Geneva 2017 Reflections – Dignified Silence

Pininfarina stayed true to form with the H600 concept. Nothing wrong with that we say.

Pininfarina H600 concept. Image: designboom

At the 2012 Geneva motor show, carrozzeria Pininfarina showed Cambiano, a concept, said by the Italian styling house to be in effect, a homage to the legendary Florida II. But while that pivotal 1957 concept became a stylistic monument, siring an entire generation of cars, Cambiano, while commendably elegant of line and refreshingly free of frippery, disappeared pretty much as soon as it arrived – overshadowed by more brash contemporaries.

2012 concept Cambiano. Image: Pininfarina

It could be seen however as a precursor to the latest H600 concept, shown by the carrozzeria at the current Geneva show in partnership with the Hong Kong based, Hybrid Kinetic Group (a subsidiary of chinese automaker, Brilliance); said to be working on battery technologies employing graphene, a material that promises to revolutionise electronics (amongst other areas) in coming years. Technically, both concepts share a similar propulsion system, using a micro turbine as a generator/range extender powering (an undisclosed) number of electric motors. In principle, a similar system was employed for Jaguar’s CX-75 concept, but was subsequently abandoned.

The current production viability of such a drivetrain remains questionable, if from a technical standpoint, broadly feasible. In fact, looking from a historical perspective, Jim Randle’s advanced engineering skunkworks was working on a gas turbine powered hybrid-electric Jaguar during the 1980’s, work he successfully continued with Volvo the following decade until Ford unceremoniously pulled the plug. JLR’s foray into turbines was it seems, a little half hearted by comparison and certainly with the forthcoming I-Pace project, the Tesla template is being fairly rigidly adhered to.

So in answer to the question of whether such a system could work, this non-engineer would offer a cautious yes, but given the level of technical detail being offered and given the likely costs involved, it’s difficult to take any claims on performance and range (or indeed anything else) seriously*.

H600. Image: Car Magazine

But to be honest, I didn’t come here to talk about the technicalities, given that we appear to be entering something of a Klondike era when it comes to automotive start-ups. I am more interested today in H600’s appearance. Because at first glance what appears as a rather formal looking, slightly underwhelming (for a show car) style is in fact a radical vision for a luxury vehicle. Why? Because it presents a dignified, upright, distinctly three-volume saloon silhouette in the (now defunct) classic idiom. It makes no attempt to be sporty. There isn’t what stylists like to call a ‘fast’ roofline; no slats, scoops or disco lights to convince you of its athletic proportions. It’s simply a well proportioned big (5200 mm in length) luxury car and is entirely unapologetic about it. And in this day and age, that has become a genuinely novel proposition.

Image: Topspeed

Additionally, Pininfarina’s stylists have imbued the H600 with a lightness and visual grace that harks to a gentler era. It’s pared back, elegant and sparsely adorned; the car’s size and its well judged proportions doing all the talking for it. One of our number here at DTW described it as being Lancia-like, (and I’m guessing he’s not talking white hens) but while I have no wish to descend into that particular maelstrom – (not with my reputation anyway) – I can see where he’s coming from. Although to my eyes, it’s what the latest Lexus LS should look like if their masters hadn’t let the waku-doki go to their heads. Only the grille treatment strikes a slightly false note for me – too aggressive for what is otherwise an entirely benign machine – (although by current Lexus standards)…

In all honesty, like the 2012 Cambiano, H600 is no Florida II and certainly, it wouldn’t be wildly unfair to suggest carrozzeria Pininfarina’s best days are behind them, but both concepts maintain the styling house’s traditions of elegance of line and a certain timeless classicism which I for one would not be without.

*(The latest on this being that Hybrid Kinetic are now believed to be putting this concept into production).

Author: Eóin Doyle

Co-Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

20 thoughts on “Geneva 2017 Reflections – Dignified Silence”

  1. Definitely my car of the Geneva Show and I agree totally with Eoin’s words about its looks – “Pininfarina’s stylists have imbued the H600 with a lightness and visual grace that harks to a gentler era. It’s pared back, elegant and sparsely adorned; the car’s size and its well judged proportions doing all the talking for it”. It’s the first time I have been excited about the styling of a large saloon since … the BMW Pininfarina Gran Lusso Coupé of 2013, and actually, I prefer this for its deeper side windows and more simple surfacing and detailing. It would be lovely to see it productionised by someone and I had wishfully whimsied about Sergio having a rush of blood in deciding it would be a very smart way to relaunch Lancia alongside Alfa (I must have been suffering from a fever at the time).

