Monday, April 22, 2019

#KIA Wows NY Auto Show With HabaNiro Concept [Auto Styling News]

At the New York Auto Show, KIA unveiled its vision of the future of electric vehicles, the HabaNiro concept. It's a fully-electric, all-wheel drive, four-seat car with an All Electric Range of more than 300 miles, level-five autonomous model. KIA claims that this is no "fanciful supercar that will likely never be built," but instead, a prescient look into the future.

Tom Kearns, vice president of design for Kia Design Center America, said the designers wanted the concept to be "comfortable navigating city streets, carving turns on a coastal road and off-roading with confidence to remote wilderness adventures." In other words, he says, "for everyone and nearly everything."

It's always pretty bold - and sometimes a huge error - to try to be everything to all people, but we have to take these pitches at face value as marketing hype, understanding that 99% of the time, these concepts, if built, will be headed to the dangerous terrain of the nearest Wal-Mart and mall parking lots.

But there's no doubt it looks bold. With its rugged 20-inch wheels, short overhangs and big haunches, the HabaNiro exudes coiled muscularity and capability.

The HabaNiro design is defined by the energetic interplay between the protective metallic grey cladding that encompasses the front wheels and extends onto the body sides and the bright
Lava Red" aero panel that defines the C-pillar and extends up and over the roof. The gull-wing doors may be mentioned in passing here, and then ignored, since they cannot be mass produced and won't make it to production.

These two elements create a vibrant energy and a forward-leaning posture that suggests the HabaNiro is ready to pounce. This latent forward energy is reinforced by the single elegant character line that wraps around the front end, extends through the shoulder, and ends dynamically pointed at the rear wheels.

The HabaNiro grille resembles a shark’s snout, complete with a slit-like gap full of gloss black aluminum “teeth” similar to the cooling blades found on high-end electronic equipment. The EV chassis architecture allowed the wheels to be pushed to the corners, giving the HabaNiro its wide and confident stance.

The rear of the HabaNiro is surprisingly bland, with a long panel rear gate that is without character. They must fix this in production if it make it to car lots. 

Satin aluminum skid plates, milled billet aluminum tow hooks, anodized Lava Red aluminum accents, and the embossed HabaNiro name complement the upscale look while suggesting the vehicle’s adventure-ready attitude.

Monday, March 11, 2019

#KIA Unveils Handsome "Imagine" Electric Concept At #GenevaMotorShow [Auto Styling News]

Kia Motors has revealed its new all-electric concept car, ‘Imagine by Kia’, at the 2019 Geneva International Motor Show, and it's quite handsome.

Coherently drawing together elements of a muscular sports utility vehicle, a sleek and athletic family saloon, and a versatile and spacious crossover, the company says the Imagine is intentionally designed to not sit within the industry’s predefined vehicle categories.

"Automotive design is about capturing the heart and making it beat that bit faster for that bit longer. We believe that there’s absolutely no reason why that should change simply because the car is electric,” says Gregory Guillaume, Vice President of Design for Kia Motors Europe. “That’s why our all-electric concept is designed to not only get your pulse racing, but to also signpost our holistic and emotional approach to electrification.:

The concept is KIA's first pure electric four-door passenger car. The Imagine is underpinned by a low-mounted, induction-charged battery pack that powers a compact drivetrain.

Reinterpreting Kia’s iconic ‘tiger nose’ grille, Imagine features a bold new illuminated ‘tiger mask’ that encircles the main LED headlamp units. Separated by horizontal ‘eyelids’, the dipped and main beam units are housed with a single block of clear acrylic glass, creating the effect of piercing eyes floating free of visible support.

The look is "striking" says KIA, but one has to be cautious about analogies to eyes, eyebrows and eyelids on headlamps, as Chrysler's infamous, unintentionally hilarious ads for the 2011 200 illustrated. 

One could easily also compare them less charitably to a raccoon's "mask," although the look is undeniably handsome, and instantly recognizable, much like the headlights of  a Dodge Charger or Ford Mustang, or the menacing tail lamps of a late model Dodge Durango.

From the side, the curvature of the vehicle really is striking, most noticeable, the huge C-pillar, which surely will be either reduced in a production model, because it greatly reduces visibility, even while it looks amazing. But the gently sloping windscreen, sharply bending roofline and long rear window give the car a rakish, masculine shape. A single pane of glass covers the windscreen and the roof, which may or may not survive into production (surely it's expensive.)

