Ex­clu­sive: On the road in Lynk & Co 01

Auto Express - - Contents - Steve Fowler steve_­fowler@den­nis.co.uk @steve­fowler

IT’S two years away from launch, but Auto Ex­press was in­vited to Lynk & Co’s home town of Gothen­burg in Swe­den to take an ex­clu­sive ride in the brand’s first model – the 01 SUV.

This isn’t only our first on-road ex­pe­ri­ence of a Lynk & Co model, it’s also our first ex­pe­ri­ence of a car us­ing the new Com­pact Mod­u­lar Ar­chi­tec­ture (CMA) plat­form, which has been jointly de­vel­oped with Volvo and both firms’ Chi­nese par­ent com­pany, Geely.

At 4,530mm long, the 01 sits some­where be­tween the Audi Q3 and Q5 in terms of size, but in­te­rior space is closer to the lat­ter. A six-foot rear pas­sen­ger can sit be­hind a sim­i­larly sized driver with room to spare.

And be­fore the car has even moved a wheel, the Audi com­par­isons don’t stop there. The qual­ity of the early car we’re in is par­tic­u­larly im­pres­sive. The 01 will be built in China in a fac­tory owned by Volvo, while the ma­te­rial qual­ity of Lynk & Co’s first model seems on a par with its Swedish cousin, and close to that of Audi’s SUVS.

The dash is fairly up­right and topped by squishy plas­tics, while the stan­dard 10-inch touch­screen dom­i­nates the cabin as much as con­nec­tiv­ity dom­i­nates the whole Lynk & Co story. The front seats with their in­te­gral head­rests are trimmed in leather in our car and feel Volvo comfy, while ahead of the driver is a TFT driver dis­play.

Driver for our ride is Ola Her­mans­son, Lynk & Co’s vice-pres­i­dent of ve­hi­cles and ar­chi­tec­ture who’s led the 01 engi­neer­ing project. “We wanted to give the car a sporty feel,” Her­mans­son told us. “We’ve pri­ori­tised han­dling and a fun to drive feel­ing, but with the very low lev­els of NVH (Noise, Vi­bra­tion and Harsh­ness). Chi­nese cus­tomers are very NVH driven,” he ex­plained. “But it’s dif­fi­cult to get that bal­ance of be­ing sporty and be­ing quiet.”

Sure enough, our car is be­ing used to test road noise, even though the first mod­els are due to be built in just eight weeks. On the mo­tor­way, the en­gine is eerily silent, while there’s a faint rum­ble from the tyres but a more no­tice­able whoosh of wind noise from the over­sized door mir­rors.

As far as a sporty ride is con­cerned, the Macpher­son strut front and multi-link rear sus­pen­sion give a ride that’s cer­tainly firm, but it feels more con­nected than harsh – at least on the Swedish roads around Lynk & Co’s Gothen­burg sites. There doesn’t seem to be much body roll through cor­ners, although Her­mans­son isn’t throw­ing the car around. “It’s still an SUV,” he re­minded us, “so it won’t feel like a sports car”.

Per­for­mance from our car’s 188bhp 2.0-litre four-cylin­der petrol seems brisk enough, but Her­mans­son ad­mit­ted that there’s not too much dif­fer­ence be­tween that and the all-new 178bhp three-cylin­der 1.5-litre en­gine. A hy­brid ver­sion, he says, will pro­duce around 222bhp, while the new seven-speed dual-clutch au­to­matic in our car seems to be both re­spon­sive and smooth.

As well as test­ing the car at Volvo’s prov­ing ground in Swe­den and fur­ther north in the Arc­tic Cir­cle, Bri­tish firm Ri­cardo has been in­volved in the de­vel­op­ment of the 01 at its base in Shore­ham-by-sea, West Sus­sex and at Mill­brook Prov­ing Ground in Bed­ford­shire. Hope­fully that will bode well for how the 01 be­haves on Bri­tish roads when it ar­rives in 2019.

“We wanted to give the 01 a sporty feel, so we’ve pri­ori­tised han­dling and a fun drive” OLA HER­MANS­SON Lynk & Co vice-pres­i­dent Ex­clu­sive ride in 01 SUV Swede de­sign, made in China

“A Lynk & Co is a very sporty car. We also want it to feel young in terms of de­sign; young with­out be­ing flashy” ALAIN VISSER Lynk & Co se­nior vice-pres­i­dent P13 Visser on fu­ture plans, plus 02 ex­clu­sive im­age

SMOOTH As Lynk & Co vice-pres­i­dent Ola Her­mans­son drove us around, the quiet en­gine and min­i­mal road noise in 01 im­pressed

SPACE STAR Clever pack­ag­ing means there’s as much room in the back of the 01 as you’ll find in the larger Audi Q5. Ma­te­rial qual­ity is first-rate, too

DE­SIGN LED Lynk & Co stylists have tried to give the 01 a dis­tinc­tive look, while the in­te­rior de­sign fo­cuses on con­nec­tiv­ity as well as pas­sen­ger space

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