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  • Toyota Corolla, Levin hybrids to be made in China

    toyota-corolla-levin-china 097

    Hybrid versions of the Toyota Corolla and Levin (pictured) sedans are being planned for China next year, according to Reuters. Toyota is considering making and selling them there, fitting them with locally-made parts, in its first bid to entirely produce hybrids outside Japan.

    The Prius and Camry Hybrid are already being manufactured in China, but key parts such as hybrid systems still have to be imported. The high import tariffs make it difficult to generate volume.

    Executive VP Yasumori Ihara told Reuters that next year, the Corolla and Levin hybrids will use batteries, hybrid transaxles and inverters that are made in China. He added that Toyota will introduce 15 new models in the country by end-2017, in a quest to double China sales to around two million vehicles a year.

    According to Reuters, Toyota sold 917,000 vehicles in China last year. That’s nine percent more than the year before, recovering from a dip due to the diplomatic row between Japan and China. Of that number, 20,400 were hybrids, up from just 7,900 the year before.

    Toyota will sell two versions of the current-gen Corolla in China – the FAW-Toyota Corolla, which is similar in appearance to our Altis, and the new Guangqi-Toyota Levin, which our hardworking ground team in Beijing uncovered yesterday in a set of pics. Follow our Auto China 2014 coverage as it happens.

  • Mercedes-Benz Coupe SUV Concept previews X6 rival

    Mercedes-Benz Concept Coupé SUV

    As expected, Mercedes-Benz revealed the Mercedes-Benz Coupe SUV Concept at Auto China 2014. The Beijing showcar, a BMW X6-style machine, is said to be “sensual as a coupe, visionary as an SUV” by Gorden Wagener, head of design at Mercedes.

    The four-door, all-wheel drive Coupe SUV Concept has a length of almost five metres, and an imposing two-metre width thanks to broad shoulders and flared wheel arches. At the same time it has a modest height of around 1.75 metres, exhibiting the flat, extended roofline that is typical of a sports coupe.

    The recessed door handles and frameless side windows blend perfectly into the concept’s flanks to further accentuate the coupe character. Like all recent study vehicles, the Concept Coupe SUV comes with an “Alu-Beam” paint finish reminiscent of the Silver Arrows of the 1930s and 1950s. The wheels are large 22-inch items.

    mercedes-benz coupe suv  3

    The upright sports grille with a single louvre, framed by the all-LED “Multibeam” headlamps, is the major feature of the face. Soft cubes dominate the grille insert, and the sloping bonnet features power domes. A discreet reference to the SUV world is provided by the integrated, illuminated side sills, like running boards on off-roaders.

    At the back, an S-Class Coupe-style design line, which will feature in all future Merc coupes, takes centrestage. The line bridges the slim band of rear lights with their ruby-like, 3D look. Another feature that has distinguished large Merc coupes is the rear window with a rounded off top. A discreet SUV reference is made by the simulated underguard.

    Mercedes says that the Coupe SUV Concept previews a more sporty and dynamic “on-road line” of SUVs, seperate from the GLA, GLK, M, GL and G-Class, which are in the “off-road line”. Based on the ML, this concept is being planned for production in 2015 in the US, and will be called the MLC, according to reports.

  • Nissan Lannia Concept – the new Bluebird in Beijing

    nissan lannia beijing 1

    The wraps have come off the Nissan concept announced for Beijing – the Nissan Lannia Concept is the name of the sedan version of the Friend-ME concept that made its debut at Auto Shanghai last year.

    Where the Friend-ME concept was aimed at Chinese males in their mid-20s, the Lannia has a wider-looking scope, built around China’s digital lifestyle and tailored very much towards the country’s rising ‘Post-80s’ balinghou generation.

    It’s the second model to come about from Nissan’s Design China office in Beijing, working in close cooperation with the Nissan Global Design Centre in Kanagawa, Japan, under the leadership of Nissan senior VP and chief creative officer Shiro Nakamura.

    nissan lannia beijing 5

    Still, the ‘sedan theory-breaker’ is primarily a local effort, being “designed by Chinese, built by Chinese for the Chinese people, and ultimately, for the world,” according to chief planning officer Andy Palmer.

    The car features signature trademarks of Nissan’s next-generation design. These include a V-motion grille, boomerang headlamps, a distinctive kick-up pillar as well as a “floating” roof.

    Also announced at the car’s unveiling was its Chinese name, which is lan niao, yin xiang, in honour of the legendary Nissan Bluebird. Suitable exterior shade too, yes.

