No one can accuse car designer Dilip Chhabria of being a ‘safe’ designer. He continuously pushes, pulls and stretches the edges of the envelope, and delves into new shapes and forms. So, like the work of any good modern artist, his ideas are radical and often decades ahead of mass acceptability.
One up on the SUV
This car, however, has a more accessible appeal once you get your head around it. DC says he wanted to design the most extreme and sporty SUV possible, or the first ‘SSUV’ — Super Sports Utility Vehicle. As a result, the Imperator, the Roman title given to a victorious Caesar, is an amalgam of ideas — Paris Dakar Raid car meets F1 car meets BMW X6, with simply massive 28-inch wheels.
Seeing the Imperator in the flesh is as slack-jaw a moment as any. You initially gape at the car in shock, words failing you. Then the size of the thing smacks you in the face. At five metres, the Imperator has the presence to dwarf a Hummer. The four massive wheels and their very technical rims, flung out to each end of the design, are the four pillars on which the design of the car rests.
Chhabria calls the effect ‘cloth draped over four wheels’. That and the tube-like central cabin of the car, with the mid-mounted Audi V12 diesel motor placed behind it, are what the Imperator is designed around. And the Audi connection doesn’t end there.
An Audi connection
Chhabria admits he had the Audi in mind when he created this monster. The name Imperator has been used by Auto Union in the past; the tail-lights have very Audi-like LED lights; and, if you look at the rear of Auto Union’s famous Type C Grand Prix car of the ’30s, you’ll see the tapering tail and outrider wheels there as well. The rear of the car is clearly the best bit, blending rectangular shapes with the massive curves of the wheel arch brilliantly. The square centre exhaust, the surrounding oversized black diffuser and the sweep of the roof all work together in harmony.
Also very attractive are the chrome surrounds for the doors, the way in which the waistline of the car rises up to meet the rear and the use of cameras for rearview mirrors. Chhabria calls this an off-roader but we could call that description a bit of poetic licence. The ground clearance seems only good enough for rough tracks and the F1 car-inspired nose of the Imperator doesn’t work as well as the rest of the car.
Chhabria actually has an Imperator on order for a client in Thailand; so look out for the car on the streets of Bangkok the next time you’re there.