Concept Cars

INFINITI partners with world- famous furniture maker

Infiniti's first all-electric vehicle is coming but first the QX Inspiration Concept is here. The all-electric concept crossover shows the design and engineering progression the automaker is taking as they move toward electrification. To help show that off, Infiniti has enlisted the help of world- famous furniture maker, Tendo Co.

Tendo was founded in 1940, a full 49 years before Infiniti was born, in Japan's Yamagata Prefecture. It is heralded for its artisan woodworkers and craftspeople. The company's business includes working alongside architects and designs to create timeless products. It was because of this heritage that Infiniti went to Tendo for its interior design.

"Our first ideas and sketches for the interior were founded in this notion of creating a space that was more akin to a lounge or living space. We took advantage of the spacious layout enabled by the electric powertrain, and created a furniture-like expression for every element of the interior. At the same time, we wanted to explore a Japanese sense of beauty, tying the car to our cultural roots," said Mie Tanaka, color design assistant manager at Infiniti Motor Company.

Infiniti Design Infiniti used sugi, a Japanese cedar tree, to give the interior of its concept crossover a warm hue. Photo courtesy of Infiniti Motor Company Ltd.

"We approached Tendo with this, and, while we had our own idea about how the QX Inspiration's 'furniture' could look, Tendo's many decades of experience in wood-working and design helped us to create something really special. The result is a beautiful, relaxing space that is rich in Japanese craftsmanship and materials. It is unlike anything we have been able to produce before."

With a design directive that included the use of organic materials and subdued colors, the two teams decided to use sugi, a cedar tree from Japan, for wood accents in the cabin. Its natural coloring and soft, light grain project warmth. The Sufi used in the car was grown in the Yamagata Prefecture and can be found on door panels as well as woodwork throughout the cabin.

Our team values the Japanese notion of 'monozukuri' – an appreciation of making things – so we have handcrafted each part of the Infiniti QX Inspiration's interior with care," said Sakae Igarashi, assistant manager, Tendo Co. "We are proud with what we have created and achieved with INFINITI. It is always a pleasure to work with fellow designers who can imagine beautiful things and create wonderful features. It has been an honor to work on this project."

The QX Inspiration Concept is just the first hint at the future of electrified mobility for Infiniti. Plans call for electric, hybrid, and performance hybrid vehicles to enter the lineup soon.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

There are no coincidences in the automotive world, so it was no surprise that I found myself riding shotgun in a 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E electric vehicle prototype in front of SpaceX and Tesla's offices in Los Angeles. Ford's all-electric crossover is their most ambitious electric vehicle project to date. With styling, range, and debut location, they proved that they are targeting Tesla and their customers.

The Mustang Mach-E is, according to Ford, 100-percent Mustang. For those who are used to seeing the Mustang as a sports coupe with rear-wheel drive, an electric crossover with available all-wheel drive bearing the Mustang name might be eyebrow raising.

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E The Mustang Mach-E has many exterior design attributes usually reserved for the Mustang coupe.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

That skepticism is one of the many reasons why, during a secret reveal ahead of the global debut, Ford shuttled me around Hawthorne, California in one of the Mustang Mach-E prototypes. The company was out to prove to me that they built a vehicle worthy of the Mustang name.

The model Ford put me in was the Mustang Mach-E Premium all-wheel drive, extended range model. That EV runs to 60 mph from a standstill in a hair over 5 seconds. Because electric motors make torque immediately, the car pushes the driver and passengers relentlessly back in their seat as they make that run. The torque makes the car feel faster than it is.

For folks who want to go faster, the Mustang Mach-E GT Performance trim should do that same run in around 3 seconds. When the GT Performance goes on sale in early 2021 (late 2020 for the other models), the quickest accelerating Mustang you'll be able to buy will likely be electric.

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E interior seats cabin The cabin of the new model is spacious.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

On a route around Hawthorne, I was able to experience the car's on-road manners. Even though it was an early prototype, the cabin was quiet. That's in part due to the lack of a motor but also because of the car's three performance modes for the Mach-E – Whisper, Engaged and Unbridled. In Unbridled mode, which is what I experienced, the car allows computer-generated internal combustion engine-like sounds to flow into the cabin when accelerating hard.

