Istituto Europeo di Design (IED) and Alpine create a hydrogen concept car…  

Students at the Italian Istituto Europeo di Design (IED) presented the ‘A4810 Project by IED’, their new concept car made in collaboration with Alpine. The result of this collaboration between the Italian design school and Alpine is a hydrogen-powered two-seater supercar.

Twenty-eight Masters students studying Transportation Design at IED worked on the project.

Alpine proposed the students to design a ‘super berlinette’ for the year 2035. The two-seater supercar was designed to be a high-performing vehicle both in terms of performance and environmental impact.

After the brief was given last autumn, students worked individually to come up with their own interpretation and present it to the Alpine designers. Alpine then selected a combination of two main ideas. Based on the two selected proposals, the young designers created the ‘A4810 Project by IED’: a light yet powerful and agile concept car that boasts pure driving pleasure.

During the design phase, the students sought to combine vision and innovation, without losing sight of the traditional roots of the French car manufacturer.

Furthermore, they chose a name that conveyed the brand’s legacy. In fact, ‘4810’ is the height (in meters) of the Mont Blanc: the highest and most emblematic peak in the Alps that sits at the border between Italy and France, like a bridge connecting IED and Alpine. The car manufacturer is named after the very same mountains and evokes the joy of driving along their winding roads.

A STUNNING LOOKING CONCEPT CAR

The Alpine A4810 Project by IED (length 5,091 mm – width 2,010 mm – height 1,055 mm – wheelbase 2,717 mm) is a two-seater supercar with the experimental combination of the shape of a berlinette with a hydrogen powertrain.

While the engine and fuel tanks are built like those on a typical hypercar, the subtraction process is proof of considerable innovation. The design alternates between empty and full spaces, giving the vehicle a lightweight look and aerodynamic features inspired by Formula 1 models. Furthermore, the A4810 Project by IED was tasked with bringing the brand to the cusp of the sports car category.

The team of students used digital tools to design the interior through sketches, 3D models, renderings, animations, and HMI (Human Machine Interface) development.

The A4810 Project by IED was presented on Friday, 18th March with a livestream broadcast from OGR Tech in Turin. For more info, please visit www.iedA4810.makeitlive.it.

Just click your way to Alpine’s sporty future, and in the meantime, have a look at the photos…!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Renault unveils 3D sketching: a digital touch to every drawing

It all happens at Renault’s technocentre at Guyancourt3D sketching brings a revolution…

As some readers may know, your servant makes daily ink drawings of flowers on his Instagram account hanskrisjanknol and is an artist painter who has exhibited twice this year. Anything that has to do with drawing, painting or figurative art in general therefore has his keen interest. Needless to say that the drawing and sketching of car designers and stylists also take centre stage… so when Renault brings a news story about the status of 3D sketching in today’s electronic world, I have to share it with you, dear reader… just read on!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

All one needs to do 3D sketching is a VR headset, two controllers, and an internet connection

As is the case with film, video games, and landscape mapping, the past few decades has seen the automotive industry incorporate more technological advancements in 3D modelling to bring its projects to life. Nowadays, before a car can be sent to the production line, it must first be born in a 3D world. This mission is entrusted to designers, whose set of digital tools is constantly growing. One such tool involves 3D sketching – revolutionary technology that allows designers to draw with neither pencil nor drawing board. Welcome to the future!

It all happens at Renault’s technocentre at Guyancourt. A man, decked with a VR headset and a controller in each hand, stands in the middle of a room gesticulating wildly. He appears to be drawing invisible lines in the air around him. A curious scene that is clearly reminiscent of the world of virtual reality gaming. And yet, Udo – that’s the man’s name – is not a gamer… he is a designer! And he is hard at work. His latest gadget? A program for 3D sketching; a drawing method currently being rolled out at Renault Group’s Design division.

With 3D sketching, you are immersed in a space where there are neither constraints and limits. Udo, Chief Designer

What does 3D sketching involve?

3D sketching is a form of intuitive technology that enables you to ‘draw in thin air’ all around you.

