Our man Eric Bryant has reported in from Paris with an exciting and unexpected new concept from Ford: the isosis X. Picking up where the gorgeous iosis four-door coupe left off from the Frankfurt show in 2005, the iosis X applies Ford of Europe's new "kinetic design language" to a five-door crossover concept. In a beautiful way, we might add.
Ford says that while the isosis X is purely a show-car and not a direct preview of a production model, the stunning concept will form the basis for a future model to hit the market in about a year and a half. The sporty-yet-rugged concept also gives an indication of the styling direction we can expect to see on new production Fords.
The interesting white color has a blue "flip" and twin silver racing stripes, giving the isosis X a futuristic tint while touching on Ford's heritage racing colors of white with blue stripes. Instead of the usual lower body cladding, the isosis X features "skid plates" that fold down on the sides for ease-of-access to the cabin.
The interior design was inspired by extreme winter sports, with four racing buckets floating over a glass floor, like that in a glass-bottom excursion boat. The center console snakes through the cabin, reaching the roof at the rear to secure the spare tire and tailgate mechanism. An overhead console is flanked by glass panels, all in all giving the cabin enhanced lighting and visibility in all directions.
More pics and (very) full press release after the jump.
IOSIS X SIGNALS DRAMATIC FUTURE FOR FORD
PARIS, September 28, 2006 – Ford of Europe's Design team has interpreted the Company's distinctive new 'kinetic design' form language in an exciting new crossover concept - the iosis X – which makes its debut at the 2006 Paris Motor Show.
"We're calling this car iosis X as a deliberate link to our 'kinetic design' concept car lineage started last year," said Martin Smith, Ford of Europe's Executive Design Director. "The link is not just in the name – there's a strong visual relationship between the two cars, and the 'X' signals the new vehicle's crossover capabilities."
"The iosis X is an exciting five-door sports-crossover that proves we can extend the boundaries of kinetic design into a niche market vehicle," added Smith. "It takes our 'energy in motion' philosophy even further and shows how different Ford cars will be in the future."
One of the specific purposes of iosis X is to prepare the public for the introduction of a future Ford of Europe niche model.
"There's been a lot of speculation about Ford producing a compact crossover or Sport Utility vehicle," said John Fleming, President and CEO, Ford of Europe. "The iosis X is intended to send a very strong message that we will be entering this market in around eighteen months from now, and that our new model will be both stylish and individual."
Ford iosis X is very clearly a concept and is not intended to be representative of this future production model. Instead, it sets out to explore the ways in which Ford's kinetic design form language and detailing can be applied to a niche vehicle in a rugged and exciting way.
"Customers will be able to get a feel for the design direction our production model will take, and when we do reveal that model next year the relationship between it and the iosis X will be immediately apparent," Smith explained.
In a stunning concept at Frankfurt 2005, Martin Smith and his team revealed the new form language that ultimately will be applied in varying levels across Ford's future European vehicle portfolio. The original iosis presented all of the key elements of what Ford identified as 'kinetic design' in their purest form.
"The iosis Concept has been a great ambassador for Ford design," said Smith, adding "the reception it received from the public and the media gave us the confidence to stretch our design team even further for future Ford vehicles."
Part of the task since iosis has been to widen the audience for this new look, and to generate a heightened expectation for what Ford is going to do next and demonstrate how 'kinetic design' could translate into other market segments.
The signal for that future direction is now revealed in iosis X. This dramatic concept car sends a clear message that the look of Ford's European products is changing. Already, elements of kinetic design are appearing in Ford's latest new production models such as the Ford S-MAX and the all-new 2007 Ford Mondeo.
But, as with its concept predecessor, iosis X is not intended to be a future Ford production vehicle.
"What iosis X does do is to move our customers' understanding of our new design language on further," Smith concluded. "It demonstrates that 'kinetic design' is becoming a consistent and enduring reality in Ford's future and it assures them that when Ford enters this particular sector of the market, it will be with an individual and dynamic product that shares much of the excitement of this Concept."
"Feel the difference" – iosis X on the outside
"One of the aspects people recognised and liked about the original iosis was the considered complexity of the forms," observed Stefan Lamm, Ford of Europe's chief exterior designer, before explaining that "we wanted to explore and demonstrate how kinetic design could work on a high packaged body. This was one of the challenges for us, to maintain this dramatic, emotional design language on a car like iosis X."
Lamm and his team were keen to exploit what appears to be an emerging trend for sporting crossovers or SUVs and a movement away from the traditional two-box styling that dominates the segment irrespective of vehicle size. "This opportunity suits kinetic design perfectly – iosis X is more of a five-door coupé crossover which is very compact and emphasises Ford's driving dynamics."