    Live pix by Kwek Chai Li

  • Beijing 2014: China-only Kia K4 sedan breaks cover

    kia k4 1

    Kia has unveiled its new K4 Concept at Auto China 2014 – the study previews a China-only sedan the Korean automaker will bring into the market sometime in the second half of the year. Assembly is set to take place at Dongfeng Yueda Kia’s plant in Yancheng in Jiansu province.

    The company describes the car’s exterior form as ‘simple, distinctive and dignified’, and as for size, the 4.72 metre-long K4 – which reportedly sits on the same platform as the Hyundai Mistra – slots in between the 4.84 metre-long K5 Optima than the 4.56 metre-long K3 (the Cerato here).

    Width is 1,815 mm, while wheelbase length is 2,700 mm, the latter identical to the K3, but slightly less than the Mistra’s 2,770 mm. Plenty of interior space in a ‘skilfully packaged’ cabin, so it is claimed.

    kia k4 beijing 3

    For Beijing, the concept is equipped with the 201 hp and 265 Nm 1.6 litre turbo GDI mill as seen on the pro_cee’d GT, paired with the company’s new seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. The show incidentally heralds the engine’s first appearance in the Chinese market.

    The glam powertrain won’t be the only engine on call for the car – reports indicate that more sedate 1.8 and 2.0 litre normally-aspirated options will headline the K4 in series production form, with the 1.6 turbo becoming available later.

    Standard equipment includes push-button ignition, a Supervision instrument cluster and Kia’s UVO infotainment system, while safety kit includes six airbags, ESP and a rear-view camera.

  • Volkswagen Golf R 400 Concept premieres in China


    The Volkswagen Golf R has traditionally been the most powerful production version for each generation of Golf. But could Volkswagen be planning to introduce an even more powerful version of the Golf? That’s what this Golf R 400 Concept seem to indicate.

    The Golf R 400 Concept also uses a 2.0 litre TSI engine just like the Mk7 GTI and R; however this one has its roots from the Polo WRC‘s racing engine. Peak power is 400 PS and 450 Nm of torque, channeled to all four wheels via a six-speed DSG gearbox and Haldex-based 4MOTION permanent all-wheel-drive. That’s a full 100 PS more than the Golf R.

    It’s not the most powerful version of the 2.0 TSI in a concept that we’ve seen – the TT quattro sport concept from Geneva has 420 PS – but still, it’s a very impressive power to displacement ratio. The 400 PS/450 Nm takes the Golf R 400 Concept up to 100 km/h in just 3.9 seconds.

    The exterior design of the Golf R 400 Concept – based on the three-door Golf body – has also been revised, now having flared fenders as a modern interpretation of the Golf G60 rally car from 1988. The front and rear bumpers and many other parts made of visible carbon fibre. The interior is finished with Alcantara and racing seats covered with “carbon leather”. Suspension settings remain the same as the Golf R’s.

  • BMW Vision Future Luxury – 9 Series imminent?


    Well, incredulous as the reports may have been, they were right – there will be a BMW 9 Series. Well, officially, the car shown at Auto China in Beijing today is called the BMW Vision Future Luxury, but anyone who says this concept isn’t presaging a production model Munich is working on to take on the extended-wheelbase Mercedes-Benz S-Class are kidding themselves.

    The styling treads on familiar BMW ground, but in a more upright and regal way. The bodywork is laid over a very long wheelbase and short overhangs to create classic front-engined, rear wheel drive proportions, accentuated by the powerful rear haunches.

    There are shades of last year’s 7 Series-based Pininfarina Gran Lusso coupé concept in the slim laser headlights, the oversized double kidney grille, the low, sloping roofline, the thin, broad L-shaped tail lights (now featuring a series of L-shaped OLED panels) and the Liquid Platinum Bronze paintwork. Carbon fibre featured on the front air deflectors and the strips on the door sills hint at the car’s lightweight construction.


    As with the Rolls-Royce Phantom and Ghost, the Vision Future Luxury features coach doors, this time without full B-pillar – just a small, slightly odd top-mounted half-pillar that stops at the waistline. This is possible because the monocoque – which features carbon fibre and aluminium in its construction – utilises the seat frames as load-bearing structures, connected to the door sills and centre console.

    The interior showcases BMW’s vision of its future connectivity and infotainment systems, with three screens surrounding the driver. The left display shows vehicle data, the one ahead of the driver shows the speedometer and rev counter as well as contextual supplementary data, while the right display shows additional infotainment information.