Draw in thin air? Pablo Picasso was already carrying out such experiments in 1949. The famous Spanish artist replaced pencil with cigarette lighter to perform his ‘dancing light’ pieces. These ephemeral drawings were immortalised by photographer Gjon Mili, and the technique was known as light painting (or light drawing). It was an art form that, even back then, saw ideas come to life out of thin air.

Today, 3D sketching is much the same idea, though minus the lighter and camera. The technique requires the use of a VR headset (virtual reality headset). Invented 50 years ago, it became more widespread about ten years ago, with consumer models for video game use hitting the market.

With the headset firmly on and plugged in, the designer is immersed in an entirely virtual 360° drawing studio. Using two controllers (one in each hand), they can then choose colours from a palette, draw lines, create shapes, fill surfaces, and much more. A computer program models and records each and every movement.

All one needs to do 3D sketching is a VR headset, two controllers, and an internet connection

Digital creative freedom that is almost limitless

Near the end of the 1990s, the work of designers had already been through a first transformation with the popularisation of drawing on digital tablets. Today, 3D sketching takes it a step further where designers no longer need a tablet, pencil, mouse, or even a desktop to work. Design is entering a new era: one where digital tools sit at the heart of automotive design.

Renault Group has been harnessing digital tools for some time. Today marks the beginning of a new era for designers.

As the technology continues to improve, digitalisation gives designers a considerable amount of freedom tenfold and makes their projects even more accessible. It has never been easier to quickly whip up a 3D sketch, create perspective, model shapes – even on a 1:1 scale – or fill volumes. “It saves time,” says Udo. “It takes at least four weeks to run a scan or data file through a machine, while everything here is in real time. That’s a huge advantage.” In short, 3D sketching makes it far easier to experiment with new ideas as they are so readily brought to life.

Only drawbacks: eye strain, headaches, and other back and joint pain experienced by some designers after prolonged use. “Drawing in 360° means you have to be in good shape and take breaks every hour,” says Udo.

Engineers are already thinking about ways to make the experience more enjoyable and less restrictive. This includes making the headset lighter. For example, mixed reality headsets are being developed, so designers can draw in VR while still being able to see what is happening around them and interact with colleagues.

Collaboration 2.0: distances are no object anymore…

3D sketching adds another string to the designer’s bow: colleagues can now work together at the same time, on the same project, regardless of the distance between them.

“As long as you have an Internet connection, geographical limitations are a thing of the past. You can feel like you’re together even if you’re actually thousands of miles apart,” says Udo. Two designers can communicate with each other via the 3D sketching tool using earphones and a built-in microphone in the VR headset. They can then talk, share what they have each been doing on their own and even work together on joint projects. All without having to leave their home, offices, or wherever they may be in the world.

The outcome being that possibilities are endless, and people misunderstand each other far less often.

Thanks to VR that acts as a gateway to a world of 3D, we can express ourselves more precisely.

But that’s not all: the workflow has also been improved. First, models are made using 3D sketching before being exported as a digital file. The files can then be used by all those who are part of a vehicle’s design and production line. For example, designers can hand over a digital copy of their work to a modeler who makes a physical mock-up of the design or to an engineer who will estimate its feasibility. Much like digital modelling, 3D sketching removes obstacles that may arise from miscommunication and gradually breaks down barriers between professions.

The augmented designer’s new pencil

For some time now, digital drawing has offered those at the Design Department the power to produce more iterations of their work, to work faster, and to go further, right from the outset. This trend has been taken up a notch thanks to 3D sketching. In addition to reducing costs and manufacturing times, this new technology makes it easier to view and review working sketches.

In concrete terms, designers can now hone in on specific details of their drawing with greater precision, experiment with different surface types, work with mirroring tools to stretch a 2D shape into 3D object, attain a better finish on sketches and models, present projects in real time, and even give life to their drawings thanks to the compatible nature of 3D printers.

Modern designers harness the numerous advantages of such technology, along with new skills and a wide range of tools to express their ideas and thus evolve into augmented designers.