    1. I don’t even want to think about Lancia taking this on. Yes, it would be an excellent new Lancia. Yes, no-one would buy it. Yes, as on every show car, the pillarless doors would never make it but, in the case of Lancia who were offering us pillarless construction decades ago, that would be a real shame. And, of course, Yes, on the limit handling would be disappointingly lacking in sharpness compared with class leaders.

    2. I think I’m just an old romantic about these things, hard as I try to put steel into my heart.

  2. “Yes, on the limit handling would be disappointingly lacking in sharpness compared with class leaders.” That´s a given really. To be honest, there is simply nothing better than any BMW compared to every car ever, unless it´s a Lamborghini or a Ferrari. I don´t think any other car is worth making. When I take my M5 to the 6800 rpm redline on the way to the shops I am thankful that the turn-in is so precise and the feedback so instantaneous. I never change up below 6000 and I never drive about except at top speed – the children, old people, wheelchair users and small cats of the neighbourhood know my car and know to get out of the way! Lancia could never touch that sort of relentless focus on handling.

    1. It’s interesting, the balance of opinion on H600 is that it looks “boring” – a statement that tells you everything about where fashions in car styling has taken us. I’ll admit that my first impressions were along the lines of, ‘yes, very nice, but a little dull for a Pininfarina effort’. Especially given their current plight and the fact that the carrozzerie need all the exposure they can get. Perhaps because of its ‘quiet dignity’ it seemed to have got lost amid all the noise and glare of the show ‘stars’. It was largely thanks to SVR that I gave it a second glance – mea maxima culpa.

      Pininfarina, Lancia, Jaguar – it’s almost the perfect storm. Actually, the Jaguar thing wasn’t lost on me either, but that’s an even deeper rabbit hole I elected to swerve – you’ll all be greatly relieved to discover.

    2. Eoin, out of interest, what was your ‘best in show’ at Geneva? On the H600, there are a lot of similarities with the BMW Gran Coupe Lusso which Pininfarina designed in 2013.

    3. SVR: I’m not sure I can adequately answer that question, not having attended in person…

  3. Yes, it could make a convincincg Jaguar. Might I argue that the XE is not so very much less restrained than this and it is routinely called boring.
    It would work best though as Peugeot. It is exactly as restrained as the 604 and is even presented in a similar shade. Peugeot won´t do a big saloon to replace the 607 – such things have gone the way of the half-cabriolet.

  4. It’s not an all-time classic but it’s not bad, and I do like it. With that said, it doesn’t particularly say Lancia to me. What it does scream, however, is potential coachbuilt, flagship Volvo.

  5. Wonderful proportions. To be honest i guessed, this car is shorter than the new Insignia…

    It would be perfect to create an estate version out of it too. Peugeot should reanimate their cooperation with Pininfarina and make a Peugeot 608, a DS8 and the next Insignia out of this body…

    1. So, let me get this clear. This concept could conceivably be a Lancia, Peugeot, Jaguar, Volvo or Lexus. Possibly all five. Wasn’t this the sort of thing that got Pininfarina into trouble in the first place?

    2. You seem as inspired as I am. For me it’s a Peugeot though. A Citroen would need other proportions.
      That said, it is hard to deny the slow demise of the large saloon – they won’t disappear entirely though but they won’t be the “normal” car in future. They probably already aren’t.

  6. The side view screams British to me, maybe because of the Jensens of yore.
    The surfacing is exquisite, so is the detailing – especially the full-width taillights. The only thing that bothers me is the grille – it does seem to undermine the full-volumed, sculptural, graceful quality of the design as a whole with that concave shark grin.

    1. Thanks, Eóin, nowadays I rarely have time to indulge in my automotive passion, but the national holiday in Poland was significantly longer than the usual, so I had some time to catch up on your site : )

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