Sunday, September 26, 2010


BMW has unveiled its second generation X3 SUV. At 4648mm long, 1881mm wide and 1661mm high, it is longer, wider and slightly lower than its predecessor. This model steps back from the more controversial surface and graphical treatments of the previous model, yet the greatest change is a subtle shift in character, away from the traditional tall station wagon body, to one more in the mold of Audi's Q5 – almost a hatchback – note the side profile with faster raked rear screen, rounded DLO and lower, dipping roofline.

The most striking exterior element is the sharp crease in the body side, augmented by two secondary character lines over each wheelarch. Elsewhere, the lower body plastic cladding is better integrated into the overall form, while there are strong references to both X1 and X5 – the rear aspect being reminiscent of the larger car.

Inside, the X3 features higher quality materials including some modern-looking wood veneers. The cabin environment is more driver-orientated, with an angled center console and a novel, sweeping dash top that breaks away from the instrument binnacle, and wraps down the passenger side of the center console

Friday, September 24, 2010

Audi A7

Audi has revealed the A7 Sportback, a five-door vehicle built on an all-new platform. The new car, previewed in concept form at the 2009 NAIAS, is said to employ the sporty elegance of a coupe, the comfort of a sedan and the practicality of a station wagon, according to the Ignolstadt firm.

The A7 Sportback is nearly identical the current A6 sedan in size, with a length of 4970mm and width of 1910mm, but the new car features a plunging roofline making it stand only 1420mm tall. The slim and athletic design (both keywords in the design process) is characterized by dramatic, flowing lines and a negative rear end shape inspired by the Audi 100 Coupe from the late 1960s. The A7 Sportback also has an impressive 0.28Cd and features a high proportion of aluminum for increased rigidity and lighter weight.

Inside, the A7 features a wraparound theme, inspired in part by yacht design: a horizontal line encircles the driver and front-seat passenger to provide a feeling of safety and security. The wave-shaped application strip is the salient element of the dashboard, which further emphasizes the lightweight theme of the exterior.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Kia Pop

The Kia Pop will make its world debut at the Paris motor show, but the Korean manufacturer has released these digital renders of the electric city car concept in advance. At three meters long, the Pop is similar in length to the Toyota iQ. It features a wave-like front bench seat making room for a single rear occupant behind the front passenger.

Designed by a team headed by Gregory Guillaume at Kia's European design center in Frankfurt under Peter Schreyer, the Pop mixes the Sportage's strong surfacing with a playful lozenge-shaped DLO. The side window's angle and door handle position suggest scissor door openings. Kia's 'tiger' DRG seems to have been been reinterpreted into what one might refer to as a 'tiger cub'.

We're expecting fragmented lamp and inlet/outlet graphics to feature heavily in Paris and the Pop continues the zeitgeist hinted at by the Renault DeZir, with pixellated patterns appearing on its nose, tail and through its interior. Check back with us in early October to read our opinion of the design.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Mercedes-Benz CLS

The original Mercedes CLS defined a new segment – which saw competitors spawn many imitators. Six years after it was introduced it still looks fresh and distinctive. The replacement car will be unveiled in Paris next month and, while staying true to the original CLS recipe of a four-door coupe in profile, deviates in style quite markedly from the outgoing car. It introduces the company's new design language that was previewed by the F800 and the sporting Mercedes coupe grille seen on the SLS.

Chief Designer, Gordon Wagener, says the new CLS "points the way forward for the future perceptible design idiom of Mercedes-Benz [but] takes its inspiration from the great tradition of stylish, refined sportiness which has always been a feature of Mercedes coupes". From the photos at least, we feel that historic inspiration has created some issues with the exterior design surfacing of the new car. The pronounced modern pontoon-line, diving side feature line running and rear door handle combining to visibly pinch the rear door, create some odd surface highlights and contribute seemingly excess mass to the rear flanks of the car.

Inside, the new CLS introduces a much more sporting interior that again references elements of the SLS, and distances the model from its E-Class underpinnings in a more distinct way than the outgoing car. Read our full reaction to the car when we see it in the flesh in Paris next month.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Chevrolet Orlando

Chevrolet has released images of the new Orlando MPV due to be unveiled at next month's Paris Auto Show. Retaining a close resemblance to the Orlando concept shown at the 2008 Mondial de l'automobile, the production car features the same Crossover-style design theme, with a four-square stance, boxy fender volumes with pronounced wheelarches and a relatively shallow DLO.

The distinctive two-box shape will certainly make the Orlando stand out in a world of one-box competitors, yet the overall appearance–- while far from being without merit – seems to recall other vehicles on the market from certain angles: Kia Soul from the front three quarters, Nissan X-trail from the rear, for instance.

We will be interested to see the car in the flesh in Paris however, as two years ago we criticized the concept version for its apparent lack of development and finesse. The production car appears at first glance much more refined, with some neat detailing, such as the roof rail runners which turn down to flank the rear screen.

