As the Chinese auto market has become a top priority for the world’s largest automakers, the Shanghai Auto Show has quickly become one of the most important stops on the auto show circuit. Serving as a showcase for Chinese domestic automakers, imports aimed specifically at the Chinese market, and a wide range of concepts, the show offers a unique look into the growing and evolving Chinese market, as well as a look at what to expect from automakers in the coming years.
From supercars to everyday crossovers, this year’s show was an exciting and mixed showcase of the familiar, futuristic, and flat-out strange. Automakers like Volvo and Infiniti debuted long-wheelbase versions of familiar models, while Honda and Ford unveiled future models designed specifically for the Chinese market. Even though these models are meant to gain an edge in the world’s largest auto market, the increasing globalization of product lines means that many of these cars will one day wind up in U.S. driveways too.
Because of the increasing focus on the Chinese market, Shanghai offers a clearer picture of the state of the global auto industry than most other international auto shows. From production ready to futuristic, here are eight cars that made headlines from this year’s busy Shanghai Auto Show.
1. Chevrolet FNR
While most automakers have tried to make autonomous cars look as mundane as possible, Chevy has gone all in with the electric self-driving FNR Concept. Looking like something from Back to the Future II, the FNR ditches the push-button start for a retinal scanner that fires up the car once it detects the owner’s iris. Once the car is in motion, the front seats swivel à la Mercedes-Benz F 015 concept to create a kind of rolling lounge. The FNR will never see production, but it’s good to see that a future with autonomous cars doesn’t have to be boring.
2. Audi Prologue Allroad
The development of Audi’s gorgeous Prologue design language continues with its latest Allroad concept. As a more rugged version of the Concept Estate that debuted at this year’s Geneva Motor Show, this Allroad is a far cry from its awkward plastic-clad A6-based namesake that appeared in showrooms 16 years ago. The station wagon segment is already due for a comeback, and with a longroof as good-looking as the Prologue Allroad, it just might be enough to remind the public of what they’re missing out on.
3. Ford Taurus
It’s been touch and go for the once-mighty Taurus since it lost the title of “America’s best-selling car” to the Toyota Camry in 1997. Nearly two decades on, Ford is hoping it can reclaim some of the old magic with an all-new upscale Taurus aimed for the Chinese market. With an elegant design influenced by the Ford Fusion/Mondeo and an interior that could make a Mercedes owner jealous, Ford is hoping that the emerging Chinese middle class will go for these like American buyers did in the ’80s. Ford will unveil a similar (but less luxurious) U.S.-spec version later this year.
4. Honda Concept D
Honda used the Shanghai show to unveil its most angular model since the ’80s with the severe-looking Concept D. Its hard angles, wide vents, and aggressive stance may scream “styling exercise,” but Honda says that the Concept D previews a flagship SUV that is “currently being developed exclusively for the China domestic market.” Its styling may be polarizing to some, but the Concept D is the perfect SUV for people who loved Honda’s Civic Concept but need something a little bigger for the family.
5. McLaren 540C
This is what it looks like when a supercar company moves “downmarket.” At roughly $165,000, the 540C is the “entry-level” sports car from McLaren, slotting just below the 570S model it introduced at the New York Auto Show earlier this month. For the money, you get a Formula 1-style carbon fiber and aluminum car with a mid-engined 3.8-liter twin-turbo V8 putting out 533 horsepower and a top speed of 199 miles per hour. McLaren says the 540C was designed “with a greater focus on day-to-day usability” than its other cars. It may not be the most practical entry-level car on the market, but it could be the most exciting.
6. MG GS
To paraphrase the old cliché, the rumors of MG’s death have been greatly exaggerated. After going bankrupt in 2005, the iconic British brand was acquired by the Chinese company SAIC Motor and has been selling rebooted MGs in Europe since 2007. The Chinese-designed iGS is a practical and stylish compact crossover that’s roughly the size of a Honda CR-V, and is set to go on sale in China later this year.
7. Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupe
Mercedes may have redefined what “coupe” meant when it applied it to its four-door CLS-Class in 2004. In a game of one-upmanship, BMW took the “coupe” designation even further and bafflingly applied it to its SUVs, the X4 and X6. Unwilling to be outdone, Mercedes unveiled its newest “coupe,” a four-door all-wheel-drive SUV called the GLC. While it’s officially a concept, Mercedes says the “SUV world of Mercedes-Benz has room for further models, such as a production version of the Concept GLC Coupé,” strongly hinting that a production model could be coming sooner rather than later.
8. Qoros PHEV 2 Concept
While Chinese cars have long had a reputation for being either incredibly bland or blatant (and illegal) ripoffs of Western models, the PHEV 2 Concept from the Chinese-Israeli company Qoros was a surprise hit at Shanghai, with its thoroughly modern looks and exciting real-world usability. Despite borrowing a few obvious Cadillac design cues for its front fascia, the muscular little crossover is a plug-in hybrid with enough personality to give the Nissan Juke and the Kia Soul a run for their money. If this is the direction of Chinese cars, then the day when Chinese automakers score an international hit may not be too far off.