Archive for the ‘Concept Cars’ Category
Wednesday, August 17th, 2011
Audi Urban Concept Car
It will be interesting to see what people at the 2011 Frankfurt motor show think of the Audi Urban Concept. Car manufacturers, and Audi is no exception, seem to think that, to drum up excitement at these shows, they must come up with designs that would never sell in the real world. There are some sound ideas at work here though, and even some design philosophies in the sketches that could iron out of if you modified a few things. Of course, the 21 inch wheels which don’t appear to wear tires, the sliding cockpit canopy roof, and other such real world impossibilities would have to go.
What is good, however, is the cycle fender wheel covers, and clean sheet, light weight design. I also like the ribbon over the car that is an apparent nod to the R8. Other things, like the seating positions are a little hokey. The passenger seat resides a few inches back from the drivers, á la the VW XL1 concept, presumably to allow for shoulder space in an otherwise cramped quarters, but like other manufacturers who are doing similar things including tandem seating, e.g. Renault Twizzy, they seem to forget that humans are social creatures, we like to talk, or at least see each other. On the other hand, these being urban roundabouts perhaps the drive is just short enough that we can do without each other for the time being.
The Urban Concept utilizes carbon fiber reinforced plastic for the chassis, with the bucket seats molded in, further evidence that carbon is not just for looks and supercars anymore. The drivetrain is all electric, as you have no doubt guessed, and incorporates two “e-tron” motors, whether these are the same motors as those from the high powered e-tron concept is unknown. In fact, any and all information regarding performance is still under wraps for now.
Audi is on a roll lately, releasing car after car, a small around town electric would make sense and a great addition to the stable. The Urban Concept in particular could fill that niche, and do so handsomely. There is a masculinity and quality to this car that many others seem to lack.
I for one am looking forward to the 2011 Frankfurt show in September. I’ll be paying attention when Audi pulls the sheet off of this one, as there are plenty of questions surrounding the car. It’ll be interesting to see Audi fill in the blanks.
Wednesday, July 27th, 2011
Aston Martin Lagonda SUV
A new Lagonda, which is really a Mercedes M class, but with the heart, and XXL clothes of an Aston Martin. Confusing, but wait, it gets worse.
A quick rundown for those unfamiliar. Lagonda was a car company founded in 1899, the first production car was built in 1909 by an American in England. David brown, owner of Aston Martin, in 1947, bought Lagonda, because he wanted the use of the Lagonda engine, which was designed by Bentley. Confused? Good, me too.
This is the auto industry, of course, so unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few decades you are probably at least a little familiar with “badge engineering”, which, from my point of view, is not the villain some make it out to be. It’s simply a fact, in our global marketplace this type of platform sharing should go on, and yet for the most part Aston Martin has been able to side step the practice. There are those that say Aston rebadges its own cars, and with their latest offering, the Virage, I couldn’t agree more. However, the biggest “cheat”, without a doubt, is the Cygnet. Basically a Toyota iQ that runs you around $50,000.00 to start. Emissions compliance? Must be, but who buys these? Moving on.
Aston Martin, some might say, may be having a bit of an identity issue, and from the look of the Lagonda it doesn’t appear to be getting any better. With one glance at the Lagonda, it would seem that Aston is keeping a tight grip on their current design idealism, and while many would bemoan that fact, it could be a welcome fact, if for no other reason than to be able to point out an Aston, and know for sure which one it is. For those who love them, you could never talk them out of it, but the pulse of the industry really does have Astons look, bar maybe the One-77, as getting a little long in the tooth. There’s little doubt, they are beautiful cars, but they were the same kind of beautiful 10 years ago.
Aston says the SUV will be going to markets where the Lagonda brand may be remembered, and as luck would have it, those same countries, basically Russia and China, have expanding luxury SUV market share growth. Under those circumstances, the idea doesn’t appear to be so crazy after all.
