Life is not all about crossover. Nissan exhibits at the Mondial its first European sedan for six years, a compact hatchback classic called Pulsar, along with a Nismo concept. This new C-Segment competitor has its sights on the Peugeot 308.
Having said that, by observing the Pulsar 2014, connoisseurs identify some common features with the Tiida 2 (in China) such as the dlo silhouette. Nevertheless, it is obvious that Nissan designers are trying to affiliate this car to the rest of the brand. For example the V-shape on the grille or the rear lights are clearly inspired by the very latest Qashqai. The rear light clusters boomerang-shaped tail and join harmoniously side of the vehicle. The dimensions of the Pulsar are interesting in this segment. It is around 15 centimeters longer than its competitor and the wheelbase is pushed to 2.70 meters. These dimensions give roominess to the interior and to the trunk.
The Nismo version adds some design features especially inside with the race-inspired theme with a red tachometer and a three-spoke steering wheel.
The interior is kept very basic. Just remember, the Almera II was not very advanced in term of style. But it was certainly very roomy and comfortable…
The Pulsar is certainly not as advanced, in term of style as a Qashqai, not as trendy as a Juke, but in this category, it will certainly seduce a lot of customers…
After three beautiful concepts, the wait is coming to an end at the Mondial de l’Automobile: Volvo is unveiling a production car: the XC90. It is introducing the Volvo style led by German Thomas Ingenlath and a hybrid engine of 400 hp. It is clear to see the filiation with the three previous concepts cars seen in Frankfurt, Detroit and Geneva.
The new XC90 is the first vehicle to feature the redesigned logo, the well-known iron emblem, with the iconic spire of the company aligned with the diagonal bar across the grid. The headlights are designed like a T-shape called « Hammer of Thor » by the communication team…No doubt that the iron logo presents an innovative and distinctive face, fitting with the impression of strength the next generation Volvo vehicles ahead should give.
In term of volume and shape there is no surprise: it is a Volvo. And the style is clearly robust even though it is not very advanced. Surfaces are very clean and simple with no extravaganza, but this is what you can expect from a Volvo. It might look a little bit too reserved for some of us and certainly appears less innovative and futuristic than any of the previous concept, but remember, this one is a production car.
« The overall impression of both the inside and outside is closely related to key elements of the Swedish way of life, generous space, importance of light and focus on well-being, » says Thomas Ingenlath, Vice President for Design at Volvo Car Group. And this is well translated in the exterior design since you are attracted to open the door because you feel you are coming home…And when you open the door…you are home!
The interior space is huge and light. It can accommodate seven passengers easily. The thin seat design allows more space. The third row offers comfortable space for two passengers measuring up to 1.70 meters. The simplicity, even in its luxury, of the interior fits perfectly with the idea of the Scandinavian design heritage. The combination of leather, crystal – for the gear shift knob – and wood, with handmade details, gives you the feeling of sitting home in a sofa, ready to read a good book next to your fireplace. And when you do that, you usually want to listen to some good music…isn’t it? This is why Volvo audio designers have worked together with their counterparts in the British audio equipment company renowned Bowers & Wilkins. This car is an auditorium.
The most striking feature of the new XC90 is the fact that the center of the dashboard is identical to a touch screen tablet, which forms the heart of the new integrated control system. From that the driver and its passenger can have access to the whole car systems and to the connected services.
Introduced at the Beijing Auto Show in April 2014, the concept car Exalt returned to Paris at the Paris Motor Show with slight changes. This show car tends to prove that Peugeot is very interested in producing a high-end sedan in the coming years.
Make no mistake: the Exalt was not born Coupé to which designers would have added 2 openings. The Exalt is, according to in-house designers, the SUBLIMATION OF A SEDAN: a complete sedan with its codes and comfort…but with a dynamic and elegant appearance.
The standout element of the exterior designed by Romain Saquet, is clearly the “clean cut” on the rear part, delimitating the use of the microstructure material inspired by « sharkskin » which attracts and accelerates air cells in order to reduce aero drag. If it was ocher in Beijing, it is dark gray in Paris. The rest of the car body is still finished in untreated steel. The body will oxidize and will evolve throughout the years…
The interior architecture, according to its designer Alessandro Riga, is designed for the human body, around the human body. The lower part is comfortable and envelops the cabin up to the chest. Material choice is made around the idea of LOCAL SOURCING: depending on the location of sales and production, parts are manufactured with technical and local products. In Beijing the dashboard was carved in a wood coming from China, while in Paris and Europe the same part is made of recycled compressed paper to give the feeling of wood and remembering the business pages of major newspapers. We’re talking here about UPCYCLING since wood is « reincarnated » and somehow “back to life”. As Lavoisier (1743-1794, Chemist) said: “nothing is lost, nothing is created, and everything is transformed”.