We will always need physical mock-ups of working designs because customers want to buy a real product, something they can touch and feel.

According to Udo, “While 3D sketching is yet another tool to be used, traditional methods still have a role to play.” Digital and physical techniques go hand in hand. They each play their part in the car making process. Modelers continue to use plasticine to make models. An ideal material to use when working on the silhouette of a new model, they are essential in determining the success a design during the final stages of the design process. Similarly, 3D sketching is not a substitute for the designer’s talent when it comes to drawing, a cornerstone of the design process.

3D sketching is already a crowd favorite in other industries

Renault Group designers aren’t the only ones to work with the new technology. Already used in many design schools, it is now used by designers working on motorcycles, sports shoes, bicycle helmets, and backpacks. It is fair to say that in the future it will be a key to the success of numerous projects in fields as varied as fashion, interior design, medicine, architecture, and video games…

Brave new world!

Stay tuned for more Renault news: next week I will be testing the Arkana E-TECH Hybrid…

Hans Knol ten Bensel  

The Zoute Grand Prix 2021: living now in everyone’s heart…

The Zoute Grand Prix inspired young and old to take out their beloved classics…

This year’s edition of the Zoute Grand Prix has been spreading over several Flemish cities now. Bruges and Ostend have stepped also in the game.

This year we were of course in Knokke, but decided to live the event through the public and bystander’s eye.

The Zoute Grand Prix has indeed grown into a formidable event with a very wide and large public impact. For Knokke Heist, it has become the busiest weekend of the year, with absolute record hotel bookings.

It raises the spirits of car lovers of all ages, and many are those who take out their beloved young- or oldtimer out for a spin on the Knokke streets during the event, and have their own very personal Grand Prix.

There are also a lot of new and very recent cars around, many of them with tuned exhaust to add some extra drama to their Knokke sortie.

Shops of every kind in Knokke had arranged their showrooms and added to their shop windows a specific touch referring to the theme of the event.

Even your daily(?) gin can be enjoyed – literally – in the spirit of the Zoute Grand Prix…

We just let you enjoy some of the snapshots we took on the Knokke streets, where, we must admit, no EV’s or electrified cars were to be seen for near or afar this weekend…

Classic racing cars can also run like clockwork…
Capelleschi Gallery, specializing in car paintings, added with a Ferrari flag to the theme…

We will report on the actual event, including the Bonham’s auction and the Concours d’Elegance in these columns soon!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We had a first drive with the elegant DS 4: the (electrified) future has arrived at DS Automobiles…

At DS Automobiles, the art of designing and building the avant-garde automobile has been celebrated again since 2015, the birth of this unique premium brand.

In stylish Chantilly, we stood eye to eye with their latest creation, the DS 4. Stunning in style, gracious elegance and technology, this premium C segment car did not fail to impress your servant.

The DS 4 has eye-catching proportions. With a benchmark width of 1.83 metres and large diameter 720-millimetre wheels (alloys up to 20 inches, 19 inches as standard from TROCADERO and PERFORMANCE LINE up), for a compact length of 4.40 metres and a roof height of 1.47 metres, the dimensions are striking indeed.

Also the entire press presentation of this noble automobile was in line with its qualities: we were not only able to meet Mme Béatrice Foucher, the CEO of DS Automobiles personally at dinner, together with the communications people of the brand at lunch, we had also interesting workshops with the designers, engineers and last but not least the craftsmen and artists who make the DS 4 into the hand made four wheeled gem it is.

Mme Béatrice Foucher also presented the bold electrification strategy of the brand: in 2022-2023 it will increase the electrified mix with more E-TENSE sales, and from 2024 onwards it will only launch models which are battery only EV’s, with only electrified models presented for sale in Europe.

The designers also presented their drawings and a fully fledged clay model too, and the craftsmen presented their tools and unique hand made items of the car, of which much more later.

We were able to drive the entire range of the DS 4 on a 245 km circuit around scenic Chantilly, and we can tell you already that we were very taken by the plug-in hybrid version, the E-TENSE. Not surprisingly, as one knows that DS Automobiles puts great value on electrification, as does their avant-garde clientele, by the way.

