China’s annual international auto show, which rotates each year between Beijing and Shanghai, is a mixed bag of promise and a facade of decades-old technology hiding under fresh sheetmetal. China’s auto market is still emerging, and the country doesn’t always have the same sets of quality and crash standards of the U.S. and Europe. But as it’s grown, it’s become more important. Westerners don’t just go to China to make fun of knockoff cars anymore; major automakers like Volkswagen, BMW, and Toyota use it to preview international products.
We’re going to save you from mounds of Geelys, Hong Qis, Great Walls, and Hawtais that debuted at this year’s Beijing International Auto Show and instead focus on the cars that have promise to reach the U.S. in either form or function.
A6L e-tron Concept
In China, being chauffeured is the transportation medium of choice for luxury car owners. So we’ll never get an “L” version of the Audi A6 here. But the rest of this concept looks like it could be translated pretty easily for U.S. consumption. The Audi A6L e-tron concept takes an existing vehicle with the company’s base 211-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, and then it adds a 95-horsepower electric motor to the mix. The result is a plug-in hybrid that can travel up to 49 miles om electricity alone, or it can run in pure gas or hybrid modes. Audi is already beginning work on introducing hybrids, so we’re thinking this concept isn’t too far off from reality, except the wheels.
RS Q3 Concept
With BMW introducing its compact X1 crossover to the U.S., it’s expected Audi will soon follow suit with its Q3. But that might not be all for Audi’s smallest crossover when it’s translated to new markets, as previewed by the Audi RS Q3. Most parts are off the shelf, including the 360-horsepower, 2.5-liter turbocharged five-cylinder shared with the Audi TT RS, the seven-speed dual clutch transmission shared with the European version of the TT RS, and a similar quattro all-wheel-drive setup. It comes with 20-inch wheels and a host of “Look at me!” RS upgrades. But the question is: Will it make the jump from concept to reality?
i8 Concept Spyder
We know the BMW “i” hybrid and electric sub-brand is coming. We also know the first two cars to come from it will be the BMW i3 city car and i8 sports car. Here’s what will likely be the third model. The BMW i8 Spyder previews the future sports car with filled-in doors versus the glass that was used to cover the coupe’s doors. First shown at the New York Auto Show earlier this month, it looks more production-ready overall, but still retains the turbocharged three-cylinder engine and electric motor that combine to produce 354 horsepower, yield as much as 78 mpg, and can push the 3,600-pound sports car to 62 mph in 5 seconds flat. It’s a little shorter and comes with less protection from the elements, but it shows BMW isn’t messing around with its electric subdivision.
How do you say “Dodge Dart” in Italian? Apparently, Fiat Viaggio. The word “Viaggio” actually means to travel, but the principle remains the same. As there’s no Dodge in much of the world and the car was created using a global platform shared with the Alfa Romeo Giulietta, it stands to reason it would do all right in mainland China as a Fiat. The Viaggio differs little from the Dart, with new front and rear designs being the primary changes. In China, buyers will have two engine options from which to choose: 118- or 148-horsepower versions of Fiat’s Tjet 1.4-liter four-cylinder.
Haval E Concept
You’ll likely never see the Haval E Concept on our shores. And you’ll likely never hear of a car called a “Great Wall” being sold in the U.S. That doesn’t mean that they’re not coming here in other forms. Startup automaker Coda recently announced that it will be partnering with Great Wall to produce a new mainstream, mass-produced car to slot below its $45,000 electric sedan. If you haven’t heard of Coda, either, we don’t blame you. So far, the automaker has only sold cars in California, sourcing most parts from automaker Hafei for its compact sedan. Coda says its next car will be a lot more affordable.
Rumor has it you’re tired of boring Hondas. It appears the Japanese automaker couldn’t agree more. What you’re looking at is likely a highly stylized precursor to the next-generation overseas Honda Accord, or what we know as the Acura TSX. Our very own sister publication Motor Trend says it may be called TLX, however, as the two models merge onto a single, larger platform that’s more TL than TSX. Whatever the case may be, we’re pretty sure it’ll have a high-performance hybrid powertrain available, as Honda has been touting its new technology lately.
