Ford will unveil a head-turning new concept at the Frankfurt Motor Show next month, to express its design strategy for the next generation of European road cars.
Styled from a radical new design brief, iosis* is an exciting four-seater saloon within a muscular coupé profile. iosis follows the recent SAV concept launched at the 2005 Geneva Motor Show in demonstrating the company’s new “kinetic” design direction; making future Fords look more sporting, dynamic and exciting.
This startling new design, penned by a team led by Martin Smith, Ford of Europe’s executive design director, showcases visual elements that will strongly influence a new generation of Ford products. It is not the precursor to a production model, rather an indicator of future trends.
“Ford products are acknowledged for their class leading driving dynamics, our objective, quite simply, is to express this leadership in our design,” said Martin Smith. “We are calling this new language Ford ‘kinetic’ design, because we believe it expresses energy in motion.
“We’re bringing together all of the elements of this exciting design language into one concept vehicle,” he added. “We want this new expression to make our cars totally irresistible, so they actually turn heads.”
Every car company has identifiable generations of vehicles and Martin Smith has been tasked with developing the next generation for Ford. When he arrived at Ford last year, Smith recognised that Ford’s leadership in driving quality needed to be reflected in the product’s emotional and visual appeal.
“The forms will be more distinctive and emotional, more athletic and muscular,” explained Smith. “Equally, we have to combine safety and dynamic performance and still keep the brand identity. The iosis has great stance, it is powerful, assertive and confident, and it just cries out to be driven. That’s kinetic design – energy in motion,” says Smith.
Smith and his team quickly identified the graphic elements that are the recognised key signatures of Ford design. Amongst the most important is the ‘inverse trapezoid’ air intake below the grille. Together, these upper and lower grille graphics represent the new face of Ford.
A further element considered an imperative by the team, is the further development of the well defined wheel arch lip originally pioneered on Focus in 1998.
Rather than static, straight lines, the intention is to make them more dynamic. The undercut surface supports this aspect and it is complemented by the kick-up on the rocker panel, which repeats almost exactly the shape of the “day-light opening” (DLO) graphic.
Another recurring design theme is the kick-up in the DLO at the ‘C’ post, which is echoed in the headlamp design. It is also mirrored in the design of the hood itself that raises the upper surface to give a cushioning clearance from engine hard points below. This ridge then continues along the ‘A’ post and cant rail before terminating in dramatic cat’s-eye-style rear light clusters.
A particularly dramatic aspect of iosis is its angled pivoting door arrangement that gives complete, uninterrupted access to the interior. Constructed from F1-style carbon fibre for lightness, the doors are powered by ram motors that swing them upwards and outwards from the ‘A’ and ‘C’ posts via a system of sophisticated hinges that ensure additional support isn’t required when the doors are open.
Advanced technology where deployed on iosis is practical and realistic. Mounted in the rear valance is a camera to complement the two door-mounted units that replace conventional rear-view mirrors. By using three cameras in addition to the conventional interior mirror, the driver is assured complete 360-degree vision.
“The interior follows the same direction as the exterior design,” says Smith. “We connected futuristic materials with sophisticated materials,” he explained. “There are very technical materials like rubber compounds combined with leather, and neoprene combined with high quality aluminium components, for example.”
The interior team wanted the driver to be enticed by the interior as the doors swung open. Immediately apparent is the ultra-modern steering wheel fashioned from solid aluminium and with contrasting orange glove-leather grips.
Another example of this approach is in the sequential gear shifter inspired by the Focus World Rally Car, and located just a hand span from the steering wheel. Beautifully crafted from solid aluminium and finished in a unique anodised soft warm brown-grey with orange leather, it embodies all the themes running through the interior – contemporary craftsmanship and high quality materials. The starter button is mounted beneath a flip lid on top of the shifter.
Ahead of the driver is a simple instrument binnacle, featuring the counterbalanced needles traditionally found on a high quality chronometer. Between the dials is a high definition LCD screen for navigation or to display views from the three rearward facing cameras.
The sweeping centre stack houses docking points for a pair of memory sticks. It is likely in the future that a conventional key or even keyless entry will give way to memory stick activation, allowing full individual driver data to be stored.
The interiors team has developed eye-catching seating for the iosis, with skeletal frames resembling a ribcage and a vertebrae structure fashioned from silver carbon fibre and aluminium. Separating the front seats is a ‘flying bridge’ centre console housing the electronic parking brake.
A unique leather finish with a subtle metallic look has been specially developed for iosis. It retains a natural grain in a deep charcoal tone, yet the top surface is picked out with a subtle graphite shade to create the effect.
“The interior architecture is quite simple in itself,” explains Smith, “but its design shines through in its detailed execution and the choice of contrasting materials, unusual in automotive applications.”