At the Shanghai motor show, some of the biggest manufacturers you’ve never heard of are displaying their newest models alongside familiar Western brands keen to crack the world’s most lucrative automotive market.
Long gone are the days when Shanghai was an exhibition of the most blatant copycat cars, and the impressive quality of new Chinese creations is beginning to pose a very real threat to more established manufacturers. The 2019 edition is especially significant, with an increasing number of Chinese models being prepared for European launches and global manufacturers such as Volkswagen adding to their range of models adapted specifically for sale in China.
Here, we take a look at the most important unveilings.
Aston Martin Rapide E
Aston Martin is aiming the new Rapide E electric performance saloon squarely at the Tesla Model S and Porsche Taycan.
A torque output of 738lb ft will help the Rapide E to sprint from 50mph-70mph in under 1.6 seconds, and the model can cruise at its 155mph top speed for 10 straight minutes.
Audi AI:ME concept
Audi has unveiled its new AI:ME concept as "an automated driving compact car for the megacities of tomorrow". Like the radical Aicon and Elaine duo revealed in 2017, the concept looks ahead “10 or 15 years”, according to company design boss Marc Lichte.
The electric concept explores “what an interior with or without a steering wheel can look like” and will be followed by another futuristic concept at Frankfurt in September.
Audi Q2 L e-tron
Audi’s China-only long-wheelbase Q2 L is the latest model to receive the e-tron treatment. Badged the Q2 L e-tron, the electric compact SUV will be built in Foshan, alongside Chinese variants of the A3 Sportback and A3 Saloon, by Volkswagen Group partner First Automotive Works (FAW).
The model is the first of ten planned for launch by Audi and FAW in China by 2022 and the first electric Audi tailored specifically for the Chinese market.
BMW 3 Series LWB
Audi isn't the only German brand showing an extended version of one of its newest models in China.
The new BMW 3 Series has been adapted for the Chinese market, and is on display in long-wheelbase 3 Series L form. Almost as long as the 5 Series available in Europe, the new model has been developed alongside the standard 3 Series, and will be built by BMW's Chinese partner company Brilliance Automotive.
BYD hybrid supercar
A preview image released by Chinese company BYD shows off a sleek, low sports car with a prominent greenhouse-style cabin and performance-inspired design elements.
Little is known about the model's powertrain, but Chinese media reports that a four-wheel drive variant would likely use a 2.0-litre petrol engine coupled to an electric motor for a combined output of 469bhp.
Volvo and Lotus owner Geely will show its GE11 electric saloon in Shanghai ahead of the model’s European launch later this year.
To be sold under the newly formed Geely New Energy marque, the fastback-styled EV has been designed with aerodynamic efficiency in mind. The Chinese company states that the model’s environmentally conscious ethos doesn’t end with its zero-emissions powertrain; its interior is constructed largely of EU-certified eco-friendly materials.
Geely Jia Ji
Also on display in Shanghai will be Geely’s first MPV, the Jia Ji.
Recently unveiled in Zhuhai, the seven-seater is offered with a range of hybrid and diesel powertrains, Level 2 autonomy, dynamic styling and a starting price of just RMB 99,800 (£11,200).
Geely’s third Shanghai debut-maker will be the Xingyue SUV-coupé.
Originally known as the FY11, the BMW X6 rival sits atop the same Compact Modular Architecture that also underpins the Volvo XC40 and Lynk&Co 01. It will offer a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine – producing 235bhp and 258lb ft – and a range of plug-in and mild hybrid powertrains.
Infiniti QS Inspiration
Despite Infiniti's recent announcement that it is pulling out of Western Europe, it is pressing on with plans for an electrified model line-up.
The QS Inspiration concept, on display for the first time in Shanghai, previews an upcoming sports saloon "inspired by the art and modern architecture of Japan". Like the QX Inspiration revealed earlier this year, it will sit atop the firm's bespoke EV platform, and boast a stylish, minimalist interior, which will be clearly divided into separate passenger and driver zones.
Jetta is the new China-only budget brand being launched by Volkswagen in Shanghai, with the VS5, VS7 and VA3 the first models being made available.
Taking the form of a conventional five-door SUV, the VS5 bears a heavy resemblance to the recently unveiled Skoda Kamiq, while the VA3 is a small saloon based on the Volkswagen Jettathat's currently sold in China.
Heading up the range, the VS7 is a 4600mm-long seven seater that draws heavily on the new Seat Tarraco. The brand aims to target younger buyers with a strong dealer network and online showrooms.
Karma Pininfarina GT
Karma, born out of the 2014 collapse of Fisker Automotive, has unveiled a rebodied variant of its new Revero GT styled by Italian design house Pininfarina.