Lamm and his team wanted to move the 'kinetic design' story on while retaining all of the key elements of the form language. As a result, the chunky sports coupé crossover couldn't be more different in its stance and dimensions to the original iosis Concept, a sleek muscular four-door coupé, yet the two are undeniably linked.
"This vehicle shows how we can apply kinetic design principles to a different type of vehicle," said Martin Smith. "We've taken all the key themes and graphic elements first seen on iosis and morphed them into a very sporty crossover with the footprint of a compact C-segment car."
At the front, iosis X features the bold new Ford of Europe face translated into a more rugged look to convey the strength of the vehicle.
Most noticeable are the strong inverted trapezoid elements, including a prominent lower grille section.
"The dominant lower inverted trapezoidal grille is now a really strong brand element," commented Lamm.
Appropriately for a crossover, the lower grille has been enhanced further by reducing the upper grille to little more than a ram air intake – a horizontal slot bisected by a bright metal bar and featuring a deliberately large Ford blue oval badge that appears to be thrusting forwards from within the engine bay.
Impending pedestrian impact legislation has influenced Ford's distinctive approach to front overhang and headlamp design. The front corners are aggressively chamfered, reducing the apparent size of the overhang, while the large headlamps follow the chamfering into the front wings, resulting in a distinctive kicked back appearance.
"Rather than see the pedestrian protection legislation as an inhibitor to the design philosophy, we now treat it as a positive design attribute," said Smith. "To accommodate the required volume in the front of the vehicle we have not only chamfered the corners back, but we have included a deep offset from the top of the hood to the front wings, creating a distinctive shoulder that runs along the side of the car to the rear."
In side profile, muscular surfacing and these strong and athletic shoulders run through the car, and are underscored by a dynamic undercut line that gives iosis X an extremely dynamic stance, further enhanced by very bold wheel lips. Air vents aft of the front wheel arches, a key signature on the original iosis, appear also on iosis X, drawing air from the front brakes.
Side doors hinge outwards at the leading edge of the front door and rear edge of the smaller back door and are designed without a 'B' pillar to give easy access and an uninterrupted view of the stunning interior.
"When the car is viewed from three-quarters, either front or rear, the last visual points you should see are the wheels, and that's just the case with iosis X," asserts Lamm. "I especially like looking at the car from the rear three-quarters view because that emphasises the undercut which develops in a different direction to the original iosis, with a stronger shadow at the rear gradually fading out to the front."
As well as balancing the proportions between the upper and lower body sections, this undercut gives the car its sleek proportions, and it seems to be moving forwards even when standing still. This is further emphasised by the swooping roofline and daylight opening that has a coupé-like profile at the rear. The resulting confident stance of iosis X belies its relatively compact C-segment size.
In addition to leading the eye around each of the corners at the front, acute chamfering also serves to disguise the longer rear overhang.
"It needs to be longer at the rear otherwise the roof line would stop abruptly and the car would look quite truncated," explained Lamm.
Rugged and dynamically formed 'skid plate' claddings on the lower part of the vehicle stand off from the body and create a very new look.
"Usually there is some dark plastic or painted, grained plastic in the rocker area," Lamm explained. "We decided to move in a different direction and designed 'skid plates' as separate elements on the car that aren't integrated into the shape but floating on the side panels. These were inspired by the aerodynamic foils we see on the side of a Formula One car."
At the side, these 'skid plates' fold down to act as a step for easy access into the vehicle. They are fitted with rubber treads featuring the same patterns used in the tyres.
Key elements of kinetic design are trapezoidal shapes and three-dimensional forms and the interplay between them. Whilst the inverted grille at the front is the most obvious trapezoidal graphic it appears in many other interpretations throughout the exterior: the intakes at the front, the chamfers at the base of the windscreen and rear window, within the wheels, in the 'C' post kink and the ridges running down the bonnet are all elements of this basic shape.
A bird's eye view is the best illustration of iosis X's 'three-plane plan" form but this is also hinted at within the unique wheels which Lamm considers to be the most extreme so far designed by his team. "Mixing the finishes within the wheels heightens the three-dimensional effect, especially on the perimeter castings that look as if they could almost be scooping the mud and water out of the way."
Lighting elements have developed significantly since the original iosis, and for iosis X, the team has been able to capitalise on the use of latest lamp technology.
Both front and rear lamps deploy LEDs in a highly detailed execution featuring swept back top edges. But what excites Lamm is not just their 3-D structure but the way in which they seamlessly follow the contours of the body.
