Monday, April 27, 2009

Aston Martin One-77

Aston Martin revealed its first complete One-77 coupe at the Villa d'Este Concours d'Elegance this weekend in Lake Como, Italy - and collected its first prize for the car. This collectors'-edition coupe received the Design Award for Concept Cars and Prototypes, voted the clear winner ahead of seven other entrants including the Morgan Aeromax Supersports, the Zagato-designed Perana Z One, the Infiniti Essence and the Rinspeed iChange.

The V12-engined, 200mph-plus One-77 has an all-new monococque body structure with hand-crafted aluminum panels, and Aston Martin pledges "extraordinary workmanship and money-no-object commitment to quality". As indeed one would, for a car costing £1million plus local taxes.

The two-seater, two-tone cabin is finished in carbon fiber and leather, with dramatically curved air vents, dashboard cowl, instrument panel and sweeping center console. The lightweight shell-type bucket seats are white with dark gray inserts echoing the pattern of the carbon fiber, and the Concours show car featured pale blue-gray interior panels to complement its exterior paintwork.

Sales of the One-77 are to start officially next year, though Aston Martin is reported to have buyers signed up for all the 77 examples it will build.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG

Mercedes-Benz has released sketches of the SLS AMG showing its 'swing-wing' door layout, an echo of the 300SL Gullwing's, and its two-seat interior, said to be aircraft-inspired. Cockpit features include jet-style air vents, a gear-lever like a thrust control, a center console like a plane's operating console, and a wide wing-shaped dashboard. This previews the Mercedes cabins of the future, apparently.

Mercedes will offer a choice of black, red, sand, porcelain or light brown leather upholstery, with light anthracite headlining; carbon fiber trim is optional. Switchgear is finished with metal-look soft-touch paint, instrument dials are backlit in white with red needles, and the small steering wheel is flat-bottomed, racing car-style. Occupants sit just 369mm above the road - but suitably cosseted in well-bolstered seats with lightweight magnesium backrests.

The exterior outline retains the usual SL-family long-hood, taut tail format, with low roofline and greenhouse slung rearward; it's a clear progression from the Mercedes-McLaren SLR. An extendable aerofoil preserves the sleek outline when stationary and at low speeds. The roof-mounted doors open by up to 70 degrees, supported by gas-pressure struts.

GAC VIP Lounge concept

GAC (Guangzhou Auto Company) bought the rights, tooling, machinery and equipment from Fiat late last year to make its own version of the Alfa Romeo 166 - and here is the Chinese Alfa, under the nametag VIP Lounge. Despite a low-impact restyling and some fussier detailing - thought to be the work of Stile Bertone - the Italianate lines are still clear, even if the badge is unfamiliar and the front grille/rear fascia heavily Honda-influenced.

GAC, which builds local-market models for Honda and Toyota, intends to launch its own-brand range next year, headed up by this sedan. This model will be positioned part-way between large family models and luxury-class limousines. However, though re-engineered in Turin, it will be fitted with locally-sourced engines, and there are no plans for exports.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Guangbin Li Nian Roadster

The Li Nian brand, the product of a joint venture between Honda and local manufacturer Guangzhou Auto, showed this Roadster concept at the Shanghai auto show. Succeeding a five-door SUV/CUV concept based on the Jazz/Fit, the roadster was first seen at the Guangzhou Auto Show late last year.

Purely a design study to show the direction of the Li Nian brand - whose aim is to appeal to younger buyers - there are shades of S2000 and the Honda OSM concept in this long-nosed roadster's design aesthetic. But, as is the case with many Chinese market vehicles, the car's surfacing and detailing lack refinement.

The Li Nian brand will be trialed in China and India, with the hatchback the first model on sale next year. According to a spokeperson at Honda, the company has no intention of bringing the Roadster concept to production. Read our opinions of the concept in our

Buick Business Concept (w/ Gallery)

GM's Buick division is big in China, where it's a desirable luxury brand, and the six-seat Business Concept is intended as a high-class executive shuttle and alternative to the aged GL8 MPV (formerly known as Vauxhall/Opel Sintra) currently on offer. It's a coherent follow-up to the Buick Riviera concept shown in Shanghai in 2007.