There's a shoulder-line crease running along the entire length of both sides of the car, continued in the rear with horizontal tail lamps, which are housed within deep-set tunnels to create a three-dimensional effect, with the looped lights extending outwards as they grow in size.

A single sheet of glass is used for both the windscreen and roof, flowing from the base of the A-pillar and over the cabin to create a vast sky-window, before tapering into a double-bubble over the rear passenger compartment.

The front turn signals, located high up on the sharp-edged hood, feature illuminated glowing elements that appear to float in fins of clear acrylic glass.

In  a world of look-alike SUVs, the rear of this vehicle alone will make it stand out. A symphony of curved glass and sheetmetal, tail lights that look inspiring, and an intended roofline that seems to be being hugged by the C-Pillars, there's no way to mistake it for any other vehicle.

Let's hope SOME of this makes it past the bean-counters and to the streets.

Showing that car designers have a keen, even wicked, sense of humor (one hopes!) 21 individual ultra high-resolution screens curve their synchronized way across the top of the dashboard in a layout that is (says KIA) "at the same time both casual and coordinated." According to Ralph Kluge, Kia Motors Europe’s general manager of interior design, "These 21 incredibly thin screens are a humorous and irreverent riposte to the on-going competition between some automotive manufacturers to see who can produce the car with the biggest screen."

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

#Toyota Supra Looks Great, But Some Only See A BMW [Auto Styling News]

Sports car enthusiasts have been waiting more than 20 years for the return of Supra and will soon be able to purchase the 2020 Toyota GR Supra for about $50,000.

For those fans and collectors anxious to be among the first owners of this iconic sports car, the initial 1,500 production Supras for the U.S. will be Launch Edition models starting at $55,250. Each will be uniquely numbered and have distinctive features signifying the exclusivity and excitement of Supra’s return. Toyota dealers will be handling all orders and the Launch Edition models go on sale in Summer 2019 starting at $55,250.

The Supra Launch Edition will be available in exterior colors of Absolute Zero White, Nocturnal Black or Renaissance Red 2.0, each featuring high-contrast red mirror caps and 19-inch forged matte black alloy wheels.

The Absolute Zero White and Nocturnal Black Supra Launch Editions will have a red interior. Each of the racing-inspired seats will be wrapped in red leather, with red leather steering wheel grips, and a red center console with carbon-fiber accents.

The Renaissance Red 2.0 Supra Launch Edition will feature a black leather-trimmed interior, with black seats, a black steering wheel, and black center console. The black interior will also feature carbon-fiber accents.

The first 1,500 Supras will feature an individually numbered carbon-fiber badge on the passenger-side dashboard complete with a graphic of Toyota Motor Corporation President and Master Driver Akio Toyoda’s signature.

The design bears a great resemblance to the most recent iteration of the car, the A80, which was produced from 1993 to 2002. The final design bore some resemblance to the 2014 FT-1 concept car, though with much toned down features.

The Supra is powered by two BMW-sourced engine options, and some critics say the interior is ripped from a BMW Z4. The exterior, too, has been accused of having a rather Teutonic/German style, and in a way, that's not an entirely bad comparison. (Though BMW is openly saying that the Z4 has a more powerful engine!)

The Pontiac-like nose juts outward, dangling between the two, large headlamps, which look like panthers about to pounce. They are placed on a bulging, Z4-like hood, that begs the question, "What's under that thing?" before one even asks the question. The side windows are small, and are finished off with a Hofmeister-kink style rear window. In front of both wheels are large, Lexus-like vents (likely not operational or useful.)

Another cut exists on the hood parallel with the windscreen that makes one wonder if the car has been in a knife fight. There's little question, however, whether it WON that fight. This small car screams masculinity in a way a Miata never could.

The rear of the Supra really shows the amazing curves on this thing. While rear visibility seems severely compromised by the large rear spoiler, the heart-shaped curvature of the rear window, indented rooftop and C-pillars - which curve inward at a sharp angle - are a sight to see, and the tail lights sit atop two large cuts that swoop downward, forming dramatic frames to the dual exhaust ports.