Aston is bringing back the Lagonda name, and they are pooling their resources to do it. No crime there, and I’ll give Aston an “A” for effort, but can they get people to buy an SUV that costs as much or more than a DBS, but looks more like a Cygnet on steroids? That’s the real question. I’m sure I’m not alone in hoping Aston can pull this off, most of us want to see Aston win in the end, and who knows, with an influx of cash, they just might design something that doesn’t look 10 years past its “sell by” date.
The latest word is Aston have taken on-board a lot of criticism about the proposed Lagonda and put it on hold, with plans instead to build a Lagonda sedan based on the current Rapide model. If this is true and they do indeed scrap the plans they currently have for the Lagonda, then they will save themselves a lot of time, money and reputation, and hopefully build something else much more likable.
Monday, July 11th, 2011
Ford FPV GT Black Concept
Ford Performance Vehicles or FPV, as it’s known in Australia, calls it simply the FPV Concept. Pulling off the wraps in Melbourne, at the Australian International Motor show, they might have come up with a more creative name, on the other hand, perhaps they spent every brain cell figuring out how to make this GT based car impossibly cool.
It’s interesting to note that while the rest of the world is figuring out how to emit nothing more than pine trees, and puppy dogs, Ford, Chrysler and GM appear to be continuing their war on horsepower. With the concepts supercharged five liter pushing 335kw, that’s roughly 450 bhp to you and me, the Falcon based sedan should be quick, but with the same motor making 500 bhp on this side of the pond, it’s apparent that ozone conscious Aussies are indeed turning the screws.
The “concept” car is FPVs first ever, and if you had to venture a guess on the likelihood of it actually making an appearance the chances are good. As a concept, the car is not much of a reach. The demographic that will post a picture of it on their wall might call it “murdered out”, but the gentlemen who actually put down the cash for one would more likely call it “collectively black”. If you took a standard GT and dipped it in black paint, well, you get the idea. FPV said that they ticked all of the boxes that consumers normally choose when optioning their GT so you get things like leather, in black of course, and a rear view camera as standard.
Other goodies include a track-tuned suspension, performance-spec six piston front, and four piston rear brakes with large, equally black, air ducts and a high flow stainless steel dual exhaust. You also get fashionable matte black paint on the hood, sides and wing. No one will be fitting aftermarket wheels to replace the gorgeous 19” forged alloy rims either.
In truth, this car is not all that different from the one you can buy right now, but what they have done is add some bits and pieces that you might really want. It may be a little hard to quantify the value of a car that is a foreign icon, but here in the land of Mustangs, and Camaros it’s not hard to wrap your mind around the value of rear tire destroying, oversteering madness. We may be 9000 miles apart, but we share the same ethos as our Australian brothers and sisters, even if it does leave a few kangaroos coughing in our wake.
Tuesday, July 5th, 2011
BMW Vision ConnectedDrive
It’s an exercise, Concept cars are, but this one, the BMW Vision ConnectedDrive Concept, is a study in the future of mobile networking, so it’s unlike the average concept. In years past concept cars were all about structural design, exotic materials, loony bin looks and outrageous power figures. More recently, concept cars have been about lower CO2 emissions and frugality.
Future cars, according to BMW ideology, will be following along, and expanding on, our current obsession with communication. Look no further than the ConnectedDrive HUD. HUD, or heads up display, has been around for a while, but BMWs system expands the idea to display “point of interest” icons along with road information. Sounds like a virtual iPad, this one placed in the field of vision of the driver. Sounds interesting, but the first thing that comes to mind, and I’m sure you’re thinking the same, is, what about safety? While BMW doesn’t exactly explain how that works they do mention that the system is fully configurable by the pilot, er, driver.
Speaking of safety, this and comfort are the other two areas of study with this concept. According to BMW, a light display bathes the vehicle in data regarding the status of each category.While BMW noted the design idealisms behind this exercise, actual information on how it works or what powers it was not, leaving much to speculation.
If you’re just looking at the ConnectedDrive Concept you could be forgiven for missing Mr. Chris Bangles work. Unfortunately, the cool, Knight Rider-esque glowing lights that travel around the panel gaps are not enough to save the car. Maybe it’s not that bad, well no, it is. From the profile it looks like a sperm whale, the seats are impossible, and fancy BMW asymmetry is best left to their motorcycle division.