"Too many vehicles feature elements that look as if they're attached to the surface or are poking through apertures that have been cut into the body work," clamed Lamm. "That's not the case with iosis X. The lamps appear to be formed as one with the surface, which gives a terrific 3-D effect and, if you look at the rear lights, you can see obvious links to the new S-MAX and Galaxy."
Wing section door mirrors housing spotlights are mounted high up on the 'A' pillars while the rear fog lamp runs the width of the car above the rear skid plate that also floats away from the bodywork.
There was intense debate about the car's colour before the team arrived at their final choice.
Unusually for this class of vehicle, iosis X is finished in an icy, brilliant white chilled further by a blue 'flip' effect in the paint finish which is set off by twin silver stripes running the length of the bonnet and etched into the glass roof.
"Most products of this type tend to be modern interpretations of moss green or greys. We thought it would be fun to do iosis X in a sheer white. That's appropriate for us as we have a history of using white to good effect - think of the GT40s and rallying Escorts – and the current Fiesta ST is very popular in white with blue racing stripes," Smith said.
"It's not a pure white, because that would make the car look pretty heavy," explained Lamm. "The paint we have created features a blue 'flip' effect that changes tone with light and helps describe the forms and shapes in the car."
Inside iosis X - Optical Impact
Ford's interior design team, led by Nikolaus Vidakovic, have created a dramatic and exciting interior for iosis X.
"We started with all of the positive elements from the original iosis project, and evolved these to deliver even more visual interest and drama that you might not expect from a crossover," Vidakovic explained.
The interior is dominated by a new 'interlocking bridge' centre console structure inspired by modern helicopter cockpit design. The large console dives down from the instrument panel dividing the front and rear pairs of seats and dominating the interior before dramatically sweeping upwards at the rear and into the roof.
"Think of a scorpion's tail!" added Vidakovic.
The rear section of this console has a practical side to it as well, as it provides a support and opening mechanism for the one-piece rear hatch in place of traditional hinges. It also provides a secure location for the spare wheel.
A central overhead panel contains personal lighting for the front and rear occupants plus ambient lighting and an entertainment screen for rear passengers. It also houses three passenger grab handles which would traditionally be located on the cant rails above the doors.
Twin glass roof panels flank the central overhead console, and these are complemented by a totally unique new feature – a solid glass floor beneath the drivers and passenger seats which offers a most unusual view of the terrain below.
"Because this is a rugged crossover rather than a four-door coupé, we needed to make different interior design decisions," Vidakovic said. "At the front, you have the usual functional elements you need to control a car, but when you go rearwards we introduce elements more appropriate to this type of vehicle such as lighting and storage features."
The slim instrument panel is a further development from that in iosis and some elements of this theme will undoubtedly feature in future Ford products.
New technology has allowed the interiors team to locate hardware for the information, entertainment and heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems remotely away from their controls.
This has dramatically freed up space under the instrument panel, creating a floating centre console and offering a greater feeling of spaciousness. It also allowed the team to develop a range of practical storage facilities that customers could choose from, allowing them to tailor that area for their own needs.
A similar section in the rear console opens up the floor space for the back seat passengers.
The slim instrument panel flows through into the door lines, creating a dramatic cockpit feel for the front seat occupants. Facing the driver is a radical steering wheel developed from that used in the original iosis, featuring orange perspex sections and contrasting white 'piano' inserts.
The controls in iosis X employ soft touch screens and touch sensitive controls in the centre stack.
The main instruments present themselves in the form of a pair of orange illuminated transparent foil dials that create a deep 3-D effect, and are housed in individual goggle-like binnacles. Between them is a Ford HMI screen that allows easy driver control of navigation, advanced cruise control or other vehicle settings.
Although iosis X is not intended to be a mechanical prototype, it is fitted with an electronic sequential gear change control in the centre console. Its innovative design is similar to that found on many computer games consoles, and fits snugly into the palm of the hand. Surrounding the gear shifter is a series of soft touch buttons for dynamic controls, including suspension and traction settings.
Air vents, which are usually a dominating feature of any fascia, have been subtly disguised with fine mesh blending them into their surroundings.
"We've spent a lot of time developing this mesh over the years," revealed Vidakovic. "It took a lot of work to get it right so that the mesh wouldn't vibrate or restrict air flow to the passengers."
Orange mood lighting, created by light emitting diodes and light pipes, illuminates the interior. However, not much lighting is needed in a car that features not only frosted glass panels in the roof (to continue the twin silver stripes from the bonnet over the roof) but also a glass floor.
