Monday, March 20, 2017

#VW Shows Off Sexy #Arteon At Geneva Auto Show [Auto Styling News]

The lackluster sales of the Passat/CC has led VW to replace it with a dramatically styled replacement that - lo, and behold - will actually go on sale later this year as a 2018 model! (*In Europe. Probably later in the USA.)

Shocking, perhaps, that a concept (itself based on the GTE Coupe Concept from 2015) will actually go on sale, unlike the numerous iterations of the 1960s VW Bug, the latest of which we won't dignify with a comment. What's even more shocking is that this is a really beautiful design.

Dr. Elmar-Marius Licharz, head of the mid- and full-size vehicle lines for Volkswagen, raves about its design.

"The car looks simply great – it both arouses emotions and creates desirability," he said. "Many of the details of the show car have made it into real production."

Yes, it does. The company is calling the car a "fastback," which technically means a car's roofline merges smoothly into its tail in one, smooth, seamless curve. Indeed  that's the case here, though if its meant to evoke the old VW Bug, that's not the case, but it's still beautifully wrought. (The Type 3 Fastback sedan of the late 1960s is a better analogy, as the company points out.)

The name Arteon is a portmanteau of "art" and "eon," the suffix that cleverly signifies all high-end luxury models within the Volkswagen brand worldwide. The Arteon’s integrated grille, LED headlamps and daytime running lights with chrome trim that connects all three elements presents the new “face” of the Volkswagen brand.

Compared to the outgoing CC, the Arteon is longer and wider, while its fastback profile allows for a true hatchback trunk. It’s also space efficient, with up to 55 cubic feet of cargo space when the rear seats are folded down.

LED taillights and 20-inch wheels combined with a SEXY shoulder line that runs the length of the body, highlighting the Arteon’s sporty nature.

The car does have a problem, however, and it's a problem I call "the Audi Problem."

The company's website says, "while the Arteon offers a premium appearance, it will not carry a huge price tag." Lichartz is quoted as saying it's "the perfect car for people who appreciate great style and great value for money. That is how we are challenging premium car makers without becoming one ourselves." While Volkswagen assuredly is NOT a luxury car company, it's sure approaching one when it puts out such a high-end vehicle as this, and one like the much-maligned CC.

And the problem with all that is that Volkswagen HAS a luxury brand: Audi. And it undercuts sales of new and even used Audis when it puts out a "near-luxury" luxury car such as this.

Audi has long struggled to get itself back on top after a decade or two of floundering sales with cars that looked like, well, flounders. This car, admittedly beautiful and luxurious, is part of Volkswagen's "Audi Problem," because it most assuredly cuts into sales of its A3 entry-level car - which strangely resembles, and perhaps, the Arteon even RIVALS with its gorgeous sheetmetal curves

As KIA is learning with its poorly selling upscale K900 model, a non-luxury car company is NOT a luxury car company, nor can it be. Leave that to the upscale version of your brand (or in the case of KIA, *build* a luxury brand) and then don't try to compete with it.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

#Bentley Set To Unveil Sexy 6e Electric Supercar [Auto Styling News]

Making its debut at the 2017 Geneva International Motor Show in mid-March, Bentley's EXP 12 Speed 6e concept represents a bold statement on the future of electric cars, and of luxury mobility.

Designed to transform the EV sector in both concept and execution, the EXP 12 Speed 6e fuses the unrivaled hand craftsmanship for which Bentley is famous, with electric performance, heart-stopping design and the range of a true grand tourer.

Bentley aims to create the world's first true luxury electric sports car, Will they succeed? The exterior screams, "Yes, they probably will."

The exterior body is a sleek expression of sports car design, inspired by contemporary architecture, aircraft fuselages and the geometry of the natural world. That's what Bentley's press release states. What it really looks like - in many respects - is the latest version of their Continental. Which isn't bad news by any stretch. Both are utterly gorgeous.

In a clear evolution of Bentley’s design DNA, it takes the brand's trademark muscular haunch and powerline to exhilarating new heights. The short front overhang, long bonnet and wide, planted rear aspect all contribute to an unmistakable sense of speed, while the iconic matrix grille features an exquisite smoked stainless steel finish. Contrasting copper highlights offer subtle acknowledgement of the car’' status as a fully electric vehicle, while an illuminated ‘6’ logo can be seen through the grille.

