By Design

By Design: Mazda RX-Vision Concept

By Design

This is a perfect example of what concept cars ought to be: something you’d really like to have once it’s converted into a real car. Mazda’s RX-Vision concept, a sort of cartoon-ideal sports coupe, couldn’t be put into production as shown, but we can certainly wish for it. Indeed, it seems likely we’ll find a car that greatly resembles this in Mazda showrooms one day without too much rationalizing, de-tuning, and bending to practical requirements having taken place. While every square inch of surface will be changed and its proportions altered, no one will care a bit because its desirability will be retained.
There’s an excellent precedent: the Dodge Viper. The concept was presented at the Detroit show in 1989, and it made an even stronger impression than the RX did at the 2015 Tokyo show. In production for 1992, the Viper had all the aura of the show car, but not a single detail was exactly the same. Cutlines, body surfaces, dimensions—everything was changed, but the visceral feel remained. We all knew what it was, and I suspect that everyone liked the attainable car as much as they’d liked the not-really-workable concept.
Imagine what this RX-Vision’s ride quality would be like, given there’s no more than an inch or so jounce room in the front fender. Or imagine trying to drive into a gas station with that long front overhang and no ramp angle built into the design. It couldn’t happen, so the car will have to be greatly modified without hurting the drama of its styling. I have no doubt that chief designer Ikuo Maeda will do the job successfully with great elegance, but the car you’ll be able to buy will be totally different from this one.
The sharply reduced rear overhang will no doubt increase some, the severely chopped double-bubble top will rise a bit, the wheels and tires will be less exaggerated, and there’ll be vertical space for decent wheel travel. But the RX-Vision’s long hood, short deck, and the lovely transition between concave and convex surfaces on the door will be largely retained—that’s both brilliant and quite original—and the rising line described by the surface change above the sills will surely stay. Visibility will improve with more glass area, there will be mirrors and door handles and license plate brackets … all the accoutrements of real-world requirements that concepts don’t need.
One of the nicest details on this design is the use of a strip of always-on running lights to describe a headlamp opening of the general size we expect to see on a car’s face. It’s a delicate matter to change the proportions of the “eyes” of a car because less reflector surface is needed than was the case in the past. This solution combines the agreeable outline of the traditional with the technical possibilities of modern technology. It’s sound both practically and psychologically. It’s a great piece of work by Maeda-san and his team. I can hardly wait.

1. The corporate grille form is given a black rim inboard of the headlamps, but the hood color is carried right to the extreme limit of the opening on top.
2. This extremely long hood recalls the Mercedes-AMG GT S, suggesting that perhaps E-type-like proportions are making a welcome comeback.
3. The luminous outline of a classically dimensioned headlamp is a brilliant design touch, both literally and figuratively.
4. No wipers? It’s a concept, not a finished design (yet).
5. The roof profile is really lovely, but it’s really too compressed vertically for practicality, entirely too Camaro-like in this respect.
6. A hard profile hip line gives definition and direction to the extremely short rear fender, which is chamfered in plan view to make it appear as though there is almost no rear overhang. And there’s not much.
7. By establishing a stack of concavities across the tail, the designers have emphasized that shortness.
8. This hard and sharp rising line cuts the visual height of the sides and focuses attention on the rear wheels, whence come actual and visual thrust.
9. I particularly like this fluid concave section that transitions to a fully convex section on the rear third of the door skin.
10. Beautifully modeled external skins let the outer corner scoops resemble jet-fighter air intakes.
11. This flat plate under the nose has Formula 1 resonances, but it’s far too low and long to permit the RX to enter a gas station driveway, even on the diagonal.

12. It’s not clear whether this blade is an active movable element, but having its outer ends crossing behind the taillights is a very nice visual effect.
13. Someday we’ll have unobtrusive little cameras to give us a wonderful field of view to the rear, with no blocking effect from big mirrors. Alas, not yet.
14. Whether these vents are functional or necessary, they do provide nice punctuation on the car’s long, slightly convoluted sides.
15. Shades of Boyd Coddington’s all-show customs: There is absolutely no room for front suspension jounce.
16. More attractive foolishness: The under-tray sticks out under the nose at a height that would not allow climbing even a shallow ramp without damage.
17. A kink in the under-tray moves inward and upward where the door cut intersects the hard rising line above the sill. It’s intriguing, but why is it there?
18. While the wheels are made from carbon fiber, the face of each spoke is trimmed in metal.
19. The round exhausts and round taillights are tightly tucked in to sharp-cornered holes at the top and bottom of the rear fascia.
20. This cross design makes one think of Dodge. Or Pegaso, long ago.

21. There’s a lovely simple knob for operating in sequential-manual mode.
22. The deeply dished steering wheel is simple and pleasant. Can there be an airbag in that tiny hub?
23. The instrument cluster is as nicely understated as the wheel. An elegantly austere sports-car cockpit. Wonderful.
24. The seats are as nicely understated and apparently extremely functional as the rest of the plain but elegant cockpit.
25. Note the absence of a clutch pedal, thanks to the automatic transmission, which allows for left-foot braking. There is a nice dead pedal in the footwell, too.

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