Ford's visionary new concept car looks stunning, but there's so much more to be impressed with.
Is the Ford Evos concept the car of the future?
Few people have personal assistants as gorgeous as the Evos. When you see it first you reckon it's a two-door coupé. It's not very long (about 0.3m shorter than the Mondeo), but it's very wide and very low and, in typical concept car fashion, has a stance to die for, helped in no small part by the massive, intricate alloys. The detailing in the car's bodywork is relatively simple, but the sculpting is beautiful, while the car also achieves a muscular look.
The shape of the side glass, lined in chrome, is reminiscent of current Aston Martins, while the rear haunches and crisply styled fastback look more like recent Jaguar concepts. It's clear the triangular rear lights are an evolution of the current Mondeo's, though. Make your way around to the front and there's even more to see. The company's characteristic inverted trapezoid grille opening has been moved up and is less curvy, to give a much more aggressive appearance, which is helped along by extremely slim, razor-sharp headlights.
All this receives the requisite oohs and aahs from the audience when Ford unveils the concept at a preview in Berlin ahead of its debut at this month's Frankfurt Motor Show.
And then someone presses a button to open the doors. It turns out that what looked to be a coupé is, in fact, a five-door fastback. Extravagant gullwing doors allow access to the cabin, with the rear doors more or less hidden, as they take in the bodywork all the way back to the join of the rear bumper. The effect is nothing short of spectacular.
The cockpit isn't bad either. The driver's seat is the only one trimmed in red and that's a hint of what's to come - the driver is the focus of attention in this car. Saying that, the other three occupants are well catered for, with loads of space, despite the compact footprint of the Evos. Rear passengers get individually adjustable sports seats, plus a touch-screen infotainment system of their own but it's not a patch on what the driver has at his fingertips.
"Both the exterior and interior of the Ford Evos Concept clearly communicate that this is a driver's car, so that as soon as people see the vehicle, they will immediately want to get in and drive," says Ford's executive design director, Moray Callum.
This is where the Evos gets really interesting. Ford foresees a time when the way a car drives is completely adaptive, depending on the driver, road and even weather. The Evos can adjust the powertrain, steering, suspension and braking automatically. It learns its driver's habits, preferences and even his driving ability before setting up the car to suit a given circumstance.
Two extreme situations are presented to us. In the first, the car "knows" its driver's calendar is clear and so he has time to take the scenic way to work, which he has shown himself to be rather adept at. Until reaching the more interesting part of the road, the Evos remains in full comfort and efficiency mode. Then, as the route gets windier, the damping is tightened up, the ride height dropped, the throttle response increased, the power steering assistance reduced and the level of stability control adjusted to the driver's capabilities.
In this way the technology hopes to increase the level of engagement with the car, not take away from it. Sensing the driver's heart rate increasing and the heat from his sweaty palms, the car automatically switches his phone to "do not disturb" and minimises the amount of instrumentation visible. At the end of the fun road, our theoretical Evos driver hits bad traffic. The car offers to take over and so allows him to check his emails or catch up with his friends on Facebook - or even watch a film. In this guise, the Evos readjusts its systems for maximum efficiency, as it inches along in slow traffic in purely electric mode.
The scenario continues as the car then looks for a suitable charging point close to the driver's place of work. It finds it, books it and even parks the car. Through all, this the driver's favourite music is being played and the Evos even keeps an eye on the owner's diary to make sure he's on schedule.
When Ford talks us through this, there's some laughter, especially as the day had begun with the car changing its owner's wake-up call because an early morning meeting had been postponed.
If the Evos is the car of the future then it really is like having a four-wheeled PA. Ford is adamant that much of what's been presented will see the light of day, though probably not in this decade. The petrol-electric hybrid powertrain is much closer to reality, as it's based on that of the 2012 Ford C-MAX Energi.
Paul Mascarenas, leading Ford's global research and innovation team, says: "Access to historical driver behaviour and travel patterns allows us to calculate the optimal fuel and energy efficiency by predicting the destination. Our researchers are working to increase understanding of driver behaviour, develop accurate protocols to predict it and enhance the trip by providing the smartest use of fuel or battery for the situation."
Beyond that, there's more in the style of the Evos than you might first think. Ford says it previews the whole next generation of its design language; the successor to "kinetic". While nothing quite like the Evos will see a Ford showroom, it does give a clue as to what the 2012 Mondeo will look like.
"We wanted the Ford Evos concept to give a clear message about where Ford design is heading - shaping vehicles that are fun to drive, have a strong premium visual appeal and, above all, are stunningly beautiful," says J Mays, group vice president, design and chief creative officer. Mays then openly states: "I'll be very disappointed if the front of the production car you see at the Detroit show in January isn't very similar to that of the Evos."
After the new Mondeo will be a new-look Fiesta. It's unlikely to be able to drive itself, but who cares if it will look this good?