Design Analysis – 2012 Pininfarina Cambiano – Why So Lifeless, Bland and Generic?

cambiano gif

We feel a bit guilty for absolutely skewering the Pininfarina/Ferrari Sergio the other day.  After all, they may have had no control over the lame production-friendly changes done by Ferrari.

Let’s take another look at some of Pininfarina’s other recent work to balance things out, shall we?

The 2012 Pininfarina Cambiano concept was an expression of a clean, EV sedan in the mold of the Tesla Model S, Fisker Karma or the Quant e-Sport Limousine. The vehicle has two doors on the passenger side, and one longer coupe door on the driver side.

The trouble is: it is super boring and barely holds your attention inside or out, front or back.

What brand would this bland design fit? Perhaps Volvo before its lately design renaissance? Or perhaps Kia?

Certainly not Ferrari or Maserati — nor any of the Germans. Or the English luxury brands.

Overall, it seems very amateur-ish and like something that might come from one of China’s indigenous marques. Or maybe Malaysia’s Proton? Or maybe Renault a few years ago.

The point is: being totally generic and passionless is not a good trait of the Cambiano. It is far less sexy than any Tesla or Fisker production car, which is surprising and deeply disappointing. Not as bad as Giugiaro’s hideos MPV wagon, but 1/10th as interesting and fresh as Bertone’s recent ideas.


None of this is praise whatsoever, and we are disappointed with the lack of originality or memorable flair in this fantasy concept. Perhaps the most interesting design element is the dropped and overlapping C-pillar that flows elegantly into the rear trunk bustle pretty nicely.

But overall, where is the spark. Where is the passion? And, to be harsh, the talent or the experience of Pininfarina’s legacy concepts?

This feels like a first-year design student’s work. Something even he or she would scoff at in year four as a weak attempt at capturing lightning in a bottle.

Is there any upside?

The concept does show us a rare peak inside the Pininfarina and Ferrari wind tunnel, albeit before the big overhaul of 2013 when it was upgraded to (slightly) more modern equipment. Even so, photos inside here are few and far between.

2012 Pininfarina Cambiano


2012 Pininfarina Cambiano 48 2012 Pininfarina Cambiano 49 2012 Pininfarina Cambiano 50 2012 Pininfarina Cambiano 51 2012 Pininfarina Cambiano 52 2012 Pininfarina Cambiano 53 2012 Pininfarina Cambiano 2 2012 Pininfarina Cambiano 42012 Pininfarina Cambiano 24 2012 Pininfarina Cambiano 23 2012 Pininfarina Cambiano 22 2012 Pininfarina Cambiano 20 2012 Pininfarina Cambiano 19 ?????????????????? 2012 Pininfarina Cambiano 17 2012 Pininfarina Cambiano 16 2012 Pininfarina Cambiano 15 2012 Pininfarina Cambiano 14 2012 Pininfarina Cambiano 13 2012 Pininfarina Cambiano 12 2012 Pininfarina Cambiano 21 2012 Pininfarina Cambiano 5 2012 Pininfarina Cambiano 3 2012 Pininfarina Cambiano 72 2012 Pininfarina Cambiano 71 2012 Pininfarina Cambiano 69 2012 Pininfarina Cambiano 68


A luxury electric sports saloon

A perfect combination of design, art and technology that embodies Italian style and respect of the environment

It is a new approach to luxury in the car, according to Pininfarina’s school of thought. The Cambiano is
launched today, a concept car that is elegant and sporty, refined and comfortable. An enticing combination of
pure, cutting edge design and uncompromising engineering that respects the environment in both in the
engine and in the choice of materials.

The Cambiano is an expression of Pininfarina today, embodying all the company’s skills in terms of style,
planning and research in the field of sustainable mobility. It is no coincidence that its chosen name is that
of the town where Pininfarina has its headquarters. In 2012 the company celebrates a dual anniversary: the
30th anniversary of the Style Centre, which was set up in Cambiano in 1982 as “Pininfarina Studi e Ricerche”,
and the 10th anniversary of the Engineering Centre, which was inaugurated there in 2002, adding contract
engineering to its activities of styling and niche design/production, and concentrating cutting edge
technological tools and a team of outstanding specialists in one place.

