Cars’ net gain
Concept models focus on the tech, writes Craig Duff in Detroit
THE South Koreans used a pair of upstarts to upstage their hosts at the 2011 Detroit Motor Show. Kia’s KV7 and the Hyundai Curb were two of the more radical vehicles by mainstream makers and both gave pointers to the future directions of the brands.
They also showed the next battle for customers’ cash will be based as much on software suites and internet access as engine performance and styling.
All of the carmakers — and most of the parts suppliers, from Denso to Harman Kardon — at the US show were touting their approach to telematics and web access, but the South Korean duo took it to the extremes.
The KV7 was purely a concept vehicle — wooden flooring and swivel seats don’t usually make the transition into production — but the boxy activity van showcased a range of ideas that could soon be seen on regular models.
Leading the way was a PCpowered software suite that controlled the on-board infotainment system and acted as a wi-fi hub.
That gave the trackballcontrolled front screen and huge rear tabletop touch screen internet access as well as ensuring all passengers can connect their Android mobile phones or iPhone/iTouch to the web.
The boxy style of the KV7 is based on the Koup but uses a passenger-side gullwing door for easy access to the rear seats.
The concept was powered by the new Theta II 2-litre turbocharged direct-injection engine which is good for 213kW and Kia says fuel use is only 7.8 litres for 100km based on the US highway test cycle.
Over at the Hyundai stand the Curb had a conventional two-door exterior, though with cameras replacing the side mirrors, and the machine rode high on massive 22.5-inch rims.
But it was inside where most attention lay, with an acrylic touch screen flowing from the dash cluster to the centre console and across into the passenger area. It was paired with monitors in the back of the headrests.
A heads-up display projects navigation onto the screen and is linked to the exterior cameras.
The screen can also show vehicle diagnostics, download apps and act as a video phone.
‘‘The goal was to make sure passengers felt connected to each other and the urban environment around them,’’ Bradley Arnold, Curb interior designer, says.
The Gen-Y targeted machine uses Hyundai’s Blue Link software to provide in-car social networking.
Calls from friends can be received and the system then shows their location on the satnav.
More mundanely, the system enables remote locking and unlocking of the car, notifies the driver when the vehicle’s diagnostics detect a problem and can be set to create a speed alert and connect to the internet to access traffic updates and nearby points of interest. More Detroit photos, Pages 30-31.
Hi-tech: (above) inside the Kia KV7 and (left) the Hyundai Curb.