The thing is that millennials are the widest chunk of population in the United States. As such, they're hard to define. It seems like someone at Chrysler realizes this, as the press release for the Portal states: "While millennials are a broad group of consumers at varying life stages, the Chrysler Portal concept is designed and engineered with all life stages and lifestyles in mind, including active/adventure, single, married/partnered, those with newborns and older children."
In other words, this is a vehicle designed for all kinds of people that suits all kinds of needs. Spoiler alert: The best package for flexible hauling of people and cargo is a minivan. And that's what the Portal Concept is, albeit slightly smaller than the current Pacifica.
It's an obvious angle, as Chrysler popularized the modern minivan. But with current vans ballooning in size, there's room for the same virtues in a smaller footprint. If it takes 360-degree cameras and a customizable light ring around the doors to convince people that a flat floor and movable seats are cool, so be it. It's the practical aspects of the Portal that we like best, not the throwaway concessions to connectivity and autonomy.
The best, most practical feature in the Portal is its seating arrangement. The seats ride on two parallel tracks, and each folds skinny with the seat pan popping vertical, or low with the seatback down. All (save the driver's bucket) slide back for room in front, or vice versa for space in the rear. Integrated seatbelts further help the seating flexibility. Even in a more realistic production form this is a clever innovation, almost as good as the original Stow 'N' Go. The same goes for the panoramic, high-mount screen that shows the dashboard and a host of other informative bits of data. Banish any thoughts of the 2004–2009 Nissan Quest, which also put its gauges atop the dash, because in the Portal it makes for an open, flat dashboard with great visibility.
Then there are the more fantastic elements of the Portal that make sense if you can distill the practical part from the concept fantasy. No, Chrysler isn't going to make a roof from carbon-fiber beams anytime soon, but we can imagine future vehicle applications with a lot more glass and daylight inside the cabin. And while we doubt integrating the B-pillar into the doors is feasible for production, a sliding front door is a pretty interesting concept. And we'd love to see an automotive sound system with speakers that can direct audio to individual passengers.
So, is this a preview of a future production car? We think yes, but in very, very vague terms. As in, something with this basic shape and style could be in the pipeline. Chrysler, of course, won't answer that question with as much as a smirk, so we're talking in pure hypotheticals. The battery-electric powertrain in the Portal has relevant specifications, with 100 kWh of capacity and a 250-mile range. But price and sales potential make a gas-powered three-row crossover a better guess.
That alone makes the Portal compelling. With the demise of the 200 sedan, Chrysler only has two vehicles in showrooms. The Dodge Journey, which replaced Dodge and Chrysler's short-wheelbase minivans, is ancient. FCA could use something in showrooms to compliment the Journey (or its replacement, which hopefully is coming soon). Especially if it incorporates some of the design elements from this concept.
Throw out the hideaway steering yoke and autonomous drive functions, and soften the wide-and-low concept styling. Imagine less glass and more sheetmetal, plus an interior with airbags and a few cupholders. Keep the new look to the nose and the giant C-shaped headlights. A production version of the Portal Concept could be the mini-minivan Chrysler needs. So let's hope the company drops the silly posturing and just makes a solid six-passenger people hauler.