For the DS4, a new version of the EMP2 platform was conceived to accommodate a new generation plug-in hybrid drive train without compromising cockpit space. It is important to note here that, being an important premium brand for Stellantis, the choices DS Automobiles are making in terms of proportions and styling of their cars and last but not least their technology are important signals for the engineers in the group wo develop the respective platforms. Noblesse oblige… Here you see the naked bodywork displayed on its platform.

The E-TENSE sports a turbocharged 180 horsepower PureTech 4-cylinder engine, which is paired with a 110 horsepower electric motor and an EAT8 gearbox, for a combined 225 horsepower.

The combination is fed by a more efficient 12,4 kW battery with new more compact and larger capacity cells situated behind the deformable beam and giving a range of 55 kilometres in zero emissions mode (WLTP combined cycle). The E-TENSE impressed your servant not only with its uncanny smoothness, it delivered also all the performance you could wish for: The 360Nm of torque enables 100km/h to be reached in 7.7 seconds with fuel consumption of just 1.3 litre/100km and emissions from 29g/km of CO2 on the WLTP combined cycle.

A wide range with a broad choice of interior equipment levels…  

We will tell you soon more about the driving impressions of this DS 4 in their different engine configurations, we just present here the model and equipment line-up. Besides the E-TECH, three petrol engine models, PureTech 130 Automatic, PureTech 180 Automatic and PureTech 225 Automatic plus a BlueHDi 130 Automatic Diesel will be offered.

In terms of body styles, the range is made up of three versions: DS 4, DS 4 CROSS et DS 4 PERFORMANCE LINE, with each version enjoying multiple trim levels:

– Four trim levels for the DS4: BASTILLE, BASTILLE +, TROCADERO and RIVOLI, as well as a Limited Edition “LA PREMIÈRE” for the launch, offering exclusive touches above and beyond the existing trims.

– For the DS 4 CROSS body version, we have the CROSS TROCADERO and CROSS RIVOLI trim levels,

– PERFORMANCE LINE and PERFORMANCE LINE + trims for the DS 4 PERFORMANCE LINE.

More soon, stay tuned on these columns!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

How the Tonale prototype design model was born for the Geneva Salon…two years ago.

Klaus Busse presented the Alfa Romeo Tonale two years ago in Geneva…

Klaus Busse is the talented head of design for Alfa Romeo, Fiat and Chrysler, and he is also quite active on social media. We read today a post from his hand on his Instagram page about the presentation of the Tonale at the Geneva Show two years ago, together with some stunning photos showing how the Tonale was sculpted out of plaster and other materials to become a real looking car, to be shown as a styling model at the salon.

Craftsmen working on the clay model, succeeding into making it a real looking car…

The photos show how elements of the car were formed and made by hand. Some pieces were 3D printed, I believe, but personally I find it truly amazing how these craftsmen put the car together, and finished it to become a design model with gleaming paint and shiny elements, the result being indistinguishable from a “real” car.

I believe, 3D printed elements were used…
Also here 3D printed elements abound…

I found the photos so interesting that I want to show them here to you on these pages.

The steering wheel gets a “real” feel…
Craftsmen sculpting the rear end…

On the fourth of May 2019, I visited the Centro Style in Turin, and met Klaus Busse. You see me standing proudly beside the Tonale prototype, and also in a group photo with Klaus Busse himself on the left.

Sweet memories, and of course your servant would love to witness once how these craftsmen work to create such an unbelievably finished prototype…

Just enjoy the photos with me!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

How Renault succeeded in building a bridge between past and present with it’s Renault 5 Prototype…

The brand new Renault 5 Prototype has already stolen the hearts of many, as was the case with the original R“Cinq”. François Leboine, Director of Design Concept and Show-Cars at Renault explains here how to succeed in the retro-futuristic exercise carried out on the cute Renault 5 Prototype.

