Tuesday, June 14, 2016

2016 Beijing Auto Show Highlights

Alexander Carabitses

Most automotive journalists and enthusiasts (including myself) love to describe the New York Auto Show as the final auto show of the auto show season.  We all know that a major Chinese auto show-Shanghai on odd numbered years and Beijing on even numbered years- will take place shortly after the fact, but we simply chose to write it off.  We have either been blown away with the New York show and don't like the idea of covering an auto show with very little significant product news for the US and European markets or maybe its that covering these Chinese shows live is a pain in the ass, due to the visas that are needed to enter China.  In the end, I think that a lot of it has to do with the fact that those living in the West don't find Chinese market cars to be all that interesting, or they simply don't fully understand the segmentations of vehicles.  In the US and Europe, many segments are identical and many products are now sold in both markets, and those that aren't are lusted over, with the VW Scirocco being a perfect example.  Meanwhile, vehicles that are exclusive to the Chinese market are scoffed at, unless they are sold by the automakers of a particular enthusiast's home country.  If one of the vehicles doesn't make it to his or her home country, the immediate reaction is: "Where is (insert automaker) commitment to the (pick your home country) market???" Enthusiasts recognize China as an important growth market for large car companies all across the globe, but fail to recognize the products that are rolled out to suite the market.

It is this attitude that has pretty much made Beijing and Shanghai cast away shows, and at times this can be unfortunate because there were a few rather exciting cars that debut in Beijing that are headed for the US very soon.  Before I mention those models, I want to quickly cover some other highlights from the show, beginning with the endless list of LWB models.  This year, the Beijing Auto Show played host to the debuts of the 2017 Audi A4L, 2017 Jaguar XFL, 2017 Mercedes-Benz E Class LWB, and the 2017 BMW X1L. These long wheel base models cater to those who prefer to be chauffeured, as well as those who cart their entire family (including both the kids and the grandparents) around from place to place.
(Image credited to Audi)
(Image credited to Jaguar)
(Image credited to Mercedes-Benz)
(Image credited to BMW)

There were also four intriguing crossover debuts, the first being the VW T-prime GTE Concept, which will apparently go on sale next year as a Chinese exclusive midsize/full size crossover.  The second crossover debut came from Mazda, which showed the production version of the  2017 CX-4, which is basically a CX-5 with a swept back roof.  It actually looks pretty good, and although Mazda doesn't plan to ship it over to the US, that could change in the future.  Another crossover than could potentially make its way to the US in the future is the 2017 Acura CDX.  The CDX is to a Honda   HR-V what a Buick Encore is to the Chevy Trax, and as things stand right now, there are no plans in place to bring it to the US, with no reasons given as to why.  It's probably for the better because this thing is ugly.  One crossover that is coming to the US is the Infiniti QX Sport Inspiration Concept, or at least the production version of this vehicle, likely to be the next generation QX70.  It looks to be an improvement over the current car, but trust me, that is not saying much.  By the way, when Infiniti launched this concept, it marked the launch of one new product at every major auto show in the 2015-2016 auto show calendar.
(Image credited to Volkswagen)
(Image credited to Acura)
(Image credited to Mazda)
(Image credited to Infiniti)

I also want to quickly point out that the US manufactures did showcase some vehicles, all off which we have seen before, including the Jeep Renegade, Lincoln Continental, Ford F-150 Raptor, Cadillac XT5, and several new Buick models. Speaking of Buick, the brand did showcase a vehicle we hadn't seen before, the 2017 Buick Lacrosse Hybrid Electric Vehicle. It is pretty much exactly what its name implies and as things currently stand, it is not destined to reach the US, but for all we know, that decision can change in an instant.
(Image credited to Buick)

Finally, we come to the debuts that are officially coming our way. The first of these is the face-lifted 2016 Lexus IS, which features a tweaked interior, new standard safety equipment, and some front end design enhancements that keep things fresh and promote continuity within the Lexus lineup.  The car goes on sale in the US in the fourth quarter of this year.  We can now move on to the exciting new 2018 Audi TT RS.  I say 2018 because the car won't make it to the US until next year, and when it does, it will only be available as a coupe. In typical Audi RS fashion, the car is faster, lighter, and more nimble than the standard model.  How much faster? 400 horsepower and torque is rated at 354 lb-ft.  How much lighter? It weighs 57 pounds less than the previous TT RS, so let just say it is indeed lighter.  Oh, and how much more fun to drive? See for yourself.  Speaking of fun to drive, we now come to the final debut the has been confirmed for the US: the 2017 Porsche 718 Cayman.  The main difference between the 718 Cayman and the 718 Boxter is quite obvious, in the the latter lacks a roof.  Beyond that everything else (including the new turbo engines) are the same.
(Image credited to Lexus)
(Image credited to Audi)
(Image credited to Porsche)

So that wraps up my coverage of the 2016 Beijing Auto Show, a show filled with debuts that left us quite unmoved, surprised, or even jealous of our friends in the East. Thank you for reading and waiting nearly two month since the show began, in order to get my take on what went down in China.  Stay tuned for more posts pretty soon and have a good week.

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