Bangkok, Thailand - The Bangkok International Motor Show has roared back into life this week for its forty first edition, the first major event in Thailand since the Covid-19 pandemic changed all the established perspectives here, just as it has done right across the rest of the world.
Adapting to a new way of going about life, this year’s show is a little bit different, there are temperatures checks and check-ins by app required before you make your way into the halls and once there you have to check in and out of each booth one by one.
The show’s organisers have done their utmost to make all the processes are as smooth as they possible can be and one soon gets used to it. Anyway, this is the way the world is going to be at least in the near future.
The ‘booth babes’ are wearing face shields as are the carmakers senior managers as the give welcome speeches, face masks are mandatory and there is hand sanitiser everywhere.
But it’s still the same old Bangkok Motor Show, now reinvented for the “New Normal”, the traditional swagger and the glitz remains, even if it’s a little bit subdued and facemasks hide away some of the smiles.
Thailand has taken the Covid-19 threat very seriously, the nation has pulled together to get through the pandemic and the organisers of the Motor Show, Grand Prix International, have done a terrific job to ensure the safety of everyone is placed foremost.
They have been superbly supported in their mission by the venue, IMPACT, which has left no stone unturned in its efforts to reinvent itself for the ‘new normal’ and with the support of almost all of the carmakers, who resolutely stayed on board, along with the government and other relevant bodies, it’s all come together to put on a decent show.
So, to the cars. This show is much more workmanlike than usual, the booths are less lavish than visitors are accustomed to and the show stopping ‘halo’ cars are mostly missing.
But there are still plenty of eye catchers to admire. And this year’s two biggest eye catchers are literally the biggest, namely Aston Martin’s crucial and long-awaited new DBX and Land Rover’s modernist revival of the Defender nameplate.
Both are huge, bigger and more imposing in the flesh than photos or videos convey.
The DBX has arrived this week well ahead of Thai deliveries getting underway in 2021. The brand-new SUV is powered by an AMG-sourced 4.0-litre twin turbo V8 engine with 542hp and 700Nm of torque. It’s hooked up to a 9-speed automatic transmission, power is delivered to all four wheels and it features an active centre transfer case that directs torque to the front when required.
The DBX, which has a bonded aluminium chassis and weighs in at 2,245 kg, is being regarded as make or break model as the famous English sports car brand now edges away from the financial abyss thanks to ambitious new owners and a big injection of new funding.
The hype and chatter around this crucial luxury SUV simply doesn't prepare you for the imposing presence of the DBX. And it needs it, Lamborghini's Urus has raised the visuals in the luxury SUV segment to a new height and other key rivals such as Bentley’s Bentayga, Maserati’s Levante Trofeo and Rolls Royce’s Cullinan are all already on sale here and finding buyers.
The DBX is a little more refined and cultured than the brash Urus while more sports-focused than the Cullinan and Bentayga but it really hits the aesthetics mark head on. At the front and rear it unashamedly oozes Aston Martin’s traditional design cues and in between the two clips it has long, flowing, rising flanks.
Inside it's a sea of aromatic rich red leather and finely wrought details, everything that’s expected of an Aston Martin except the extra roof height and the ample rear leg room.
This SUV should certainly be embraced by the brand’s hardcore buyers worldwide, an excellent job has been done by the design team to ensure this remains an Aston Martin despite the bold new direction, but now it has to go out and find new buyers and at a starting price in Thailand of 19.9 million baht (or SGD$872,989 accurate as of 21st July 2020) it's got its work cut out.
However, the importer reported interest already at the show and MGC Asia – also responsible for Rolls Royce and Maserati here – has vast experience of delivering high end models from super luxury brands to customers so it has all the tools in the cabinet needed to join the dots with buyers.
This is a pre-production DBX brought in especially for the show to drum up interest and hence it’s a little tatty around the edges and the shut lines need to be tighter. The final production model, which just started rolling off the production lines in Wales earlier only last week, isn't due here until next year but expect to see it to connect with luxury segment buyers and be a feature on the local roads, albeit relatively rare one.
Equally imposing on the flesh is the new Defender. It's massive and quite square cut and in its roomy interior it's very Land Rover with tough, hard wearing surfaces and plenty of storage locations.
But this new generation Defender more likely to be seen on the streets of Miami or Los Angeles than it is in the wilds of Africa, the traditional home of its predecessor.
Its pricing starts at 5.4 million baht (or SGD$236,891) for the 3-door and 5.8 million baht (or SGD$254,456) for the 5-door. It should certainly appeal to Bangkokians looking to make a bold style statement. And there are plenty of them.
BMW has handed its public debut to the M8 Competition Coupe which arrived here without much fanfare a couple of months ago during the midst of the Covid-19 situation. With a 617 hp 4.4-litre twin turbo V8 engine, the “Competition” is the only M8 Coupe version the brand is bringing here and is priced from 17,999 million baht (or SGD$789,704). The car only went into global production in August last year and it doesn’t really have any direct rivals on the market here.
Probably the most significant volume model debut this week is the new Toyota Corolla Cross. It went on sale this week with deliveries beginning in September.
This is Toyota’s second entrant into the highly competitive C-SUV segment following the arrival of the CH-R here two years ago. The CH-R gave Toyota a somewhat belated foothold in the subcompact SUV arena where it’s playing catch up with its rivals.
The CH-R, with its sloping roofline and compromised trunk is more of a sports/lifestyle vehicle than genuine family lugging SUV and so the addition of the Corolla Cross rectifies that with Toyota clearly believing there are a lot more sales to be extracted out of this segment from buyers that wouldn’t otherwise choose the CH-R.
The Corolla Cross is a genuine 5-seat SUV with plenty of rear legroom and a spacious trunk so it’s very well placed to start pulling in new customers. It slots in above the CH-R price wise in Thailand. It’s well styled and has all the visuals expected off a subcompact SUV so it should grab consumer attention, but it remains to be seen how far it will cannibalise CH-R volumes.
Just like the CH-R, the Corolla Cross is based on Toyota's recent TNGA-C platform and so shares very similar technical characteristics including the 1.8 litre petrol-hybrid engine.
It starts in Thailand at 989,000 baht (or SGD$43,392) for the non-hybrid entry level version – which is being discounted to 959,000 baht (or SGD$42,076) until September. The hybrid version is split over three trim levels: Smart (1,089m baht or SGD$47,779), Premium (1,09m baht or SGD$47,823) & Premium Safety (1,099m baht or SGD$48,218).
Its assembled CKD here and Thailand the first country to see this car. Expect to see a lot on the Thai roads over the next year!
At the tuning end of the market TechArt has an expansive booth with several Porsches on display wearing its bodykits while Liberty Walk Thailand can't go unnoticed with a trio of Nissans on show, two GT-R R35s and a 350Z, all in standout wraps. Joining them is a beautiful yellow Honda NSX-R.
Within that customised cluster there's also a Skyline wrapped in the famous racing colours of former Thai national racing champion Limnantarak Kriangkrai.
Grand Prix Classic Cars