At the 74th Geneva Automobile Salon, Volkswagen will be showcasing its new (semi-series-mature) cabriolet, the concept C design study. (C stands for cabriolet and coupe.) The vehicle features a new generation of fold-away steel roof, which transforms this four-seat Volkswagen from a coupe to a cabriolet in a matter of only seconds.
Or vice-versa, of course. In a stroke of engineering genius, the roof also features an integrated glass sunroof. This exciting new automobile provides a view on things to come, on how a new Volkswagen cabriolet in the next-higher vehicle class to the successful New Beetle Cabriolet could ultimately look. And performance? The concept C is driven by a 110-kW / 150-hp FSI engine.
Concept: Cabriolet and coupe
A cabriolet-coupe of exceptional dimension
Taking a whole new approach. What makes this automobile so distinctive is its design, the base technology used and its dimensions. The progressive look of the concept C, with its "Pure Essence" metallic finish, takes the fascinating form first used on the concept R roadster design study, with all deviating contours having been subjected to intriguingly new design ideas. The same is true of the technology used: the concept C features an array of newly developed components.
These components enable a new interplay of vehicle dimensions. The concept C has moved away from the class of cabriolet found in the A segment. Positioned in the mid-class segment, it is as much a cabriolet as it is a coupe. This automobile looks wider than any other cabriolet in the A or B segment - and it is. Because of its extreme width of 1.81 metres (1.43 m high / 4.41 m long), the concept C rests as sturdily upon its wheels as would a beefy, high-calibre sports car. A tread width of the axles is designed to accommodate future vehicle generations and helps to produce exceptional agility and reliable handling properties in the concept C. The result is pure driving pleasure - be it with the roof up or down.
The interior of this fully-fledged four seater. The vehicle's dual-tone interior offers similarly attractive dimensions and details. The upper sections of the compartment (dashboard, spandrel and the instrument panel) are a rich green (known as "Deep Storm"), with a lighter beige tone ("On Shore") used for the seats, the upholstery and all the interior elements situated below the window rails. The inner section of the seats themselves have been given a particularly stylish touch through the contrasting stripes that run across them. Timber applications on the side panels produce an exceptionally luxurious look. The upper sections of the door panels take on the styled curve of the dashboard. And the newly developed cockpit, with its instruments set in brushed aluminium frames, ideally interprets the sporty character of the concept C. This high-quality material is also used in the design of the air outlets.
The cabriolet-coupe design study was devised as a fully-fledged four-seat vehicle, which is why it features easy-entry rear seats as well as a comfortable and ergonomic seat design for rear-compartment passengers. It goes without saying that the newly developed interior of this car features four airbags and a roll-over safety system.
Attractive market segments. With all these properties (both cabriolet- and coupe-like), with its unconventional dimensions and its claim to excellence in terms of technology and quality, a hypothetical series version of the concept C would find itself positioned in a very exciting market. In western Europe, for example, some 337,000 new cabriolets and roadsters were sold in 2003 (across all vehicle classes). The concept C is a cabriolet! Likewise in 2003, close to 240,000 coupes were sold. The concept C is a coupe! There is a good chance that these 580,000 or so cabriolet and coupe owners will eventually have a new alternative to choose from, i.e. a Volkswagen which is as visually appealing as it is technologically revolutionary, a car with more room and comfort than the derivates of the A class, yet more athletic and versatile than many of its competitors in the B segment. For, to date, the B segment has not produced a four-seat cabriolet which, like the concept C, has both a folding steel roof as well as a glass sunroof. These are comfort features normally only offered in a coupe.
Technology: A revolutionary hardtop system
The folding roof: The most innovative cabriolet roof system in use anywhere in the world
Coupe roof, sliding sunroof and cabriolet roof. The new, five-level, electro-hydraulic hardtop system in the concept C is a multitalented, tri-functional solution: a coupe roof, a sliding sunroof and a cabriolet roof all incorporated into the one system. This type of combination, in this form, is truly unique and special.
The coupe roof: When the hardtop is up, it combines with the vehicle body to form a dynamically homogeneous profile. The benefits are obvious: wind and ambient noise levels do not exceed those of a comparable type of classic coupe, and the safety aspect also comes into play.
The sliding glass sunroof: One of the technical highlights of this hardtop system is its integrated sunroof. It is electrically controlled, sliding open at the push of a button and letting just the desired amount of fresh air and sunlight into the passenger compartment (it includes a tilted ventilation setting). This is basically a conventional sunroof, only that, in the case of the concept C, it is actually fitted into a convertible roof - a convertible roof, that is, with the added advantage of allowing light into the interior of the car event when it is up.
The cabriolet roof: The roof of the concept C is drawn open and back by way of an electro-hydraulic motor. The way in which this intelligently constructed five-part roof system tucks away out of sight is truly astonishing - both technologically and visually.