Revive good memories, “provoke a smile”, that’s what François Leboine wanted with the Renault 5 Prototype. Responsible for concept cars and show cars at Renault, he looks back at the development of the prototype’s headlights, which, he confides to us, embody all the work done on the car. To do this, he used a well-oiled method that he agreed to unveil to us.

“If I had to choose a particular element that symbolizes all the work done on the Renault 5 Prototype, it’s definitely the headlights.”

Before starting any creative process, you need material, explains François Leboine.

The first step, called analytical, was to gather archives to analyze, understand, decompose the original vehicle. To grasp its very essence. Photos, sketches by the original designer Michel Boué, period magazines, fascicles and brochures, made it possible to study the mythical R5 from all angles. A vehicle loaned by Renault Classic also helped to better understand certain elements such as the famous headlights.

We really capitalized on the history of Renault and the R5 in particular, which had this special sympathy with people and this perfectly recognizable mischievous look.

Then the designers draw the first sketches on paper, like cartoonists who try to capture what makes a face’s personality.

“The sketches captured the fundamental elements that needed to be retained to reproduce the mischievous look of the original R5,” explains François Leboine.

Getting the proportions right…

Then, the designers moved on to a graphic palette to define proportions, contours, the distance between the headlights, to find the expression, the smiling look of the 1970s R5.

After analyzing graphic characteristics and working on proportions, designers operate what is called a shift: a method that consists of taking an object and tilting it into another world. “They’re going to use all the graphic work from previous research, mixing it with the mood board research and codes from today’s objects to project the design details into a futuristic world.”

Inspired by the worlds of aeronautics, architecture, product design and even electronics…

Thanks to this method of shifting visual codes, the prototype’s headlights have become true technological and futuristic elements. As for the fog lights that were often added at the time, they took a leap into the future. They were transformed into daytime running lights fully integrated into the front bumper.

“It was really important that the Renault 5 Prototype was not just a slavish copy of the past, but that it really was a vehicle that contained the elements of the future.”, explained François Leboine.

The final test: meeting the public

Finally, comes the encounter, the ultimate step for designers. The one that allows them to know if their work is successful. “Everything we’ve done, it’s the reaction of the people around us which determines if we’ve hit the bull’s eye, if we’ve brought the R5 back to life or if it was a failure”, says François Leboine.

The reaction of the internal people was already telling us that the car was going to be a success, but in the end it exceeded our expectations.

The Renault 5 Prototype has indeed received a very warm and unanimous welcome. Whether on the headlights or on the whole vehicle, the treatment of the lines and the futuristic details were very much appreciated. With the Renault 5 Prototype, the emblematic model of Renault’s heritage now has a worthy heiress. A modern car, full of charm and in tune with the times. Renault’s DNA respected, a successful projection into the future: mission accomplished

We can only agree…

Within 5-6 weeks, we will be able to take the wheel again, also anxious to get acquainted again with Renault’s latest E-powered products and hybrids… Stay tuned!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Easter eggs and a colouring album from Fiat and Jeep…

Keeping your offspring busy in these (Easter) times is quite a task, and Jeep and Fiat are there to help.

Fiat launces a cute #fiatforkids initiative. The Colorbook 500 – in Fiat’s usual playful, entertaining style – is designed specially for children to spend a few hours drawing and coloring in the three generations of the 500. Fiat is offering four plates of their iconic Cinquecento. Your offspring can colour the three generations of the 500, the landscape it is passing, or draw the view from the window of the car.

But there is more for kids in store during Easter time. They will look for “Easter Eggs” in hidden places in the garden, terrace or in the home, much to their surprise and delight. The Jeep designers have made “Easter Eggs” an integrated step in the creation process of each vehicle, and a distinctive, very special design feature.

The “Easter Egg” lies here in the small red Jeep on the alloy rim…

‘Easter Eggs‘ are hidden decorative motifs that Jeep stylists conceal in Jeep vehicles, meant to be discovered throughout time by their owners.

These hidden gems are unique and unexpected, they change from one Jeep vehicle to another and can be found both on the exterior and on the interior. Originally, Easter Eggs were an offhand addition of a graphic to an otherwise standard part of the vehicle but over the course of the years, they developed into something typical of Jeep design.

