Up until recently, China’s car market has largely been domestic – However, this one makes us think, is the Middle Kingdom capable of competing with the best?
You may have heard of the Lynk&Co 03 Cyan Concept, but what you didn’t know is – they also make a production variant. It’s not quite as fast, it’s not front-wheel drive, but it shares the same Polestar blood as the Nürburging record holder. It’s the 03+ Performance, and it’s only available in China – but it makes us say what we never thought we’d say. It’s a proper performance car from China.
With a starting price of ¥185,800 (~$27,000 USD / $39,000 AUD), you get a lot of car for the money. Let us explain.
A 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine; mated to an 8-speed semi-automatic gearbox onto all four wheels – it’s capable of accelerating the Polestar inspired sports sedan from 0-100km/h in just 5.9 seconds. The engine – a Geely JLH-4G20TDC, also known as the Volvo B4204T23 – produces 187kW of power, and with 350Nm of peak-torque available between 1800rpm and 4800rpm, the 03+ proves to be quite effortless through congested metropolitan roads. Get onto the Chinese motorway though – and finally, you get to open up the 187kW of power. The tacho swiftly glides up to the 6,500rpm redline, gear change, redline, gear change – and you’re cruising at a stable 120km/h.
An intelligent BorgWarner AWD system improves cornering ability; and with the optional aero kit, it further supplements stability at high speeds – increasing downforce from 11kg to 40kg, with no negative effect on drag coefficient. This is enough of an improvement to call the aero package a must, if not just for the sportier looks. A carbon fibre spoiler, small front splitter, rear diffuser and real quad-tipped exhausts means the performance figure is matched by the aggression. Without the aero package however, the 03+ looks quite identical to the base 03; which is rather dull. 19-inch wheels with all-round 245-wide tyres increase traction, and with track-mode activated – makes for a rather quick launch – especially when you consider that the kerb weight of the 03+ sits at just 1615kg, fairly lightweight for its size.
The trendy design and premium exterior build flows through to the interior, where everything, and we mean everything is laden with alcantara – provided you select the ‘sports cockpit’ option upon checkout. The inside of the new 03+ can be somewhat comparable to the interior of a supercar – with alcantara door cards, seats, the dashboard, centre console and steering wheel – not to mention the entire ceiling. Simple button controls for air-conditioning are integrated into the design of the main display, and the centre console features an alcantara shifter, with an electronic park-brake, hill hold, and auto start-stop button beneath. The main display itself is well made and features dedicated graphics, meaning the interface is responsive and surprisingly quite user friendly.
The cluster of steering-wheel buttons detract from the sporty appearance; but all make sense once memorised, and can be forgiven as they are overshadowed by large shift paddles and a supercar-esque digital display. A centred digital speedometer with an analogue style tachometer all look quite aesthetic, and a torque-vectoring meter displays the split of power going to the front and rear axles. We won’t go through all the onboard tools and features, cause to be honest we can’t as the entire brochure is written in Chinese; however a few that stand out for us include the lateral and longitudinal G-Force monitor (as shown above), a 360-degree reverse camera, an in-car WIFI hotspot and an optional autonomous parking feature. Radar cruise control is also available, making it simple to keep a constant speed – thus avoiding speeding fines in a country laden with cameras.
Left behind in the industrial revolution – with no notable car history apart from being known as the makers of cheap copycat cars, Chinese car manufacturing has come a long way.
The booming demand for a luxury lifestyle in China has resulted in a substantial increase in automotive manufacturing standards in an incredibly small amount of time, with dozens of Chinese carmakers contesting in an increasingly competitive market. The Geely owned Lynk&Co brand is a pioneer of Chinese car manufacturing, and backed by one of the largest automotive corporations in China with Polestar derived engineering, Lynk&Co could be a big player in the future of the automobile.