In short, this BMW-like Toyota is a quite ballsy sports car, and whether Toyota purists will enjoy the few Lexus-like hat-tips in the design or whether they'll shun it like they would a 3-series sedan remains to be seen.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

#BMW iNEXT Revealed; Points To New Design Direction [Auto Styling News]

Citing "human-centered design" and a radical new front end, the 2019 iteration of the electric BMW Vision iNEXT debuted at the Los Angeles Auto Show this year.

And you're either going to love or hate the styling, from the first time you lay eyes on it.

BMW says the Vision iNEXT "provides an insight into the future of personal mobility." And it sure looks "futuristic." If produced as-is (which is of course highly unlikely) it would be extremely distinctive on the road. And yes, it's almost all about that front end.

The BMW's traditional "kidney" shaped grille remains in place, sort of, in a grossly elongated form. Taking its cue, perhaps, from modern Lexus design, this grille has metastasized to cover a full third of the front of this crossover. 

The car otherwise is angular, and frankly impressive. BMW calls it the "i design" language, and its meant to signal how all its vehicles will look in upcoming years. Large front-end scoops, which, like large grilles, are a popular trend, find their place here, as do the thin, super-bright headlamps. The traditional BMW red, white and black badge seems too small for this design, however, smothered by the humongous grille.

There's a lot "new" to this car, especially technologically. Autonomous driving, Connectivity, Electrification and Services (ACES) – have been incorporated into a single vehicle. Some elements, like cameras standing in for the absent side mirrors, clearly won't make it to production.

The concept car's color - the stunning Liquid Greyrose Copper paint finish, which is said to gradually change in shade from warm copper to dark rose - hopefully finds its way onto production cars, and becomes a trend.

The side view is praiseworthy, in that it doesn't look like every other car on the road. More wagon-like than SUV in stance, this car would be recognizable if it comes to America in this form. The "suicide" doors won't make it to production, but the "floating" roof gimmick likely will, and that would be one regret.

The exterior features powerfully sculpted surfaces curved like muscles onto the flanks, meant to project unbridled dynamism and give the exterior greater impact.

At the front, the windscreen merges seamlessly into a large panoramic roof. At the rear, the horizontal lines and surfaces create a wide and dynamic stance, and the slim rear lights cut deep into the car’s tail.

The air flows along the roof of the BMW Vision iNEXT all the way to its trailing edge, and this combines with a diffuser – illuminated for extra effect – said to enhance the car's aerodynamics.

Aside from the "floating roof" concept below it, the diffuser is an attractive styling element and a highly functional one, too: besides its positive influence over the car's aerodynamics, it meant to also increase electric range.

And make no mistake - this car is coming, in some form or another. BMW says the iNEXT's first production model will roll off the assembly line at Plant Dingolfing starting in 2021.

Monday, August 20, 2018

#BMW Leaks Photos Of 2019 #Z4 Ahead Of #PebbleBeach Reveal [Auto Styling News]

It has a long hood, short overhangs, a low center of gravity, and soft top. It's the soon-to-be revealed BMW Z4, and BMW has just "leaked" photos of the iconic car before its debut at Pebble Beach later this month. The photos of this 2019 model were leaked on Instagram.

It's face looks aggressive, with a large, aggressive front fascia, featuring an enormous interpretation of the traditional "kidney-shaped" grille openings, and a large scoop underneath, with more openings at the sides.

These are topped by large, fierce-looking headlights, all of which make the BMW hood badge look tiny by comparison. But of course perhaps that the point.

Commentators note that the front is more aggressive and larger than a previous concept vehicle, as are the lamps and mirrors.

The side features a scoop behind the front wheel wells and some sexy sculpted work on the lower door panels that avoid being compared to the "Bangle" days but still evoke that curvaceous era.

The tail is just as smart, featuring wrap-around tail lamps and a built-in spoiler that's not too large for the vehicle. The rear bumper looks like it's melting away, swooping around the licence tag area and dipping down into rear scoops that continue the aggressive, manly look of the front fascia. Dual exhausts round out the look nicely.

Monday, August 6, 2018

2019 #Audi #Q8 Luxury Mini-Ute Features Coupe-Like Elegance, SUV Seating [Auto Styling News]

Sharing a name (Q8) with a Middle Eastern nation probably appeals to a wealthy market there, if that was the thinking behind the name of the 2019 Audi Q8, which shares a platform with the Bentley Bentayga, Lamborghini Urus, and Porsche Cayenne, and aspires to the same luxury lineage.

