Test The Limits

2015 Geneva Motor Show: Where functional Aerodynamics met Beautiful Design

By Exa

March 11 2015

A major theme, common to a number of manufacturers, at this year’s Geneva Motor Show was the continuing popularity of halo performance editions. Cars like the Ford GT supercar, Ford Focus RS, Honda Civic Type R, Porsche GT3 RS and Lamborghini Aventador SV showed off the aerodynamicist’s art most overtly, with wings and splitters on display, and each exhibiting their own interesting variations on the aerodynamic theme.

The Ford GT, for example, features two very pronounced ‘flying buttresses’, which flow from the roof to the rear wings. This dramatic device allowed the cabin to taper off to the rear for a more aerodynamic silhouette, developing a theme that we’ve seen recently in the BMW i8.

Ford describes these buttresses as functional rather than just for show, although they successfully echo the flying buttresses first seen on the original Ford GT40, first shown in 1964. Inspired design ideas such as these often need long hours spent with simulation software to perfect them, both in terms of form and function.

Among the more ‘everyday’ cars on show, we saw ever-sharper surface creasing, designed to increase the offset between the wheels and the glasshouse and add greater expression of each manufacturer’s individual designs. Examples included Infiniti’s dramatic QX30 concept, which previews a C-segment crossover arriving at the end of the year. The fact you could see the sharp edges at the rear of the car, to allow clearer windflow off the back of the body, proved that this concept wasn’t far off what buyers will likely see in the showrooms a number of months from now.

Also experimenting with dramatic surfaces was Seat’s 20V20 concept, previewing a larger, Audi Q5-sized crossover from the brand, as well as Lexus’s vision of a B-segment car, the LF-SA concept. The fact that car makers are getting increasingly bolder with designs such as these shows that aerodynamicists and production engineers are working together much earlier on in the development process, to allow them to simulate and test these less straightforward surfaces before committing to a final production-ready design.

Challenging this surface philosophy was an interesting concept from Volkswagen-owned Italdesign Giugiaro. The 5.4-meter long GEA concept was the design house’s vision of an autonomous-driving luxury sedan – and very elegant it was too, with a series of clean-cut lines and muscular creases running the length of its body. It moved forward the elegant simplicity of the Tesla Model S and showed how classy an aerodynamically-optimized electric car could look. The car rode on huge 26-inch wheels, designed to give it perfect proportions visually, while super slim tyres help lower rolling resistance. We also liked the pop-out rear-view cameras that looked back from the front wings when driving but retracted into the bodywork when parked.

Aerodynamics is becoming increasingly important as tougher global CO2 legislation comes into play, but Geneva showed, more than ever, that progress in aero is not about developing fuel-efficient cars, it’s about making beautiful cars more efficient.