+++ Carmanufacturers in CHINA have put their fresh concepts, crossovers, electric vehicles (EVs) and coupes on display at this year’s Shanghai motor show, with a long list of showcars from brands including Chery, Qoros, BYD and Senova. Roewe launched its Vision-E Concept (not to be confused with the Skoda Vision E) at the Shanghai show, which previews its forthcoming Chinese market electric crossover. Suicide doors and an all glass central touchscreen denote its showcar status, while a blingy front grille and chunky lower rear bumper differentiate it from its Skoda-badge homophone. Chery brought its Tiggo Coupe Concept to the show, a coupe-crossover similar to the Toyota C-HR and Nissan Juke. Featuring creased rear haunches to hide the second-row doors, the concept also sports bucket seats, digital instrumentation and an LED strip that stretches from both headlights to meet in the middle at the Chery badge. Meanwhile, exotic car-builder Koenigsegg has teamed with Qoros for the K-EV Concept, an all-electric supercar powered by four electric motors for a combined output of 648 kW. 0 to 100 km/h is said to take less than 3 seconds and battery range will allow up to 482 km of travel before needing a recharge, which can be done wirelessly. With asymmetrical doors (gullwing for the driver’s side, a traditional hinged door for the front passenger and a sliding door for the rear passenger) expect to see changes if Qoros brings a version of the K-EV to market. Dongfeng showcased its Fengshen AX4 crossover with large, protruding foglights and two-toned body colour. A light-reflective panel is also situated on the front doors to match the fog-lights with sleek headlights and Mazda CX-5-like proportions rounding out exterior styling. Beijing Automotive Industry Holding (BAIC)-owned Senova debuted a trio of new cars with its X55 SUV, D50 sedan and OFFspace D70 concept. Looking like a Nissan Qashaqi with a Mercedes A-Class interior, the new X55 crossover hides its exhaust outlets and features chrome highlights along its large front grille, the bottom of doors and across the rear hatch connecting both tail-lights. The four-door D50 however (while featuring a similar Mercedes-themed interior layout) appears similar in style and size to the Hyundai Sonata, with horizontal lines along the front grille connecting the headlights, classic sedan proportions and subtle boot-moulded rear spoiler. Senova also uncovered its sleek OFFspace D70 showcar, a successor to its Saab 9-5-based D70 large sedan, featuring short front and rear overhangs, as well as a heavily sculpted derriere. Inside, the OFFspace D70 concept sports four seats, digital instrumentation and a capacitive-touch infotainment controls found in the centre stack. BYD showcased 2 of its new vehicles, the SongMPV people-mover and Dynasty SUV concept, both sporting angular headlights, imposing front end designs and enough sleek lines to make sportscar blush. Designed by former Alfa Romeo chief designer Wolfgang Egger (who was responsible for penning the 8C and 147) both the SongMPV and Dynasty preview the future design direction of BYD. Chinese electric car-maker NIO is hoping to steal some of Tesla’s Model X charge with its ES8 emissions-free SUV. Measuring almost 500 cm long with a nearly 300 cm wheelbase, the ES8 will be more than a physical match for its Tesla rival, which comes in at 505 cm long and has a 307 cm wheelbase, but whether NIO can go toe-to-toe in range and power with Tesla’s all-electric drivetrain is yet to be determined as details were not divulged. Hongqi unveiled its H5 sedan and U-Concept SUV at the Shanghai show, both wearing Buick-esque front grilles, as well as the brand’s signature long bonnet and red flag hood ornament. Based on the Mazda6, the H5 differs with new front and rear styling treatments as well as a slightly different interior layout. Meanwhile, the U-Concept SUV wears slimmed down headlights, an eye-catching lower chin, a sloping roofline and high rear haunches. Wey brought its Pi4 VV7x SUV to the Shanghai showfloor (which previews an upcoming production version) with the striking red concept sporting a coupe-crossover silhouette akin to the BMW X6 or Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe. A front-end dominating grille, sleek headlights, gloss black rear diffuser and red-highlighted quad exhaust tips complete the eye-catching design, but expect styling to be toned down for the on-sale version. +++

