I’ve been wondering just what Lynk & Co, the Geely-Volvo joint venture to start an all-new car brand, was going to be, and I half got my answer today. That half was the car itself, imaginatively named 01. What’s unusual about Lynk & Co, though, is that I don’t think the half with the car is going to be the most important part of what Lynk & Co is.
Now, don’t get me wrong: the actual car that a car company makes is a pretty big deal. In most cases, I’d say it’s pretty much the biggest deal. But Lynk & Co has been talking up something much more radical in their business model, something we’ve only been guessing at, and that’s why I suspect tomorrow’s announcement about that side of the business will be so important.
We do know a few things: there won’t be dealerships, you’ll pick from a limited range of models/options and everything will be delivered to you. Same with service. The car will have constant connectivity, even when off and parked, and we’ll soon know more about what that will mean for new car-ownership and other use cases.
As of now, though, we finally know what the cars produced by Lynk & Co will be like. From what I saw today, I’m generally impressed.
New car brands aren’t launched that often, and when you think about how much most new cars rely on the heritage and corporate identity for their fundamental design vocabulary, the idea of designing not just a car, but a whole corporate automotive aesthetic and identity from scratch seems like an alarmingly daunting task.
Well, not just “seems.” It is a daunting task. A huge one. Especially if your new company is making such a big deal out of trying to do things differently.
The idea of doing things in a new, different way has come up so much in the Lynk & Co narrative that I’ll admit I was a little disappointed with this aspect of the car. It’s not really as radical as I was imagining, but, then again, most of what I imagine not only wouldn’t sell, it’d probably end up with some people very unhappy or hurt (forget getting inside of the car– we can put the car inside YOU!).
The Lynk & Co 01 is still easily identifiable as an SUV; it follows the old Raymond Loewy MAYA idea: Most Advanced, Yet Acceptable. Nobody’s mind will be blown here, but the Lynk & Co 01 does have its share of unique design traits.
It’s worth mentioning what the designers told us their main design goals were. There are four traits that they sought to convey through the design language of the cars:
3. New Tech
4. Dark (mystery, contrast, etc.)
So, sort of like a car version of some Goth kid with a winning personality. Also, they specified that the car should not just feel European, but Northern European.
The corporate face that was eventually designed for the 01 follows a format most Americans likely first saw on the Nissan Juke: the “eyes” are actually the DRLs, and the main headlights are de-emphasized, and below. You can see this on the new Jeep Cherokee, and the Citroën Cactus as well. The 01 uses those long, twin-linear LED lights DRLs above, and the headlights are inset into the wide, lower grille.
The lower grille, when viewed alone, sort of feels like the face of the new Camaro. In the context of the 01, it forms a sort of wide, grinning mouth. The overall look actually isn’t bad at all, I don’t think, with the vertical DRLs/indicators and the wide hood with its two longitudinal creases forming an above-the-beltline look that resembles a Porsche or perhaps even a Ferrari F12, a bit.
In total, it’s a clean look, a nice contrast to the recent overdone baroque Japanese trends, with all their vents and intakes and flaps and fake grilles and overdone elements. It’s not a caricature of aggression like a Lexus or Infiniti front end, but it’s also not too rational and boring. I think the designers have managed to find a unique and flexible corporate face.
There’s a lot of other nice elements to the design. The top surfaces tend to be glossy, while below the beltline, it’s matte. The taillights are quite striking, an array of vertical hash marks punctuated by an angular loop at the side, a shape that gets repeated on the front quarter panels.
The D-pillar describes a definite shark-fin shape, and the window trim continues across the D-pillar in an unexpected way, showing three separate color elements on the car.
The exterior design of the Lynk & Co 01 is quite strong, and I think should stand out pretty well from the crowd. It’s less revolutionary than perhaps I expected, but the end result is clean and crisp and handsome in a way that’s not seen as often anymore.
Inside, the Asian influences are a bit more apparent, especially in the use of rich visual textures on the interior surfaces. Thankfully, the interior isn’t the usual sea of black and gray; there’s color and contrast, and interesting stitch and textile patterns spread throughout. While the car is designed to slot below Volvo, it still appears to be quite premium inside.
There’s a lot of interesting surface detailing, and we’re told that the feeling of a city at night was a major inspirational factor. I wasn’t able to actually sit inside the car just yet, so I can’t give a full report, but from what I saw in pictures and through windows, these seem like quite good interiors.
They’re not breathtakingly different, but they are a bit more daring in their use of color and texture and materials.
The center-stack screen is very important in a car like this, and it looks like the UI/UX is a notch above most cars; there’s drag-and-drop functionality, and the ability to upload your own background image, with the software automatically adjusting highlight colors to remain visible. All good stuff, and all stuff that desktop OSes have been doing for years; it’s about time the car world is catching up.
So far, I’ve just seen screenshots and animations; I hope to actually try it out soon.
On the technical side, we know the car is based on the CMA architecture developed by Volvo and Geely; the architecture can accommodate a wide range of cars, but the Lynk & Co 01 will be the first application. The version used for the 01 will have the uprated rear suspension (four link instead of a torsion beam), and be available with a number of powertrains, which include a three and four cylinder engines, as well as a hybrid and plug-in hybrid options, and later a full-electric version.
The 3-cylinder, 1.5 liter engine should be good for about 180 HP, and the electric motor forabout 75 HP, giving a combined output of around 220 HP, though the straight math should say 255. These aren’t official yet, just ballpark. The engines will shove all that power to the wheels via a manual transmission or a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. Numbers for the four-cylinder option are not yet available, even as guesses.
Safety is supposed to be very good, and with Volvo as a parent it better be. The full suite of driving aids is said to be available, as well as an awful lot of connectivity over the internet. In fact, that’s part of the really and allegedly revolutionary stuff we should be hearing about tomorrow.
The Lynk & Co fundamental design language is supposed to be capable of adapting to other sorts of cars. Even if the 01 is an SUV, the Lynk & Co 02 and 03 and 04 may not be, but the fundamental design vocabulary should remain the same.
To demonstrate this, Lynk & Co showed a striking, four-scissor (and suicide) door concept car, one that is still clearly in the Lynk & Co family, but is markedly different from the SUV.
Considering how daunting a task it is to start a whole new car identity from scratch, I think the Lynk & Co design team did quite a good job here. It’s not as radically different as perhaps I had built up in my mind, but I suspect the truly new and disruptive parts of the Lynk & Co equation will come tomorrow.
In the meantime, we’ve got a new brand with a new distinctive look on the world car scene, and I’m quite curious to see what happens.
So much depends on what I learn tomorrow, of course. At this point Lynk & Co could become either something radical and segment-defining, or just a footnote that feels a lot like Volvo’s Scion.
I guess we’ll know a lot more soon!