The attention given to the cockpit (see 208 and 308) is part of the Design Manifest of Peugeot and Alessandro Riga gave a particular consciousness to the top part of it in the Exalt. The information is fully oriented toward the human with the head up display instrumentation. Detail of great importance, Alessandro told us that his theme was inspired by the universe of music with its impression of freedom given to hands especially with these 7 keys « piano » that are totally configurable.
The Exalt is using the “Hybrid4 system” developing 340Hp in theory for a total weight of 1.700 kgs.
By showing this car in Paris after Beijing, there is no doubt that Peugeot has something in mind…let’s be patient…
The US auto industry is back. After several years in the doldrums, finally there was a strong feeling of optimism and excitement, at the Detroit auto show this year. Even the weather cooperated for once, with relatively mild temperatures and no snow. The media days were well attended, with the usual throngs of reporters and writers crowded around the industry “stars” like Marchionne and Mulally, hanging on every word.
The real stars of the show are the cars of course, at least as far as the public is concerned and they were not disappointed. As further confirmation that the show was upbeat, a good many of the introductions and concepts featured up-market brands and higher priced vehicles. Front and rear lamps are increasingly jewel-like, with more and more LED accents everywhere. Bodysides are becoming more and more sculptured, with strong feature lines sweeping in all directions – some more successfully than others! Under all that bling, the serious business of making good cars continues unabated. Fuel economy and emissions requirements continue to drive more and more drivetrain efficiency. Hybrids are everywhere, full electric vehicles are still struggling to make an impact, turbo-charging is a strong trend, along with fewer cylinders in the engine, but more speeds in the transmission. And don’t forget diesels. The US has long resisted the transition to the diesel engines that Europe so embraced, partly due to a lingering perception that they are noisy and smell bad, but also because there has never been a price incentive to encourage the switch. Diesel fuel remains more costly than gasoline in North America. Nevertheless, more and more diesel engine options are becoming available in the US and to make the point, Jeep introduced a diesel version of the Grand Cherokee at the show.
The big news at GM was the new Corvette Stingray, a further evolution of Chevrolet’s flagship model. The car generated quite a lot of interest although some people think that the car is somewhat “overwrought”, with lots of vents and feature lines, plus elements from numerous earlier generation Vettes. The biggest complaint, however, was that the rear lamps were square and not the twin round lamps that have always been a Corvette trademark feature. Overall the car looks quite dramatic, but then again, it is hard to fail when the proportions the designers are working with are this good! The real question is, “Can the car attract younger buyers?” The other big news from ‘the General’ was the new family of Chevrolet and GMC full size pickups. Although they have some interesting features, like the counterbalanced tailgate that makes for easy opening and closing, the designs were underwhelming and lack the reach that they needed to compete more strongly against the market leading Ford F150. Introduced with a lot less fanfare was the new Chevrolet Impala full size car. With a lot more presence than its dull predecessor, this could be a worthy competitor to the Chrysler 300 and Ford Taurus. Also significant was the Cadillac ELR introduction. Basically it is a Chevy Volt with a swoopy Cadillac coupe bodystyle and a suitably luxurious interior. The car is attractive, (apart from some minor exterior trim issues), but the real question is, will it sell in sufficient quantities to justify the development cost? And does Cadillac need another two-door coupe alongside the CTS coupe? Time will tell, but the superbly executed Volt is selling much slower than GM had hoped and the Nissan Leaf is in similar trouble. Electric cars are still too expensive for prime time.
With the recent introduction of the new Fusion, Ford has a strong car well executed line-up with Fiesta/Focus/Fusion/Taurus. These cars, backed up by impressive powertrains, (further bolstered at the show by a new three cylinder Ecoboost motor) provide Ford with a very competitive market position. Ford aims to protect its dominance in the pickup market and had a beefy looking concept truck on display to blunt the announcement of the new Chevy Silverado. Introduction of the European developed Transit van to replace the long serving Econoline as well as a new passenger version of the Transit Connect, further demonstrate Fords strength in the commercial side of the business. Ford’s whole range of cars and trucks demonstrates the soundness of Alan Mulally’s push for “One Ford” and the efficient use of worldwide resources. The problem at Ford is that they need to revitalize Lincoln as a luxury brand, and fast. A great deal of effort is being put behind that objective and to that end the MKC small SUV (yes another one!) concept was revealed. The prominent Lincoln “split wing” grille may not be to everyone’s taste, but the overall execution was clean and expertly designed.
Chrysler recently updated its range of pickups (the new Ram 1500 is Motor Trends Truck of the Year), so the refreshed Grand Cherokee was the most significant news for the strongly recovering Chrysler Corporation. With steady growth in volume and share over the last three years, the success of this rejuvenated company demonstrates the power of having a chief executive who knows what he is doing and who can really lead an organization, extracting the very best from all the employees. Cerberus, Daimler, are you watching?
