Shanghai Auto Show 2017: the Good, the Bad & the Ugly, Domestic Cars

The Shanghai Auto Show is the largest auto show in the world with 350.000 square meters (3.7 million square feet) of floor space, over 1.300 cars on display and close to 1 million visitors. And while you may think the cars from international brands are the most relevant for the worldwide automotive industry, the domestic Chinese automakers are eager to show off the impressive progress they’re making in terms of quality and design. Some of their launches and concept cars are destined to be exported to the European and US markets as well.

There’s simply too much news in Shanghai to discuss all the news, but we’ll take a closer look at the most relevant, most notworthy and most impressive production cars and concept cars.

Production cars:

Baojun 310 Wagon

2017-Shanghai-Autoshow-Baojun_310_WagonWagons are not a popular bodystyle in China, where sedans have traditionally ruled, MPVs were the alternative if more seats were required and SUVs are now the hottest thing around. Hatchbacks never really caught on in the People’s Republic either, which makes it that much more surprising that Baojun has a sudden hit this year with its ultra-cheap 310 hatchback, selling over 50.000 units in the first three months of 2017. Will the 310 Wagon be able to crack the cheap station wagon market in China too?… Continue Reading …

Shanghai Auto Show 2017: the Good, the Bad & the Ugly, Foreign Cars

Just when the New York Auto Show in the US is in its final weekend, the Chinese equivalent is starting up in Shanghai. And while the former is an important event for the US market and no small show by any means, the latter is by far the largest auto show in the world with 350.000 square meters (3.7 million square feet) of floor space, over 1.300 cars on display and close to 1 million visitors. Besides being one of the major shows for the domestic auto industry (together with Beijing), Shanghai is also important to foreign automakers for some of whom the Chinese market is their largest single market, especially for luxury brands. This means they’re showing off some important products in China first, before bringing them to the European or US markets. We’ll take a quick look at a selection of those launches here.

Production cars:


2017-Shanghai-Autoshow-BMW_M4CSKriss: hot

What is there to say: the M4 CS is the halfway point between the standard M4 and the hardcore M4 GTS, and as such promises to strike the perfect balance between the two. That it still looks more attractive than the younger Mercedes-AMG C63 Coupe and the new Audi RS5 is just the icing on top of the cake!

Bart: hotContinue Reading …

New York Auto Show 2017: the Good, the Bad & the Ugly

The annual New York Auto Show is one of the most popular auto shows in the world, it’s traditionally held at the Javits Convention Center in Manhattan and this year it runs  from Friday April 14 through Sunday April 23. That means it’s the last of the major auto shows in North America, after LA in November, Detroit in January and Chicago in February. As a result, the number of real new product launches and concept cars is relatively limited, especially compared to the most important of them all: Geneva. Still, we’ve had our pick of winners and losers of the show, and as usual we just can’t seem to agree on most of them. Let us know your view in the poll or in the comments below.

Production cars:

Acura TLX (facelift)

2017-New_York-Auto_Show-Acura_TLXKriss: Not

See the new TLX in isolation and you may think to yourself “wow, this is a pretty good-looking car”, but wish the grille wasn’t quite as big and brash as it is. Well, then, you’re in luck – there is a version of this car without this ugly new grille, and it’s called the pre-facelift TLX. Now, don’t get me wrong, the TLX is still pretty good looking, it’s just that with this facelift Acura managed to either botch the changes the TLX needed (the new grille is not an improvement, and does not go far enough to give this car “personality”) and not change things at all (the interior still looks no better than on the mass-market Accord). Acura is desperately looking for a car that will change the fortunes of its mainstream offerings, and this is not it, sadly.

Bart: Hot

What a difference a grille makes! Acura pulls trick from the Lexus playbook, using the motto: it doesn’t have to be stylish, as long as it’s brash. As opposed to Kriss, I think it’s an improvement compared to the pre-facelift version. The TLX goes from utter wallflower with its beak-nose to one of the most aggressive designs in the segment with its enormously wide grille. I don’t find it particularly sophisticated, or even attractive for that matter (I’d still prefer a C-Class, Q50 or even the aging 3-Series over it), but I just have to admire Acura for finally getting the point that just another vanilla sedan just isn’t going to cut it in this competitive segment anymore. Besides the sheer size of the grille, and the graphics inside it, there’s one more issue I have with the front end of the updated TLX: the lower part seems visually wider than the rest, which gives it a bit of a “heavy” presence, as if it has a double chin. The rear end has been cleaned up nicely, though.

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Geneva Autoshow 2017: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly: supercars and concept cars

The Geneva Auto Show in the beginning of March is very likely to be the place with the highest density of supercars and concept cars in Europe at that moment. Even the smallest manufacturers, tuners and designers make it to the showfloor each year to show off their latest creations and try to steal some of the limelight from the major brands. That leads to an interesting mix that caters to everyone, from mainstream mass-production to hyperexclusive, from realistic to futuristic, and of eyepoppingly beautiful to eyewateringly unsightly. All this contrast means everyone must have an opinion, love it, hate it, or totally indifferent. We also loved a few, but not all of them. Here are a the ones that stirred us the most, be it in a good or a bad way.

