Forgive the tardiness of this follow-up, but between jetting to Las Vegas on a day's notice to cover CES and subsequently hopping aboard the 'red eye' to Detroit to hit the NAIAS in time for the first press conference of Day One, a few things fell off the table. One of them was this hulking Infiniti QX-56 concept by Visteon, featuring a compelling look at the future of dashboards and interior electronics.

[More specs and a slew of additional photographs after the jump]

The Infiniti seen here features a low-profile instrument panel dominated by a raised arch supporting both the floating two-gauge binnacle and a large central touch screen that governs telematics functions, HVAC, and in-car entertainment front and back. The span-like construction, purportedly inspired by Japanese bridges, supports what are largely self-contained modules designed for easy removal. As such, a similar system could be fitted to a variety of vehicles employing a 'standard' dashboard, and it also facilitates the extrication of the entire span for maintenance, updating or replacement.

Of note, in this particular application, the main body of the dashboard doesn't appear to be quite low enough, as the bridge with its massive center screen hampers outward visibility somewhat. But Visteon reps assure that it wouldn't be terribly difficult to fit a slimmer dashboard, particularly if everything eventually goes drive-by-wire.

And speaking of by-wire technology, the two 'analog' gauge pods on either side of the screen in front of the flat-top steering wheel are just that... effectively making them plug-n-play modules-- here they are used for a conventional tach and speedometer). As a Visteon representative explained, these could easily be added or removed to accommodate a manufacturer's desire to differentiate between trim or equipment levels. All of the information displayed on the conventional analog gauges can also be displayed digitally on screen, so the ancillary gauges could be used to mark out a premium model, or afford additional visual confirmation of functions reserved for higher-end features (turbocharger boost gauge, etc.).

In addition to touch screen and voice activation, a haptic controller (located near the gear selector) with a few auxiliary buttons can also be used to access functions easily. The module is similar to a laptop's touchpad pointing device, only with tactile feedback.

The large, colorful center screen can simultaneously display a large amount of information across systems. On this screen, drivers can keep tabs on everything from what song is playing to what number the Bluetooth-enabled system is phoning, along with HVAC settings for driver and passenger:

This screen highlights the a/v functions for front and rear, yet still allows for HVAC supervision:

On the doorcards, conventional window and door controls are notable by their absence. Instead, small touch-sensitive panels are employed, allowing one to drag a digit across their surface and raise or lower a window quickly, in a manner not dissimilar to the way one would modulate a slide control on a conventional touch screen. These 'smart' switches can be programmed to include 'express' up and down features, or potentially even predetermined stations (e.g. one-quarter-open, one-half open, etc.), and as they lack moving parts, they stand to be more reliable as well.

On a stand-alone display, Visteon also showed embedded switches underneath a different door's trim fabric, which not might not only lend an interior a minimalist aesthetic, it'd probably help keep the mechanisms free from debris. Of course, such a solution could conversely make for stained door fabric and/or worn-away pictograms after repeated use, but it's a potentially interesting development regardless.

On this door, LEDs hidden in the trim strips also provide ambient entry/exit lighting, but leave clean lines when in use.

 Visteon also displayed other takes on the future of the instrument panel courtesy a Euro-market Ford Focus C-Max and a Mazda5.



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