    Also on display is the Vision Head Up Display, which augments the driver’s view with information such as the speed limit as well as traffic light phasing, as well as highlighting certain objects such as buildings, traffic signs and road hazards. The front passenger gets their own display directly ahead of them, controlled by the touch-sensitive iDrive controller, which enables them to use applications such as the Luxury Concierge service without distracting the driver.


    BMW is clearly trying to make carbon desirable to luxury car buyers – the exposed material shows up everywhere inside, forming the base of the layered interior. Laid on top are the load-bearing aluminium structures and the lime wood and brown aniline leather trim, which were then “pared down to the essentials”, supposedly cutting down on weight. The seats and lower interior have been upholstered in white leather, and the contrast of the darker and lighter materials promote a sense of warmth and spaciousness.

    The rear quarters are particularly luxurious, with a pair of large, sculpted bucket seats, a retractable table and the wood-lined backs of the front seats lending a whiff of private jet about it. Passengers rest their feet in deep-pile pure silk carpet, while their eyes rest on the rear seat displays and the Rear Seat Touch Control Tablet on the rear centre console, which allow them to access BMW’s ConnectedDrive services.

    As mentioned above, the BMW Vision Future Luxury concept will almost certainly lead to a 9 Series flagship, which will sit alongside the statelier Ghost in the BMW Group portfolio and will be built on the company’s new modular architecture utilising steel, aluminium and carbon fibre to shave weight. The platform will first be used on the next-generation 7 Series (codenamed G11) and will then trickle down to the rest of BMW and Rolls-Royce’s rear-biased vehicles.

  • Beijing 2014: Honda Concept B – destined for China

    honda concept b beijing

    This is the Honda Concept B, one of the two world premieres the Japanese automaker has on call at the 2014 Beijing International Auto Show, which began today.

    The company hasn’t divulged much about the design study, except to say it previews a five-door model developed exclusively for the Chinese market. No tech or powertrain specs, but aside from the expected petrol form, reports indicate that a hybrid variant is also being planned.

    honda concept b beijing 3

    Honda says the Concept B’s design (which is ‘advanced’ and ‘cool-looking’, so it goes) has been geared to appeal to younger drivers in China, but adds that it will also be a very practical offering.

    The development of a mass-production model based on the concept model – which is curiously tagged as a ‘compact hatchback’ – is in progress, and the company says it plans to introduce the car into the market in two years. The final product should of course be more subdued, looks-wise.

    Live pix by Kwek Chai Li

  • Audi TT Offroad Concept previews future Q4 ‘TT SUV’

    Audi TT offroad concept

    We earlier showed you sketches of Audi’s Beijing 2014 show car that could preview an Audi Q4 SUV, essentially a coupe-like version of the Q3. Here are official images of the SUV, which is now officially called the Audi TT offroad concept show car.

    The concept measures 4,390 mm long by 1,850 mm wide by 1,530 mm tall, with a wheelbase of 2,630 mm, dimensions resembling the Q3, although slightly shorter.

    “The Audi TT offroad concept provides a glimpse of how we might imagine a new model in the future TT family. It combines the sporty genes of the TT with the strengths of a compact Audi SUV. Its plug-in hybrid drive with the option of inductive charging is a major step toward the mobility of the future,” said Dr Ulrich Hackenberg, member of Audi’s Board of Management for technical development.

    Audi TT offroad concept

    The concept car is powered by a plug-in hybrid drive system which combines a 292 hp/380 Nm 2.0 TFSI engine with two electric motors. A clutch links the tranversely mounted 2.0 TFSI motor to a slim, disc-shaped 40 kW/220 Nm electric motor, which is integrated to a six-speed e-S tronic dual-clutch gearbox.

    The other electric motor is in the rear axle, with the ability to produce 85 kW and 270 Nm independently of the front axle drive system. It also allows all-wheel-drive on hybrid mode. Total system output is 408 hp and 650 Nm of torque, while average fuel consumption is an incredibly efficient 1.9 litres per 100 km.

    In front of the rear axle is a liquid-cooled, lithium-ion battery comprising eight modules. It contributes to the balanced 54:46 weight distribution between the front and rear axles and to the low centre of gravity. The battery stores up to 12 kWh of energy, enough for a zero emissions electric range of 50 km using the rear axle motor alone. EV mode can be active up to 130 km/h. The concept also implements Audi Wireless Charging, which allows the car to be charged on a plate via wireless induction.