Over in Asia, Honda sells a tall, seven-passenger wagon called the Odyssey that shares nothing with our van beyond its name. But as this vehicle is about the same size as the Toyota Prius v, it’s possible that it’ll make it across the pond in some form or another. The S in Concept S stands for stylish, surprise, and smart. With a worldwide product intent, Honda is setting the bar pretty high with its two stylish concepts. We’ll see how they look when they reach production.
The Hyundai Shouwang BHCD-1 is a large sedan with stately, yet curvaceous, styling. Could it be a precursor to the next-generation Hyundai Genesis sedan, which is set to appear within the next few years? Possibly. While certain elements will likely go into future products, the sedan is mostly for Hyundai to introduce its new Shouwang brand to China. It has dramatic proportions, almost Camaro-like from some angles. While it looks upscale, rumor has it that the production Shouwang cars will likely be based on a previous-generation Hyundai Elantra; a nice car, but certainly not a premium car.
If you’re looking at this Lamborghini SUV concept, chances are you’re either repulsed that a sports car maker could be building such a thing or getting out your calculator and checkbook to see if you could actually afford one. Like the Bentley EXP 9F SUV concept shown at the Geneva Motor Show, it shares its basic mechanical bits with the Porsche Cayenne, Audi A7, and Volkswagen Touareg. But unlike those three, it’s set to have a 600-horsepower engine in it when it reaches production in two or three years. Lamborghini hasn’t announced whether it would have a turbocharged engine or what the final cylinder count would be. All we know is it’ll be fast and expensive.
Concept Style Coupe
The Mercedes-Benz Concept Style Coupe already made an appearance, first with some leaked images on the Internet (surprise, surprise) then a “pre-debut” at the Transmission LA: Audio Visual art event at the Museum of Contemporary Art ala MOCA. Thus, there were no big surprises at the Mercedes Concept Style Coupe’s “official” debut at the Beijing show: it’s still a stunning concept and looks around 90-percent ready to go on sale as the upcoming Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class sometime next year.
Remember the Nissan Altima? The all-new version of Nissan’s popular mid-sized sedan made its debut last month at the New York Auto Show. Well, the thinly disguised upcoming Nissan Sentra compact makes its debut at the Beijing Motor Show but under the Nissan Sylphy moniker. Why thinly? The Sylphy looks like the U.S. Altima writ small. Check out that grill and headlamps if you don’t believe us. The next-gen Nissan Sentra will most likely be equipped with the Sylphy (and Altima)’s next-gen CVT plus the Nissan Sylphy’s 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine. We expect the Nissan Sylphy’s more upscale interior to also carry over to the U.S. version of the Nissan Sentra, which is scheduled to debut later this summer before rolling out of the dealerships in the fall.
Are these the next generation Toyota Corolla and Matrix? That was the international press’ reaction when the compact Dear Qin sedan and hatchback made their debut at the Beijing Motor Show. Not only the concepts echo the current Corolla, which is available in sedan and Matrix hatchback models, but Toyota muddled the possibility by stating both vehicles will be “global vehicles” aimed at bringing in more folks into the brand. You know, just like the Toyota Corolla. We don’t think we’re alone in hoping Toyota’s speech was more a hyperbole than a hint of things to come for the next generation Corolla.
Yundong Shuangqing Concept
To many folks here in the states, Toyota equals hybrids thanks to its Prius hybrid hatchback. Well, Toyota looks like it wants a repeat performance with the Chinese. The Yundong Shuangqing Concept is a hybrid exclusively designed for the Chinese market and will even be built in the country. Stated Toyota president Akio Toyoda at the Yundong Shuangqing Concept debut, “We would like to put smiles on the faces of our Chinese customers with hybrid technology. I want the people of China to be able to experience the beauty of hybrid technology through a hybrid car born in China.”
The Volkswagen E-Bugster Concept made its debut at the Detroit Auto Show back in January. However, the VW E-Bugster sans roof made its debut at the Beijing Motor Show, thus hinting of the upcoming Volkswagen Beetle Cabriolet. (That’s “convertible” to you yanks.) The E-Bugster concept, regardless with its top up or down, is a full-electric vehicle powered by a 114-horsepower motor with a theoretical range of 110 miles. Volkswagen states the VW E-Bugster can be recharged around 30 minutes with a specialized charging unit; the battery’s also gets some juice back from regenerative braking and “coasting”.