They are also styling cues that recall the brand’s design heritage – such as the seven slot grille or iconic Jeep models like the Wrangler.  

Often they can also be found in small functional areas, such as storage compartments, to be discovered by customers during the daily use of their vehicle.

Today, the practice continues with every new Jeep model and customers will shortly have an opportunity to discover the Easter Eggs hidden in the soon-to-be launched Jeep Renegade and Compass 4xe…

Hans Knol ten Bensel  

Kia’s Futuron Concept shows how Kia sees new designs for future electric vehicles…

A tall standing Urban Coupé with fluid, inviting lines…

Kia recently showed a stunning electric coupé with novel proportions. This Futuron made its public debut at the 2019 China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai. Its low-profile SUV coupe body makes a strong statement of intent for Kia’s future cars, which will be – as the manufacturer puts it – confident, sporty and modern, yet also elegant. At 4,850 mm in length, 1,550 mm tall and with a 3,000 mm-long wheelbase, it has an elevated ground clearance is matched with a low, lean body to create a dynamic, confident posture.

It is indeed a sports car… on an SUV platform. Clever. Because this makes – like for instance in the Audi e-tron – room for the batteries to be lodged beneath the cabin floor. The advantage is also that the elevated stance of the car is therefore matched with a low center of gravity.

And that slightly more elevated stance is just what you want in an urban car, even if it has the sleek shape of a coupé.

Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

This “E”-Coupé is powered by four powerful in-wheel electric motors. This e-AWD system delivers as you can expect lively responses to driver inputs.

But the important hallmark here is its fluid, intriguing design. The front fender flows backwards from the front of the hood before plunging into the cabin itself, establishing a connection between the driving seat and the road ahead. The concept’s roof is a diamond-shaped panoramic glasshouse which sits atop the 360-degree core, in the best traditions of UFO and flying saucer design. It floods the cabin with natural light, and it also extends down the bonnet to give drivers an unparalleled view ahead. The glasshouse also incorporates a network of LiDAR (light detection and ranging) sensors capable of providing Level 4 autonomous driving features, enabling hands-off and eyes-off driving in most conditions.

Furthermore, the 360-degree theme is evident in the lighting that illuminates a sharp character line encircling the Futuron’s body.

A new “tiger” face…

The newly-designed front of the car, like that of the Imagine by Kia Concept first revealed earlier in 2019, expresses a new design interpretation for Kia’s future electric vehicles.

With a wider ‘tiger face’ shape, the grille incorporates the Futuron’s headlamps, an innovative ‘Star Cloud’ design which gives the car a dazzling new night-time identity.

Flexible cabin space…

The layout of the electric powertrain and incorporation of Level 4 autonomous driving systems has enabled the creation of a spacious and flexible cabin unlike any other vehicle on roads. The two front seats are created out of flexible materials and can offer an upright ‘driving’ position, or a reclined ‘rest’ position, similar to the flexibility afforded to first-class airline passengers. With the activation of the Futuron’s autonomous driving features, the two front seats recline as the steering wheel retracts. The ‘zero-gravity’ seating position this creates helps to reduce fatigue on long journeys.

One of the most prominent features of the cabin is the ‘cockpit’ area surrounding the driver. The graphical user interface (GUI) of the cockpit flows out of the driver-side door and wraps around the steering wheel in a seamless arc. This merges the instrument cluster directly with the audio-visual display at the center of the dashboard and is linked to the display integrated within the surface of the steering wheel itself.

The GUI is operated by artificial intelligence technologies, displaying useful information about the car various autonomous driving, powertrain and navigation features, which creates a unique user experience.