Most hardware for the Concept comes from the Chevrolet Orlando, with the addition of a next-generation GM hybrid powertrain, but the Concept, like the Riviera, has been specifically designed and developed at the GM-SAIC PATAC Pan-Asia R&D center for the Chinese market.

The usual Buick design cues, including trademark 'waterfall' grille, have been applied to distinguish this purple-painted MPV from the workaday Chevy, and the burgundy/cream interior suitably spiffed-up with six multi-adjustable, armchair-like seats and suede carpeting; it incorporates traditional Chinese patterns in its trim, and Chinese crystal sculptures are evoked in its headlight design, says GM.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Chery Riich M1

China's government-owned Chery Auto will launch a B-segment hatchback called the Riich M1 at Auto Shanghai 2009. The Riich M1 is the first car to be produced from the five Faira concepts designed for the automaker by Italy's Torino Design and shown at Auto China 2008.

The B-segment car is aimed at young urbanites that live in the tier-one cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. It is expected to compete against the well-established Suzuki Swift, Honda Fit and Toyota Yaris, providing a cheaper alternative to the Japanese import vehicles.

Chery claims that beneath the M1's 'cute and bubbly' exterior lies an interior design that features a number of hi-tech options and luxurious details. We'll soon find out for ourselves.


Recent brand reshuffling from Geely has yielded three sub-brands: GLEAGLE (fashion, dream and passion), EMGRAND (luxury and power) and Shanghai EngLon (classic British-style design). The EMGRAND brand has released the first official photos of its EC718 production vehicle, set to be unveiled at Auto Shanghai 2009.

The EC718 is a C-segment-sized vehicle which will be offered in both sedan and hatch derivatives, and source power from 1.8-liter D-CVVT diesel and 2.0-liter gasoline engines. It is set to compete against the Chery A3, Lifan 620 and other domestic vehicles in the fast-growing and ultra-competitive domestic C segment, which sits a notch below the import C segment because of its lower price band.

As with many of the cars being released at Auto Shanghai 2009, official press material from Geely contains scarce information about the new car. But as one of only handful of production cars at the show, it should provide a realistic barometer of how far the Chinese cars have come in terms of design and technology.

Full-scale model of 5th Peugeot Design Competition winner revealed in Shanghai

A life-sized model of Carlos Arturo Torres Tovar's RD concept, for which the 26 year old Columbian designer won the 5th Peugeot Design competition, is on display at the Peugeot stand in Shanghai. The 'RD' concept was chosen via an online internet poll and a competition jury headed by Peugeot's Managing Director, Jean Philippe Collin in September last year.

The theme for the 2008 competition was 'Imagine the Peugeot in the worldwide megapolis of tomorrow'. Designers were asked to create images of a car 'for use in the center of the great urban cities of the future' which nonetheless incorporated recognized Peugeot styling cues and embodied key 21st century values. Four criteria were essential: environmental friendliness, social harmony, interactive mobility and economic efficiency.

The RD is a low-riding, squat three-wheeled single-seater promising on-road agility, ease of operation and 'irreproachable road-holding', says Peugeot, and looking solid and robust as well as futuristic. Yet whilst it retains an outline reminiscent of classic custom-built 'choppers', the RD reverses the usual trike layout by having its wide single wheel at the rear. The driver thus looks out from a full-length screen between the front wheels: think of this as a lower-slung, more aggressive modern take on the bubble-car theme, perhaps - Heinkel meets Hell's Angel.

Access to the driver's capsule is via the top-hinged front screen, which doubles as an opening canopy, and the driver's molded seat is nestled in front of the motor and electric propulsion system. The driver uses joystick- and tiller-influenced controls, a head-up display system and voice-messaging, which reduces the need for switchgear, an instrument panel and other cabin clutter.

