Presenting the Evos at Frankfurt last September, Ford chief creative officer J Mays promised that the styling direction embodied in the attractive concept -- created by Ford of Europe -- would be seen in a production car in four months, just about time for the Detroit show. So perhaps there will be a really stunning mainstream Ford sedan for the first time in too many years. Not that any of the present One Ford models, from the tiny Fiat 500-based Ka in Europe, to Mazda-inspired Fiestas and Focuses, to Volvo-influenced Mondeos, to the almost-all-American Taurus, are bad. They're not. It's just that their styling is at best so-so.
That's not true for this concept. The Evos may have more surface fussiness than is absolutely necessary, but overall it's very pleasant -- even beautiful from some angles -- so any available future variations will be something to celebrate. I'm talking about the overall composition and surfacing, not the wild swing-up doors that will have no reason to exist in mainstream cars. Designers use the swing-away sides in concept cars so show goers can see their fabulous interiors. Unfortunately, those usually get watered down to banality for production.
There are two good reasons for showing fanciful interiors. As traffic builds and average commutes take longer, owners must spend more time in their cars every day, so it's vital to entice buyers with interior designs suggesting more comfort and livability. The second purpose is to get the press and the public insisting that they want such extreme designs so that timid executives and penny-pinching "bean counters" will allow some evolution -- even if it's more expensive than reusing old tools and concepts.
Over the past two decades, progress in engineering has been astonishing and improvements in aerodynamic drag reduction have been appreciable, but interiors have pretty much stagnated. True, GPS screens -- often poorly integrated -- and iPod connectors are common, and from time to time one finds a head-up display, but seats are little different from what they were forty years ago. I doubt that the first production car derived from the Evos concept will be any different, but if we do get its simple, flowing lines, excellent centerline profile, and interesting surfaces, both consumers and the Ford Motor Company will benefit.
We as a nation and as a people will benefit from Ford and General Motors (and even Fiat/Chrysler) making cars attractive enough and good enough that we and our fellow citizens will buy them instead of lining up to buy cars from Germany, Japan, Korea, and -- soon -- China because they're better than what we make. Many almost-there cars are made in the United States, but we need cars that are clearly better. It's not an easy task, but the people at Ford have done a terrific job on chassis dynamics, an adequate (or outstanding, with the Mustang Boss 302) job on engines, but not quite a good enough job on appearance, which, like it or not, is the key to sales. The Evos implies that things are going to get better.
FRONT 3/4 VIEW
1. Top of rear fender is defined by an elegant, hard-edged profile related to the wheel opening.
2. These curious appendages are too small to be functional mirrors and are unnecessarily large for video cameras but are certainly swoopy science-fiction forms.
3. Sharp top of the front fender starts above the headlamps, then fades before the base of the "rear viewing elements" that spring from the window trim.
4. Vaguely related to recent Fords, this taut, six-sided grille opening is by far the nicest Ford grille in many -- too many -- years. The thin chrome surround is beautifully understated, rare on Fords of any kind.
5. Bangle-ing gone wild: a concave scoop partially filled with a convex surface providing the upper and rear limits of an air inlet on the front corner, with all surfaces nicely resolved.
6. This slitlike headlamp opening for the LED lights is simple and elegant, and it fits the composition of the front end very well. Note that the aft end helps define the front fender bulge.
7. The aluminum wheels of the concept car are at once too big in diameter and too delicate in their detailing. I suspect that the production wheels will look better.
8. This kink in the sill allows the bottom edge of the front door to be lower and provides more visual interest to the body side, although it is unnecessary.
9. Still more Bangle-ry in this sharp-edged boom in the body side, a convexity within a concavity, all beautifully shaped to give a sense of linearity and thrust.
10. This essentially straight rib is very subtly bowed upward, providing panel stiffening and visual length to what is, after all, a rather stumpy body.
11. These slim seats show up in concept car after concept car, but we never seem to get them in mass production. Someday, maybe.
12. The idea of making the driver's seat special, with either a different form or a different color, isn't new -- think 1991 Chrysler 300 concept -- and it really should happen. Someday, maybe.
13. Sculpted, welcoming rear seats are sometimes seen in very expensive cars, but there is no good reason not to have them in everyday cars, too. Someday, maybe.
REAR 3/4 VIEW
14. Come on, guys. Cars like this aren't going racing. It's time to forget about 1950s racing gas caps. Especially in bright metal.
15. Making a big deal out of the exhaust outlet works to provide interest without excessive detailing on the rear face of the body.
16. This crisp edge allows the section just above it to suggest a longer tail than is actually there. Note that there are six horizontal changes from concavity to convexity from where the roof ends to where the lower bumper section turns under.
17. Relatively small taillights make good use of LED lights nestled in their triangular cove.
18. What appear to be outlets for rear radiators, 1983 Ford Probe IV concept-style, are probably just decoration but help break up the tall rear surfaces.
19. This area recapitulates the convex-within-concave surface treatment seen on the lower front corners of the body.
20. The most notable fault in the profile of the Evos lies in these two bends in the window trim. The forward bend is a couple millimeters higher than it should be and is thus too subtle, and the rear one is a bit too abrupt. One Ford designer agrees with this opinion but was overruled. That's life in a studio.