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Motoring: Crossover Cars

by Aswan Yap 17 Mar 2017
Motoring: Crossover Cars

No matter how you personally feel about crossovers, the reality is that the market loves them. Traditional market segments simply don’t cut it anymore. Sure, there are those who will buy a fairly standard hatchback or sedan, but there is usually an overwhelmingly positive response to cars that can’t really be pigeon-holed. Everything from the Honda HR-V (a hatchback-SUV crossover) to the BMW X6 (an SUV-coupe crossover) to the Mercedes-Benz CLS (a sedan-coupe crossover) has done extremely well.

No idea is too absurd. That being said, car manufacturers still need to gauge public reception to a model that they intend to release, and that’s where the concept car comes in. Concept cars used to be things that wouldn’t necessarily make it to production as they were largely studies in design or a way for designers to flex their muscles with few repercussions. These days, the concept car is usually a model that is fairly close to its final form, and occasionally, there will even be iterative development to further refine the concept before it is confirmed.

At the Detroit Motorshow earlier this year, there were three such examples: the Audi Q8 Concept, the BMW X2 Concept, and the Infiniti QX50 Concept. All three cars sit somewhere in the SUV-based crossover range, but each car is in a different state of production readiness. It’s a good way to see how the concepts evolve and streamline as they get closer to production, both in terms of design and features.

AUDI Q8 CONCEPT

We start with the Audi Q8 Concept. The Q8 is a car that doesn’t currently exist in the Audi model range, but it is a car that they have talked about ever since they looked to introduce coupe-SUV crossover models. The Q8 will sit at the top of the Audi SUV model range and is competitively aimed squarely at the BMW X6 and the Mercedes- Benz GLE Coupe.

From a design standpoint, the Q8 Concept is synonymous with the newest crop of Audi models. Audi says that there are some influences from the Ur-Quattro (better known as the original Audi Quattro that was the company’s claim to fame during the glory days of race and rally), but this is more a thin attempt at marketing than anything else. What the Q8 Concept does have going for it is its sleek roofline: sweeping coupe rooflines like those found in the Mercedes-Benz CLS and BMW X6 are highly fashionable; But with the Q8 Concept, the execution is done so as not to eat into rear passenger headroom.

The interior on this concept takes Audi’s Virtual Cockpit system to an extreme, which is pleasant to see with a concept car. The screens stretch nearly the entire length of the dashboard. This is something we are starting to see in production cars of today, so it’s likely that this will also make it to a production version of the Q8. The mechanicals for the concept are fairly standard fare: propulsion is provided by a 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 engine with an electric motor working in tandem.

INFINITI QX50

Perhaps a little closer to production is the Infiniti QX50 concept. Infiniti hasn’t been doing so well recently, both on a local and global scale, but hopefully their new range of products will help to turn this around. Infiniti’s technological partnership with Mercedes- Benz has seen some interesting results, such as the QX30 crossover which has received critical acclaim, and has proper potential to restore the brand to its former glory.

While Infiniti already has a QX50 (formerly known as the EX), the model is close to 10 years old and is in dire need of a replacement. Mechanical details for the QX50 Concept are few and far between, although there is word that it will have a front-biased all-wheel drive system, and sport Infiniti’s upcoming variable compression ratio system. The latter is the more exciting part as it is a massive leap for internal combustion engines and promises both high power and high fuel efficiency.

The new QX50 also represents a step in the right direction in terms of product development at Infiniti. Many of the older Infiniti models were essentially rehashed versions of high-end Nissan products, but with these new models, there is an opportunity for change. Infiniti plans to include features like autonomous driving and improve their packaging in order to streamline production, and this can only translate to good things for customers.

BMW X2

When it comes to crossovers, BMW is arguably the best in the premium segment. While Mercedes-Benz may have been the first to diversify their product por tfolio and enter as many segments as they could, it was BMW that began to find the segments between segments and capitalise on this. Arguably, it is far easier to execute various body styles and designs as platform sharing is a very common practice these days, but BMW was willing to take that leap of faith and launch these rather peculiar models.

The BMW X2 will be the smallest of BMW’s SUV-coupe crossovers, although from the concept that BMW put on display, it doesn’t seem to follow the design language of the X4 and X6. Perhaps this was done as a response to the evolution of the BMW X1: in its second generation, the X1 lost its sleek wagon-like proportions and started to look more like a shrunk down BMW X3. This new X2 looks like a proper evolution of the X1 of old, having a sleeker roofline than its contemporary sibling.

As it goes with most new BMW products, you can expect the mechanicals and underpinnings to be shared with other models. The X2 will likely be offered with a range of petrol and diesel engines, and will also probably sit on the same platform of the BMW X1 and share many interior components. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as BMW interiors are a good blend of luxury and functionality, although it is rare to be surprised by a BMW product in this day and age.

Crossovers may not be as exciting as full on supercars or convertibles, but they satisfy the needs and wants of most consumers, regardless of whether they’re shopping for a luxury car or something with a little more emphasis on function. In the future you can expect to see more and more of these making their way from concept to production. Perhaps in a decade or so, we may even see traditional models phased out in favour of these more attractive offerings.

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