Ferrari 812 Superfast

Bart: hot

2017-Geneva_Auto_Show-Ferrari_812_SuperfastIs it an extensive facelift of the F12 or a completely new model? Ferrari wants you to believe the latter and has given the model a new name. And although the overall proportions and silhouette are very similar to the F12, the aerodynamics and engine are completely overhauled. At 800hp and 718Nm (529 lb.-ft), the engine is Ferrari’s most powerful V12 engine ever built. Displacement grew to 6,5 liters which means it has an output of 123hp per liter, the highest of any non-hybrid, naturally aspirated production engine ever made. The aerodynamics are another awesome feature of the 812 Superfast, as Ferrari strives to create downforce without using additional wings. There are a number of gaps in the front and side of the bodywork to create additional downforce, reduce drag or cooling purposes. Some are even equipped with active flaps to change the airflow through or under the car to fulfill different purposes at different speeds. The Ferrari mid/front engined V12 has always been the showcase of what the brand is capable of, but this time I watched in awe when they explained the aerodynamics and performance of the 812 Superfast.… Continue Reading …

Geneva Autoshow 2017: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly production cars, part 2

After discussing the Alpine A110, DS7 Crossback, Ford Fiesta, Kia Picanto, Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross and Opel/Vauxhall Crossland X in part 1, we’ll continue with the second bunch of Geneva launches. Let us know what you think and vote for your favorites below!

Opel/Vauxhall Insignia

Bart: hot

2017-Geneva_Auto_Show-Opel_Insignia_Grand_SportSee, they do now how to design a great looking car at Opel/Vauxhall, as the new Insignia proves. Wow, this thing looks more capable then ever to steal each and every one of those 12 private sales annually from the Passat. The rest of the sales in this segment are corporate orders from leasing companies, some of which limit their client’s choices, which means even if the Insignia is the better (and better looking) car, not everyone who wants one will be able to get it. Too bad, because its low and wide proportions and almost coupe-like roofline of the hatchback absolutely make this one of the best looking cars in the segment, right up there with or maybe even ahead of the Renault Talisman and miles ahead of the dull Passat and already long-in-the-tooth Mondeo. Who could’ve said that of an Opel just a few years ago? The Americans are drooling over this thing to make it Stateside again as the Buick Regal (including the Wagon) and that’s actually pretty impressive for a brand that’s been known as a maker of uninspired middle-of-the-road cars for decades.… Continue Reading …

Geneva Autoshow 2017: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly production cars, part 1

It’s that time of the year again: everybody who’s somebody in the automotive industry can be found within just a few relatively small show floors at the Geneva Convention Center, where the cars are the real stars. The Geneva International Motor Show, as it’s officially called, is packed with new releases and world premieres every year and the 87th edition is no different. Of course is there too to feel the pulse of the industry and to get an idea of what’s going to be a hit and what’s going to flop. And as you’ve become used to from us, we have an opinion on the lastest launches and would like to know yours too. Which cars stir our senses, which ones need to go back to the drawing board and which are just plain mweh?

Alpine A110

Bart: hot

2017-Geneva_Auto_Show-Alpine_A110It’s always to see a brand with such a great heritage make a comeback, even if most car buyers may not even remember it, let alone have ever seen an Alpine in real life. Sure, in this segment brand value plays a great factor, but so does design and performance. The former is well taken care of in my opinion, the retro design with modern touches actually works on the A110. Performance promises to tick all the boxes as well thanks to its lightweight aluminium construction and 252hp on 1080kg is pretty impressive. Better than a Cayman? Hard to say, but at least it’s different. And I mean that in a good way.

Kriss: hot

I agree with Bart – it’s great to see Alpine make a comeback and challenge the Germano-Italian dominance of the segment. It looks great, and sports a great power-to-weight ratio thanks to its lightweight construction. In essence – I can’t imagine how this car could have turned out any better. But still I’m worried – many have tried and failed to provide a genuine challenge the Boxster/Cayman duo, and I’m afraid that no matter how good the A110 is, it’s not good enough to differentiate itself from the also-rans like the Alfa-Romeo 4C and Lotus Evora.

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Detroit Auto Show: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly [w/ poll]

Here’s our take on the hits and misses of the Detroit Auto Show, make sure to let us know what you thought in the poll and the comments section!

BMW 5-series


Bart: Hit

Packed with new technology and undoubtedly again being one of the best driving sedans in its class, the new 5-Series will (depending on your personal preferences) either come close to or beat the standard set by the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class. But where the E-Class was mostly criticised for looking too much like its larger and smaller siblings, the 5-Series looks too much like the previous model. Did I miss the news that BMW hired a former Volkswagen designer? However, this doesn’t mean I don’t like its looks. With the right (M-Sport?) bodykit and wheels and a color a bit more inspiring than the obbligato fifty shades of grey, blue or black, this can be a very desirable looking car that will remain the obvious choice for the decreasing number of luxury buyers who still prefer a sedan over an SUV.

