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