This year marks the centenary of Citroën, a company named after a guy named after a lemon that has proven to be one of the most consistently innovative and bold automakers for an entire century. The company was one of the pioneers of unibodies and front-wheel drive, developed novel suspension systems, had striking styling, and it continues that to this day. This new concept, called the 19_19 (named for 1919, the year Citroën was founded), is an interesting example of where they’re imagining the future to be headed while referencing a lot of the old ideas that made Citroën what it is today.
I think the key element of the 19_19, and the one that is most archetypically Citroën, is the fact that they describe the car as having a “true magic carpet ride.” Citroëns have always sought to make their cars feel like they float over the chaos of the surface, employing hydropneumatic suspension systems starting with the Traction Avant and then into the iconic DS that absorb shocks remarkably well, so much so that Rolls-Royce licensed their system, unable to come up with anything better.
The latest technology to achieve the magical carpet goal is described as (emphasis mine):
“Taking comfort to a new level with a cabin constituting a true living room on wheels, 19_19 Concept pushes back the limits of the Citroën Advanced Comfort® programme. The cabin is suspended on a new suspension system with Progressive Hydraulic Cushions® combined with smart active control and features a unique layout informed by the world of furniture with individualised seats, each one expressing a vision of comfort.”
Hydraulic cushions, huh? That seems appropriately French.
The interior, “informed by the world of furniture” — which is interesting because I’m currently working on a bold sci-fi novel set on the World of Furniture—anticipates coming autonomous technology, and as such is much more of a lounge/relaxation space than it is a traditional driver/passenger cabin.
It’s got a chaise lounge and what looks like marble (it’s not, but it looks like it) dividers and, it seems, bookshelves, inside. The divider bewteen the rear seat area and the cargo area is formed of criss-crossed cords that suggest the Citroën double-chevron logo in an artful way.
The exterior design is, somewhat oddly, inspired by aircraft design, especially the transparent capsule of a helicopter, and the entire passenger cabin is suspended between the axles, giving a floating effect. Here’s how the PR people gush about it:
“The exceptional body design of 19_19 Concept resembles the fuselage of an aircraft and the transparent bubble of a helicopter. The capsule levitates above four “Super Tall and Narrow” wheels, promising the comfort of a magic carpet ride, with the passengers borne along by a car that appears to fly over the road. Boasting a powerful and authoritative road stance with the four wheels set squarely on the far corners of the body, 19_19 Concept impresses with its lengthy, 3.10 m wheelbase that makes room for an oversized battery. The cabin appears to float above the four wheels, the suspension forming the interface and link between the cabin and the wheels. The concept car features an innovative suspension with Progressive Hydraulic Cushions® and a smart active control system, Citroën having always sought to make its cars “magic carpets”. The suspension system is visible and signified, showcased within the cabin.”
There’s some interesting aesthetic choices going on here as well, like the sort of odd lighting design that treats the headlights as a set of forward spoilers or wings, which also incorporate the Citroën logo.
There’s zero overhangs on the car, and most of the body is transparent, or at least translucent. A display is worked into the side door area that gives information about the car’s status, and the old original version of the logo is used all over the car.
The color scheme was meant to evoke the small, streamlined 1933 Citroën race car known as Petite Rosalie:
The Petite Rosalie was used for an interesting record attempt: they wanted to see just how long they could run the car on a track, only stopping for fuel and to change drivers. They finally stopped running on the track after 133 days! The car covered 300,000 km (186,000 miles, which is how fast light travels in a second) at an average speed of 58 MPH. Pretty incredible.
The wheels and tires are interesting as well, as they’re fully integrated units, with foam tires mated to the wheels:
The wheels were designed and developed in partnership with Goodyear, whose badge graces each tyre. The oversized 30-inch wheels, with a diameter of 930 mm and shod with 255/30 R 30 tyres, have an exceptional, revolutionary design. The wheels are extraordinary through their dimensions and through their design with innovative technologies and a design inspired by gear cogs, features at the root of the Citroën logo. A wheel generally comprises a rim and a tyre, but the wheels on 19_19 Concept are hybrid. The Goodyear teams were set the challenge of creating seamless continuity between the rim and the tyre, plunging 19_19 Concept into a futuristic world beyond traditional automotive bounds and giving the impression of a vehicle moving forward on independent spheres.
It’s cool, but it also sounds like concept car frippery. Can the tires go flat? do you have to replace the whole units when they get worn? There’s lots of good reasons why tires are normally removable from wheels, after all.
Citroën says the all-electric 19_19 concept has a range of 800 km/497 miles, but seeing as how this is just a concept, the company could just be pulling that number out of their hope-berets.
There’s some novel ideas in here, and, really, if there’s any company likely to actually make crazy concept car ideas happen, it’s Citroën.