By: Dave Abrahams
Paris Motor Show - If you thought the Lexus kinetic seat was weird, wait till you check out the concept car it's in, a four-seat compact crossover that carries its styling seamlessly from the outside to the inside.
The UX Concept was created by ED2, the company's design centre in the South of France, as an answer to a wholly American question, because the fastest growing luxury segment in the United States is the premium compact SUV. This is being driven by two discrete groups of customers: young, upwardly mobile professionals looking for something distinctive, and premium customers looking for upmarket comfort in a city car.
In particular, ED2's Simon Humphries was tasked with creating a concept that would attract big-city urbanites - who wouldn't normally consider a Lexus - to the brand for the first time.
So here we have the chunky, almost toy-like styling of an SUV, with the low ground clearance and coupé-like driving position of a sports car - something that shouldn't work, although BMW has already demonstrated with the X2, X4 and X6 that it does.
Its 'inside out' styling has the lines of the front wings flowing into the cabin to form housings for e-mirror screens showing the image from door-mounted rear view cameras, while at the back the body lines flow into the cabin to form the main structure of the rear-seat head restraints. Even the sidewalls of the tyres have been engraved using a laser carving process to extend the spoke pattern of the alloy rims into the sidewalls of the rubber.
The 'see-through' A pillar blurs the boundaries between exterior and interior; Humphries says although a one-piece polycarbonate A pillar was technically feasible, he preferred to use a narrow aluminium strut buttressed by clear polycarbonate fins.
The wheel arches, roof bars, and door cameras are all finished in the same material, hinting at a visual exoskeleton, and because there are no character lines a special multi-layered, amethyst-coloured paint is used, its colour changes as the light hits it from varying angles serving to define volume changes.
The interior actually has two colour schemes; the front-seat area is dark, emphasising the lights and icons of the controls, while the rear is light, warm and welcoming.
The dashboard has a number of angular sections overlapping and flowing past each other, rather than a single sweeping line defining the flight deck. Humphries calls it 'deconstructed' - fashion-speak for unfinished. We call it fragmented and lacking cohesion.
What we do like, however, is that the layout of the switchgear and controls, instead of being grouped around an instrument panel and on the centre stack, starts at the resting points of the driver's hands and extends forwards from there.
The instrument binnacle contains a transparent globe, floating like a hologram, in which a combination of analogue and digital information is projected, while a faceted crystal structure in the centre console shows a hologram-style display of air conditioning and infotainment system controls, clearly visible to both driver and front passenger - who has his own track pad in the door armrest panel.