While most of the focus on innovation comes in the form of styling or advanced powertrains, one aspect that's routinely left out of the mix is what engineers and designers are envisioning inside the next generation of vehicles. Naturally, connectivity and comfort are at the top of that list, and some of the solutions span the spectrum from brilliant to bizarre. So without further ado, let's take a look at the most innovative and attractive dashes and interiors from Geneva.
- Volkswagen Bulli
People love their iDevices. So rather than figure out how to integrate an iPhone or iPod into its Bulli concept, Volkswagen opted to install an iPad directly into the dash, complete with a custom app that controls everything from music to climate control. It's a slick idea, but you'd better snag your iPad while it's parked before some unsavory character does it for you.
- Nissan Esflow
Nissan is out to prove that Tesla isn't the only automaker that can make a sporting EV, and the Esflow concept is likely to form the basis of the automaker's first fully-electric sports car. The interior is a graceful combination of colors and shapes (we're particularly impressed with the two arches of carbon fiber coating the dash), with seats that are built directly into the rear bulkhead to stiffen the chassis. Naturally, this means the seats are immobile, but the steering wheel, pedals and gauges all telescope inward to fit the driver. Four LCD screens – three in front of the driver and one in the center console – provide all the pertinent information, while a small grouping of toggle switches on the central tunnel handle HVAC duties and a small joystick engages the transmission.
- Rinspeed BamBoo
Rinspeed tapped HTC and Harmann to create the ultimate connected interior and the results are… umm… a bit scattershot. Two main displays are mounted on the dash – one for the driver and another for the passenger – but both are mainly there to serve the rest of the devices the BamBoo's passengers bring on board. While the execution isn't attractive, the principle behind it is sound: the world of consumer electronics moves considerably faster than the automotive realm, so tethering to your shiny new phone or tablet is a better solution than upgrading your stereo every year.
- Renault R-Space
Being bastions of style and taste, the French are always good for a classy, clean and modern interior, and the Renault R-Space concept keeps with tradition. Although the interior is far from traditional. An elongated instrument panel forms a teardrop shape as it moves away from the steering wheel, while a multi-colored tile rear compartment forms an uncomfortable love-seat for two. More intriguing is the "DRIVINGECO²" system, which uses a range of cameras and sensors to detect everything from traffic lights to pedestrian crossings and alerts the driver of potential hazards. The system also awards points for eco-friendly driving, which kids in the back benefit from while playing a specialty developed video game.
- Mazda Minagi
The Mazda Minagi's interior might not look like anything revolutionary, but that's a good thing. Mazda has always built driver-centric machines and when it comes to this crossover concept, the person behind the wheel is at the center of it all. The instrument panel is comprised of three rings to keep tabs on engine vitals and display navigation instructions, while a center-mounted LCD is canted towards the driver and allows them to control the Minagi's infotainment features. If you're considering a Mazda in the future, take note: this interior will be the inspiration for its next generation of vehicles.
- Infiniti Etherea
Infiniti has been putting out some seriously innovative concepts, and while the Etherea's exterior might be too revolutionary for the masses (for now), the interior is as elegant as it gets. Since it's a front-wheel-drive platform, Infinti's designers opted to flatten the floor to promote a feeling of openness, accentuated by the light colors and soft materials. In front of the driver is a beautiful IP, with an aluminum, offset tachometer partnered with four semi-circular dials for speed, gear, range and fuel. Infinti fitted two displays to the Etherea – one touchscreen mounted at the bottom of the dash and another closer to the windshield that provides glanceable information to the driver. It's a smart separation and something we're likely to see on future Infinitis.
- Renault Captur
Something you won't be seeing anytime soon is an interior fitted with a curved, translucent dash and elastic ropes, but that's not stopping Renault's designers from making it happen on the Captur concept. The idea behind the interior is to create a warm, soothing environment for passengers, and to that end, Renault has created a set of seats made of a new kind of elastic composite – think of it as a Spock-approved hammock and you're not far off. Other features include a TFT screen mounted front and center and a heads up display that acts as a secondary screen for the driver.
- BMW Vision ConnectedDrive
While most of the concepts from Geneva focus on the vehicle as a whole, the BMW Vision ConnectedDrive concept is all about the interior. Partnering next-generation sensors and cameras to detect and inform drivers of potential hazards with a dual-display infotainment system that allows the passenger to share information with the driver, the Vision is – appropriately enough – BMW's vision for the future of in-car connectivity. Expect to see several of these innovations employed on its hybrid flagship in 2013.
- Mini Rocketman
Mini is getting back to its minimalistic roots with the Rocketman concept, a compact hatch that's likely to form the next major addition to the Mini family. The interior is easily the most sparse cockpit we saw in Geneva, with only a 3D globe in the center displaying powertrain and entertainment options. Mini is currently using a glorified joystick to control its infotainment system, but the Rocketman employs a new steering wheel-mounted trackball and confirmation button that ensures the driver's hands never leave the wheel.
- Volkswagen Giugiaro Go
We started with a Volkswagen, so it's only fitting to end with one. V-Dub tapped the famed Giugiaro design house to create a hatch for the 21st century and the Go is the perfect embodiment of an eco-friendly three-door for the future. The most striking feature is the five screens mounted against the windshield, allowing the driver to glance at information without having to move his eyes too far off the road. The two displays mounted on either end serves as the side-view mirrors, while the three central displays provide the usual speed, stereo and navigation information. A touchscreen is mounted in the center to control it all and also displays a back-up camera when the Go is put into reverse. It's an impressive setup, but VW better get a handle on screen glare before it puts it into production.
Did we say we're ending? Not quite, we've got two more interiors from Geneva that deserve mentioning.
- Runner Up: Koenigsegg Agera
The Koenigsegg Agera isn't a concept, it's the successor to the company's original world-beating supercar, the CCX. The Agera packs a 1,115-horsepower twin-turbocharged V8 that can run to 124 mph in 7.5 seconds, but more impressive than the performance is the bespoke interior. K-egg hypes the quality of materials – specifically the aluminum, carbon fiber, alcantara and aniline leather – but the trick switchgear, billet aluminum buttons and LEDs are a sight to behold. Configurable instruments are part of the multi-million dollar package, with the CAN-bus system being controlled through a stalk on the steering wheel to display a range of information to suit the driving environment. On the track? Dial up the rev-counter, lap timer and G-force indicator. Back on the road? Connect your Bluetooth equipped phone, play some tunes and let the computer handle the shifting.
- Worst of Show: Pagani Huayra
If you're dropping the kind of coin on a bonafide hypercar, you expect the interior to be nothing short of remarkable. And with the Pagani Huayra, that's exactly what you get. Beautiful leather accompanies artfully crafted aluminum and Tiffanys-level switchgear. Unfortunately, you also get a navigation and entertainment system that looks like it was rendered by a 12-year-old in the 1990s using an outdated version of Corel Draw. It's truly awful. And judging by our time flipping through the screens, Pagani has a lot of work to do on making the interface both responsive and intuitive. The Huayra as a whole is a work of art, but that infotainment system belongs in a museum.