The articulated structure gives flexibility to the RD's ride and handling, and 'the ability to easily thread its way through urban traffic'. Thanks to its electric powertrain, the RD is both silent and emissions-free.

Carlos Arturo Torres Tovar is from the small industrial town of Tunja and says that he has been working with clay, sculpting and modeling, since childhood. He abandoned his language studies to attend the Industrial Design School at the National University of Bogota, and has recently graduated.

The competition attracted over 2,500 entries from 95 different countries; a shortlist of 30 was selected, and then over 132,000 votes were cast online to choose ten finalists. The RD was pronounced the winner at last autumn's Paris Motor Show, and Torres Tovar has received a prize of €10,000, an XBox 360 console and a 1/45-scale model of his design - as well as a very worthwhile and well-deserved boost to his CV and the start of his career.

Geely GT Tiger concept

One of the most dramatic designs sporting a Chinese OEM badge at the 2009 Shanghai auto show was the GT or 'Geely Tiger'. Although attendees of the Beijing auto show in April 2008 will be already familiar with the basic sports coupe exterior shape, the 2009 version now features a complete four-seat interior accessed by working scissor doors and a new maroon metallic paint job plus engine details for the first time.

Powered by a 300bhp 3.5 V6 unit, it is fractionally wider, taller and shorter than the Maserati Gran Turismo it could rival, with a shorter wheelbase (2805mm vs. 2942mm). The large 'growling' but 'butterfly wing-topped' front grille features a series of lozenge-shaped and chrome-accented holes, while a forward character line extends from the front wheelarch to move almost horizontally back before undercutting another line coming from the rear wheelarch. Exaggerated brightwork wraps around the tail lights to help define the dynamism of the rear of the car and bisects another line rising up from the center of the color-coded bumper section to form a subtle 'x' graphic on both sides.

Geely's design chief Mike Ma told Car Design News the car was designed by Giugiaro and is destined for production in 2010. The doors still have no conventional handles, opening instead through intelligent sensing and identification, and the view behind is catered for via a hidden rear view mirror using video imaging technology.

Aside from these showcar touches the inside all looks very much production-ready with smart horizontally-ribbed sports seat cushions, bolstered black seat backs, a straightforward high center stack and console with red-lit controls to convey a sporty feel and a regular steering wheel and black and maroon IP.

Along with the IG city car (see separate report) it was one of the stars of the Geely exhibit and shows the growing confidence of the brand.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Bertone Mantide

The Mantide - 'praying mantis', in Italian - is a street-legal one-off developed by Stile Bertone for a client. Created by ex-Pininfarina designer Jason Castriota, the Mantide is based on the underpinnings and powertrain of the 620bhp Corvette ZR1, but with its own unique carbon fiber bodyshell and interior, it is some 220lbs lighter and promises even more impressive performance.

Bertone points to jet-fighter aircraft as an inspiration, notably for the teardrop-shaped fuselage and canopy; the wraparound passenger cell is accessed via butterfly-opening doors, and aerodynamic structural elements run full-length either side of the dark-tinted glass roof dome, meeting flying buttress-type rear pillars.

More aggressive and sharper-edged than the ZR1, the Mantide's distinctive detailing includes a honeycomb grille, large side air vents, bespoke headlamps and an extreme Kamm tail with a radical diffuser. Not just for show: aided by a flat floor, this all reduces aerodynamic drag by 25 percent, and improves downforce by 30 percent, crucial for high-speed safety in a 217mph supercar.

Read more about the Mantide in our 2009 Shanghai Motor Show Highlights and see the full gallery below.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Geely Global Hawk GX718

Auto Shanghai was today the stage for the release of the GLEAGLE GX718, a medium-size SUV from Geely Auto. While the computer-generated official images could easily be confused with those of other concepts from the Hangzhou-based company, the GX718 - dubbed 'Global Hawk' - is a production car developed from the NL concept shown in Beijing last year.

