Pininfarina Isn’t Messing Around, Unveils Two More Concept Models With HKG

The K550 and K750 crossover concepts are bowing at the 2017 Shanghai Auto Show

Apparently, being under new ownership has breathed some new life to Pininfarina. Long regarded as one of the best auto design houses in the business, the Italian company has since ratcheted up its concept production with a pair of new concepts for its new automotive BFF, Chinese company Hybrid Kinetic Group. It wasn’t that long ago that the two companies joined together to present the H600 sedan, which debuted at the 2017 Geneva Motor Show. Now we’re seeing two more concepts, the K550 and the K750.

Presented at the 2017 Shanghai Auto Show, both the K550 and the K750 join the H600 in what could turn into an impressive electric vehicle lineup for the fledgling HKG brand. The two-row, five-seater K550, in particular, is presented as a five-seat crossover concept powered by an electric powertrain that itself is being developed by HKG. The same goes for the much larger K750, which rides taller and longer than its counterpart, thanks in part to having three rows of seating that can accommodate up to seven people. Both models aren’t expected to arrive anytime soon, but like the H600, there appears to be some optimism coming from both Pininfarina and HKG that we’ll end up seeing these models hit the road in production guise soon.

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Jeep Joining The Hybrid Bandwagon Is Proof That The Hybrid Revolution Is In Full Swing

It’s been talked about in the past, but a Jeep hybrid still takes some getting used to

Some automakers are synonyms with specific characteristics. Ferrari and Lamborghini are synonymous with Italian power and performance. Rolls-Royce and Bentley are quintessential marquees known for their opulence and luxury. Then there’s Jeep, which is known for its ruggedness and off-road capabilities. It figures then that when news first broke in 2015 that Jeep was going hybrid with some of its models, it was, to say the least, jarring to the senses. Fast forward to the 2017 Shanghai Auto Show and we finally get to see what a Jeep hybrid looks like in the form of the Yuntu, a three-row, seven-seater, full-sized SUV concept that’s laying the groundwork for a new era in the company’s long and illustrious history.

To be clear, there’s no official word yet from Jeep about the production prospects of the Yuntu Concept. There is, however, a strong possibility that we’re headed in that direction anyway. Remember, Jeep CEO Mike Manley has been a strong advocate of dipping the company in the hybrid market, most recently confirming at the 2017 Geneva Motor Show the arrival of a hybrid version of the Wrangler. The Yuntu, of course, is far different from the Wrangler, both in aesthetics and purpose. But the mere sight of the concept in Shanghai is an indication that the brand has a more elaborate hybrid plan that will involve numerous models receiving this specific powertrain. Just goes to show how brand images are now giving way to addressing the future of the auto industry.

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LEDs Dominate The Conversation On The Audi E-Tron Sportback Concept

There’s a lot of them on the coupe-crossover concept

Most concept vehicles are largely created because the automaker wants to promote something for future production vehicles. That formula has been tried and tested so many years that it’s become normal for people like us to expect them. Such is the case with Audi’s new E-Tron Sportback Concept, which is actually promoting a lot of things, not the least of which is the company’s overarching electric crossover agenda. But there is one aspect about the E-Tron Sportback Concept that Audi really wants us to pay attention to. It’s the LED lights, and for what they’re all worth, there are a lot of them.

Audi hasn’t said exactly how many light emitting diodes the concept has at its disposal, but the front bumper alone has around 250 LEDs that extend from one end of the bumper to the other. More LEDs are located on either side of the grille, including Audi’s actual four rings logo. Yes, the Audi logo is made from LEDs, and that’s not even counting the number of LEDs that have been packed on both the headlights and taillights.

According to Audi, the LEDs were added to the concept to showcase different lighting patterns that we may or may not see in future production models. These patterns work to communicate with other cars on the road, which itself is a novelty that could find its way on a production model of the coupe-crossover concept should it get that far.

The smart money is to wait and see how the technology evolves from here on out. These many LEDs may look good on a concept, but the costs of packing all of them on a production model could determine whether they’re feasible or not. Make no mistake though, the visual appeal of all these lights on a concept is evident; the only question is whether Audi deems them reasonable enough to become fixtures – no pun intended – on its future models.

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2018 Lincoln Navigator

Watch out, Cadillac... Lincoln is BACK!

The days of a worn-out, aging Navigator are gone. Lincoln has finally given its full-size luxury SUV a proper makeover, complete with a high-horsepower EcoBoost V-6, an upscale appearance and perhaps the classiest interior ever seen in the American SUV segment. Of course, the new Navigator is based on Ford’s all-new Expedition. Both share a new high-strength steel frame, aluminum construction for the body, and Ford’s new 10-speed automatic transmission. Cadillac has held the luxury SUV torch for years with its well-regarded Escalade, but Lincoln could soon be taking the lead.