BMW has a rich history of brilliant concept and actual cars, and obviously, their road cars are some of the most sought after in existence. They are keen on keeping their moniker “Ultimate Driving Machine” relevant, and if their brilliant current line-up and up-coming cars are any indication that shouldn’t be hard. As a design exercise, the BMW Vision ConnectedDrive sounds interesting, but there doesn’t appear to be much substance, outside of a strange shell. What powers the technology, what powers the car? This is about the ConnectedDrive, but if a realistic concept and infotainment technology are the goal, the Saab PhoeniX makes more of a case for it. The ConnectedDrive is interesting but it needs more substance to make any sense. Nice wheels though.
Friday, June 24th, 2011
Mini Rocketman Concept
Looking over the 2014 Mini Rocketman concept, you get the feeling that BMW is going back to its roots, again. The Mini Cooper is growing in size. You almost can’t help but grin about it as this seems to be the case with every “small” car ever made. Perhaps it’s a function of the automakers trying to give you more for your money, I like to think so, but for whatever reason a return to form for the Mini was almost predictable.
No matter, what we have here is, again, a concept and with that tagline goes the obligatory weird doors and funky red eared tail lights that, when coupled with the exhaust, look like a rodent sticking its tongue out at you.
Perhaps you’ve never been a fan of the Beetle’s smiling grille but the Rocketman rear is a bit much, and even though Ian Robertson, BMW Groups marketing boss, says that the company has a tradition of bringing concept car magic to the showroom, most of the over the top elements would most likely be discarded.
The Mini has always had one thing in its stylistic pocket that other manufacturers would kill for and indeed, they spend a fortune on, and that’s machismo. Yes, the Mini, unlike a lot of the competition can be and is driven confidently by burly men, and women, everywhere, and the good news is that the Rocketman carries on with that tradition. From a mile away, you can see the Mini lineage and this is great for BMW and us.
Mini Rocketman Concept
The engine for the Rocketman looks to be the new TwinPower Turbo three cylinder engine that BMW has been developing. This incorporates BMW’s decision to move forward in downsizing engines to reduce emissions and fuel consumption. Before the groaning starts however, it’s important to remember that this is the way all automakers are going. The thing is, BMW has a strangle hold on their “Ultimate Driving Machine” moniker, and they will be hanging onto it, even with a three cylinder, 94mpg engine… thank you very much.
So for all of its funky attitude, its concept glitz and dual gender appeal let’s hope the Rocketman does go into production. Unfortunately, the car will not be ready until 2014 and even then, word has it that it may not be available in the U.S. Of course, they said that about the cooper.
Monday, March 28th, 2011
Mercedes Benz A Class Concept
It’s been sometime since the boffins at Mercedes have done something a little well, out of character, now it seems they have been keeping themselves busy with the Mercedes Benz A Class and thinking long and hard about how the next generation may look, and the results look pretty impressive.
The A Class concept, shown in the image above, is apparently set to be unveiled at the Shanghai Auto Show in April, and if in the flesh it looks anything like it does in the concept sketch then its going to a pretty major jump for the A Class, and a pretty substantial change to the target market which Mercedes is trying to appeal to.
Current A Class buyers are not especially young, not especially into sports motoring, and definitely not into having their car’s hi-fi playing at full volume as they cruise at 15mph through the local shopping district, the concept we see here though would seem to appeal to exactly those type of buyers.
If their production model does look as the sketch suggests then it’s hard to think of a model from any manufacturer that has made such a complete turnaround in terms of their target demographic, indeed its incredibly hard to imagine any driver who would choose a current A Class model as ever picking up something that looks like the concept we being shown.
All that aside though, the sketch looks mouthwateringly enticing, and we cant wait to see the car itself, and while we feel sorry for the average A Class buyer who will need to scratch their head for a while thinking about what other model they can buy instead, we cant help but applaud such a move from Mercedes to make such a dramatic change, it’s brave, and the way we see it, a real step forward.