Once the lock-in mechanism is released, the sunroof retracts to the back of the vehicle (stage 1). Then the rear windscreen (including the C pillar) lifts up and glides forward (stage 2). By this time, the glass sunroof is moved underneath the rear end of the hardtop roof, forming a compact sandwich unit. The system hydraulics now fold the boot lid, to which the rear shelf is attached, all way back (stage 3). The sandwich unit then slides back and into place; only now do the roof rails release themselves from the windscreen frame (stages 4 and 5), folding into a Z shape and retracting into position. The integrated sunroof and the rear section of the hardtop roof are drawn completely back, the roof rails are led into the available cavities (and covered) adjacent to the rear side windows. Sound complicated? It is complicated. But it functions perfectly and looks great.
Because the roof rails do not move vertically, but only horizontally, and because the sandwich unit is so compact, not a lot of upward room is needed to draw the hardtop up or down, thereby allowing roof conversion to function even in low-ceilinged spaces.
Around 400 litres of stowage space and room for skis. Because the hardtop roof folds away so compactly, there is plenty of room left in the boot even when the roof is down (approx. 200 litres). When the roof is up, stowage space is increased to around 400 litres. A tunnel which passes through the rear bench and the bulkhead also enables the transportation of skis or other, similarly lengthy, items.
Design: The shape of things to come
The shape of things to come
A perfect figure. Compact-type cabriolets can tend to look thin and disproportionately high (especially when the roof is up), given the dimensions taken from the mass-series derivates on which they are modelled. While the larger-sized cabriolets don't have this figure problem, they also do not have much appeal if you like an athletic, compact look and a coupe-like style when the roof is up.
There is another sore spot to most cabriolets, especially when it comes to compact-type versions, and that is that the majority of them are originally modelled on the typical cab-forward design, so that the A-pillar and its transverse beams extend a long way into the interior of the vehicle, causing almost a tickling sensation to the forehead as the frame of the windscreen hovers menacingly close. All these problem areas were effectively dealt with in the concept C. This vehicle is not founded on an existing basic model, but was newly developed as a cabriolet in its very own right.
Which is why Volkswagen's cabriolet design study has a number of constructional advantages. These are merits which are perceivable even in the design - from whichever perspective you look at the car.
A fusion of tradition and progress. The concept C's sporty and powerful architecture and the principles employed to design its contours produce a very concrete outlook on the new design for future Volkswagen automobiles. By the same token, however, the concept C is but a new chapter in a long and successful tradition of cabriolets: including the legendary Beetle Cabriolet, which achieved cult status around the world, or the more rationally designed Golf Cabriolet, one of the most successful of all convertibles. The most recent in the series of Volkswagen convertibles, today's New Beetle Cabriolet, is characterised by a combination of emotional and functional attributes. It is on this foundation of successful tradition that the concept C was designed.
The front end. The concept C features a radiator grille of unmistakable design (first featured in the roadster design study - the concept R - and, in this case, made of aluminium). Combined with striking round headlights, this feature forms the new "face" of the front end, variations of which will adorn many other Volkswagen models in future. The versatility of the headlights as an individual style feature in different vehicles is aptly demonstrated when one compares the concept R and the concept C. Although the formal parameters applied to both are the same, simply changing the proportions and the positioning of the various elements helps to create a look very specific to the individual vehicle.
Another feature which is common to both these new Volkswagen cars is the slight slant of the bonnet over the headlights, which creates the impression of "eyebrows". This is a stylistic attribute first introduced in the premium-class Phaeton.
The positioning of the headlights and radiator grille has also substantially influenced the modulation of the concept C's bonnet, with the V-contour of the grille reproduced in a wide depression on the bonnet. The sides of the bonnet along these V-contours are raised to a slight curve, giving this cabriolet distinctly contoured wings and wheelhouses. The result is an exquisitely muscular-looking shoulder section. This robust look is further accentuated by protruding wheel arches and the treads already described above.
The rear end. The rear section of this design study is similarly athletic, with the wings gently curving up over the wheelhouses, which is why the aerodynamically fashioned edge of the boot lid is embedded between the wings. This particular feature alone already produces a dynamic effect.
The silhouette. Regardless of whether the roof of the concept C is up or down, the vehicle's side silhouette is determined chiefly by the tapered design of its rear end. Other particularly conspicuous features are the joints running along the vehicle's side and the fact that both the bonnet and the boot lid reach all the way down into the wings. The line dividing the bonnet and the front wings extends quasi seamlessly into the line marking the lower edge of the side windows. The rear one of these lid joints (i.e. the material demarcation between the boot lid and the wings) extends the sweep of the side window in a dynamic contrary motion. Even when the roof is up, the interplay of all the forms visible at the side of the vehicle produces an extremely elegant, aesthetically appealing contour.
When it is down, a side view of the concept C reveals all the charismatic charm of a classic cabriolet. Convention was not at play in the homogeneous design of the windscreen frame (a stand-alone element in its own right), which, as already described, because it does not extend all too far into the interior, affords vehicle occupants unadulterated open-air-driving pleasure.
Moreover, the A-pillars connect with the closed roof to form a flowing window curvature. This is by no means a design element which can be taken for granted, since the folding steel roof, with the curves running along its sides and the elegantly incorporated rear windscreen, certainly does not look like a stack-mounted hardtop roof. Instead, it conveys the look of flowing contours reminiscent of a high-class coupe.
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