“Quiet luxury is both a look and a feeling. The all-new Navigator embodies both.” That’s what Lincoln president Kumar Galhotra said about the Navigator when it debuted at the 2017 New York Auto Show. He continued, saying, “The sleek styling, spacious interior, and technology are all designed to make each trip effortless.”

Lincoln has worked tirelessly to build back its reputation of class, elegance, and that old-school charm. Take those Matthew McConaughey commercials, for example. He’s wearing a suit – tie gone, collar undone – hand sprawled over the steering wheel after a long day at some white-collar position in a successful career built over time. It’s smooth jazz music playing softly with rain falling on an empty city street; it’s a mellow yet engaging game of poker and coming away with the winning hand. “The feeling stays with you,” the commercial says. It’s this modern, minimalistic yet richly decorated idea of luxury Lincoln is attempting to tie to its brand image. Regardless of the advertisements, if Lincoln keeps building vehicles like the Navigator, the idea should stick.

Keep reading for the full run-down of Lincolns’ newest seven-seater.

Citroen C5 Aircross Bows in China, Comes to Europe in 2018

Meet the company’s first hybrid vehicle!

SUVs and crossovers are still gaining traction on the market, and it’s no surprise that more and more automakers are rolling out such products. Citroen is one of them, and it just launched the C5 Aircross at the 2017 Shanghai Auto Show. Bigger than the upcoming C3 crossover (as the name itself suggest), the C5 Aircross is based on the same EMP2 architecture as the Peugeot 3008, DS 7 Crossback, and Vauxhall Grandland X. Set to go on sale in China this year and in Europe in 2018, the C5 Aircross is aimed at products such as the Nissan Qashqai, Kia Sportage, and Mazda CX-5. The Aircross’ styling is based on Citroen’s latest design language.

Up front, we have the traditional Chevron grille and two distinct pairs of headlamps. There are thin daytime running lights above, and the more conventional headlamps below, both using LED technology. The sides are as traditional as they get with crossovers, while the rear section showcases large LED taillights and a rather steep tailgate. Inside, the Aircross aims at the premium market. There’s a 12.3-inch screen instead of the conventional instrument cluster dials, while the eight-inch screen in the center stack provides access to the infotainment and navigation systems. The crossover also comes with a comprehensive safety package, the Progressive Hydraulic Cushions suspension, and adaptive cruise control. Motivation comes from four-cylinder engines rated at anywhere between 165 and 200 horsepower, but a hybrid drivetrain with a total output of 300 horses will be introduced later on. This gasoline-electric combo will make the C5 Aircross the first Citroen to feature plug-in hybrid technology.

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2017 Volkswagen I.D. CROZZ Concept

Volkswagen buckles down on an EV future

With mud still on its face from the Dieselgate scandal, Volkswagen is dead set on cleaning up its image. Gone is its focus on diesel and gasoline powerplants, now replaced by an all-electric future. While the internal combustion engine still has many years left with the German automaker, its executives have set a goal of 1 million EV sales a year. That’s a massive undertaking, but Volkswagen seems properly poised for the sprint. The latest in VW’s charge is the I.D. CROZZ, an all-electric crossover designed for mass appeal. The I.D. CROSS just debuted at the 2017 Shanghai Auto Show and is said to be entering production by 2020.

While the name will likely change, the I.D. CROZZ will hopefully keep its futuristic design. The chance is pretty good it will, in fact, thanks to comments made by Klaus Bischoff, VW’s head of design. He said at Shanghai "If it was ever possible to make a 100-percent certain prediction of what the future will look like, here it is. In 2017, we are showing how Volkswagen will be transforming the roadscape from 2020.”

While Bischoff might be a bit overly optimistic, his words give a sense of optimizing that Volkswagen will adopt this new design language across its lineup. It’s impossible to be disappointed, thanks to a greater degree of shape, style, and attitude than anything currently flowing from VW’s factories. The I.D. CROZZ doesn’t look like an appliance, but rather a sculpted piece of art. Sure, the production version will look a bit more conventional, but we’ve got high hopes that Volkswagen’s future looks much more sensual – not to mention emissions-free.

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Back in the early 2010s, Lexus was missing out on a prime segment – the compact SUV/crossover segment. It had most other SUV segments covered, but was still coming up short. Then, in 2014, the curtain was raised and to our surprise sat the Lexus NX, an all-new SUV that was destined to slot below the RX and give Lexus the fighting chance it needed in the compact crossover segment. As a 2015 model, it went on sale in late 2014 and showcased the usual spindle grille and bold styling that’s normally associated with Toyota’s luxury arm. But, in a world where SUVs and Crossovers are very competitive, you’ve got to keep things fresh. That’s why we’re looking at the model you see here, a refreshed NX with all of the bells and whistles that’ll keep it relevant for the next few years. Highlights include new headlights and taillights, an updated grille with new mesh, an all-new front fascia with larger corner vents and longer LED fog lights and running lights, and some minor updates inside to help keep things fresh there, too.

