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Airflow Vision Concept: A Preview of Chrysler's Future from the Inside Out

A multiscreen interface and customizable lighting will democratize the interior, probably.

At CES 2020, Fiat Chrysler unveiled the Airflow Vision, a concept car designed primarily to give us a sneak peek at its next-generation UX in terms of both physical and digital interfaces. For example, the Airflow concept gives a glance at Chrysler's intriguing pairing of premium materials and interactive electronics.

Fiat Chrysler promises a multiscreen layout that can be customized, personalized, and shared among different occupants of the vehicle by swiping from screen to screen—so, for example, a passenger can search for a location near the car, bring that destination up on navigation, and then swipe it over to the driver's screen. Chrysler touts a menu-based format with screens that "can be personalized, simplified and grouped to individual needs and interests." The layout relies primarily on touchscreens, with few (if any) buttons or other tactile controls. We're pretty happy with the way the current UConnect interface organizes and displays information, so we have high hopes for Chrysler's new system.

Chrysler says the Airflow Vision uses the floorplan and layout of the current Pacifica Hybrid, with four slim-back pedestal-mounted bucket seats that open up both personal and storage space for passengers. The layout emphasizes elegance through simplicity, with a customizable ambient lighting system. But it's not all postmodern severity: Chrysler promises liberal use of suede and stitched leather to give the Airflow Vision a distinctly upmarket feel.

From the outside, the Airflow Vision employs a familiar SUV-esque shape, with giant wheels surrounded by Tron Light Cycle-style fenders reaching down to the ground. A full-width LED lamp across the front end provides a new light signature, while the big opening in the bumper could feed cooling air to any manner of powertrains, although we're betting it has a fair share of electrification.

Does this show us the future direction for the Chrysler division, which is now down to just three models (and that's being generous, as the new-for-2020 Voyager is really just a Pacifica with less feature content)? No one at the company would comment on Chrysler's future on the record, but we're sure many inside the long-running brand would are as eager as we are to see a resurgence. That said, the Airflow Vision's racetrack-style taillight—similar to those of the Dodge Charger and Durango—makes us wonder how serious FCA is about separating out the brands. We suppose that's Fiat-Chrysler-Peugeot-Citroën's problem now.

The choice of the Airflow Vision name is an interesting one. Chrysler's 1934 Airflow was an attempt to change the fundamental design of the automobile, with pioneering features such as all-steel unibody construction, 50/50 weight distribution, and advanced aerodynamic design. Though all of these developments would eventually become common design practice, the Airflow was a failure in the marketplace largely due to its unconventional appearance. Chrysler reverted to a more conservatively styled car in 1938. Perhaps whatever production model the Airflow Vision might presage will suffer a better fate.