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Monday, March 10, 2008

Design: Geneva Roundup

Here are a few more of the notable designs that were on display at this year's Geneva auto show.

Nissan's Infiniti division showed off their new FX crossover, part of a big push for the brand in Europe. The original FX was one of the original crossover vehicles, combining attributes of an SUV and a car. The theme is the same as the outgoing model but more refined. The biggest change is at the front, with it's aggressively swept back headlamps and sculpted front fenders. The relationship between the large grille and the bumper along with the headlamps is especially well handled, as are the new downward swooping character lines on the sides. The side vents are a bit much however.

GM's struggling Saab division showed off the 9-X Biohybrid. This is believed to presage a new small Saab to compete with Volvo's C30 and upscale versions of Volkswagen's European Golf. This is a tamer version of the new design language that so far has only made it to Saab concepts but judging by the clean powerful lines of this hatchback GM ought to press to get this produced with minimal changes. Especially nice is the glasshouse which seems to flow straight back from the windshield thanks to the blacked-out a-pillar. The little jog in the beltline that comes off the front fenders and hood and into the doors is a great touch.

Another entrant in the upscale hatch category is Volkswagen's new Scirocco, on sale next year (though not in the U.S.) The big news here is the face, which is new to Volkswagen and which ex-Alfa Romeo and Seat designer Walter da Silva hints will spread across the VW range. It's strong, with the flowing bumper cutouts for the headlamps joining the hood accents which then morph into the a-pillars. In a big departure from tradition the VW badge is atop the hood rather than set in the center of the grille. The design is aggressive and pleasant, but also seems a bit characterless and similar to others from Peugeot and Renault in the roofline and details.

Former Pininfarina man Ken Okuyama has his own design firm now, and is looking to put the K.O. 7 into production. The idea of a single seat racer for the street has been seeing a lot of expression lately, notably in the Ariel Atom from the UK, but the finish and detailing of Okuyama's baby brought much appreciation from onlookers at the show.

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