DS, Citroen's luxury brand, is showing off this striking Aero Sport Lounge concept away from the Geneva Motor Show, which none of PSA Group's brands will be attending.
Sharp, aggressive angles
Looking almost like a French Rolls-Royce Cullinan, the Aero Sport Lounge is a vast, luxury SUV that has some interesting new ideas about how to design and lay out a cabin.
Let's start with the outside which is a riot of sharp and aggressive angles that makes current Lexus styling look positively shy and retiring. It's a full five metres long (that's Merc S-Class size) and has a steeply raked roofline. Oh, and those gorgeous alloy wheels? A full 23 inches, sir or madam...
Almost needless to say, it's electric, playing on DS's E-Tense electric brand, and the fact that the French car maker has a works team in Formula E. DS says that the Aero Sport Lounge is powered by a 680hp electric motor, fed by a 110kWh 'new generation' battery under the floor, which is good for a one-charge range of 650km. Oh, and a 0-100km/h time of just 2.8 seconds.
Because it doesn't need a grille to let air into a radiator, the Aero Sport Lounge instead gets a front-mounted digital screen, which has an illuminated DS badge, and which hides sensors and radar for the automated driving systems. The screen can also project eye-like shapes to communicate with other road users when the car is driving itself.
Rethinking the touchscreen
Inside, DS claims that it's reinventing the interior by taking out the touchscreens, Well, actually it's more turning the entire interior into a gigantic touchscreen thanks to clever projector technology. Or something like that, it's all a bit vague. Certainly, the idea is to introduce new cabin materials that move away from the traditional plastic-and-wood look of most luxury cars. According to DS: "In front of the occupants, two wide strips create a suspended shape. The lower strip, clad in satin cotton, displays information projected from the top strip. The surface is brought to life with the necessary elements of navigation or finding and sharing new types of infotainment. The fusion of information and entertainment comes into its own by doing away with the constraints of touchpads."
Instead of instruments, there's a big heads-up display projected onto the windscreen, and there are some other screens in the cabin - for the rear-view cameras, for example, as well as individual tablet screens for each seat.
Buttons? Well, DS don't need no stinking buttons, not when it can team up with a Silicon Valley startup called Ultraleap, which has helped to turn the car's central armrest into a gigantic trackpad, that allows you to touch, slide, and swipe and receive a different tactile response for each command. Indeed, so sophisticated is the system that DS claims "With the development of intelligent, three-dimensional ultrasound, you feel like you're touching shapes and textures in a completely empty space. This augmented gesture control creates strong natural tactile feedback which enables interaction that's as simple as magic." There's also DS's 'Iris' artificial-intelligence voice control assistant for when all the swooping and swiping ceases to make sense.
Straw surfaces in the cabin
The dashboard is made of straw. Well, sort of. DS calls it Straw Marquetry and it's an 'engineered material' (which we think means man-made) but made to look like traditional woven panels, albeit if those panels had been woven by a "Parisian craftsman." It is based on real Rye straw, though, and DS has worked with the Lison de Caunes atelier to create the effect. The raw material is plentiful and natural. Grown and harvested the old-fashioned way in Burgundy, it is then dried and coloured before being split, stem by stem, according to an ancient technique in order to be glued on its flat side and flattened at the fold on its support. The natural silica varnish on the straw makes it heat resistant and waterproof.
The seats are covered in a satin cotton, with a very fine weave, and the doors are covered in a plaited microfibre that has transparent threads woven in, which allows more light into the cabin.
"DS Aero Sport Lounge is a manifesto intended to illustrate the buzzword 'sustainable'. It is a clear willingness to offer luxury while still thinking about our environmental footprint: the quality of sustainability. DS Aero Sport Lounge illustrates the opening of a new era for the car. An amazing pathway is opening for us to transform new limitations into opportunities to make cars that are more and more charismatic. For this concept car, which is a prelude to our next creations, we have opted for solutions that are avant-garde and high technology in which the purely technical element is concealed for the benefit of the beauty. In the cockpit, we have chosen to work with unexpected materials, hand crafted with simple, pure lines, expressing a new kind of tranquillity" said Thierry Metroz, Design director DS Automobiles.
"DS Automobiles is in the position of challenger. The Brand enjoys a unique history and expertise to shake up the rules of the car industry. If we present a concept bearing a new bodywork shape and with an interior in materials as original as they are luxurious with a firm commitment, it's because our projects in the field are already very advanced. Our growth shows that our customers are looking for this expertise and technology. It's the reason DS Automobiles exists. Make a date over the coming months" said Béatrice Foucher, CEO DS Automobiles.