Unlike the Jaguar I-Pace's piped-in growl, the Mach-E's sounds natural for a performance car. It doesn't exactly sound like a gasoline-powered car, but it adds a soundtrack to the spirited drive that this author doesn't find obtrusive. In Whisper mode, the car is relatively silent.

Cornering, at least from the passenger seat, felt relatively flat. The low center of gravity of the battery pack helps a ton. Right now, there is no adjustable suspension system, like MagneRide, that is available on other Mustang models.

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E infotainment screen steering wheel dashboard Ford has simplified the interior of the car in a very Tesla-esque fashion.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The Mustang Mach-E takes many interior cues from Tesla design though many elements are unmistakably from the Ford team. There is a large, center-mounted screen that handles most of the controls of the infotainment system and vehicle functionality. Interestingly, while the center screen handles most of it, there still is an instrument cluster to provide vitals – something Tesla has done away with.

Display vehicles had gobs of space inside, including numerous of storage cubbies for nearly everything. Fit and finish were solid for vehicles this far along in the process and it felt more Tesla Model 3 inside than Mustang.

The new infotainment system supports routing based on how long you'll sit at a charger and which chargers you need to stop at – basically what a Tesla does. Another first for Ford is support for both wireless Apple Car Play and wireless Android Auto.

Additionally, the Mustang Mach-E has truly hands-off Level 2 semi-autonomous driving. It'll be an over-the-air update after launch for customers, but there are cameras in the car that watch the driver to make sure they are paying attention. If they are, and the roads are digitally mapped, the Mach-E will handle most of the driving duties for the driver. The system is very similar to how Cadillac's Super Cruise technology works and is not hands-off.

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E rear seat back sunroof moonroof panoramic vegan leather The rear seats of the Mustang Mach-E offer more legroom than what you'll find in the Jaguar I-Pace.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

It's difficult to determine how good a car is going to be based on a ten-minute ride in the passenger seat. However, it is obvious even after that little time that Ford checked all the right boxes during the development of their new EV. This is likely the first viable mainstream competitor to Tesla, and Tesla should consider themselves put on notice.

In short, the Mustang Mach-E should have performance similar to the Jaguar I-Pace or Tesla Model 3, but with more rear seat headroom than the I-Pace, and better reliability. It looks far more attractive than the Nissan Leaf or anything the Korean automakers are doing, and since it'll be available in all 50 states, you'll be able to purchase and repair it in a town near you, just like what you could do with an F-150.

Kia has introduced a concept car that gives a hint at what future SUV design will look like.

Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

Kia Motors is giving a hint of its future electric vehicle design with the debut of the Kia Futuron Concept, an all-wheel drive high-riding hatchback that they're calling a "sports car on an SUV platform."

The automaker choose the name of the vehicle because it's a portmanteau of the words future and on. They say that it will help give consumers an idea of what to expect from Kia in the future. Looking closely, it's likely that many hallmarks of this concept car will play out in future Niro designs and in a forthcoming subcompact SUV that is related to the Hyundai Venue.

Kia Futuron Concept side The high-riding coupe has sleek lines and a sophisticated overall aesthetic.Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

With the design, Kia is emphasizing elegant proportions rather than funky characteristics like what you'll find in their Soul. Sweeping lines that flow from front to rear are common in modern concept vehicles and this is no exception. Kia's designers were drawn to the 360-degree styling because of its flowing shapes that easily move from the exterior to the interior, expanding and contracting.

The face of the car has a new interpretation of Kia's tiger nose grille, with a wide opening across the front of the car. That grille incorporates LED headlamps with a distinct light signature.

Kia has given the Futuron Concept an all-electric powertrain with all-wheel drive. It has a high-capacity battery (no exact numbers are available) and in-wheel electric motors.

Kia Futuron Concept top roof It features a panoramic glass roof.Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

The interior of the model features leaned back seats that allows for an "interactive driving experience suitable for urban city environments." The two front seats are made out of flexible materials that offer seating flexibility in the vein fo what first-class passengers would find on an airliner.

Its roof has diamond-shaped panoramic glass. Inside the greenhouse is a network of LiDAR sensors capable of Level 4 autonomous driving features.

Kia Futuron Concept seats Kia has given the SUV unique seating that is meant to provide first-class comfortability.Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

Kia touts the car's seamless cockpit area that features the instrument cluster wrapped in harmony with the rest of the car's audio and visual displays and through the steering wheel.