Detroit Auto Show 2009 - Highlights
by CDN Team   

Volkswagen Concept BlueSport

VW's Concept BlueSport was designed at the company's Potsdam studio under the supervision of VW design director Klaus Bischoff and Potsdam studio director Thomas Ingenlath, and is the brand's first attempt at a compact mid-engined roadster, measuring just 3990mm long, 1260mm high and 1745mm wide.

The team - consisting of Chief Exterior Designer Peter Wouda and Christian Felske on exterior, and Peer Witt and Julian Jaede led by Chief Interior Designer Romulus Rost on interior - initially toyed with a more wedge-shaped profile. But according to Wouda, it was felt that a flat, low shape with a strong shoulder line broken up only by prominent wheelarches (covering 19-inch wheels) would lend the car a more balanced, relaxed feel. "Precision is one of the major themes; parallel, ground-orientated lines that you will also find in the Golf, and in all future VWs," reveals Wouda. The face is a relatively straightforward development of the themes already established on the Scirocco, but to our eyes it has found its most natural home here.

The interior design was developed from an initial sketch by Peer Witt, and according to fellow interior designer Julian Jaede was all about "creating something clean and classical mixed with high-tech elements". One example of the latter is the circular gear selector, which is framed within a gloss black center console containing a touch-screen infotainment display and an electronic handbrake. Above that is a row of three circular aluminum HVAC controls that offer a novel and attractive 3D effect: as you turn the knob, a ring of LEDs inside it change from blue to red to denote an increase in temperature. Rounded oblong shapes abound on the interior and are echoed by the engine cooling vents in the rear deck, giving the overall design a very holistic feel.

‘Authenticity' was apparently a major buzzword during the development of the BlueSport. The fabric roof is operated manually, the rollover hoops are of a fixed design and this NAIAS prototype was handcrafted from sheet metal; Wouda says it "drives like a real car". We very much hope to be able to put that to the test ourselves in a few years' time.


Volvo S60 concept

The S60 concept shown at the 2009 Detroit Auto Show has been produced to signal that a new S60 mid-size four-seater production sedan is on the way in 2010. The concept also showcases a more upmarket future design direction for Volvo interiors well beyond 2010.

According to exterior designer Alex Chan, the concept's exterior - complete with a much more fluid shoulder line and XC60-esque front grille and lamp graphics - is very close to the production version. The elaborate Viking-ship inspired lamp innards designed by Malte Mossner will be toned down and the back of the car's detailing will be simplified, but the basic architecture will stay intact.

The interior is accessed by an alternative to traditional showcar suicide doors, where the rear door hinges and folds back alongside the car body on a long arm rather than sticking out at right angles. Designed by Lars Falk, the cabin is dominated by a center stack made from real clear crystal that appears to flow from the top of the IP between the four individual seats through to the rear window. Mounted in the crystal is a new kind of ergonomic gear selector that flips up for sportier shifting and the light-filled interior is full of expensive materials including brown saddle leather, real metal, light wood and copper accents to match the exterior color.

Luxurious in an understated Scandinavian way on the inside and more distinctive on the outside, it is another very strong concept that - like the 2006 XC60 concept and 2008 XC60 production car - indicates Volvo's bolder design under Design Director Steve Mattin is really hitting its stride.

Related Article:
Design Development: Volvo S60 concept


Chrysler 200C EV concept

The 200C hybrid-electric sedan concept was one of the few surprises of NAIAS 2009. Based on a shortened version of the company's rear-drive 300C platform, it provides a glimpse not only of an electric-powered replacement for the company's popular range-topping sedan, but also marks Chrysler design director Ralph Gilles' vision for the future of the troubled US brand.

The 200C was designed by Nick Malachowski (exterior) and Ryan Patrick Joyce (interior) at Chrysler's design HQ and Advanced Interior Design studios in Auburn Hills, Michigan. It's a handsome and well executed take on the mid-size sedan format, featuring parallel window and character lines that arc gently downwards as they run from a stepped trunk and dissolve as they meet distended front wheelarches. This emphasizes the height of the hood, giving the car a muscular down-the-road graphic in keeping with the 200C's sporting pretensions. A recessed area of sheet metal above the side sills runs in a band around the entire car, housing full-width chrome air intakes and exhaust surrounds at the rear.

Interior designer Ryan Patrick Joyce tells us that the interior was all about "clean, organic, asymmetrical design and open space". The Zen rock garden-inspired floor rises up in waves to provide support for the car's four identical bucket seats, which feature intersecting leaf forms that leave natural gaps in the backrests for cooling. Each slim chair is made up of a number of differently colored layers, providing what Joyce calls "great attention to ‘thick to thin'."

The driver sits in front of an EcoVoyager-style single-rim steering wheel and a huge single-surface touch-screen IP that uses a system called 'uconnect' to allow many of the vehicles functions to be controlled via an iPhone. We don't have enough space here to detail its myriad functions, but a full demonstration left us suitably impressed.