This is, according to Kia, what driving into the (urban) future is all about. Just look at the photos here…

Hans Knol ten Bensel   

We spoke with Chief Designer Klaus Busse, about the Alfa Tonale and the DNA of Alfa design – Part 2

Klaus Busse told us about the sensuous essence of Italian Car design, and how it is embodied in Alfa Romeo…

This is the second part of our series about the visit to the FCA Centro Stile in Torino. It started with an intriguing interview and talk with Klaus Busse, head of Design for Fiat, Abarth, Lancia, Alfa Romeo and Maserati, offering us interesting insights into the sculptural design philosophy and language of the iconic sporting Milano brand. This talk continues here…

Hans Knol ten Bensel 

Shaping the body of an Alfa is also performing the art of sculpture…

HktB: “When we look at earlier design, and I want to take you here to the first Giulia, you see this modernism with the aerodynamic concepts brought into the brand and also the first dashboards of this Giulia, with their, as the Germans say it, “neue Sachlichkheit”, a strictly modern, pure, rectangular style, with a horizontal ribbon speedometer flanked by a small rev counter and column gearchange. In later years, with the later updates of this Giulia, this was again replaced by floor gearchange, a wood rimmed three spoke steering wheel, and two classic round dials for speed and revs in their individual clusters.

The shape of the three spoked wheel of the Tonale is also inspired by the historic Montreal…

Back to tradition, again we would say. What can you say about this tension between absolute, purified modernism and a more traditional (sporting) tradition in the styling language of the brand?

B: This is a beautiful question, thank you for this. Of course, we have the same challenge here. When I say Italian design process, let’s start with the classical approach and then I will come back to the modern aspect. The classical approach at Centro Stile, even though we have virtual reality, we do virtual reality reviews with the teams around the world, we scan, we mill, we digitize, we use computers, out of these 200 people, a big amount of people is dealing with computers, one way or the other.

Marrying the sporting styling language with today’s materials and connectivity…

But, when we design an Alfa Romeo, we always do it by hand. Meaning, that once the sketch is created, and we have the model in front of us, out of clay and clay material, hand modeling is still the king. Because, unless you shop online, when you buy any of your clothes, you look at it and you touch it. Because touch is for us humans such an important thing. And the other thing is, when you look at the car itself, we want to create something than feels good to the hand. I always say to joke, the best way to experience an Alfa Romeo is to hand wash it.

You discover an Alfa by touching, and hand washing it…

As a matter of fact, any car, when you hand wash it, you experience it. And there are some brands that take a lot of pride in super sharp edges, and it is not a very nice experience hand washing that car. It is not criticism; I am just pointing that out. Our way is to have the very sensuous experience touching an Alfa Romeo. And you can only achieve that if you hand model the car. Now we support it with computer, because we want to be fast in our process and we want to have high quality. Clearly, the creation process is manual, and that is a very Italian thing.

Also the seats are a work of dedicated sculpture…

This is the land of sculptures. You go to Florence, Rome, there are beautiful sculptures. Then of course, when it comes to technology, like the lighting technology, we can use the modern technology to emphasize graphics which were not possible in the past. You go from halogen reflector to projectors that are very, very slim, so that’s on the exterior where the technology helps us.

Coming to the interior, there is a lot of discussion about connectivity, screens these days. So for us, the question for Alfa Romeo is always, considering we build a drivers’ car, with the handling of the car being equally important, so what room do we dedicate to screens and connectivity experience, and what you don’t see in this concept car and in an Alfa Romeo, is these big screens, the “tombstone” that almost blocks your view, that almost screams for attention.

Big screens do not block the drivers’ vision…

For Alfa Romeo, we do use these screens, we have of course large screens in this vehicle, we also have 12 inch cluster, etc, etc, we have all that, but we keep it more like it’s here to support you, but it is not saying “look at me, look at me”…

The graphics themselves, what we use, is of course state of the art, in terms of connectivity, in terms of HMI, so for is, this is the connection we try to find between the classic approach to handmodelling, sculpting, and the historic approach to design, but then combining it with state of the art technology, how we assist the driver, and bring an enjoyable experience to being in the car. It is a long answer to your question, but it was a very very good question because it comes very close to what we are dealing with every day, how do you combine these two worlds.”

Directed towards the driver, while he keeps his eyes on the road…

The conversation was far from over, but then covers different subjects, with we will soon continue to cover in a following part in this series…

Hans Knol ten Bensel