Geneva 2019 Reflections – Watt’s Goin’ On?

Searching for the state of the art amid the vanguard of the EV revolution at the Palexpo with Auto-Didakt’s Christopher Butt.

Q4 e-tron
(c) Christopher Butt

If there is a leitmotif for Geneva 2019, it is electrification; Audi for instance making much of the fact that they have no combustion engined offerings on show at all, the entirety of their Palexpo fare being in some way (ahem) amplified. Illustrating a notable keenness to demonstrate just how much both they and their VW mothership have renounced the toxic letters TDI and embraced the prevailing wind of change, the four rings of Ingolstadt it seems has plenty to show for itself at Palexpo.

E-Tron is the name of Audi’s EV sub-brand and yet with only a single production car (the eponymous e-tron) to show for itself, it is already at risk of becoming as bewildering as its combustion-engine siblings in its potential fecundity. Part of the issue appears to be Audi’s current design ‘vocabulary’, which is both jarring yet at the same time, iterative.

e-tron GT concept. (c) Christopher Butt

Illustrating the former is the forthcoming e-tron GT, first shown in concept form at the Los Angeles motor show, but set to remain a close approximation in production form. Our reporter was not impressed, exclaiming, “the Audi Taycan is woeful!

Meanwhile, holding the fort on iterative scale is a concept version of Ingolstadt’s forthcoming Q4 e-tron model, which makes its show debut at Geneva. “Audi’s going soft on us“, claims the didactic Mr. Butt, “they appear to be changing their form language again. The EV cars look like the current ones with a lot of air pumped in. The graphics are still rather blunt, but the overall appearance is squishy, rather than scalpel sharp.

Q4 e-tron. (c) Christopher Butt

Making a more convincing show of themselves at Palexpo is Volvo’s Polestar outfit, which debuts the production version of its Polestar 2 Tesla-baiting saloon. Somewhere between a conventional three-volume, a hatchback and a high-riding CUV, it showcases the Volvo design team’s grasp of semiotics and form, but left our correspondent a little cold. Describing it as “a little too product design-like for its own good”, he added, “I get the sophisticated appliance aesthetic, but it’s a bit sterile for my liking.” No argument about the cabin however, something of a Volvo speciality nowadays, “the colour and trim choices are the most advanced I’ve seen here.

(c) Christopher Butt

Last week we spoke about our sense of deflation upon the appearance of Honda’s e-prototype, which heralds Hammanato’s forthcoming urban EV. It would appear that it’s a feeling shared by our correspondent. “It’s nice, but a wee bit disappointing after the concept. Certain elements like the hidden rear door handle don’t truly convince. The interior (plastic wood and displays across the entire width of the dash) is not convincing.

(c) Christopher Butt

Aston Martin rocked up to Geneva with so many individual concepts they more or less morphed into oneness, but their striking electric Lagonda SUV concept did stand out, if not perhaps for entirely the right reasons. “The Lagonda is quite like last year’s concept, just with a bit more bonnet and a more sensible interior layout.

(c) Christopher Butt

Having dismissed last year’s version as ‘daft’, Christopher’s position appears to have softened this time around. “Its shape continues to appear a bit awkward and aerodynamically suspect, while the interior is trying a bit too hard to be cutting edge. However the colour and trim selections are among the more interesting I’ve come across at Palexpo.

ItalDesign was once synonymous with the great Giorgetto Giugiaro, but the maestro has long since departed the business he founded and sold to VW in 2010. Yet it maintains a seemingly futile presence in its former iteration as carrozzeria, showing this year a four-seater gullwing fastback saloon, which it is claimed, can be engineered to employ combustion engines, hybrid or full electric propulsion. Our German correspondent was nonplussed. “This is the ItalDesign da Vinci. What does it mean? Why was it created? I haven’t a clue myself.

Who can crack the de Vinci code? (c) Christopher Butt

Offered to the global industry as something akin to a blank canvas, it achieves little of consequence other than to reprise Giorgetto’s own Sybilia concept from last year (itself a little underwhelming), which does suggest that if anything, ItalDesign’s illustrious founder casts a deeper and more lasting shadow than even we might have suspected.

So where does this leave the EV revolution, one wonders? With a good deal more work to do (from a design perspective at least), we might have to conclude.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Co-Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

3 thoughts on “Geneva 2019 Reflections – Watt’s Goin’ On?”

  1. The da Vinci is indeed something of an enigma. Historically, Ital Design (and other Italian design houses) used to produce designs like this to try and attract custom from major manufacturers. Ital Design’s Jaguar Kensington comes to mind, although it ended up as a Daewoo, the Leganza, rather than a proto S-Type as intended. Given that Ital Design is now owned by Volkswagen Group, would it be allowed to accept commissions from rival manufacturers? Perhaps it’s a plea to its masters to put away their rulers and set-squares and embrace more organic forms instead?

    The Polestar is also a bit of a puzzle. Does Volvo really need to establish a sister brand and, if so, how will it be differentiated from Volvo? The Polestar 1 is a lovely looking GT coupé, but would have made an excellent “halo” car for Volvo instead. The 2 is competent enough, if rather unemotive:

    However, there’s a very unhappy junction at the base of the A-pillar and you could see those door shut-lines from space! Presumably, the production version will sort out the latter issue, if not the former.

    Hideous grille apart, the Q4 e-tron is actually something of a relief after Audi’s recent “geometry set” efforts. I like its softer, fuller forms. However, Christopher’s detail photo reveals that old (well, recent) habits die hard: I really dislike the close proximity of the bonnet shut-line and that Quattro-esque crease over the wheelarch. It may be clever engineering, but it looks weak. Why not just hide the former within the latter, as Audi did very neatly on the current A4?

    Aston Martin have done a bit of a “Behar” with all their concepts. I can’t invest too much time or interest in them and prefer to wait for something closer to production reality.

    1. Indeed, I also don’t understand the rational behind creating a “Polestar” brand that presumably doesn’t mean anything to anybody? I’d much rather drive a Volvo than a Polestar, if it’s powered by electricity, all the better for it. This is even more true since Polestar doesn’t seem to adhere to the same high design standards we have recently learned to love and expect from Volvo.

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