Last revised: 26-1-2009

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AutoRAI 2007: the concept cars

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Skoda_Joyster_2006Another part of the Volkswagen concern is Skoda. Located in the Czech Republic, Skoda provides sensible, conservative cars for an affordable price. Its model line-up is devoid of dynamic, frivolous characteristics. This is in contrast to the trend in the wealthy West where an active, sporty, maybe even aggressive style is hip and dull has become a swear word. The Joyster concept, fresh from the 2006 Paris Motor Show, seems like an attempt to address that contrast.
Following a sequence of multi-purpose concepts like the Roomster MPV from 2003 and the Yeti SUV from 2005 the Joyster is a surprisingly youthful sports wagon. Its design is a bit of an amalgam of styles and details seen before from other other makes, topped off by an distinct roof line. The combination works well however and presents a car looking more dynamic than any Skoda since decades before.
The Joyster is intended to be a fun car to attract young buyers, as its name already indicates. A hip exterior in a stretched 2-door hatchback style matched to a versatile and roomy interior, garnished with some bright-and-shiny details and impressive 18 inch alloy wheels should make the youth aware of the Skoda, a make generally preferred by older and more sedate people.

Skoda_Joyster_2006There are a number of aspects about the Joyster specifically stressed by Skoda. Most playful of those is the rear tailgate which opens into two sections and the lower of these can be converted into a 2-seat external "party bench" for enjoying some roadside recreation. Exterior characteristics comprise headlights with fancy LED-technology next to an exaggerated Skoda grill, a large frame of illumination surrounding the rear window and a large central exhaust with an trapezoidal shape placed in the rear bumper.
Inside the Joyster is finished in black with yellow and metallic accents. The dashboard is created by neoprene fabric stretched over a hidden structure, with storage spaces provided by openings in the fabric which can be zipped-up. A rail runs over the dashboard from the instrument panel to the passenger's door; it's used for attaching multi-media devices or speakers. A similar rail appears in the console between the front seats for docking equipment like heating controls or air conditioning. Following the trend the Joyster has four individual bucket seats and a large glass roof section above. The front seats and the C-pillars contain yellow storage boxes for drinks and food or equipment.
Skoda has had the habit of turning concept cars into reality, so this Joyster is probably more serious than it seems on first impression. Hard to tell if a model like the Joyster will send youthful car buyers to the Skoda dealers in droves. In any case the Joyster is a more exiting and fun-loving design than was expected from Skoda even if it does lack a bit of finesse.

Suzuki_Grand_Vitara_Bandit_2007A cross between a concept and a customized car is this Suzuki Grand Vitara Bandit. It was not conceived at the Suzuki headquarters in Japan but by the Dutch Suzuki importer. Not surprisingly it was first unveiled at the 2007 AutoRai in Amsterdam.
Apparently the importer first aimed at having the 2005 Suzuki Dune Grand Vitara concept over from the USA but this proved impossible due to other obligations. Still wanting to have a crowd puller at the stand in Amsterdam for the all-terrain car segment of their business the Dutch import organization must have thought: "how hard can it be to make a concept?".
So, together with accessory specialist Progress Europe they embarked on creating a special Grand Vitara in the vein of the Dune concept, but now with aquatics as a theme instead of desert recreation. Having lots of open water and very little sand plains in Holland this was a logical choice. The Bandit epithet must have been chosen with some tongue-in-cheek as this was no official Suzuki project, though officially the name refers to the Suzuki Bandit motorcycle.
A regular Grand Vitara served as a base, and with the designs of Progress Europe and plenty of expertise model maker Meindert Vlam created the Bandit concept as the work progressed. The result is an impressive looking all-terrain vehicle decorated with a host of aquatic equipment as a slightly cooled down version of the Dune concept.

Suzuki_Grand_Vitara_Bandit_2007Compared to the regular Grand Vitara the Bandit has a higher ground clearance and is 30 cm wider. Front and rear sections have been completely revised, a special slotted hood has been placed over the engine compartment, huge flares have been fitted to the wheel arches to house the extra wide wheels and a special roof section has been added with an additional battery of lights in front and a spoiler at the rear. Aluminum running boards were fitted under the doors and to express its naval theme the Bandit is finished in pearly white with some small teak accents.
Teak is also found on the interior floor of the Bandit. The rest of the interior is finished in black and a white matching the exterior. A multi-media system with display has been fitted in the single tailgate to provide outdoor entertainment by opening the door. Distinctly aquatic hints are the Suzuki outboard engine stored in the rear and the odd-looking wakeboard with shoes on the roof.
Not a bad result for a "home-made" concept, it's quite different from the normal Grand Vitara which appears a bit neutered next to the bandit. It also holds its own compared to the "official" Dune concept and it attracted plenty of attention. Obviously it won't ever be a production model and there's no real vision behind it. On the other hand, if you have a Grand Vitara and plenty of money I'm sure the creators of this car could make you another one...

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