A tiny stand off to one side of a hall. A bright red sports car. And a model whose dress didn’t appear to have sides. Once upon a time, this would have been far from a guarantee to catch attention at a Chinese motorshow.
But relative minnow Icona, a Chinese-based design-led outfit, once again managed to punch above its weight in Shanghai catching the eye of media photographer and Chinese punter alike. Doubtless its dramatic Fuselage concept from two years ago had alerted many to the company’s name and presence.
But the desire of this small firm, which has developed its own platform and running gear to produce a limited run of the striking Vulcano concept car is not as far fetched as it seems. A complex interplay of volumes and layers, it mixes hints of recent Ferrari and Lexus concepts, ensuring the Vulcano divided opinion in equal measure. But regardless of whether you appreciate the design, it was unarguably one of the homegrown stars of the show.
by Joe Simpson
We headed to the Chery stand for a closer look at the brand’s new Beta 5 and Alpha 7 pre-production offerings, yet we were far more enamoured with this clever, cutesy Ant 2.0.
You may remember the first version from Beijing last year as a pair of concepts that linked together, forming a sort of miniature road train. This year the couple have separated and been much more thoroughly resolved with very impressive exterior resolution, particularly at the rear, and a thoroughly impressive interior with advanced HMI screens and joystick control.
While the Chinese mainstream brands become ever more derivative as they mature, it’s encouraging to see one of the biggest think beyond today about how mobility may evolve.
…one iPhone dock and one badge, does not an i_Beetle make
by Joe Simpson
It’s the typo that hits you first as you approach the Leopaard [sic] stand. Apparently chosen to represent power and grace with an added vowel to make it ‘double A rated’ (yes, really), there’s remarkably little correlation between this beautiful large cat and the rather more mundane offerings on the stand.
However this did not deter the brand from ramming home the point with conviction for those not convinced of its intent – first with stand girls in childish onesies and headbands and then, the piece de resistance, a gigantic, papier-mâché leopard (presumably with one A) leaping out of the stand. Terrifying on so many levels.
On the evidence of the crowds and queues we encountered during the first ‘trade’ day of the Shanghai show, we’d say that’s distinctly not the case in China…
by Joe Simpson
Despite being different in concept, BMW and Mercedes’ pair of SUVs shown here in Shanghai was seen by many as a head-to-head. At CDN we’ve been big critics of Mercedes’ recent design language. While in contrast, Adrian Van Hooydonk’s refinement of Chris Bangle’s work has – for the most part – left many designers impressed.
But here in Shanghai, it was the GLA that drew the most favourable comments. Here’s a small Mercedes SUV that successfully takes many of the A-class’ design cues and allows them to breathe far better than on the hatchback. Its surfacing especially is much more impressive than many recent Mercs. Lovely concept car details abound too, especially in the interior where lighting, structure and material interplay to positive and novel impact.
Downsizing the BMW X6 idea into a coupe on the X3 platform was sure to be a success and this production car preview is far from badly done. But the electric blue, interior-less SUV-Coupe Crossover has a little too much of BMW’s ‘GT’ cars’ roofline and not enough of the X6′s rear.
In order to accommodate the rear seat package (which we’d presume comes from the X3), the roofline crests seemingly about 50mm too high giving the X4 a slightly bulbous appearance, with too much glass above the metal in the driver area. There’s then precious little tumblehome as the cabin volume flows rearwards. And a slightly mean, thin shoulder (so that three can be sat across the rear bench?) in contrast to the X6, which for all its faults, has a greenhouse that tapers neatly at its rear, forming a generous and power-endowing rear shoulder section and deck.
According to many designers we spoke to, it was first time in many years they could remember preferring a Mercedes design to a BMW unveiled at the same show.
by Joe Simspon
The Geely KC concept is the first fruit of the new design team headed by Peter Horbury and Ken Ma, as well as chief designers Brett Patterson and Rohan Saparamadu.
While we’re sure none of the above would describe the fastback as exceptional, it’s arguably the best of the latest generation of home-grown Chinese offerings.
The silhouette could be accused of riffing off the Audi A5 Sportback, but while the majority of other new Chinese cars are competently anonymous, the Geely has a few distinctive features, even if they are related to Volvo – owned by Geely of course.
The most obvious is the concentric grille that was first seen on the 2011 Volvo Universe concept. Apparently inspired by the rays of sunlight that appear from behind the mon during much-celebrated lunar eclipses here in China, it’s simple yet original.
The rear has shades of Volvo too with a strong shoulder and boat-tailed upper body that’s strongly reminiscent of the much-maligned original S60.
The Maserati Ghibli is intended to help Maserati on its way to its aim of hitting 50,000 sales a year. And while we weren’t so enamoured with the elongated Quattroporte’s body side and uncomfortable stance, the smaller Ghibli works much better.
It’s worth pointing out that many designers we spoke with disagree – suggesting they see Maserati as having now lost its way. But in our view the shorter wheelbase and truncated rear deck of the Ghibli help what is ostensibly the same design theme as the Quattroporte hang together much more comfortably in the metal.
It’s the same story at the front. The narrower lamps, which run into the low-set, concave (rather than convex) grille help to anchor the front of the smaller Maser. This pulls the hood low to the road and sets the template for a car which feels much more comfortable sitting over its wheels.
Ultimately, for a car designed to compete with high-end 5-Series, A6s and E-classes of this world, the Ghibli manages to feel far more exotic and special than any of those three while maintaining the integrity of the Maserati brand.
by Joe Simpson
There’s almost too much to tell in just a couple of hundred words about the DS Wild Rubis. The preview of Citroën’s premium brand’s forthcoming flagship SUV is chock full of fascinating details that we’ll cover in a more comprehensive design review soon.
We were most fascinated by the new DS corporate face detailing, specifically the backlit DS logo and the lamps that pick up where Concept Numéro 9 left off.
They feature three main projector lamps, which drop down into the can as they illuminate, all of which are wrapped around by an integrated DRL and a wave-form animated indicator strip.
By Joe Simpson