    Audi TT offroad concept

    The plate with a coil and an inverter is placed on the parking spot and connected to the power grid. The charging process begins automatically when the car drives onto the plate. The alternating magnetic field of the infrastructure side induces a 3.3 kW alternating current across the air gap in the secondary coil, which is integrated into the vehicle. Charging stops automatically when the battery is fully charged. It takes about as long as charging via a cable, and the driver can interrupt the process at any time.

    The Audi Wireless Charging technology is claimed to be more than 90% efficient, and is not affected by weather factors such as rain, snow or ice. The alternating field, which is only generated when a car is on the plate, is said to be not harmful for people or animals.

    Audi TT offroad concept

    Another new feature making its debut in the concept is a new ioniser, which is updated compared to the version of the system available in the A6 and A8. Audi says ionisation significantly improves the quality of the air in the cabin. The plan is for allergens to be neutralized in the future.

    An LED light in the interior of the air vent lights up when the ioniser is turned on.

  • Updated BMW Concept X5 eDrive shown in New York

    BMW’s world premiere at the New York International Auto Show (NYIAS) isn’t quite a world premiere – the BMW Concept X5 eDrive was shown in Frankfurt last year, but the company has now provided more details of the plug-in hybrid version of the original Munich SUV (SAV in BMW-speak).

    What we now know is the output of the petrol engine – the TwinPower Turbo four-cylinder (still of unknown capacity, but we believe it is BMW’s current 2.0 litre mill) produces 245 hp and 350 Nm, the same as other models fitted with the “28i” suffix such as the 328i and the 528i. The engine is mated to a 70 kW (95 hp)/250 Nm electric motor to create a combined power output of 302 hp.

    Claimed performance and efficiency figures are unchanged – 0-100 km/h in under 7.0 seconds, an average fuel consumption of under 3.8 litres per 100 km, carbon dioxide emissions of under 90 g per km and a maximum range of 30 km in electric-only mode, operable at speeds under 120 km/h. There is a Save Battery mode that maintains the current battery charge level for later use such as in city traffic.


    We also now have a look at the interior of the eDrive, complete in Ivory White leather upholstery with light blue stitching, Piano Finish Black trim with blue accent strips, blue ambient lighting, an eDrive button as well as eDrive logos debossed into the headrests. A window built into the boot floor showcases the lithium-ion battery pack underneath, also illuminated in blue.

    That is a lot of blue, and for good reason – blue is the signature colour of the BMW i brand, and the company obviously wants to display the link between its regular hybrids and its dedicated electric vehicles as much as possible. The colour also shows up on the outside on the kidney grille bars, the inserts in the front air intakes, the charging port surround on the front fender as well as the rear bumper insert.

  • Volkswagen New Midsize Coupe concept is a junior CC


    Meet the Volkswagen New Midsize Coupe concept, or the NMC in short, which has just made its world debut at Auto China 2014 in Beijing. In essence, it previews a coupe-like sedan positioned between the Jetta and Passat models. A junior CC, if you like.

    At 4,597 mm long and 1,838 mm wide, the NMC is shorter than the C-segment Jetta, yet wider than the D-segment Passat. Its 1,422 mm height is lower than both the standard sedans too, giving it a low visual centre of gravity.

    The NMC sits on Volkswagen Group’s modular MQB platform. It introduces the VW design boss, Klaus Bischoff’s new vision of front end design, with a complex grille, 3D-effect LED headlights and a large but closely detailed lower air intake. The show wheels are huge 22-inchers with body matching ‘Dragon Red’ highlights.


    Its side profile is said to retain a coupe’s cab-backwards design, using a long bonnet, sweeping C-pillar and a short boot lid to create the effect. Moving back, the strong character lines that run across the sides merge into a neatly integrated boot lid spoiler. Fancy LED rear lights and dual tailpipes in matching shapes enhance the visual width of the NMC.

    Connected to the exhausts is the Golf GTI’s 2.0 litre turbocharged TSI engine. This time paired to a seven-speed DSG dual-clutch gearbox, it can get to 100 km/h in 6.5 seconds and up to 244 km/h. A promising cD value of 0.299 gives an impressive fuel consumption of just 6.4 litres per 100 km (15.6 km per litre).

    The interior is only shown in design sketches so far, but Volkswagen claims that it’s as practical as it is sporty, with ample space for five and a generous 500 litre boot. A production version should be well under way, so anyone smitten just yet?


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