Sitting atop the same platform as the new Revero, with which it also shares a 1.5-litre BMW i8-derived petrol-electric powertrain, the concept shows off an angular, streamlined front end and a prominent lower grille like that of the original Fisker Karma.
Joining the new Pininfarina-designed concept on Karma’s Shanghai stand is the updated-for-2020 version of the brand’s Revero luxury saloon.
The four-door range-extender electric car takes its three-cylinder petrol engine from the BMW i8. The model receives subtle styling revisions but retains an overarching resemblance to the Fisker Karma, from which it was developed. Karma has plans to launch the new Revero in Europe as a competitor to the Polestar 1 performance hybrid.
Rounding off Karma’s ‘Shanghai Big Three’ is the Vision concept.
Karma said this open-top two-seater will play a role in the brand’s transformation from a traditional car manufacturer into “an open-platform luxury high-tech automotive incubator”, like the Italdesign DaVinci electric supercar revealed earlier this year at the Geneva motor show.
Codenamed E315, the latest effort from Jiangling Motors brand Landwind is a stylish compact SUV that will go up against the likes of the Volvo XC60, Lynk&Co 01 and Haval H6.
Details remain scarce, but the E315 is expected to have five seats and make use of the same 1.5-litre Ford-derived unit that powered Landwind's Range Rover Evoque copycat, the X7, which has just been forcibly discontinued.
Taking the form of an SUV-coupé, the Geely-owned Lynk&Co brand's fifth model is a BMW X6 rival based on its 01.
It will sit atop the Volvo-developed CMA platform and will likely use the Swedish company's range of 1.5-litre and 2.0-litre petrol engines. A European launch is likely but unconfirmed.
Mercedes' new small SUV, previewed in concept form, will sit between the current GLC and GLA models, and will take on rivals like the Aurdi Q3, BMW X1 and Volvo XC40.
Styling across the GLB range will be influenced by the more utilitarian G-Class, while a range-topping GLB 35 variant will pack the same 302bhp 2.0-litre petrol engine as AMG's A35 hot hatchback.
Mini Clubman facelift
The Mini Clubman has been on sale in its current form since 2015, and is showing off a mid-life refresh in Shanghai.
The Volkswagen Golf rival gains very subtle styling updates in line with those bestowed upon its hatchback sibling last year, trim revisions and minor upgrades to the interior options list.
Mistubishi e-Yi concept
Mitsubishi is following the Genreva unveiling of its Engleberg Tourer concept with the more urban-focussed e-Yi at Shanghai.
Like the Engleberg, the e-Yi evolves the styling of Mitsubishi's current Outlander PHEV, packs a 2.4-litre petrol engine mated to a pair of electric motors, and makes use of the brand's latest torque vectoring technology to improve the handling of the four-wheel drive SUV.
Chinese electric vehicle start-up Nio has revealed the latest model in its rapidly expanding product line: a concept version of an upcoming Tesla Model S rival called the ET7.
With a sleek four-door coupe design, the "ET preview" concept's styling provides clear influence for the production model. No information about the car has been released as yet, but we know it will be all-electric and feature much of the technology found in the brand's other models.
The model is on display alongside the company's EP9 electric supercar, EVE autonomous concept and ES6 and ES8 SUVs.
Porsche Cayenne Coupé
Making its international motor show debut in Shanghai is Porsche's latest SUV - the Cayenne Coupé.
Going up against the BMW X6 and Mercedes-Benz GLE, the rakish high-rider features an active rear spoiler, interior technology from the larger Cayenne and a top speed of up to 178mph.
Based on the Kwid SUV Renault already sells in India, the electric City K-ZE is a production-ready evolution of a concept first shown in Paris last year.
The value EV is headed to China first, given the country's exploding demand for electric cars, before a potential European launch.
Volkswagen ID Roomzz
The largest member of Volkswagen’s ID range of electric vehicles so far (above the hatchback, Buzz, Crozz and Vizzion), the Roomzz concept is a luxurious seven-seater SUV, sitting atop the largest version of the company’s MEB platform.
A pair of electric motors give the Touareg-sized model 302bhp and part-time four-wheel drive. Range is a claimed 370 miles, which is a significant improvement over its primary rival, the Tesla Model X.
A four-door saloon set to rival Tesla's Model 3, Xpeng's new coupé-styled EV has a claimed range of more than 311 miles according to China's NEDC-based tests.
There are currently no details on what drivetrain the P7 uses, but it is likely to share an electric motor and battery with the company's G3, an Audi Q5-sized SUV that develops 195bhp for a 0-62mph time of 7.9sec.
Also read: No more copycats: why Chinese cars were the stars at Shanghai