The Fiat portion of the Chrysler/Fiat display showed the Fiat 500L, a welcome sight for all those Fiat dealers who have been surviving on just the Cinquecento and its derivatives (joined at the show by the EV model) since they opened their stores in 2011. Now they have to keep their fingers crossed that the long awaited Alfa Romeo re-launch will really happen in late 2013 with the introduction of the 4C. With both Alfa and Fiat that could be a franchise worth having. The 500L is a bit of an ugly duckling and is reminiscent of that other ugly duckling the Mini Clubman/Paceman, but it could well join the 500 as a cult small car and find reasonable success in the increasingly fuel-conscious North American market. Staying with the Fiat Group, Maserati had an unusually large display in order to accommodate the world premier of the new Quattroporte. It is undoubtedly a very elegant car, with evolutionary design cues and a significant upgrade in size in order to make room for future additions to the model range. Maserati has some lofty worldwide volume aspirations; so watch this space for more announcements.
Controversially, Motor Trend Car named the Tesla Model S as their Car of the Year. This is a real boost for the fledgling auto company and demonstrates what they have been able to accomplish with their first ground-up car. Most industry observers are impressed and surprised with what Tesla has been able to achieve – including this writer. Let’s hope that the longer-term durability/quality/reliability will keep us impressed. Their volume expectations are another story, however, and only time will tell if there is enough demand to sustain the planned growth and expansion of the model range. As mentioned, sales of the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt have been disappointing to say the least and start-up companies like Tesla and Fisker face a considerably more difficult challenge. Tesla also revealed a concept of their next vehicle at the show, the Model X. It is an attractive battery electric SUV based on the Model S platform with conventional front doors and “Falcon Wing” rear doors. The rear doors open upwards from the center of the roof like a gull wing door, but fold in the middle as they open – hence falcon wing. Of course, Tesla CEO Elon Musk also named his Space X rocket the Falcon 9, so he must like falcons!
Honda/Acura showed another NSX concept – one step closer to production we are told. It is a stunning car from every angle, even the Acura grille looks good on this one, so let’s hope it really does become available for sale so that we can see it on the road. Acura also showed a new MDX concept that is close to production, although I found it generic and uninspiring. On the Honda side of the aisle they showed a small “Urban SUV” concept based on the Fit platform. Smaller than the CRV, it looks ready for production and with its sweeping bodyside contours, would be a stylish addition to the Honda line-up.
Hyundai has been growing strongly in North American with good quality cars and dramatic designs. The very strong bodyside feature lines or contours of the Sonata and Elantra may not be to everyone’s taste, but rival manufacturers have certainly copied them extensively. Probably hoping for another trend-setter, Hyundai revealed a dramatic Genesis concept model, the HCD-14. Apparently the car is being designed and engineered in Germany with an introduction date scheduled in 2014. The car is long, low and coupe-like, with flat bodyside sheet metal topped by a strong ‘A’ line feature. The grille is bold to say the least and the lamps are designed to mimic a cut diamond. The interior also is bold and dramatically sculptured. The design drew some criticism, so it will be interesting to see how much of this concept is carried over to the production version – probably not the pillar-less bodyside with rear hinged doors I am guessing.
Toyota showed the Furia concept, a clear vision of what we can expect to see when the new Corolla is rolled out in late 2013. The bold design is a further indication of how Toyota is trying to move away from its typical dreary design image and compete more strongly with the style leaders.
BMW introduced the new 4 series which is killing the 3-series, both coupe and cabriolet. This model is lower, wider and longer than the replaced 3 series. In one word, it is sportier… Thanks to the longer wheelbase the car will have a better on road handling too. The styling is not exactly surprising, but follows the Adrian Van Hooydonk signature…and remains impressive.
Audi presented the RS7 sportback and the SQ5. Although not much in terms of styling, these cars have a lot in terms of engine and image. It seems that Audi is a little bit stalled in its design (style) innovation at the moment, but you can be sure that their design studio is thinking about making another big hit like the first generation TT. It is difficult to improve on a style that initiated many of the design trends that you see on the road from many other manufacturers. It is also a risk to change direction when you have reached such perfection.
VW featured two concept crossover vehicles, the Cross Blue and the Cross Coupe. Both look close to production with typical VW professionalism. The Cross Blue is about the same size as the Jeep Grand Cherokee, while the Cross Coupe is smaller and less functional. Both vehicles could have key roles in VW’s North American volume and share aspirations.
Next stop Geneva, where we all meet on neutral ground.
Tony Richards [automotive correspondent] & Audrey Seguin [design correspondent]
The piano manufacturer Pleyel and Peugeot Design Lab unveil a piano that overturns the conventions of the music world.
The Desgin lab was launched in June 2012 and has the goal to design non-automotive pieces for Peugeot and external clients in all business sectors. The team could work on a yacht, a tool…or in this first attempt : on a piano for Pleyel.
Obviously, the attempt is interesting. And instead of discussing line, technology and music here, and after saying that pianists say that the acoustic is like any other Pleyel piano, please go through the photo gallery.