Measuring 4600mm long, 1855mm wide and 1720mm tall, the GX718 rides on a 2660mm wheelbase. The new car will be given the task of competing against the Dongfeng Honda CRV, Toyota RAV4 and Hyundai Santa Fe as well as domestic SUVs such as Chery's Tiggo5.

A number of different powertrains will be available, including 1.8-liter and 2.0-liter gasoline engines and a 2.2-liter diesel, along with a range-topping 2.4-liter gasoline engine. All powerplants meet EURO5 emissions standards.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Changan e301 concept

Changan Auto, one of China's five major domestic auto manufacturers, today revealed the e301 crossover concept. Going against the trend of other automakers of a similar size, Changan is planning to display only two concepts at the show. Developed in-house, the e301 crossover is quickly gathering interest as its blue-sky concept stands out from Shanghai's many production-based show cars.

Styling-wise, the overall design could easily have come straight out of the Citroën stable; the e301 is described by the company as a 'brand-new type of sports utility vehicle with a bold, innovative, fashionable design for young Chinese people'. The most notable aspects of its design include an asymmetrical deck design, split DLO and a 'fang-like' lower air intake.

Two different types of hybrid powertrains and a hydrogen fuel cell propulsion system power the e301 concept.

Geely GC515 & GC515 RV

Geely revealed the GC515 and GC515 RV at Auto Shanghai today. Designed by Italdesign's Chinese satellite studio, the GC515 (shown in red) and the GC515 RV (pictured in yellow) share the same platform and are positioned in the A0 supermini segment.

Part of the GLEAGLE sub-brand, Geely claims both cars were developed to attract young, fun-seeking yet environmentally conscious Chinese buyers - a segment that seeks vehicles which satisfy both functionality and a desire for style. Both models are expected to go into production, with domestic sales expected sometime in 2010.

Geely GE

Until recently, the Chinese domestic super luxury segment has been dominated by the state-owned Hongqi brand (also known as Red Flag), which specialized in developing limousines for high-ranking government officials and foreign diplomats.

At this year's Auto Shanghai, however, Geely Auto has chosen to show its own interpretation of Chinese luxury in the form of the GE sedan. When it hits production, the GE will be positioned as the flagship model in Geely's Englon sub-brand - a range of luxury vehicles with classic British-style design.

With an overall length of 5334mm, the GE's design is familiar; most of its design theme comes from its original European counterpart: the Rolls-Royce Phantom. Lavish details include separation glass between the driver and rear-seat passengers, a starlight headliner, wool carpeting and a rather unique center-mounted rear passenger seat.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

SAIC Roewe N1 concept

Roewe, the flagship domestic brand of Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC), has released this teaser rendering of the N1 concept set to debut at the forthcoming Auto Shanghai 2009 show.

Unlike the production 550, a handsome car that was one of only handful of actual production models at last year's Auto China in Beijing, the N1 was penned and developed by a 21-year old Chinese designer.

Though the N1 will be badged a 'concept', insiders have alluded that the car will go onto production, with the sale being forecasted around late 2009 or early 2010.

Two rather compact engines for its size - a 1.3-liter and a 1.5-liter four-cylinder - are set to power the production version, taking advantage of a recent government incentive providing tax breaks for small cars propelled by engines smaller than 1600cc.

Geely GT Tiger concept

Geely Auto, one of the 'Big 5' Chinese car manufacturers, is set to reveal 22 production and concept cars under three different sub-brands at Auto Shanghai 2009 next week. One of these will be the Geely Tiger, a sports GT concept first shown at Auto China in Beijing last year.

The Chinese automaker claims that this year's GT concept is much closer to the production version, with 90 per cent of the engineering problems - which forced it to display only the exterior dummy model a year ago - having been fixed. The model on show in Shanghai will be complete with an interior, functioning lamp details and butterfly doors.

The design, which polarized opinion due to its graphical details and deceiving size, will again be up for a critical review, with the only noticeable difference being a bodyside molding and a higher, more realistic, greenhouse.