+++ HONDA used the 2017 Shanghai auto show to debut the next logical step for its hybrid technology: the hotter than hot crossover segment. The CR-V Hybrid made its official debut in Shanghai and the automaker has made it all but official that the hybrid crossover will be making its way to the U.S. and possibly Europe. Honda responded to a request for comment about the possibility of a U.S. introduction for the CR-V Hybrid, stating: “We have already announced our intent to electrify core volume models, including light trucks. CR-V will logically be a part of that, and we’ll announce timing for the U.S. at a later date”. The CR-V Hybrid will utilize the automaker’s “Sport Hybrid” two-motor hybrid system, the same system found in the current Accord Hybrid, meaning its innards will be familiar. The Accord Hybrid manages 212 horsepower from its 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine and electric motor and even sports some behavioral parallels with the Koenigsegg Regera hypercar. Notably, the engine can directly provide power to the wheels while recharging the battery. That’s not to say an Accord Hybrid is on par with a Koenigsegg. It seems like a no-brainer Honda would introduce a hybridized variant of the CR-V. The popular crossover recently underwent a redesign and a CR-V Hybrid will not only mean incremental sales for the number one selling SUV on the market, but it will only help boost Honda’s corporate average fuel economy figure. Expect the Nissan Roque/X-Trail and Toyota RAV4 Hybrids to be Honda’s main targets when the CR-V Hybrid reaches U.S. shores in the near future. +++

+++ MCLAREN ’s model range could grow to include a four-seater, according to CEO Mike Flewitt.  Flewitt admitted that a four-seat McLaren is something his company continues to look at, but ruled out a four-door model: “I can see four seats, but not four doors”, he told. “It could be either Sports Series or Ultimate Series and I could see the GT further enhance its usability and further move in that direction if that vehicle could have at least a 2+2 configuration. We’d look at it, see if it’s what the market wants and see if it would still have the driving attributes that you’d want from our cars: you would have to use a slightly longer wheelbase so you would lose a little of the agility that’s there. But if what you got back was more attractive than what else is in that segment then maybe, yes”. Flewitt also explained the process that McLaren would go through before signing off a 2+2 model. “When we do our product planning there are three things I always measure: the business case, the brand (it’ll clearly need to be a McLaren fitting with the brand we’re building, and the third is around the technology) it’ll need to be best in class and lead the market”, he said. “If we were to do a GT as a 2+2, would that enhance the business case? Would it fit with the brand? Probably if done the right way. It’s something we would continue to look at and as much as you’d get me to stand on stage and swear we’d never build an SUV, I wouldn’t take that position on a 2+2”. McLaren’s recently launched 570GT is already taking about a third of sports series sales right now, but Flewitt admitted that he expected more: up to 50%. “I thought it would be half, but what we misjudged is not so much the car, but the time it takes for the market to realise what a GT is”, he told. “I haven’t had anyone who’s bought one say ‘why the hell are you doing this?’ ”. Meanwhile the new 720S, launched just weeks ago in Geneva and unveiled for the first time in China at the Shanghai show, is drawing record numbers of sales. Flewitt revealed to us that in the six weeks since the car’s unveiling, 1,400 orders had been received meaning the car is already sold out for 2017. With Chinese order books just opening and once the car is in showrooms, Flewitt expects that number to grow even faster.and unveiled for the first time in China at the Shanghai show, is drawing record numbers of sales. Flewitt revealed to us that in the six weeks since the car’s unveiling, 1,400 orders had been received meaning the car is already sold out for 2017. With Chinese order books just opening and once the car is in showrooms, Flewitt expects that number to grow even faster. +++

+++ While I am nothing but a fan of V-8 engines, the delightful sounds and characteristics of a well-done inline-6 certainly tickles my fancy, too. And AMG is cooking up its own variant of MERCEDESforthcoming inline-6. Mercedes-AMG boss Tobias Moers confirmed his team is currently developing a hotter version of Mercedes-Benz’s inline-6, which is part of the brand’s plan to overhaul its internal combustion engine strategy. The new inline-6 displaces 3.0 liters, and benefits from electric compressors and an integrated starter generator (ISG). The final result is a 6-cylinder engine with the performance of a V-8. That’s from Mercedes-Benz engineers, though. AMG will certainly have its way with the powerplant and do very good things for performance. Specifically, Moers stated the engine will feature 48-volt electrical architecture compatible with state-of-the-art electric turbocharger and next-generation hybrid systems, both of which have been engineered by AMG and Mercedes-Benz. He also went on to say AMG is invested in creating electrified sports cars as “the future of performance”. As emission regulations may starve off the typical internal combustion engine in the future, AMG will chase superior range, fuel economy, and the best performance in its ventures. AMG will likely fit the hopped up inline-6 engine in its variant of the upcoming E-Class coupe, which will reportedly arrive sans V-8 power. It may also serve a purpose in a production variant of the AMG GT sedan, which will debut by the end of the decade. +++

+++ MINI ’s third-generation Hardtop (previously referred to as a Hatch) is approaching the midway point in its life cycle and will soon be updated to keep it looking and feeling fresh. A prototype for the updated model has just been spotted ahead of a likely debut late this year or early next. We should see it arrive in showrooms as a 2018 model. The internals of the headlights are new and it appears that some tweaks are being made to the taillights, too. The bumpers are the same units found on the current model though these will likely switch to a revised design on more advanced prototypes. The particular prototype is for the sporty Cooper S Hardtop but similar changes should feature on the base Cooper and high-performance John Cooper Works versions, too. Not much else is known about the updated Hardtop. While the current inline-3 and -4 powertrain offerings should carry over, there’s the possibility that Mini adds the plug-in hybrid powertrain debuting in the 2017 Mini Cooper S E Countryman as an option. The setup combines a 1.5-liter turbocharged inline-3 with an electric motor for a combined output of 224 horsepower. +++