The luxury sports saloon embodies the innovative archetypes of Pininfarina design in full. Another example
was a milestone in the company’s history, the Florida II, a concept car of 1957 which the founder Pinin
Farina conceived and built for his own personal use, a saloon-coupé with an architecture and line that
influenced global production for many years. In a way, it was Pininfarina’s first real concept car.

Today, in 2012, the Cambiano redefines and reinterprets the ideas that are the basic tenets of Pininfarina
design: harmonious proportions, taut lines and fluid surfaces, and a simple element that extends all along the
side to underline its dynamism. The result is a very strong visual impact, emphasised by an extremely pure,
aerodynamic shape based on essential and purely functional stylistic elements.

The Cambiano breaks with the general trend of design that is overloaded with elements, and confidently
embraces the return of pure form as the absolute value, in the best “tradition” of Italian Style, reflecting the
deepest essence of Pininfarina Design.

The Cambiano reveals its true character at first glance, starting from the unconventional layout of the doors:
on the driver’s side the car is a sports coupe with a single door, but on the passenger side there are two
doors that open from the centre with no central pillar. This simplifies access and makes the most of the
spacious, luminous passenger compartment.

The Cambiano is an expression of the car as a global project, and there is total consistency between every
detail of the exterior and interior design, and between the colours, materials and the use of technology.
Elegance and formal harmony blend in the association of complementary values: balance and contrast, the
relation between full and empty, between solid and transparent. Formal purity and simplicity become
elements of iconic design.

The proportions of the Cambiano convey dynamism and fluidity, thanks to the low tapered front and the
light, fleeting rear-mounted cabin. The body of the car is one of simple, solid volumes, with large taut but
sensual surfaces, enhanced by the innovative golden grey colour and iridescent blue reflections specifically
developed for this project by Standox (r). The metal inserts in the sides are a new take on decorative
mouldings and they continue all along the side glazing, incorporating the lighting and opening functions of
the doors. The large honeycomb roof is ethereal and transparent and completes the body of the car,
imparting a sense of solidity and of elegant refinement.

The front, with its clean, essential design, returns to a motif that is typical of Pininfarina: headlights
incorporated into the grille and protruding wheel arches. The grille also incorporates a dynamic opening that
is an air inlet for the turbo. The LED front headlights are simple “blocks” of pure, crystalline light. The tail
lights and side indicators are almost intangible: only the light exists, appearing as if by magic on the surface
of the bodywork. In the purest spirit of Pininfarina, the essentiality of the form becomes a very elegant
expression of pure function.2012 Pininfarina Cambiano 30 2012 Pininfarina Cambiano 31 2012 Pininfarina Cambiano 32 2012 Pininfarina Cambiano 33 2012 Pininfarina Cambiano 39 2012 Pininfarina Cambiano 34 2012 Pininfarina Cambiano 35 2012 Pininfarina Cambiano 36 2012 Pininfarina Cambiano 37 2012 Pininfarina Cambiano 38 2012 Pininfarina Cambiano 40 2012 Pininfarina Cambiano 41 2012 Pininfarina Cambiano 42 2012 Pininfarina Cambiano 43 2012 Pininfarina Cambiano 44 2012 Pininfarina Cambiano 45 2012 Pininfarina Cambiano 56 2012 Pininfarina Cambiano 57 2012 Pininfarina Cambiano 60 2012 Pininfarina Cambiano 61 2012 Pininfarina Cambiano 62 2012 Pininfarina Cambiano 63

The light is an integral part of the Cambiano design concept, inside and out. The relationship with natural
light is simplified by the panoramic roof, which is translucent in some areas and transparent in others. With a
carbon honeycomb structure mounted between the outside glass and a polycarbonate inner lining, the roof
enhances visibility in the car – heightening the sense of luminosity and space inside.

