BEIJING MOTOR SHOW
The good, the bad and the ugly in Beijing
Michael Taylor reports on the best and the worst of the Beijing Motor Show
The world’s biggest car market turned it on for the world’s biggest car show, with start-up brands everywhere, oddballs of a kind that have been incrementally crushed in Europe and plenty of machines with big, big futures.
Let’s start with the best.
If you know Dongfeng at all, it’s because it is the controlling shareholder of PSA, the French automotive group that makes Citroen, Peugeot and the moribund DS brand. It also makes some of Infiniti’s cars for China.
The west simply doesn’t see much of Dongfeng’s own work, though, so the Eð concept came as a pleasant surprise.
Legend has it that China is a land of sedans (and, in particular, long wheelbase sedans) and, more lately, SUVs, so to have a Chinese-developed sports car was something new and fun.
The plug-in hybrid has 1,000km of range (it’s a concept, so you can claim what you want) and 500km of pure EV range, despite the battery drain of a full-width interior screen.
There’s also confusion about what the concept is actually called, because it put the Aeolus badge on the tail. Aeolus is not the car’s name, but the English-language name of Dongfeng’s Fengshen sub-brand.
Behind the great firewall of China, sticking an "X" on a badge or an internet search is a fairly innocent thing to do. Not so in the west, as Wey (Great Wall’s premium brand) is about to find out. Anyway, forget what the all-electric Wey-X looks like outside, because the genius is inside, where it takes voice recognition for commands a step further and lets you negotiate your navigation or music with a holographic woman.
There’s a camera, a heartbeat sensor and other biometric sensors in the cabin, so Wey insists it looks after the driver like nobody else. The doors open by face recognition (a la the iPhone X), which then loads up that driver’s preferred settings.
Not that it matters as much in Level 5 autonomy mode, which Wey claims it has. The steering wheel can be tucked away and the driver becomes a passenger, playing with stuff on the full-width digital screen.
The boxy, modern-feeling Icon is meant to look like an app icon (hence the name), yet it ushers Geely into a design language a few steps removed from its current "universe-inspired" grille shapes. The bonnet looks like a clamshell, but isn’t, and it doesn’t have a traditional face to speak of, and has been simplified into little design blocks. It’s likely headed into production, too (at least in China), as it sits on the Volvo XC40’s CMA architecture.
Geely Bo Rui GE
It mightn’t look like much, but the Bo Rui GE is a fully-fledged production car. The plug-in hybrid uses the same powertrain as the hybrid version of Volvo’s XC40, so it’s a 1.5l three-cylinder petrol motor paired with an electric motor.
It will bring a rated fuel consumption to market of just 1.6l/100km and the ability to run as a full EV for 50km. There will also be a mild-hybrid version, which Geely claims sets the standards not just for Chinese cars, but for the global automotive industry.
Another SUV, the Exeed TX will be offered as a hybrid, a plug-in hybrid and a full electric car and it’s due on sale next year.
The PIH will be the quickest, with a 0-100km/h time of six seconds and a 200km/h top speed, while an 80% recharge only takes 30 minutes on Chery’s fast charger.
There is a grille. And the grille is also a screen. And it’s dazzling. For this alone, it’s a winner.
The idea of using an extraordinarily expensive piece of electronics technology at ground zero for the most common collisions in China was perhaps not thought through, but it’s fun.
Also, behind this screen somewhere is an actual car. But I never got that far.
No, you read that right. Ford Escort. It didn’t die with the 1990s abomination that lead to the Focus name. Instead, this is an Australian-engineered facelift of a sedan that’s been on sale in China since 2011 and it works well enough to slot neatly into a line-up next to the Focus itself.
We all know BMW is touting electrification, big and small, and here is its first electric SUV. And they launched it in China, a land with ever-growing EV quotas.
Due to arrive in 2020, the EV SUV will be built at BMW’s Shenyang plant in China as well as in the US and it is heading for SA. While it was an early adopter of EV technology with its i3, it missed the kick with its SUV strategy and will be beaten to market by Tesla, Jaguar, Audi and Mercedes-Benz.
It has trademarked all the "iX" badges from iX1 through to iX9, and plans to deliver EV versions of existing models, so iX1, iX2, iX4, iX5, iX6 and iX7 are no-brainers to reach production. BMW is vague on the battery, suggesting only it has more than 70kWh of capacity, and it will support 150kW fast-charging, enabling 80% charges in less than half an hour.
USSV G. Patton
Raging bull? Prancing horse? The USSV G. Patton (named after the noted World War II US General, for reasons we can’t fathom) uses a rampant rhino in its logo, which gives a reasonable statement of intent.
The enormous 4x4 is linked to military machinery, powered by a 6.8l V10 of its own design, which might be why it only has 230kW of power. It’s actually based on a Ford F350.
Weltmeister EX5 and EX6
Silly name, but it seems credible, with reasonable ambitions and a clever strategy. There’s a forest of new energy vehicle brands in China and it seems to be one of the more credible ones. The cars are tech heavy, look easy to operate and they will be affordable.
Which brings us to the worst and it doesn’t get worse than …
Mercedes-Maybach Ultimate Luxury concept
Have we passed peak Gorden Wagner? The Daimler design boss’s latest efforts suggest we just might have. The Maybach sedan SUV looks a lot like an enlarged version of Mazda’s famed 121 rice-bubble car, with less taste applied.
It’s headed for production, mainly for a Chinese market, which loves sedans and SUVs. It sits on the CLS architecture and the production version will include a 4.0l twin-turbo V8 petrol motor but it will ditch the concept car’s 80kWh pure EV powertrain.
Err, umm. This is the all-electric K20, which is everything Honda’s electric Urban EV concept car is, except cool, well-proportioned, stylish and funky. It’s like a poor MX-5 creation. The K50 debuted two years ago, promising a production future, but has disappeared from view.
It looks like a McLaren, feels like a McLaren and has McLaren proportions. It even has the signature dihedral doors and orange paint. It just won’t sound like a McLaren because it’s an all-electric sports car. Oh and because it’s not a McLaren.