us wonder whether the company was embarrassed by it, and the general sparsely populated state of the stand in generally spoke of a wider – and more worrying – PSA malaise.
It almost sums up the show. Not bad, with exciting elements, but a general foreboding sense that the wheels might be about to come off everything again. As the VW group hoovers up every sale in sight, it leaves the likes of PSA scratching around hoping there’s enough in the kitty to weather the coming storm.
It’s easy to dismiss the Toyota i-Road concept as a straight copy of the Renault Twizy – same tandem seating, same rain-unfriendly half doors. But the way the Japanese ‘new mobility’ device moves is far more sophisticated than the rather agricultural French buggy.
First, the whole vehicle moves to negotiate smaller-radius curves, then the rear wheel articulates, creating an extremely tight turning circle and almost appearing to drift at higher speed.
It probably takes some getting used to (we secretly hoped the pouting model driving would hit one of the posts on the stand) but it not only makes the i-Road usefully narrower than the Twizy, it also means the thing is alarmingly maneuverable.
In its quest to create the most efficient car in the world, Volkswagen was unwilling to make any sacrifice. We’ve already mentioned the handraulic windows, but while that is an old-fashioned weight-saving measure, the use of rear view cameras in place of wing mirrors (in order to cut drag to an absolute minimun) is a world-first for a production car.
Apparently VW had to seek special exemption from legal legislation requiring physical mirrors for the XL1, but surely this will open the floodgates for a solution that has been appearing on concept car for over a decade.
The reality is that the positioning of the cameras and associated interior screens means the view from the driving seat is fairly natural and the slight fisheye lens give a far more extensive view of what’s going on behind its windowless tail than mirrors would provide.
Alfa Romeo is, it’s fair to say, a carmaker whose design department is fiercely proud of its traditions and history. Its famous Style Center joined forces with the Istituto Europeo di Design (IED) of Turin, asking for its students to design an Alfa Romeo model for the American and Asian markets, and the Gloria is the end product of months of work.
It’s not hard to spot classic Alfa Romeo design cues.
On the hood, there is a strong reference to the brand’s shield sculpted from the car’s lines, arrowing down into the grille. We’ve seen this before, of course, and the production 4C, unveiled yesterday, features the same cue.
Touches like the four leaf clover-decorated leather straps, which nod to the luggage straps on old Alfa Romeo models, also confirm that the model is most definitely an Alfa Romeo, and so in that respect, the students interpreted the brief perfectly.
There’s a slight feeling about the Gloria, however, that some of the elements have been added as afterthoughts, making the whole concept seem a bit disjointed. The leather straps – as nice as they are – seem a little out of place, especially when they seem to “reappear” wrapped around the metallic features just behind the wheelarches. Their inclusion is a classy touch, but it could have been executed differently to help connect the car, whereas it appears to break up what continuity there is.
The entire Volvo range – V40 aside – has been given a nip and tuck as Thomas Ingenlath steers the Swedish ship in a more appropriate direction i.e. away from Germany.
Most changed are to the S60/V60. Their melty, droopy noses and odd, wide-set lamps have been redesigned, as have the bumpers and hood.
It speaks volumes that it’s difficult to look at the car and remember how it used to be, so well integrated are the changes, but the effect is that there’s a precision and sophistication that was missing. Just a shame they didn’t have the funds to rid the flanks of the sloppy, wavy shoulder that now looks even more incongruous.
It’s encouraging to see that even in such a short period of time, Ingenlath has taken control of the brand’s strategy. It now feels to be in safe hands.
Geneva, being the biggest and most famous motor show in Europe – if not the world – is known for its unveiling of the latest concepts and production models from carmakers the world over. This year Ferrari, for example, has revealed the successor to the Enzo, which was always going to create a buzz.
But there’s a darker side to Geneva. One that many are afraid to speak about. And that is…
Each year with morbid fascination we wander past their stands and see some real horrors. Plasticky bodykits and blindingly unattractive color schemes are just two of the many frankly criminal acts. Sometimes it’s just a case of “let’s whack as much carbon fiber on as possible” but every so often we get something so delightfully dreadful it takes our breath away. This year’s winner by some margin is this Range Rover, dubbed ‘Mystere’ by German tuner Hamann. It’s so bad you actually feel for the car underneath.
Wrapping the car in shiny pink chrome was a bad idea from the start, but then adding spoilers and lowering the ride height has destroyed what credibility it had left. For shame, Hamann, for shame.