The light is not only a natural element, but also emphasises the sensory experience of the passenger
compartment thanks to a refined and functional lighting system, which exploits light channels inserted into
the ceiling, the doors and the floor. The Cambiano is the first car to incorporate into the passenger
compartment a contemporary video-art projection, created specifically by the Spanish artist Javier
Fernandez with a very personal language of manipulated, overlapping images. The work is projected onto
the ceiling where it can be enjoyed by rear seat passengers during the drive. Contemporary art, a preeminent
feature of luxury, is thus incorporated into the concept of the car, leaving behind its elite aura and
becoming accessible.

The complementarity between apparently contrasting elements is also expressed in the interior. Natural
materials contrast with sophisticated details, and the physicality of pure matter with the immateriality of the
most advanced forms of communication, which simplify the interaction between the driver and the car and
his surroundings. It is a fascinating mixture of luxury craftsmanship and innovation: exclusive materials and
outstanding manual work combined with the use of advanced technologies and innovative concepts.
Elegant and modern design converges in the interior with comfort, ergonomics and environmental
sustainability, maintaining the same stylistic approach of the exterior. Fluid, sensual surfaces, a light,
essential environment, with clearly defined functional zones: interactive controls and surfaces turned towards
the driver, a more comfortable and tactile area for the other passengers.

A fine, light facia, light but enveloping front seats suspended between the consoles and the sill, in a delicate balance between solid and
hollow designed to create tension. The asymmetrical access to the passenger compartment determines the
leaf structure of the two rear seats, which are almost suspended in the car, where occupants enjoy an
environment that is made more comfortable and refined by the generous legroom. The interior is upholstered
with Foglizzo leather, personalised in certain points with a special diamond point punched patter. The
leather used on the Cambiano was chosen from the Pininfarina Leather Collection for Foglizzo, a collection
of personalised natural and imitation leathers developed by the two Turin companies. The uprights and door
panels are upholstered with polylactic acid, a plastic derived from sugar substances, treacle and milk serum,
a solution that reduces the use of petroleum.

Like the entire lower part of the passenger compartment, the perfectly flat floor is made of recycled wood.
This is the strongest and most typical element of the interior of the Cambiano, the fusion of matter and
transformation, technological research and respect of cultural and environmental values. A choice dictated
by the discovery of a wonderful material, which is both poor and noble: the wood of the “briccole”, the poles
of European oak used to indicate the navigation channels and moorings inside the Venice lagoon.

Riva1920, a historical Italian producer of solid wood furniture that has been working with Pininfarina Extra for
over ten years, had the brilliant idea of recuperating the wood of these 12 metre poles, thousands of which
are replaced every year. The wood is marked by the lagoon water and by marine microorganisms, which
come alive again, creating a new manufact that is destined to last. Following the same principle, Riva1920
has created all the wooden elements for the interior of the Cambiano, using numerical control milling
machine followed by manual final polishing and oiling. The result is surprising and evocative.

The material is
about to embark on its third lease of life, and it reveals its unique texture and the wear and tear of passing
time: the holes made by the marine molluscs are still visible on the surface. Not only. This complex, delicate
technological craftsmanship makes the interior of the Cambiano something unique that expresses an
outstanding level of creativity and experience, thanks to this eco-friendly re-use of a natural, discarded material with the enormous evocative force of the huge cultural, emotional and artistic dimension attributed to Venice all over the world.

The atmosphere of extreme refinement in the car is underlined by another precious detail in the
instrumentation: the timepiece manufactured in Limited Edition by the Swiss watchmaker Bovet 1822. This
“Cambiano” Chronograph designed by Pininfarina can be removed from the dashboard and worn as a
wristwatch, or used as a sports timer and even a table clock, due to its convertible concept.

