Whether it's the compressed air of Peugeot Citroën's Hybrid Air powertrain, or the raft of air channeling aerodynamic upgrades on concepts like the C4 Cactus Airflow, air mixes freely with concept car design at Citroën. The all-new Aircross Concept keeps the trend alive and packages air friendly-design into a larger utility vehicle. The concept also highlights some interesting new interior entertainment and communication technologies.
As with last year's Airflow concept, the Aircross is designed to effectively manage and channel the air surrounding it. It swallows oncoming air with a set of front Air Curtains that work in conjunction with front and rear wheel arch extractors. Farther back on the body, a pair of chrome-trimmed "Air Signs" create an airflow tunnel behind the rear windows.
Unlike the C4 Airflow, the Aircross does not feature a Hybrid Air powertrain. Instead, Citroën opts for a more traditional hybrid system that pairs a 95-bhp (70-kW) rear electric motor with a 218-bhp (160-kW) 1.6-liter THP engine. The plug-in powertrain offers an all-electric driving mode with the ever-popular range of 31 miles (50 km). The 313-bhp system gives the Aircross a rather feisty demeanor, allowing it to bolt to 62 mph (100 km/h) in just 4.5 seconds. Meanwhile, it can bring home 138 miles to every gallon (US mpg, 1.7l/100 km) while emitting 39g/km of CO2.
In terms of general packaging and styling, the Aircross builds upon the quirky design of the C4 Cactus and experiments with a larger, 180.3 x 82.7 x 68.1-in (4.58 x 2.1 x 1.73-m) SUV for the international market. Most notably, Citroën reinterprets the Cactus' defining side Airbumps with a set of "Alloy Bumps." Located below the doors, the Alloy Bumps utilize a highly absorbent aluminum honeycomb structure borrowed from motorsport toward protecting the vehicle from lateral impacts. The floating front and rear bumpers follow the look of these unique structural bumps.
Highlighting the fact that the Aircross is meant to be a capable SUV, not just a shopping mall shuttle, the oversized wheels are shod in a set of tough, knobby 275/42 R 22 tires, which were developed exclusively for the concept by Continental. The roof hovering over top the wraparound greenhouse includes a set of rails for mounting racks and lashing gear.
The Aircross's fiery red-orange exterior is certainly an attention grabber, but the interior is where things get particularly interesting. Modern technology so often makes us numb to the real-life communication possibilities that exist in the immediate physical world, so Citroën designs its cabin around exploiting those possibilities. The Aircross uses a unique configuration of audio and video equipment to encourage sharing and chatting between occupants.
Each of the four seats is equipped with its own individual speaker and microphone system. It's not clear why you need a microphone to communicate with people sitting just feet away, but it's there to spark up conversation should you want. Of course, the personalized sound systems seem like they might work in exactly the opposite way, encouraging each person to completely ignore fellow passengers and escape into a personal "sound bubble" of music or video entertainment.
Like the C4 Cactus, the Aircross has two dashboard displays; however, these 12-in HD units come with a twist. Designed to facilitate interaction between occupants, the rightmost screen can slide to the right via a motorized gesture-control system. It can be parked in the middle of the dashboard, where both front and rear passengers can view content, or moved all the way over to serve as the front passenger's personal infotainment screen. It can also move all the way to the left, teaming with the other 12-in display and head-up display to deliver driver information.
Another key component of the Aircross's technological suite is the dual webcam system integrated into the door frames. The cameras take pictures of the passing world outside for viewing on the interior displays. Passengers can use the system as a jumping off point for researching information about and directions to local points of interest. The camera hardware also streamlines the process of sharing travel photos via social media.
Despite being well larger than the C4 Cactus, the Aircross loses a seat, offering room for four. The extra space is put to use in a spacious, comfortable interior with "king-size" seats designed to wrap occupants in a comfort level more comparable to a La-Z-Boy than a typical car seat. The grab straps and myriad storage compartments in the center console, doors and dashboard are inspired by the world of luggage, another point of emphasis shared with C4 Cactus. The bright-orange trim and aero-styled seat cutouts follow the design ethic of the exterior.
Citroën will debut the Aircross Concept at the Shanghai motor show later this month. The automaker says China is its number one market, representing 25 percent of total sales. The Aircross is highly unlikely to see production without some major toning down, but Citroën does sound serious about offering a global SUV with similar dimensions and body shape.
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