VAUXHALL’S VISION OF ITS FUTURE REVEALED
Called the Vauxhall GT X Experimental, it is a five-door, all-electric, coupe-style compact SUV, measuring just 4.06m in length. The car bristles with fresh innovation, and is the first physical representation of how Vauxhall’s production-vehicle design will evolve in coming years.
SUVs currently represent the fastest-growing sector in the UK’s car market (Vauxhall and sister brand, Opel, predict that 40 per cent of the group’s European sales will be SUVs by 2021) and Vauxhall is keen to make its models more efficient, and even more accessible than before. For that reason, the GT X Experimental is built on a lightweight architecture with a reduced footprint (length: 4.06m; width: 1.83m; height including antenna: 1.528m).
Reflecting Vauxhall’s promise of an electrified vehicle in each of its ranges by 2024, the GT X Experimental is a fully electric car with power delivered by a 50kWh, compact next generation lithium-ion battery with inductive charging. And while it doesn’t offer fully autonomous driving (Vauxhall’s focus is on making innovation accessible in the near-future), it does have Level 3 autonomous driving functions, meaning that it can handle all aspects of driving, but the driver must be able to respond to a request to intervene.
One further highlight to note is the GT X Experimental’s wheels, which appear to go down the usual 20-inch-plus concept-car route, but clever design hides the fact that they’re 17-inch rims, therefore maximising road comfort.
Vice President Design, Mark Adams, and his team have developed an entire philosophy around Vauxhall’s specific, British design, blending purity with emotional boldness. Mark’s team questioned every function and module of the concept from the outset, with the aim of achieving purity of design by removing all unnecessary elements. It’s something his team called a ‘visual detox’.
The end result shows bold proportions, coupled with beautifully structured, pure flowing surfaces. Its strong silhouette is accentuated by the bold graphic identity separating the upper and lower areas. The lower section is painted in a luminous light grey, and the whole upper body – including the bonnet, glass and roof – are in a dark, night-blue. Between these is a bold yellow signature accent that flows through the car to give it structure and dynamism.
The GT X Experimental welcomes passengers with spacious, unobstructed access, thanks to rear-hinged rear doors and all four doors opening to 90 degrees. The sweeping panoramic windscreen/roof reaches back to the rear seats, further enhancing the car’s sense of spaciousness.
Vauxhall designers have also reduced the traditional cut-lines in the bodywork, normally associated with door and bonnet openings. The upper cut line of all doors is hidden in the yellow accent, and the one for the rear doors combines with that of the opening of the boot. Smoothing the body’s surface still further, door handles and exterior mirrors have been removed, with rear vision for the driver provided by small cameras embedded in the yellow graphic lining, which pop out at each side of the bonnet.
In counterpoint to the ‘visual detox’, neat graphic details energise the GTX Experimental’s appearance. Cropped triangles are engraved along the sill under the driver’s side rear door. One of them contains a small, hexagonal LED screen that shows the electric charge level of the battery. The 17-inch wheels look much bigger, thanks to robust rubber covers that flow over the rim to visually enlarge the size of the dark blue tyres. Yellow graphic lines on the rim echo the yellow signature accent of the body and surround the electronic Griffin emblem that stands still as the wheels rotate. Underlining the SUV character of the car, protective cladding wraps around the lower body, giving the GT X Experimental a robust stance and rugged look.
“The Vauxhall GT X Experimental embodies the spirit of our core brand values,” said Mark Adams. “It’s an approachable concept that people can identify with. It confidently combines a pure and bold design execution with progressive technology that makes life easier. Clearly, this vehicle signals a very exciting future for the brand.”
For the first time, the GT X Experimental also reveals a new theme for the front and rear fascias of future Vauxhall models. The Vauxhall Compass organises the design elements along two strong axes that intersect the Griffin. In a crisper and purer execution, the centre crease line on the bonnet represents the vertical axis, while the wing-shaped daytime running-lights – which will continue to form part of Vauxhall’s production car design - represent the horizontal axis. The rear echoes the front fascia, again showing the Compass, with the Griffin anchoring the horizontal line of the wing-shaped rear lights, and the vertical line from the roof-fin antenna to the crease in the bumper
Complementing the Compass is the Vauxhall Visor, which is a single module that frames all of the high-tech and brand elements, such as the LED Griffin, and shows the car’s state of operation using different coloured illumination. In addition, the LED matrix headlights, wing-shaped daytime running lights, as well as various cameras and sensors controlling the autonomous driving functions, are all housed under the tinted Plexiglass Visor, which stretches across the front of the GT X Experimental. Like the Compass, the Visor will be another design element seen in all Vauxhalls going into the 2020s.
Pure Panel creates relaxing and simple interior ambience
The Vauxhall GT X Experimental’s airy interior adopts the same ‘visual detox’ principle as its exterior. Surrounded by the panoramic windscreen/roof and uninterrupted side-window, the cabin artfully disguises the raft of innovations contained within it. A standout feature is an instrument panel encased in a module, which mimics the outer Visor, and is called the ‘Pure Panel’. A wide, single screen welcomes drivers and eschews the need for a multitude of smaller screens and buttons, as seen in many production cars today. The Pure Panel allows drivers access to all the GT X Experimental’s technology, without any unnecessary distractions.
The purity of the interior’s design can also be seen in the positioning of the air vents, which have been hidden behind the screens, allowing clean and smooth surfaces all around the driver. Simplifying the occupants’ driving experience, two screens on the far left and right of the front panel display the exterior side views from the small pop-out cameras on either side of the bonnet. Elsewhere, the steering wheel’s design has been simplified, while its central module mirrors the shape of the Visor. And, like the centre-logos on the road wheels, the LED Vauxhall Griffin remains upright, no matter what the steering wheel position.
This clean, high-tech approach flows throughout the cabin. The four seats appear to be floating, while removable speakers nestled under the headrests also allow an out-of-car sound experience. Graphic details also reinforce the interior’s purity of design, with a cropped triangle theme repeated on the seat backs and the accelerator and brake pedals.
In 1963, Vauxhall built what was to become the UK’s leading automotive design centre at its base in Luton. From there, under the guidance of legendary car designers like David Jones and Wayne Cherry, Vauxhall produced some of the first genuine concept cars seen in the UK. Some were pure fantasy, such as the 1970 SRV, while others, like the 1966 XVR, were designed with production in mind. But both of these, and many others in subsequent years, highlighted the innovative thinking which still exists in Mark Adams’ team today.
More recently, three concepts have aligned closely with the development of the Vauxhall brand. The 2013 Monza concept reflected Vauxhall’s quest for more efficiency – especially in its weight, packaging and powertrain – wrapped in an ultra-sleek design. Then, in 2016, the GT Concept took efficiency to the next level, with a design around the core ideas of approachability, simplicity and purity. The GT X Experimental brand concept develops this still further, with its focus on pure and bold design.