Combining the elegance of a coupe with the functionality of an SUV, the Audi Q8 debuted in June at the Audi Brand Summit in Shenzhen, China. It will hit US showrooms at the end of 2018.

Inside, the five-passenger SUV offers advanced connectivity, infotainment and driver assistance systems, combined with capable driving dynamics, to set a new standard as the top SUV model from the Audi brand.

The Q8 introduces the brand’s new SUV design language. And it is at once stunning and aggressive. The large, single frame grille with its octagonal shape, combined with massive, highly contoured air inlets, give the vehicle a commanding presence on the road. The LED headlamp fixtures are blessedly angular, as is the entire vehicle, forever putting to bed the "upside-down bathtub" look of the mid-to-late 2000s.

The sloping roofline ends in gently inclined D-pillars and the pronounced wheel arches pay homage to the vehicle’s Quattro DNA, and hint at a couple-like shape, though not as much as, say, the Mercedes CLA. Along with the standard color palate of whites, grays and of course, black, the Q8 will be offered in a stunning "Dragon Orange" (shown here) or a brilliant "Navarre Blue."

A rather handsomely wrought light strip connects the tail lights at the rear of the vehicle, and in an homage to the original Audi Quattro, a black surface underlines and connects this strip. The indenture of the strip is mimicked in the light fixtures, themselves.

As is becoming common on all five-doors and SUVs, a sun-shielding overhang protrudes over the top of the rear window, which will both keep rain and sun from the glass. Rear visibility seems like it will be slightly hindered by the small rear window and somewhat large-looking C-pillars, as is the case with many other 5-door mini-utes.

But the vehicle overall has a gorgeous look to it - more car-like than SUV - which leads one to call this a Mini-Ute, or a full-on Ute. The available 22-inch wheels will definitely give it that appearance, despite the long-ish hood, which takes it solidly into the "car" realm.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Chinese Electric Car Company BYTON Unveils Sexy Autonomous electric #KByte Concept [Auto Styling News]

Fresh off a successful round of funding, in which it raised a reported $$ million, Chinese electric car company BYTON has introduced the K-Byte autonomous concept car, and it's a beauty.

The company opines:
"Freed from driving, it is time to expand your personal comfort in your car. Thanks to its intuitive user interface, BYTON K-Byte Concept turns the vehicle into a living and working space. You can enjoy all the benefits of being chauffeured without being confined to the back seat."
The K-Byte's autonomous tech was developed by Aurora Innovation, which was started by the former head of Google's self-driving car division Waymo. The K-Byte was designed by Benoit Jacob. Before joining BYTON, Jacob served as BMW Group’s vice president of design, and was responsible for the design of the innovative i3 and i8 electric cars, and designed 2008's BMW M1 Hommage concept.

With a lineage like that, perhaps Elon Musk and Tesla should be worried about the 2020s and the future of competition in the autonomous electric market.

This car is unique in so many ways it's hard to begin describing it. The glorious (or wild) front end, featuring a beautifully detailed headlamp feature that will either remind one of the Joker's painted on smile, the front end of a 1989-era Mercury Sable, or simply a beautiful art piece. We'll go with the more flattering description here.

The frontpiece is adorned with the clever "B" logo of the company, which reminds one of the Bentley B, or of Bitcoin's, and the BYTON name is appropriately sized here in these images (which are all digital, since not one of these has yet to be built - production is at least three years off.)

Absolutely necessary for this to be an autonomous vehicle are the pieces on the roof and sides, which resemble smokers a beekeeper might use, or elegant lamps used on carriages of old. But even THEY look elegant, and are of a beautiful black lacquer that is in keeping with this vehicle's pretentions - that of a luxury car. And it does look luxurious.

The sides are curvaceous, with a "cut" in the lower door panel, sloping gently to the rear tire, giving it all great depth, and a pointed, dainty rear side panel that reminds immediately of the 2006 Spyker D12 "Peking to Paris" concept (irony noted) a concept that SHOULD have been built, but is now somewhat reincarnated in this concept.

The rear quarters are equally gorgeous, with a wrap-around tail light feature that is thin and dainty and manages to be utterly unique. The rear is instead dominated by a large metal strip featuring again the BYTON B, which looks elegant.

What say you? Should they build it as is, make changes, or give up before they start?

Photos: BYTON website.