The tail lamps are smooth ovals that will punctuate the darkness and look like nothing else on the road. That's important, when many luxury vehicles resemble their own company's sub-luxury cars because they raid their parts bin, or somehow ending up like pricier Hyundais.

Throughout the car, form coexists with function to support a more sustainable future. The twin hood scoops, for example, are actually functional, acting as heat sinks to keep down the temperature of the car's batteries and drivetrain, without the need for additional cooling tech.

Like the Tesla and other electrics, the 6e boasts neck-breaking acceleration and all the latest tech inside. Will this be enough to give the automaker an advantage in the luxury market as well as the electric market? Hard to say. All that can be said is this is one sexy beast!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Dubuc Motors Set To Unveil Stunning Tomahawk Electric Car [Auto Styling News]

Dubuc Motors is about to start taking orders for the Tomahawk: a devastatingly gorgeous $125,000 electric sports car that has a range of 370 miles and goes from zip  to 60 in a whopping 3 seconds. "Take my money."

The company says the spacious 2+2 seater will be built in North America (hopefully in the USA, otherwise they'll get a call from Trump) and will

It's the culmination of 12 years of difficult R&D for the two owners, who say they're "ordinary guys" who wanted to find an alternative to the Big car companies. Mission Accomplished, looking at the curvy beauty that is the Tomahawk.

You can reserve one of these monsters for $5,000 on their website. They'll come in six colors: green, black, two tone, red, yellow, and orange. The company plans to begin production this year.

Self-funded for the past 10 years, Dubuc Motors is now seeking investors who want a stake in their company. With the capital raised through an equity crowdfunding campaign, the Dubuc team hopes to produce the final version of the Tomahawk model and unveil it at the Los Angeles Auto Show in 2017. With investor help, they plan to increase the workforce of engineers, fabricators and designers to 60.

The Tomahawk features twin electric motors - in the front and rear - sleek scissor doors, a panoramic roof, a built-in WiFi hotspot, hands-free voice commands, and a live 360 degree camera. The car is made of aluminum with a carbon fiber interior. The ride height can be raised or lowered using an adjustable air suspension.

The exterior almost speaks for itself. A gorgeous cab-forward design is very American, and signals strength and vigor, like a cat ready to pounce. The aforementioned 0-60 in 3 seconds figure shows it's not all just posturing.  The Tomahawk is the first model of many to be commercialized from a universal chassis, which also allows for the production of other electric vehicles targeting niche markets within the industry.

The "blacked out" rear panel is amazingly handsome, with tail lamps pushed as far as possible to the edges, making the car seem very wide indeed.

Monday, January 16, 2017

#Audi Shocks With Gorgeous 2018 Q8 Concept [Auto Styling News]

Audi has revealed the near-production model of the 2018 Audi Q8 at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. And it's a beast.

Elegant, angular, and large,  the Q8 concept has emotional and handsome sight lines that make it a bit of a break from Audi's "upside down bathtub" designs of the past. This new corporate look is angular and fierce.

Audi crows, legitimately, that this is a shrewd combination of a spacious SUV with the emotional lines of a coupe. It will come with a powerful, yet highly efficient plug-in hybrid with 330 kW of system output and 516.3 lb-ft of torque. The concept car is the basis for a production model that Audi will launch on the market in 2018, Audi assures. If so, Audi is in for a bit of a renaissance.

Despite the sloping, coupe-like roof line, even the rear-seat passengers enjoy ample head and shoulder room. The front view of the 6.7 ft wide Q8 concept is already impressive, on first glance. The massive and impressive octagonal grill has a honeycomb insert that's significantly wider than in today's Audi production models.

The flat, wedge-shaped headlights of the Audi Q8 concept are integrated progressively into the exterior and connected from a design perspective to the surrounding air inlets. The individual lighting units have glass covers, but the headlights as a whole are open. The lights are a very welcome change from previous models, which gave Audis a rounded and bulbous appearance.

