The Tokyo Motor Show is now the Japan Mobility Show, which I guess is why all these concepts have “mobility” in the name, a concept that I suppose we all just assumed before based on the hint that this was a car show, not a gazebo show, or something like that. The two “mobility”-named concepts that Subaru showed were the Sport Mobility Concept and the Air Mobility concept, one a battery electric, all-wheel-drive sports car concept, the other a sort of flying hexarotor drone with car like front and rear ends and cabin. I have pretty mixed feelings about these concepts, so I guess we may as well just jump on in.
Sport Mobility Concept
There seems to be some discussion that this concept is based on the wonderfully weird Subaru SVX of the ’90s, but if so, it’s pretty loose. I mean, I guess there are some SVX design inspirations in that dome-like greenhouse and maybe some of the lines of the fenders, but this mostly seems to be its own thing. Its own kind of strange, maybe not entirely successful thing.
The most striking parts of the design are likely the fenders/wheelarch surrounds that are separated from the body, breaking the silver skin to reveal a vibrant blue interior, like what I imagine cutting into the alien equivalent of a peach may be like.
The concept also includes a lot of elements made of forged carbon fiber, which I understand is an incredible material, chopped up carbon fiber, molded under pressure, yes, yes, amazing, but to me it just looks like kitchen countertops and backsplashes:
As far as what Subaru has to say about this concept, here’s what the press release says:
This concept model expresses the enjoyment that Subaru offers in the age of electrification, embodying the pleasure of going anywhere, anytime, and driving at will in everyday to extraordinary environments. Driving with peace of mind allows us to embark on exciting new adventures. This is a battery electric vehicle (BEV) concept that evokes the evolution of the SUBARU SPORT values.
The basic framework is based on the concept of a driver at the center, controlling all four wheels at will. While offering a low seating position, the car is designed to ensure excellent visibility and perceptibility for the driver, providing a package that allows for enjoyable driving with peace of mind.
Body panels are designed to minimize surfaces and character lines, creating a taut, clean, three-dimensional shape that provides a sense of protection and airflow.
So, driver at the center – I believe this means center-steering, though no interior pics were provided to prove this – and “controlling all four wheels at will” which I think we all generally do when driving, at least in the sense that we move all those four wheels with the car as we drive and steer. There’s not much information here, really.
This seems like a design study for future Subaru design vocabulary. I think the inner-color bits are interesting, but I can’t say I’m really wowed by this, overall. They may be planning to make that LED headlight and taillight setup their new light signature? It seems the light matrix is dynamic in color and what’s lit, as you can see in this video:
Of course that video also has the flying car thing, so we may as well address that.
Air Mobility Concept
I guess every automaker is going to show a flying car-type thing at some point. It’s like a right of passage, like having your first kiss or drinking turpentine. At best, these things are eternally two years away, making steady progress into an ever-fleeting future we never seem to be able to reach, running Red Queen-style, forever. Subaru does have aviation experience, building helicopters in partnership with Bell, so it’s not like they have no idea what to do here, technically, it’s more about all the other regulatory and logistical hurdles.
That said, I do like how they grafted on car-like headlights and taillights onto this drone-like vehicle, and how the cabin at the center does feel quite automotive, even if it’s not really clear just how you’d get inside it.
Here’s what the press release has to say about this bit of physical fiction:
In the world of aviation, where electrification and automation technologies are advancing, there are growing expectations for new air mobility that will bring about an “air mobility revolution.” SUBARU AIR MOBILITY Concept expresses the future of “more freedom in mobility” that Subaru envisions. Engineers from the aerospace and automotive divisions are currently working together on flight demonstrations.
So, almost nothing. Maybe we’ll get a flying demonstrator out of this one day? That’d be cool, I guess. Design-wise, you can really feel the challenges of these multi-rotor drone-like designs: so much of the vehicle is taken up by those rotors and their circular housings, it’s tricky to find other places to make a design stand out. I think Subaru got a good start with the face and tail designs, though.
So, I guess thanks for these, Subaru.