The interior can now be equipped with a 10.3-inch infotainment display. It’s an option you’ll have to pay for, but is a big deal considering you can only upgrade to a seven-inch unit in the current model. There’s a revamped HVAC control console that is more ergonomic while the analog clock grows a little bit for 2018 and can now adjust to different time zones automatically. Most controls and switches inside now feature a metallic satin finish, providing a more premium look while the touch interface pad has been enlarged a bit for easier use. Finally, the USB ports have been repositioned, and the wireless charging tray has grown because it’s all about cell phones the size of bricks these days, right?

There are some other minor changes to discuss, so keep reading to learn more about that.

With the exception of the 2015 Chevy FNR concept, Chevy has pretty much proven that its design team is a bunch of 75-year-old retirees with nothing to do but put together boring special edition models like the recent Redline series we saw just a few months ago. I honestly can’t remember the last time I saw a bow-tie on a concept that was actually on the better side of extreme (with the exception of that first FNR concept, of course.) Well, if you were to stroll into Chevy’s booth at Auto Shanghai today, you would see a pretty extreme concept that’s being called an FNR-X. At first, I thought to myself “Great; it’s just an SUV version of the original FNR.” But, I was wrong. So wrong, in fact, that I’m actually impressed with my favorite GM company for the first time in years. The concept you see here mixes things like dynamic digital LED lights with stout and muscular lines that scream 2030, while the interior gets no fewer than eight screens (including the instrument cluster) to go with adaptive ambient lighting and bold styling.

This concept, according to Chevy, is a plug-in hybrid that allows you to switch between two different drive modes – versatility and sport. Chevy didn’t elaborate on the drive modes but did say the FNR-X also gets an adaptive suspension, active grille shutters, and switchable wheel blades, all three of which can adjust automatically at high speed to cut down wind resistance. Inside, the seats are mounted to multipurpose rails while the rear seats fold flat, both of which should make for increased cargo room on demand. All interior screens feature OLED technology, while the main system screen is capable of voice recognition and customization based on who is using the system.

No word on that engine, the electric motors, or anything like range and fuel economy, but it does have a drive assistance system that provides autonomous driving and route selection based on road conditions. There’s also a HUD that is said to offer augmented reality via the 270-degree, rear-facing camera.

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Audi E-Tron Sportback Concept Gets Totally Lit

Wait, we were talking about LED’s, what were you talking about?

Audi just dropped a new concept vehicle at this year’s Auto Shanghai show, offering us a glimpse at the brand’s potential upcoming high-tech SUV future. It’s called the e-tron Sportback, and to our eyes, it’s a weird amalgamation of SUV and lifted hatchback, with a self-described coupe-like roofline to boot. And of course, what futuristic concept would be complete without an all-electric powertrain, geometric shapes, and surplus of advanced lighting elements?

The Audi e-tron Sportback certainly has a lot of lighting – check out the attached video to see what I’m talking about. The brand says it included matrix LEDs from front to rear, with two light fields in the fascia sporting roughly 250 LEDs a piece to create all kinds of signals and graphics. Basically, it’s a light show of “animated movements and signatures,” offering features like a welcome signal when the car is started or the doors are opened.

The lights are also practical, offering enhanced safety with daytime running lights for driving with the sun up, “Miniscule Digital Matrix” projector lights when the sun is down, and an illuminated Four Ring badge in the nose to show off whenever you please.

Audi is quick to remind us that it was one of the first to incorporate LED lighting on passenger cars, and this concept looks to be the next step in that technology.

A production variant of the concept is expected to arrive in 2019. Read on for specs on the powertrain and more info on the cool tech onboard.

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2018 Ford Explorer Sport

The definition of a mild refresh…

The Ford Explorer has defined the American SUV segment for more than two decades, having debuted for the 1991 model year. Changes both big and small have kept the Explorer, well, exploring urban and rural landscapes across the U.S. with big sales figures sliding across Ford’s bean counters’ desks. But of all those updates, Ford’s latest might be the smallest. Insignificant? Not really, but you’d have to be a fanboy to spot the differences.

Headlining the changes for the 2018 model year is a slightly reworked exterior, new active safety equipment packages, and more choices with four new colors and five new wheel designs. These changes made their debut at the 2017 New York Auto Show.

These modifications to the Explorer come in response to market research Ford says indicates the crossover and SUV segments will be the fastest-growing of all segments over the next few years, soon accounting for more than 45 percent of all non-luxury vehicles sold in the U.S. While that’s not surprising, Ford says millennials and baby boomers are leading the way. Of course, Ford says it will be ready to meet this growth thanks to its new lineup of crossovers and SUVs. These include the EcoSport, Escape, Edge, Explorer, and Expedition.

The revised 2018 Explorer is expected to hit showrooms this fall, with pricing staying mostly stagnate with current 2017 Explorer pricing. Keep reading for the full run-down of the changes for 2018.

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