The side view is equally dynamic. The doors here have window frames, thus contributing to the flat roofline. The Audi Q8 concept is 5.6 ft. tall. All lines on the body climb upward dynamically toward the rear – the bottom edge of the side window, the shoulders, the dynamic line and the sill lines.

The surfaces of the fenders, doors and side panels are athletically curved. The lower section of the doors form a deep fillet. Other design features are the Quattro logo milled below the rear doors and also the exterior mirrors with their multifaceted edges. The doors are opened via touch sensors. As soon as the door detects hand contact, it opens easily and swings to a defined opening angle.

The extremely flat and very wide C-pillar is reminiscent of the Audi Quattros of the 1980s, as are the strongly flared shoulders over the wheels. This places the concept car in a logical line with the show cars of the Audi Prologue series.

A long roof edge spoiler shades the extremely flat rear window of the Audi concept. A double spoiler lip below the window forms a distinctive contour on the power luggage compartment hatch.

The strip of lights extends over the entire width of the rear end. And if there's a quibble with the design, it's that this thin rear light structure *may* too closely resemble that of a modern Lincoln. If you love Lincolns, that's great. If you view Lincolns as tarted-up Fords, it's not.

The license plate of the Audi Q8 concept is located on a black trim strip between the lights – a historic feature of the Audi Quattro. Clearly, they're hearkening back to their heritage here, and if they keep this design in relatively the same format to the production model, they will revive the brand and boost sales to the stratosphere in the US and Europe.

Photos: Audi Media Center

Monday, January 9, 2017

#Honda's Self-Driving NeuV #Concept Reads Emotions, Drives Strangers To Work [Auto Styling News]

Honda has unveiled the self-driving electric NeuV concept at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas that's part AI, part robotics, and part Uber.

The NeuV concept (pronounced "new-v" and stands for New Electric Urban Vehicle) was designed around the fact that privately-owned vehicles sit idle 96 percent of the time, while the owner sleeps, works or is otherwise away from the car. The NeuV seeks to create new value for its owner by functioning as an automated ride-sharing vehicle, picking up and dropping off customers at local destinations when the owner isn't using the car.

Yes, you read that correctly. Your car will drive around and pick up strangers while you're at work. Amazing. And kinda scary. But if this self-aware UberBot can make money on the side (and shares it with us!) then who are we not to embrace this change.

The NeuV also can sell energy back to the electric grid during times of high demand when it's not in use. These actions alone have the potential to create a new business model for enterprising customers who want to "monetize" their cars, says Honda.

The two-seater also functions as helpful Artificial Intelligence assistant, using an "emotion engine", an emerging technology developed by Honda and SoftBank.

Called HANA (Honda Automated Network Assistant), in its application in the NeuV, the "emotion engine" will learn from the driver by detecting the emotions behind the driver's judgments and then, based on the driver's past decisions, make new choices and recommendations. HANA can check on the driver's emotional well-being, make music recommendations based on mood, and support the owner's daily driving routine.

One pictures HANA saying, "You look really agitated by this heavy traffic, Dave. Can I take over the wheel for a bit?"

The NeuV features a full touch panel interface enabling both the driver and passenger to access a simple and convenient user experience.

So, how does the NeuV look?

In shape, one could make comparisons to any number of city car concepts, most recently the Swiss Rinspeed Oasis (debuting at the same show) and the Russian "Mirrow Provocator." Basically, both are really, really square. The boxy Scion IQ also comes to mind, from the front, anyway, as does the VW "BUDD-e" electric van concept, in style as well as in its pretensions to tech supremacy.

The two-seater has a good-sized storage area in back, and an electric skateboard for "last mile" transit, which in the concept, hangs in the back window like a shotgun in a country boy's pickup truck.

Outstanding outward visibility is achieved by a headerless windshield and a dramatically sloping belt line that is said to make maneuvering easy. (I say "said to" because this is so obviously a one-off that wont' see production in this decade that's all speculation how it drives.

The rear features tail lams that are, um, dramatic (to say the least.) They make anything Volvo has ever done seem TAME by comparison. Arching over both the sides and top of the rear "lip" these LED lights are sure to make it abundantly clear that its coming to a halt. Heck, it will be clear to the entire city it's driving in!

