Chinese car brands rev up excitement at Munich Motor Show

Hybrids, sedans and EVs charge up Asian nation's credentials as a serious player in the global car market

Chinese vehicles, including the Leapmotor T03 electric city car, have been the talk of the town at the German event. AFP
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German brands have traditionally dominated motor shows on home turf, but this year they were usurped by a plethora of emerging Chinese marques at the Munich Motor Show.

The world’s second-most populous nation rolled out mediocre cars as recently as a decade ago, but the country’s automakers have made enormous strides in recent years.

The evolution was on full display at the biennial, which is officially called the IAA Mobility.

Avatr 12

Before you ask, Avatr isn’t a typo. Formed through an alliance between Changan, Huawei and CATL, the fledgling brand unveiled the slinky, battery-powered sedan at the show.

Avatr will offer the 12 with two powertrain options. The entry-level model is equipped with a 94.5 kWh battery pack and a single 308hp motor that drives the rear axle. A performance-focused version with two electric motors that eke out a combined 578hp will also be available.

Measuring a little over five metres in length and a whisker under two metres in width, the Avatr 12 is slightly larger than the latest-gen Mercedes-Benz E-Class.

Denza D9

BYD used the event to showcase its Denza premium sub-brand (born out of a joint venture with Mercedes-Benz) to European audiences. Billed as the “ultimate people carrier”, the D9 minivan has a seven-seat capacity, with a 2+2+3 configuration.

It will also be available in a luxurious four-seat format, aimed at business travellers who prefer the space of a van over a limousine such as a Mercedes S-Class or BMW 7 Series.

The Denza D9 will be sold with both EV and plug-in hybrid powertrains, with the latter said to provide a cruising range of more than 1,000km.

HiPhi Z GT

One of the most striking-looking cars at IAA Mobility, HiPhi’s Z GT appears as though it was designed for a Transformers movie. Its futuristic styling is backed up by genuine firepower as dual electric motors kick out 672hp, enabling the large sedan to sprint from 0 to 100kph in 3.8 seconds.

In addition, its maker claims the Z GT can cover up to 555km on a full charge. The vehicle’s surprise-and-delight features include the world-first HiPhi Bot, a robotic, multi-axis arm infotainment system that can rotate between portrait and landscape modes.

The Z GT certainly looks appealing, but it won’t be cheap, as European pricing will start at €105,000 ($112,000).

Leapmotor C10

Leapmotor’s C10 appears to be a sensibly conceived medium-large SUV that’s built on the company’s Leap 3.0 architecture.

Although an unfamiliar marque outside of China, Leapmotor was established in 2015 and has carved out a niche for itself in the EV space. The brand initially focused on bargain-basement offerings, but the C10 is positioned as a premium model that’s packed with a raft of mod-cons and state-of-the-art tech features, including an industry-first roof-mounted lidar (light detection and ranging sensor).

Buyers will have a choice between five-seat and six-seat versions and Leapmotor will build cars in both left-hand-drive and right-hand-drive configurations to cater to markets in the Asia Pacific, Europe, the Middle East, and the Americas.

Seres 5 and 7

Another relatively unknown entity outside of China, Seres is a partnership with phone giant Huawei, which provides the brand’s infotainment systems.

As with most other Chinese debutants at the event, the Seres 5 and 7 SUVs are battery-powered vehicles that leverage the country’s expertise in EV technology. The entry-level 5 is offered with a single 342hp electric motor that drives the rear axle, but there’s also an AWD dual-motor configuration that thumps out an impressive 637hp and 820 Nm of torque.

A rung above the 5, is the 7 – a larger SUV with six seats spread across three rows. It too is offered in single-motor and dual-motor AWD guises.

Zeekr 001 Shooting Brake and X SUV

Having tasted success in its Chinese domestic market with the attractively packaged Zeeker 001 and X, the recently founded marque now has eyes on the international arena.

The 001 Shooting Brake is backed by some impressive stats, as its swoopy bodyshell has a low drag coefficient of 0.23, while its dual electric motors thump out 544hp and 686Nm for a 0-100kph sprint in a mere 3.8 seconds. The entry-level single-motor version uses the same 100kWh battery pack to travel up to 620km on a full charge.

Zeekr also showcased the X compact SUV, which features surround sound audio, a 5G infotainment system and self-parking capability. It’s fast, too, as the dual-motor AWD Privilege model packs a 428hp punch.

Updated: September 09, 2023, 12:53 PM