Italdesign is a storied design house that goes back decades and has had its hands on many iconic cars. Also, a bunch of not-so-successful designs. What list its latest work—a series of Mercedes-Benz luxury vans in China—belongs on is up to you, though, because I can't work out how I feel about them.
Xingchi Automobile contracted Italdesign to style what may be its flagship VIP van, the Vulcanus Venus. I can't tell if it sounds more like a 2006 Xbox Live name or a euphemism. It's clearly meant to appeal to the upscale Chinese market, which emphasizes features for back-seat passengers over those for the driver. Being driven is a status symbol there, hence China's many exclusive long-wheelbase models.
Based on the Mercedes-Benz V-class van, the Vulcanus Venus has several available interior and styling schemes, all of which have a few common features. Fully reclining seats, a handmade leather interior with window curtains, and names inspired by science fiction. All of them tend to saturate users with screens, which while I'm sure is an iPad Kid's idea of luxury, actually sounds to me like a blue light hell to me. To each their own, I guess.
At the same time, these vans have the kind of wild interiors that car blogs will go wild for in 30 years. The "Star Trek" inspiration absolutely radiates from the Nova, and its Brazilian marble floor calls to mind an old "Top Gear" segment. (Also, I've seen much worse from bigger names when it comes to luxury coachbuilding). Even the custom wheels go pretty hard, you've got to admit.
They should. The vans start around the equivalent of $216,000. That's Maybach territory, but these vans offer more interior room. It's maybe not how I'd spend that kind of money, but I won't have to because these things are gonna be a steal on the used market one day. And once they are, nobody can stop me from reupholstering the entire interior in cane toad leather. They're an invasive species, OK?
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