It's obvious to everyone that Syd Mead - the Visual Futurist for the 1982 film classic "Blade Runner," was prescient about the direction of vehicles by the end of the Twenty-Teens. Like, Nostradamus prescient!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

#Infiniti Set To Unveil #QX50 Concept At Detroit Auto Show [Auto Styling News]

Infiniti is set to debut its QX50 concept at this month's 2017 Detroit Motor Show, an evolution of the QX Inspiration Concept it teased in Beijing in 2016.

The luxury brand says the QX50 Concept could be adapted for production. What's clear is that it will show the company's design direction for the future. And it's a pretty sweet direction!

A preliminary review of the earlier concept, which again, will likely be replicated in the soon-to-be-revealed "real" concept:

The bold front grille on the "teaser" concept is the place to start - with a large badge that really works for the vehicle and gives it the proper "heft." The LED headlamps are thin, as is the current trend, and they wrap around the side of the hood, standing atop mighty air scoops, which may or may not be functional. Attractive creases continue down the sides, with an indention that do clearly help with drag coefficient. The roof bars are classy and add distinction.

The "reverse Hofmeister kink" in the rear pillar is carried over from other models, and is distinctive. The rear features another large logo and beautiful tail lamps.

The QX50 Concept will feature what Infiniti calls the "first production-ready incarnation" of its semi-autonomous ProPilot system, which can handle stop and go traffic for the driver, keep the car inside a lane, and maintain distance to a vehicle in front.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

China-Backed #LucidMotors Unveils 2018 Air Luxury Sedan [Auto Styling News]

Chinese-backed American car brand Lucid Motors has unveiled a car that will sell for over $100,000 and will put Tesla on notice by offering better range and a more powerful battery than Elon Musk's vehicle line-up. Headquartered in Menlo Park, California, the company is headed by Chief Technology Officer Peter Rawlinson, who is the former Tesla Model S chief engineer.

The Lucid Air, scheduled to go into production in 2017 and hit showrooms in late 2018, will put out 1,000 horsepower and have a range of 400 miles, claims the company. It will come out of a new Casa Grande Arizona assembly plant with about a 100 kWh battery, but an optional battery back of 130 kWh will give it that 400+ mile range. The company has a deal with Samsung SDI to supply its batteries.

That range, along with the stunning shape and gorgeous interior of the teaser/concept model unveiled on Dec 14, will make it not only a competitor with Tesla, but also the BMW 7 Series and the Mercedes S-Class line of cars.

From the side, the large wheelbase tends to set it apart from other luxury cars, though the shape can be compared somewhat to the Porsche Panamera in the rear, and the side's radical indention at the lower doors is similar to the Jaguar F-Pace.

But it's perhaps being too critical to see hints of other designs here, especially since, unlike many early models from Korean or Japanese auto companies, there's nothing that's obviously derivative in the Air. It does quite different in almost every way from all other cars on the road. It's lower, for starters (which is likely necessary to achieve amazing drag coefficients) and it's wheels are huge (seemingly 20" rims.) The roof is a solid pane of glass, which, again, is standard on luxury vehicles and sport- and mini-Utes alike these days, but this is rather elegant here nonetheless.

The headlamps are thin LEDs and are extremely attractive. The rear is quite handsome, with a solid bar across the entire back end, with "LUCID" clearly delineated in the center. That name placement is important for name recognition, and it's telling that they didn't make the mistake (IMO) that Jaguar made when they failed to place their name on the earlier versions of their most recent line-up, which barely looked like Jags.

The joy of a new car company is that there's no "heritage" to look up to, or to deter it from going in radical new directions, but also there's nothing on which to build. Lucid is going to have to start from scratch - not only in design, but also by building a new assembly plant and hiring and training new employees. It's a huge commitment, and we'll see if they're up to the task. Other electric car start-ups like Fisker Automotive have found 

Interestingly, the Chinese company backing Lucid, LeEco, is also behind two other electric car ventures: its own LeSee, which we've profiled here, and the Faraday Future.

Photos: Lucid Motors.