6/9/2009 | 2 MINUTE READ

Beauty Beyond Spacely Sprockets

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Ralph V. Gilles, now vp of Design at Chrysler, is best-known for his stunning 300C, arguably the last car out of Chrysler that set the bar for stylish American sedan design—and it appeared in 2004 (as a 2005 model). Looking at the newly revealed 200C EV concept, with the exterior by Nick Malachowski, Gilles said, “The aesthetic bones are really good. The fundamentals are really good. It takes our desire to readdress the idea of leadership in design.” And he admitted, “It actually takes the best parts of the 300 in terms of the platform, which gives us a really great stance, good wheel spacing, a good wheel base—but we shrunk everything else down.” The result is what he called “a really sweet proportion.” And, speaking of sweetness, he noted, “Cars today have a more planar look, but here we’ve sweetened the surface: every line leads to another; every surface blends into another. It becomes a sensuous collection of forms.” Arguably that planar look he referred to has a little something to do with . . . the 300.
The “EV” in the car’s name refers to the extended-range electric drive system (lithium-ion battery pack; a gasoline engine and electric generator that provides 55 kW of continuous power and 200 kW of peak power; all of which is to mean the ability to drive 40 miles with stored battery power and a total of 400 miles, with the engine being used to drive the generator and the generator used to power the electric motor that turns the wheels). Yet the 200C looks like a stylish sedan, not something chronologically exotic. “Some people are doing vehicles that look more futuristic. And some people are saying that this”—the 200C—“looks very plausible, very do-able. But it doesn’t have to look like something from 2030. Some companies want to do The Jetsons thing and are trying to underscore the electric aspect, but at the end of the day there are some truths about fashion and beauty and this car plays right into that,” Gilles said.
Certainly, a shift in propulsion technology will have an effect on designs. Gilles acknowledges that. “We’ve been designing around the iron lump of the combustion engine for 100 years. Now in comes a new technology, and it will enable different proportions, different packaging sets, different challenges. We are at an inflection point in our culture as car designers.” He added, “That aside, as you look at cars, beauty is what beauty is.” And that’s pretty much all you need to know.—GSV