Italdesign’s interpretation of a deluxe MPV, the voluminous and implausible Columbus, debuted at the Turin Motor show in 1992. It was one of those concepts that remained just that but Car Design News is very much a fan

Click for larger images

Following the success of large MPVs such as the Renault Espace and Chrysler Voyager, the idea of adding luxury to the already spacious interior seemed like a natural step forward in the early nineties.

A few would remember the De la Chapelle Parcours, a sort of hyper-luxurious Espace powered by a 326bhp V8 from Mercedes. However, they only sold one. High tech gadgets in a ‘soccer mom’ car might not be such a good idea after all.

This would have been enough to discourage anyone to give another try but not Giugiaro, who indulged in building his own interpretation of a deluxe MPV.


Created 500 years after the discovery of America, the Columbus was presented at the 1992 Turin auto show on the Italdesign stand. Its opulent interior loaded with technology and comfort was an invitation to travel long distance and explore.

Far away from all the constraints of size, weight or maneuverability, the Columbus is simply colossal. It is almost as wide as it is high, spanning 2,200mm and is six meters in length.

Apart from its bulky dimensions, the real signature element of the Columbus is its elevated cockpit, clearly visible from the outside creating a prominent bubble at the front as you’d find on a motor yacht or on a Renault Trafic.

The huge front doors are frameless and the rear doors are split in half. The lower opens normally while the upper section - which includes part of the roof - has a butterfly opening.

The long DLO wrapping around the back elongates the silhouette and elegantly hides the tail lamps while a horizontal two-tone paint job helps to reduce its visual mass.

It appears as though the Columbus has been designed from the inside out. The driver was seated on top of the engine, higher than the rest of the passenger compartment.

With a central driving position and a swivel seat, the driver surely felt like the captain of a ship. The rest of the crew enjoyed multifunction seats with monitors connected to TV networks and VHS player.

Looking up, a vast panoramic sunroof helps to open up and lighten the interior and is surrounded by fiber optic ambient lighting.

The standard configuration was 1+2+2+2, but the layout was flexible and allowed the number of passengers to be increased to nine if needed. The seats could also be removed transforming the luxury cruiser into a commercial vehicle.

The Columbus was built on a steel box-section chassis with the body made from carbon fiber to keep the weight down. A large 5.0L V12 developing 295bhp taken from the BMW 8 series powered the jumbo car.

The transmission featured 4WD and 4WS with the rear wheels turning up to a 15-degree angle to improve maneuverability.

Irrelevant in almost every market, the Columbus was just an inspiring vision, an old-school dream car concept with no ambition of being anything more than that. It certainly triggered the imagination and that’s why we love it.

Length 5,997mm
Width 2,190mm
Height 2,060mm
Wheelbase 3,820mm
Engine Mid mounted 4988cc V12
Power 295bhp
Drive type AWD, AWS