The instrumentation of the driving position is divided into three priority zones according to use: the car’s
functions and performance, navigation and comfort, multimedia and connections. The main display shows
the power delivered by the 4 electric motors backed up by the turbine, the battery charge and the fuel gauge,
the total range and the range with all-electric operation, the driving mode (Ecocity, Snow/Ice, Efficiency,
Sport, Drifting), and the speedometer. The driver monitors the navigator, the warning messages and the
multimedia functions on the secondary display. The “swap” control transfers the navigator and other
functions to the central display and vice versa. And a touch pad gives access to the interactive
instrumentation and climate control. The driver controls the lights and the gear selector on the steering
wheel, while the “Start” control and a device holder are on the centre tunnel.

The attention paid to detail is evident from the work carried out on the tyres. For the Cambiano Pininfarina
specifically developed with Fate, Argentina’s largest tyre production and exporting company, the first tyre for
top of the range cars, Concept Tyre, from Eximia by Pininfarina. Fate’s experts engineers contributed with
precise studies and creative capability, making possible a further step in design, technology and security.
Concept Tyre, from Eximia by Pininfarina, synthesizes the last progresses in the search of perfection:
environmental care, superior constructive quality, and an advanced esthetic model.

CAMBIANO: new architecture, a generous range and maximum attention to environmental

The Cambiano also sets new parameters for eco-sustainability in the high performance luxury car segment,
its strong points include electric drive which guarantees zero emissions in the urban cycle and a range
with all-electric operation that is higher than any offered on the market today. And how could it be
otherwise on a concept car from Pininfarina, whose genes have always included sustainable mobility, now
one of the pillars of the company’s industrial plan?

Pininfarina was concentrating on aerodynamics and alternative sources of energy as early as the 1970s: for
example, with prototypes like the CNR Energetica 1 or Ecos, the first electric car developed by Pininfarina. In
the 1990s Pininfarina offered new solutions with the Ethos, a family of 3 cars with an aluminium chassis, a
body of recyclable resin, and an innovative combustion engine with low emissions, culminating in 1995 with
the Ethos 3EV, another zero emissions car. More recently Pininfarina engineers turned their attention to
research into hybrid vehicles with the Eta Beta and Metrocubo projects, the focussing on safety in 2004 with
the Nido. In 2008 the Sintesi proposed a futuristic concept cap supplied by 4 fuel cells (one per wheel).

Which brings us to the present: the BlueCar in 2008, the Nido EV in 2010 and the Hybus in 2011, a project to
convert buses currently equipped with Euro 0–1–2 engines into buses with serial hybrid power packs.
This consolidated technological expertise and the ability to manage cutting-edge projects with great flexibility
and innovation are expressed in the Cambiano. The perfect integration of the styling and engineering
activities has produced an extended range plug-in electric car that combines top performance and
roominess with the comfort of a luxury car and total respect of the environment. The type of engine
chosen and the position of the battery pack in the rear of the car (under the luggage compartment) have
created a vehicle architecture with a perfectly flat floor, that is regular and low, guaranteeing excellent
access, liveability on board and a lower centre of gravity.

The drive system is based on four electric motors, one for each wheel, and the respective deceleration
unit. The four motors, which are produced by Magneti Marelli, are mounted on the front and rear frames and
each delivers a continuous supply of 60 kW with peaks of 150 kW for a total of 600 kW maximum power
output, with torque of 640 Nm. Each motor is controlled separately and electronically to guarantee various

functions, including energy regeneration when decelerating and braking, traction control with the option of
continuously varying the torque split between the wheels independently (Vectoring Stability Program) and
anti-lock braking assistance. The traction control strategies make the vehicle even more enjoyable to drive,
guaranteeing outstanding performance and maximum safety over all types of routes.
The drive system incorporates an APU (Auxiliary Power Unit) to charge the batteries and, when necessary,
to supply energy directly to the motors: this is a 50 kW Bladon Jets micro turbine which normally runs on
diesel but which can be calibrated to be compatible with various types of fuel. In addition to this advantage,
the turbine is smaller than those of piston engines with a similar power delivery, it weighs just 40 kg, and
generates low polluting emissions. The micro turbine chosen for the Cambiano has technical features that
make it particularly quiet and vibration-free, enhancing comfort for passengers. This type of extended range
electric drive is thus amply in line with EURO 6 legislation, and is already compatible with possible evolutions
(EURO 7 ready).

