Citroën Hypnos – Click above for a high-res image gallery

Where do outlandish auto show concepts go when they die? If they're monsters like the Citroën Hypnos, they apparently go to the Challenge Bibendum in Rio de Janiero. That's where we found the unique diesel-hybrid SUV from the 2008 Paris Motor Show giving rides around the Riocentro convention center. It's a loud, magnificent beast, and we think there's something totally awesome about the combination of a diesel engine and hybrid drive. While the Hypnos was only ever meant to wow us on the auto show floor, its powertrain will find a home in a production vehicle at the end of 2011, and last we heard it would be in the Peugeot 3008 crossover. The 3008 will use a smaller version of the powertrain that pairs a 163-horsepower, 2.0-liter diesel engine that drives the front wheels and a 37 hp electric motor moving the rear wheels with the help of a lithium-ion battery. This system should be good enough for 57 miles per gallon (U.S.) and CO2 emissions of just 109 grams per kilometer. Read on after the jump to find out what Hypnos is like today and what it portends for the future.

Photos copyright ©2010 Sebastian Blanco / Weblogs, Inc.

The Hypnos uses Citroën's HYmotion4 through-the-road technology, since renamed HYbrid4, that has a 200-hp, 2.0-liter turbodiesel engine for the front and a 50-hp electric motor in back that not only boosts acceleration, but can also move the SUV on its own and captures energy from regenerative braking. In the Hypnos, the powertrain is good for 52 mpg (U.S.) and emits 120 grams of CO2 per kilometer. Citroën has long said the HYbrid4 technology is "feasible from an industrial standpoint," and it certainly was able to move us around the track without difficulty. Noisy, yes, but it worked and it sounds great from the outside if you like the diesel rumble. It may be an expensive combination of technologies, but diesel-hybrid is something to aspire to.

For now, the show car limits of the Hypnos meant that the four-seater is really only capable of holding two people. When we asked to ride along with another journalist, we were told the car was not built to carry that much weight (we didn't take it personally). Sometimes we did see three people inside, but the car's handlers tried to avoid this as much as possible. This isn't something buyers of the 3008 will need to deal with, but it is interesting that a car this big and heavy looking can't handle a third person most of the time, to say nothing of a fourth.

Still, we waited our turn and managed to spend a few minutes in the passenger seat. When Citroën unveiled the Hypnos in 2008, it said the interior was a "powerful sensory experience, verging on the magical." We don't know about that, but we do know that the audio and climate controls look impossible to master (see picture below right) unless you're a Cylon. These circular items echo the design of the entire cabin, which is all futuristic shapes with big, swooping lines everywhere. Overall, the interior feels big, plastic and angular. This is kind of cool – the headrests drop down from the ceiling, where additional audio speakers also sit – and also kind of annoying, like the giant A pillars that limit visibility (see this picture). The very thin side mirrors (which you can see in the same picture) don't help the driver be aware of what's around them, but a show car isn't exactly meant to rule the road, just our imaginations.

No write-up of the Hypnos would be complete without a mention of the off-set, rainbow-colored seats. They're comfortable, sure, but they're also covered in what a fellow auto scribe called "upholstery derived from, we think, a gay velociraptor." There's really no better way to put it, so we're lifting that line.

Like we said, the Hypnos is not ready for the marketplace. The noisy interior and limited carrying capacity told us that we were sitting in what was basically half a SUV with double the powertrains of a normal vehicle. Still, the important thing here is the HYbrid4 technology. We'll be keeping an eye on news of the powertrain as it makes its way into the 3008 next year, and we're especially interested in what happens in 2012. That's when Citroën is expected to introduce a plug-in version of HYbrid4. When the rainbow fantasy of the Hypnos gets a plug, that's when we know the future has arrived.

Photos copyright ©2010 Sebastian Blanco / Weblogs, Inc.

Our travel and lodging for this media event were provided by Michelin.

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