Images haven't yet been released of the interior, but Chevrolet promises an innovative 7-seat layout with some class-leading storage solutions such as a flip-front audio head unit with space behind for ipods, phones etc – similar to the design seen on the concept vehicle.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Mazda Shinari

Mazda today unveiled the precursor to its next generation design language in the shape of the Shinari concept. A rakish four-door, four-seat vehicle created under the watchful eye of Ikuo Maeda, General Manager of Design, the Shinari showcases the company's new 'Kono' form language, which means 'soul of motion' in the Japanese company's native tongue.

The exterior design, created at the firm's Yokohama-based design studio, embodies a sleek, coupe-like aesthetic. The contrasting fusion of twisting forms is meant to communicate speed and tension whilst exemplifying allure - all three keywords in the design process. Measuring in at 4860mm in length, 1905mm in width and 1340mm in height, the Shinari has a 2900mm wheelbase.

The fluid form of the exterior is complemented by a driver-oriented interior that focuses on ergonomics and technology. Created at Mazda's California-based design studio, the cocooning cockpit, high quality materials and innovative HMI all point towards an elevation in perceived quality. Soft forms and crisp surface edges are balanced by high grade organic and technical materials, lending the cabin a sporting theme.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Toyota Verso

Toyota is set to return to the mini-MPV segment with the new Verso-S, which will debut at the Paris motor show in September.

Like the Hyundai ix20 – also be making its world debut at the show – the exterior design of the Verso-S sports a more dynamic front face, but still seeks to embody the sportiness, comfort and practicality of the larger Verso model, unveiled at the 2009 Geneva motor show.

Measuring in at less than four meters – the shortest overall length of any B-segment MPV in Europe, Toyota is keen to cite – the Verso-S is shorter than the Verso, which is 4440mm long and seats seven passengers. The Verso-S will be a five passenger vehicle.

The company claims the new car is an object lesson in space management, with a practical, flexible interior design that maximizes interior space, benefitting versatility and comfort. Careful attention to detail within the cabin is also said to contribute to a higher level of perceived quality.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Dodge Durango

Chrysler's Dodge brand has released the first photos of the third generation Durango. Built on the same platform as the new Jeep Grand Cherokee, the latest iteration of the SUV features a unibody structure rather than the body-on-frame setup of its predecessors.

The Durango has never been a particularly elegant offering within the Dodge lineup, but it seems the company is looking to change this perception with this latest incarnation. The exterior design moves decidedly more upscale but also links the Durango with other models in the lineup. The front face is reminiscent of the company's Ram pickup truck but also has shades of the Challenger, particularly in the headlamp design. The bodyside also has more definition and the rear end design is elegant, though undeniably functional.

Interior photos have not yet been revealed, but Dodge is promising a spacious cabin and three-rows of seats. Created by the same interior design studio that designed the interior of the Ram and the new Grand Cherokee, the company is touting luxurious, refined materials and thoughtful touches aimed at increasing functionality and variability, with 22 different seating configurations.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Bentley Continental GT

Bentley has released full details and pictures of its new Continental GT coupe ahead of its official world debut at the Paris motor show.

Whilst clearly an evolution of the 2003 model, it features an all-new body and heavily revised platform. A more upright grille and LED-encrusted headlamps brings its DRG more in line with the larger Mulsanne sedan. Familiar design themes continue around the rest the car, but with a much greater sense of surface tension and crease sharpness. The complexity of the fender and trunk lid surfaces in particular showcase Bentley's extensive use of superforming in the manufacturing process.

A 41mm wider front and 48mm wider rear track, combined with larger, 20-inch wheels add to its muscularity, while horizontal tail lights enhance its breadth both physically and visually.

The interior continues the evolution with new, upgraded materials and equipment but the same double-cowl IP theme. New seats, which liberate more rear legroom, and more storage space increase everyday usability.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Opel GTC

The first official images of Opel/Vauxhall's new GTC Paris concept have been revealed ahead of the car's official unveiling at the forthcoming Paris motor show. The three-door Astra-based concept previews the Astra Sport Hatch's successor and showcases the company's design evolution.

Mark Adams, Opel's vice president of design, has described the GTC Paris concept as "bold, pure and iconic" in its appearance. The bodyside features the brand's now signature ‘blade' first seen on the Insignia, which is also repeated in the head- and taillamps. Designers maximized tension though the flanks and in the shoulder to convey a greater sense of dynamism, which is also apparent in the upwards sweeping beltline and brushed aluminum trim that accentuates the DLO.

Opel claims that the production version will not stray far from the rakish lines of the concept, and if the GTC moniker were to be adopted, it would be the first time that a Vauxhall has been so named. We'll bring you our own exclusive photos and our opinions of the concept once we see the car in the metal in Paris.