"We wanted to create the feeling that driver and passengers are connected to the outside world and can see their surroundings more clearly," Vidakovic said. "The glass floor is absolutely unique in a vehicle, like those that you get in boats which allow their passengers to look into the ocean. In this case, occupants will be able to see the elements beneath them as they travel."
The glass floor also led the design team to develop a unique mounting system for the front seats with runners either side of the glass panels. The added benefit to this is that it gives the rear seat passengers more foot room beneath the front seats.
The seats themselves are highly complex and have been designed specifically with the rigours of cross country or light off-roading in mind, featuring more supportive padding in the upper back section and integrated seat belts.
"We've brought trapezoidal elements and themes into the interior to link with the exterior, whilst the interior sheet metal and piano white surfaces are also links with the bodywork to create a harmonious entity," concluded Vidakovic.
Colour and Trim - Creating sophistication
"As our intention with iosis X is to stretch Ford's new design language further and introduce the next phase of execution and implementation, we wanted to echo this in the colour and material design strategy," explains Ruth Pauli, Chief Designer for Colour and Trim. "This means a new emphasis on quality and detailing, touch and surface design."
As with the first iosis, Pauli and her team have taken extreme sports as the inspiration for the materials and effects seen in the iosis X's dramatic
"A friend of mine is very keen on extreme winter sports like heliskiing and ice climbing and after visiting a sports equipment fair in Munich we came away with a lot of inspiration as to how we were going to fashion the interior," said Pauli.
Colours and textures in iosis X are very cool and fresh, contrasting the darker atmosphere of the original iosis. The similarity between the two comes in the athletic and sporty approach, with the emphasis on premium feel in iosis X, and realised in detail elements such as the seams, stitching and combination of materials.
For inspiration, Pauli and her team studied all the best quality ski equipment, including boots, helmets, body protection, goggles, gloves and the latest carbon skis as well as visual clips of personal music systems and fashion accessories. The result is crisp, fresh and young.
Traditional materials have their place too. Considerable use has been made of the finest European Nubuck and aniline leather available in Europe and the keen eyed will notice a subtle shift in tone of the blue used in the cabin.
"What we've selected here is a more subdued and sophisticated blue, which we then combine with very strong fluorescent accents, and orange highlights," explained Pauli. "This is a distinct change from Ford's corporate blue, which is very bold and strong, very classic."
While most of the automotive world is using piano black for its interiors, Pauli's team has gone in the opposite direction using high gloss piano white on the centre console and in the steering wheel.
"We think white is a very strong theme from a product design standpoint and we have applied it to both the exterior and interior. We've given the white elements a sophisticated sportiness to show depth and quality of colour," Pauli explained.
"Inside, we have combined the white, high gloss piano finish with metal elements, contrasted with darker, premium leathers that really add a new level of sophistication to the materials story."
The result is a contrast between cold and warm textures that's also enhanced by metallic elements in the interior to create tension in the material and colour combinations.
"We're developing different textures and finishes to redefine a modern crossover interior," remarked Martin Smith.
A quartet of high end sports seats with integral seat belts provides the driver and passenger with high levels of comfort and support. All combine four different materials that were inspired by the technicality of skiing gear that Pauli and her team found so interesting.
The unique seats feature an aluminium skeletal structure and look as if they have been modelled from a human torso. They are clad in a combination of leathers and a complementary woven material specially created for this application with contrasting stitching. With its chain-link weave and coarse texture, its richness of detail gives it an almost 3-D appearance, whilst its coarse texture ensures it will provide plenty of grip for the occupants.
This theme is echoed in the inner door panels and across the instrument panel, where new technical materials and neoprenes are used as highlights or details. The major tactile areas of the doors and fascia are covered in leather to achieve a premium ambience to the interior.
The floating centre stack is a combination of piano white, translucent orange perspex to highlight new technology detailing and premium grade soft blue-grey hide.
By using piano white in the interior, there is a direct link to the car's exterior both visually and emotionally.
As with the interior colours and details, it was snow and ice that inspired the exterior colour developed by Pauli and her team.
"If you look into tunnels of ice you see silvers and powdery whites and that's reflected in iosis X exterior colours," Pauli notes. "This creates a technical, powder snow look and is enhanced by silver stripes contrasting with the cold blue flip of the paint."
"We believe that, for the first time, we have developed design elements that echo the free spirit of skiing and what's associated with it," Pauli concludes. "Skiing can be a really emotional experience – the kind of experience we want people to enjoy when they enter the iosis X environment!"