Kriss: So-so

I agree with pretty much everything Bart said, and yet I still can’t rate the BMW a “Hit”. Why is that? Objectively, the car has everything going for it – technology, BMW’s legendary chassis tuning, straight-six engines, and a smart and light construction (recently read a comparison test with the E-class, and saw that the 4wd 530d xDrive is 100kg lighter than the 2wd E-class 350d). However, subjectively the car is lacking that certain “want it” factor – the one that made the E34 and E39 generations so achingly desirable, no matter what specification or color they were in. While the E-class boast a stunning interior, the BMW looks too much like its predecessor inside; to me this is especially disappointing given that BMW showed us with the i3 and i8 of creating genuinely stunning interiors. Call it a case of sky-high expectations, but the new 5-series is just not a “Hit” to me.

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LA Auto Show: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly [w/ poll]

Alfa Romeo Stelvio

Bart: hit

As far as I’m concerned, they absolutely nailed this one. If the Giulia has a somewhat anonymous rear end, the Stelvio is original and great looking from all angles. Perhaps the rear overhang is a bit too much and the rear 3/4 a tad too rounded, but from the front 3/4 it looks very squat and the QV even aggressive. I love the full rear view and the shape of the C-pillar, not to mention the interior.

Kriss: hit

The expectations for the Stelvio may not have been as sky-high as those for its Giulia sister, but it’s fair to say the SUV was the most anticipated premiere of the show. The good news for the Alfistas is that the Stelvio delivers where it matters: as Bart mentioned, it looks good for the most part, promises a very dynamic drive, and comes topped with a 500hp+ halo model. What’s not to like?

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Paris Auto Show premieres: Hot or Not?

Paris-Auto-Show-2016Next weeks the doors of the oldest auto show in the world will open its doors to the public again: the biennial Paris Auto Show. Despite breaking through the 1 million visitors barrier the last time around in 2014, a number of brands have cancelled their stands this year, most notably Ford, Mazda and Volvo, but also many exotic brands: Aston Martin, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini and Rolls-Royce. Still, there’s plenty of news with 4 major premieres and a bunch of interesting concept cars. Bart and Kriss will give their vote of Hot or Not to the most relevant of them. Let us know what you think in the comment section below.

Audi_Q5-paris-auto-show-premiereAudi Q5

After 8 years it’s time to replace the very successful Audi Q5, and why change a winning formula? As we’ve come to expect from Audi, the design of the new Q5 is very evolutionary, with the overall shape staying the same, but a stronger and more swooping crease in the sides and a more pronounced grille. The Q5 sheds some weight compared to the outgoing version and the interior is even more refined.

Bart: So-so

It’s not ugly like the Q2 and Q7, what was good in the old Q5 has been left alone and they’ve improved the things I didn’t like too much. Impressive how an 8-year old design needs just such subtle changes to remain fresh. But it’s just not very sexy or mindblowing, so I struggle to call it Hot.

Kriss: Hot

It’s no secret that I am a fan of evolutionary design, something that’s normal for most high-end consumer products (think appliances, fountain pens, Apple products, eyewear) but somehow gets lambasted for cars. The new Q5 is a perfect example of that – it takes what was good about the previous model (stance, proportions, gently bulging fenders) and gives it a more modern touch with sharper creases, a clamshell bonnet, and Audi’s new “3D” grille it now gives its crossovers. That it’s lighter and roomier is just the icing on top of the cake.

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New York Auto Show 2016: Hits and Misses [w/ poll]

The 2016 New York Auto Show has started, and while it’s not as important as the show in Detroit, nor as West-Coast flashy as the show in LA, a handful of automakers still picked it to reveal their new or updated models, or concepts of upcoming models. We’ve picked the 7 most significant ones and compared notes. Let us know what you think of them in the comments below.

Acura MDX facelift


Bart: Miss

I’m glad they finally ditched the chrome shield in the grille, but the downside is that the MDX has become even more anonymous than it was before. Acura’s design is apparently going the complete opposite of that of Lexus, who are getting more extreme with every launch. That probably makes the MDX the perfect minivan-that’s-not-a-minivan, so they’ll probably continue to sell a ton of them. They also have a hybrid now, with the same system as the NSX. The MDX surely has a lot of good things going for it, otherwise it wouldn’t be the #2 of its segment. And yes, the Q7 is shockingly awful and Mercedes hasn’t gotten the styling quite right in any of the ML/GLE generations, but I think the X5 beats the MDX in styling, even if for the simple fact that it actually gets noticed.

Kriss: Hit

It’s funny, you say “Miss”, but I read a lot of good things: “ditched the chrome shield grille”, “perfect minivan-that’s-not-a-minivan”, “hybrid with the same system as the NSX”. I had a soft spot for the MDX Mk II, and while the new model is not quite as muscular-looking as that, I think the facelift makes it into a rather handsome car, better-looking than any of the German trio (Q7, X5 and ML). In my mind Acura would do best to emulate the inoffensive Audis of late 1990s/early 2000s, and this fits the bill perfectly.

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