The battery pack developed by FAAM is installed between the seats and the rear axle, where it is protected
from possible collisions and easily replaced during servicing. The battery is of the high power, high energy
density lithium ion type, has a capacity of 50 kW/h, a peak power delivery of 500 kW, and can be recharged
in 6 hours using a 6 Kw/h grid and in 52 minutes with the APU. Combined with the micro turbine, it
guarantees a range of 205 km in the urban cycle in all-electric mode, and a total range in the NEDC
(New European Driving Cycle) mixed cycle of over 800 km in extended range mode, higher than that of
luxury sports cars with conventional drive systems.

The battery is the fruit of FAAM’s experience in the
development of lithium batteries. FAAM’s research into lithium ion cells will make it possible in the short term
to achieve specific energy density values that are more than double those of lithium ion batteries currently on
the market. This, associated with a larger specific power reserve, will make it the ideal solution for future
electric cars. This result has been made possible by the improvement in the specific capacity of the
electrodes: current anodic and cathodic materials are replaced by materials with a higher specific capacity,
cells with high potential cathodes based on lithium nickel manganese oxide, LiNi0.5Mn1.5O4, with a spinel

2012 Pininfarina Cambiano 29 2012 Pininfarina Cambiano 28 2012 Pininfarina Cambiano 27 2012 Pininfarina Cambiano 26 2012 Pininfarina Cambiano 25 2012 Pininfarina Cambiano 11 2012 Pininfarina Cambiano 10 2012 Pininfarina Cambiano 9 2012 Pininfarina Cambiano 8 2012 Pininfarina Cambiano 7 2012 Pininfarina Cambiano 6 2012 Pininfarina Cambiano 1 2012 Pininfarina Cambiano 70 2012 Pininfarina Cambiano 58 2012 Pininfarina Cambiano 55 2012 Pininfarina Cambiano 54 2012 Pininfarina Cambiano 47 2012 Pininfarina Cambiano 46 2012 Pininfarina Cambiano 59
The composition of the pack is simplified by the small size of each cell, which allows for a certain amount of
flexibility and adaption when installed on the vehicle. The battery case was designed to respect current crash
test standards and it complies with ISO 26262 vehicle safety regulations. The battery is liquid cooled and
protected by an insulating casing that guarantees that it will function in all use conditions, with a temperature
range of da -20° C to +60° C. Battery functioning is monitored by a BMS (Battery Management System) unit,
which verifies that the individual cells operate within the established normal functioning range. In the event of
a malfunction, the battery is immediately isolated from the rest of the vehicle.

The CAMBIANO’s generous range was achieved by the innovative drive system, by focussing attention on
aerodynamic efficiency, obtained in the Pininfarina Wind Tunnel, and by a significant weight reduction:
the Cambiano weighs 1695 kg empty, an excellent result if we consider the size of the car. The chassis is
light, resistant and modular, comprising a carbon fibre cell for occupants and two aluminium modules,
one at the front and one at the rear, which act as crumple cells, absorbing impact and supporting all the
mechanical parts. This engineering solution allows the same modules to be used for an entire family of
derived vehicles. The central cell can be built with materials and dimensions that will allow it to adapt to the
various requirements of cost, manufacturing volumes and furnishings of the cabin of a future derived vehicle
The front and rear structural modules will also adapt effectively to different wheelbases and tracks.

Where the energy management system is concerned, the objective is to minimise consumption and polluting
emissions into the atmosphere, keeping turbine operating times to a minimum. This is triggered automatically
when the battery charge falls below 20% of maximum capacity and turns off automatically when the speed is
below 50 km/h (like restricted traffic areas in city centres). When necessary, the driver can activate or deactivate
the turbine manually. On the road, the need to generate energy with the micro turbine will depend on
how the vehicle is used, on the type of route (urban, rural, out of town) and on traffic. This information can be
obtained by GPS navigator. The turbine can be controlled ready to generate a certain calculated quantity of
energy, trying to keep its ignition and operating times to a minimum.

