Pininfarina Cambiano Design Review

“The Cambiano responds to the expectations of refinement, status and image that people have for a luxury sports car,” says Chief Creative Officer Fabio Filippini, who joined Pininfarina from Renault last year. “At the same time it has serious and consistent depth from a technical and architectural perspective.”

Named after the Torinese township the famed carrozzeria calls home, the Cambiano marks the 30th anniversary of the company’s design center and celebrates the engineering centre’s 10th. It is also the first Pininfarina concept created under Filippini’s stewardship.

Embodying the coachbuilder’s design philosophy of elegance, purity and innovation, the Cambiano is the antithesis of current design trends. Refreshingly uncluttered and devoid of extraneous details, the contemporary and functional identity is reinforced by an asymmetrical door layout.

But there is also a subliminal relation to Pininfarina’s heritage: the car’s headlamps are incorporated into a well defined horizontal grille aesthetic; the protruding fenders and wheelarches are an evolution of the treatment seen on numerous cars from the coachbuilder’s history; the backlight is flanked by a modern interpretation of Pininfarina’s flying buttresses; the flowing C-pillar and subtle chrome fender detail recalls the company’s first concept car; and the aluminum insert in the bodyside is reminiscent of the molding on the 1977 Lancia Gamma Coupe.  

All of these signature elements have been translated to the modern era and come together not as a puzzle that was thrown together haphazardly, but as a clear vision for the future from a company that is keenly aware of where it has been.

This is why the design is so successful. There is fluidity, an elegant lightness; and innovation appears within the limited details. The aluminum strip houses the side marker light and also doubles as the door handle; the LED headlamps are essential and uncomplicated; and the rear is devoid of taillamp housings – LED lights are instead nestled in the aluminum trim and reflected onto the body; a novel idea.

By incorporating several functions into existing elements and using less parts, the pared down aesthetic is amplified. This is integral to Pininfarina’s vision of sustainability, which includes the use of lightweight aluminum subframe and carbon fiber body panels, reclaimed oak wood flooring from the Venice lagoons, and leather sourced from ecologically conscious supplier Foglizzo.

The interior was designed with the same approach to purity as the exterior. A continuous interplay of flowing lines and surfaces gently intersect with one another and there is a sense of balance and lightness; the empty spaces adding to the contemporary, minimalist feel.

But the strongest point of the Cambiano is the clarity and controlled use of natural materials and technical elements. Three surfaces – covered by white leather, Nubuck (suede) and wood – contrast plexiglass panels with integrated sensors in the center console and doors. The panels not only house all the typical door panel functions, but also transmit light via embedded LEDs.

Wide seats, suspended between the center console and the sill, envelop the occupant whilst facilitating ingress and egress. They were made to be comfortable and generous but also thin and lightweight.

The technical heart of the Cambiano underlines the company’s industrial plan towards sustainable mobility, which has been seen in various permutations since 1970. This time it’s a range-extended plug-in electric car, powered by a lithium-ion battery pack supplemented by a diesel-powered micro turbine.

The battery is installed behind the rear seat and ahead of the rear axle to ensure a flat floor and optimize cabin space. It feeds four electric motors mounted near the wheels and is recharged via the turbine, while decelerating, and through brake regeneration. Recharging through a 6 kWh grid takes 6 hours.

Under normal EV use, the Cambiano has a 130-mile range, but can travel up to 500 miles when the turbine range extender is called upon.

As a showcase for Pininfarina’s technological prowess and design aptitude the Cambiano is a successful expression of the company’s capabilities. Both the exterior and interior design speak to the coachbuilder’s values and clean, essential aesthetic.

The fact that the company can also balance this formal purity with an aerodynamic shape and cutting edge powertrain only serves to reinforce its standing as a renowned supplier of complete vehicle services.

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