+++ QOROS has shelved plans to sell its cars in Europe indefinitely. The Chinese brand made a splash at the Geneva Motor Show in 2013 and 2015 when it presented the 3 saloon and 2 SUV, with confident claims it would match European-built mdels for quality as it eyed sales here. It even got as far as a ‘soft’ launch in Slovakia, with bosses predicting it would be in showrooms across the wider continent by this year. But now it has admitted there is no imminent prospect of it coming to Europe. “The exchange rate has killed that idea for the time being”, design boss Gert Hildebrand, the former design chief of Mini, told. “We want to go where the money is, not where we have to convince people. And at the moment the money is in China”. Qoros sold 24,000 cars in its home market in 2016. It is understood that while the viability of a European presence will be constantly monitored, a more likely area for foreign expansion is South America, where joint venture partner Chery has a significant presence. The news came as Qoros unveiled the monstrous Model K EV at its home Shanghai Motor Show. The EV supercar uses electric motors to drive all four wheels, delivering peak power of 1300 hp. It’s claimed to deliver 0-100 km/h in 2.6 seconds and deliver a range of 500 km. Top speed is a limited 264 km/h. Styling highlights include a gullwing door on the driver’s side and a passenger door that opens conventionally or can be slid backwards, while carbon fibre is used extensively throughout. The dramatically styled electric powerhouse is a concept car that has the likes of Faraday Future and US start-up Lucid Motors in its sights. And bosses are confident that their car will have the edge. “The advantage we have is that we are already manufacturing”, an insider told. Another concept is due at the Guangzhou Motor Show later this year, with production slated for 2019. +++

+++ An all-new VOLKSWAGEN Polo is scheduled to appear later this year, and naturally a fresh GTI badged hot hatch version will follow in its tracks. While I’ve little solid information on the next Polo GTI, VW has confirmed what we’ll find under the bonnet. A 200 hp 2.0 TSI from the previous Golf GTI will feature in its next hot supermini, meaning it will be more powerful and noticeably faster than the one it will replace. The current Polo GTI boasts 192 hp, but the new model will turn up the wick to be on par with the next-generation Ford Fiesta ST, which makes use of a turbocharged 1.5-litre three-cylinder. We’d expect the increase in power to drop the 0-100 km/h time from 6.7 seconds to less than 6 seconds. The new MQB A0-based Polo GTI is likely to use the same XDS electronic diff lock as the current car, while adaptive dampers with comfort and sport settings could also appear. The confirmation of the 200 hp engine in the MQB A0 platform is also the strongest hint yet that it’ll also appear in a hot SEAT Ibiza Cupra. There will be lowered sports suspension, racy alloys and the usual GTI trimmings, but overall the next Polo won’t be a gamechanger in terms of design. Expect more agressive bumpers, larger wheels and a honeycomb style grille. The Polo GTI should arrive shortly after the rest of the range at the end of the year. +++

+++ VOLVO has only just broken ground on its first-ever U.S. assembly plant, but we already know what vehicle will first roll out into the southern breeze of Ridgeville, South Carolina when the plant becomes operational in 2018. The next-generation S60 has been selected as the first vehicle to be produced at the upcoming factory. That may sound odd, considering SUVs are the hot ticket currently, but the plans were finalized in 2014 when sedans still reigned supreme. Volvo will choose the second vehicle to fill the South Carolina plant this year. Volvo plans to produce up to 60,000 S60s for both the U.S. and export to other markets. The automaker will bring on 2,000 workers to staff the 2.3 million-square-foot site. As for the second vehicle to be made at the plant, we’re likely to see an SUV sharing the SPA platform of the next-generation S60. This means either the XC60 or XC90. Volvo’s compact “40” series of cars, which will include a new XC40 SUV, will be based on the separate CMA platform, thus likely ruling them out for the U.S. plant. Currently, the S60 is made at plants in China and Europe, but the U.S. will be the car’s sole home once the next-gen model arrives. Meanwhile, Volvo announced all future S90s would originate from China, and that versions bound for the U.S. would be long-wheelbase models packing an extra 4.5 inches of cabin space as standard. South Carolina was chosen by Volvo thanks to the state’s infrastructure in place for exporting vehicles. Both BMW and Mercedes-Benz have contributed to making the state a vehicle production hub for various products. Construction of the new plant is said to be about two-thirds done and the plant should be open and operational by the third quarter of 2018. +++

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