The Cambiano also delivers road-holding at physical limits in all road conditions and types of use. The driver
can choose his preferred driving mode using a selector lever. For example, the Ecocity mode zeros local
emissions, activates exclusively electric drive and excludes the turbine. In Snow/Ice mode, the load sensors
on the four suspension units calculate the available friction coefficient: this automatically limits performance.
Efficiency mode regulates the acceleration and top speed to maximise the range, but does not penalise
enjoyment excessively. The Sport mode makes driving more exciting, accelerating from 0 to 100 in 4.2 sec,
and limits the continuous top speed to 250 km/h. And finally, with Drifting mode, the individual control of the
electric motors artificially sets the behaviour of the limited slip differentials. It is also possible to adjust the
front/rear drive split so that the vehicle can be driven in rally mode, underlining the entertainment of driving
on snow-covered or dirt roads.

BLADON JETS – Turbine studies
BOVET – Watch
FAAM – Batteries
FATE – Concept Tyre, from Eximia by Pininfarina: vanguard asymmetrical tread band; ultra-low profile;
dimensions: front axis 245/35 R 21, back axis 265/35 R21; Green System technology: low rolling resistance,
to contribute with the environment.
FOGLIZZO – Leather upholstery (Foglizzo Nabuk PN 5/N Griffir, Foglizzo Classic Lord Leather LD011 and
Foglizzo Leather PN 11 Lily White)
GF AGIECHARMILLES – Laser etchings on aluminium mouldings and plexiglass components
IEE – Internal instrumentation (Human Machine Interface)
MAGNETI MARELLI – Electric motors/Inverters/Control electronics
RIVA 1920 – Wooden interior parts
RÖHM ITALIA – Plexiglas®

 Maximum length: ………………………………………………….… 5040 mm
 Maximum width: ………………………………………….………….. 2000 mm
 Maximum height: …………………………………………………… .. 1360 mm
 Luggage compartment: ………………………………………………. 450 Litres
 Power train: ………………………4 independent motors with permanent magnetos, extended range
with axial flow micro turbine
 Package: ……………………………………………………………… 3 doors, 4 seats
 Chassis: …………………………………….. ……………………….. carbon and aluminium
 Cd: ……………………………………………………………………… 0.28
 Empty weight: ………………………………………………………….. 1695 kg
 Electronically limited speed: ………………….………………………. 250 km/h
 Top speed: …………………………….………………………………. 275 km/h
 0 a 100 km/h acceleration: …………………………………………….. 4.2 sec
 Maximum power delivery of electric motors: ………………………… 600 kW
 Peak power delivery of battery: ……………………………………… 500 kW
 Range in NEDC mixed cycle – extended range mode: ………over 800 km
 Range ECE15 urban cycle – pure electric mode: …….…………….. 205 km
 Pure electric range at top speed of 250 km/h: ………………….….. 46 km (the battery charge gives a
maximum range of 46 km at a speed of 250 km/h. With a dead battery and the turbo engaged, the
car reaches a top speed of 152 km/h)
 Plug-in charging time: ………………… 6 hours with 6 kWh grid and 20% min. state of charge
 Diesel fuel tank: ………………………………………………………… 50 litres
 CO2: ……………………………………………………………………… 45 gr/km
 NOx: ……………………………………………………………………… 0.05 gr/km
 Weight distribution: …..…………………………………………………. front 48%/rear 52%
 Turning circle …………………………………………………………… 12.3 mcambiano gif

About The Author

Tom Burkart is the founder and managing editor of, an innovative and rapidly expanding automotive news magazine. He holds a Journalism JBA degree from the University of Wisconsin - Madison. Tom currently resides in Charleston, South Carolina with his two amazing dogs, Drake and Tank. Mr. Burkart is available for all questions and concerns by email Tom(at)