The BYTON Concept is a very cool looking car, so where better to give it a European showcase than Milan Design Week? This is the annual event that crams in more sharp-dressed types per square metre than anywhere else on the planet, while also showing off everything that’s sizzling hot on the style front, from fab and funky chairs through to cutting-edge kitchens.
In amongst all this activity, BYTON was holed up in the super-slick Casa d'Aste Blindarte gallery in the famed Brera Design District with the centerpiece being the car itself. On hand were a gaggle of BYTON folks, who were actually a collection of industry experts who’ve joined the newish company from the likes of BMW and Volkswagen for this innovation-fest.
And, if you love your tech then you’ll be intrigued by the BYTON Concept. It comes packed to the hilt with all manner of features, some of which are super cool. So cool, in fact, that you hope this car really does make it to the production stage. The people behind it certainly seem confident that the BYTON Concept isn’t going to remain just a, erm, concept.
“What you see here isn’t showbusiness, it’s the real thing. The car you see is the one that will go into production,” said BYTON’s French designer Benoît Jacob. And, before joining the company, he served as BMW Group’s vice president of design. Jacob was responsible for the BMW i design and is credited for the highly innovative i3 and i8 electric cars. So he’s not the sort of person to make such statements lightly.
From the outside the BYTON boasts beefy SUV styling, rides on chunky 22-inch wheels and has more than enough design flourishes to make it memorable to look at. In fact, the quirky front and rear light clusters are really great and certainly distinctive. There’s plenty of external tech too, including a trio of facial recognition cameras built in to the B-pillar on both sides of the car and side view cameras that replace conventional door mirrors. However, it’s the interior of the car where the fun really starts.
In many ways the inside of this vehicle is designed to let people indulge in their lifestyle choices. BYTON refers to it as a ‘shared lounge experience’. The thinking is that cars will eventually become more than just vehicles for getting from A to B. In-car communication, entertainment and work will all be done on the go. The company has also devised a so-called ‘BYTON Life’ cloud platform that will support this plan.
The thing that dominates the front of the interior is the 125 x 25 cm Shared Experience Display, supplemented by three additional display screens. There’s also a tablet built into the centre of the steering wheel. All this tech is designed to offer a personalised human-vehicle interaction, with voice recognition, touch control, biometric identification and gesture controls on offer.
On first impression there’s a lot going on, but apparently the impact of all this screen activity can be minimised when you’re actually driving. The screens also adjust their brightness depending on changes in light too. BYTON says there will be integration with Amazon’s Alexa, while the screens mounted in the back of the front seats are designed to keep rear passengers amused. Front seats that rotate towards each other add to the living room on wheels ambience.
A flat floor and panoramic glass roof makes the interior feel roomy and deceptively spacious. Colour coordinated leather seats round it all out with a touch of pizazz. BYTON says that owners will be able to generate their own user profiles that can be downloaded from the cloud. This will ensure that you get the same experience no matter which of the BYTON models you’re sitting in.
The company is also keen to push its BYTON Life cloud platform too, which it reckons will take the intelligent in-car experience to another level. For the European premiere there were four features of this idea on show, including my HEALTH, my COMMUNICATION, My ENTERTAINMENT and my ACTIVITIES.
Owners will be able to keep tabs on everything from monitoring their weight on the move to making video calls and watching movies. Advanced AI and machine learning will personalise the experience the longer the owner has the car. BYTON also claims that the SUV will be 5G ready.
Performance-wise there will be two variations on the theme, with a rear wheel drive model featuring a 71kwh battery pack and a driving range of 400km. Meanwhile, there’ll be a beefier four-wheel drive edition with a 95kwh battery, which the company reckons will be good for 520km on a single charge. A fast charge mode will rejuice the battery in 30 minutes.
BYTON is adamant that production will commence towards the end of 2019. Produced at their plant in Nanjing, the car will initially go on sale in China. It’s expected to arrive in Europe and the US in 2020, with a price of just $45,000.