A multiscreen interface and customizable lighting will democratize the interior, probably.
At CES 2020, Fiat Chrysler will unveil the Airflow Vision, a concept car designed primarily to give us a sneak peek at its next-generation UX in terms of both physical and digital interfaces. Our pre-show peek was limited to sketches and a press release that substitutes buzzwords for detail, but as far as we can tell the concept will show an intriguing pairing of premium materials and interactive electronics.
Fiat Chrysler promises a multiscreen layout that can be customized, personalized, and shared among different occupants of the vehicle by swiping from screen to screen. Chrysler touts a menu-based format with screens that "can be personalized, simplified and grouped to individual needs and interests." The sketches show a touchscreen layout with few (if any) buttons or other tactile controls; we're assuming the one dial on display is the transmission shifter, although it might be an infotainment control knob. We're pretty happy with the way the current UConnect interface organizes and displays information, so we have high hopes for Chrysler's new system.
Chrysler says the Airflow Vision uses the floorplan and layout of the current Pacifica Hybrid, with four slim-back pedestal-mounted bucket seats that open up both personal and storage space for passengers. The layout emphasizes elegance through simplicity, with a customizable ambient lighting system. But it's not all postmodern severity: Chrysler promises liberal use of suede and stitched leather to give the Airflow Vision a distinctly upmarket feel.
From the outside, the Airflow Vision employs a familiar SUV-esque shape, with giant wheels surrounded by Tron Light Cycle-style fenders reaching down to the ground. A full-width LED lamp across the front end provides a new light signature, while the big opening in the bumper could feed cooling air to any manner of powertrains, although we're betting it has a fair share of electrification.
We're eager to see the Airflow Vision in person, as it may give us some idea as to what direction FCA plans to take with the Chrysler division, which is now down to just three models (and that's being generous, as the new-for-2020 Voyager is really just a Pacifica with less feature content). We're eager to see a resurgence of Chrysler's luxury brand, though the Airflow Vision's racetrack-style taillight is similar to those of the Dodge Charger and Durango, and makes us wonder how serious FCA is about separating out the brands. We suppose that's Fiat-Chrysler-Peugeot-Citroën's problem now.
The choice of the Airflow Vision name is an interesting one. Chrysler's 1934 Airflow was an attempt to change the fundamental design of the automobile, with pioneering features such as all-steel unibody construction, 50/50 weight distribution, and advanced aerodynamic design. Though all of these developments would eventually become common design practice, the Airflow was a failure in the marketplace largely due to its unconventional appearance. Chrysler reverted to a more conservatively styled car in 1938. Perhaps whatever production model the Airflow Vision might presage will suffer a better fate.