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Detroit 2019: Pontus Fontaeus on the GAC Entranze concept

15 January 2019 | by Lem Bingley

Seven-seat, monovolume people carriers may have fallen out of favour, but GAC executive design director Pontus Fontaeus predicts a resurgence once today’s social media-obsessed teens become car buyers. “I talk to my daughter and she wants to go on road trips with her friends – at least five friends – which is completely different to when I was her age,” he observed.

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The GAC Entranze concept is designed to accommodate that kind of social connection, whether between friends or family. Fontaeus says the car has been designed from the inside out with human needs to the fore. Prioritising interior space has meant abandoning some traditional styling elements.

“We have no shoulder or catwalk or things like that you normally find on the exterior,” he said.

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Instead, the Entranze has transparent plexiglass panels layered over a hexagonal, honeycomb texture. “The intention was to have it look really clean from afar, almost like a pure rock, but as you get a little closer there are intricate details that you start to see,” explained Yichan Chung, chief visual and communication designer at GAC’s Silicon Valley R&D Center, the studio that produced the car. Like the fractal patterns found in nature, the closer you look the more there is to see.

Fontaeus added that connecting the inside and outside of the Entranze was a key goal, drawing attention to how the top of the fender visually links to an interior spar supporting the IP.

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“Today, with cars, the exterior and interior come together and it looks like a forced marriage,” Fontaeus argued. “You don’t find any symbiosis. Here, we started to design the car from the inside out, for the human needs, and we have the exterior being a reflection of that.”

The pillarless aperture is revealed by twin sliding doors, inspired by the modern connection between a home’s interior and its terrace via sliding glass doors – something that is common in California, Fontaeus added. Only the top section of body side opens as a door, with the lower section folding down to create a carpeted step.

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“We have this fold-out rocker panel, because a sliding door covering the wheels doesn’t look good,” Fontaeus noted. “So you still see most of the wheels when they’re out, and then you have this rocker panel you can sit on. The car is really connected to what’s going on around it. This is like a bench seat; you can rest on it at the beach and enjoy the sunset.”

The concept was entirely developed in virtual reality, with no clay modelling whatsoever. “We did an ingress-egress model in China, like a buck, and we videotaped it,” Fontaeus added. “But we are in the VR every day – we are in the Matrix – and this is so fast for us. We look at exterior, interior and CMF at the same time, and then we bring cars into VR that are known entities, to gauge proportions. So we are a completely digital studio [in California], we don’t have a skunk shop in the cellar where there’s a team of clay modellers.”

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Inside, the Entranze features an unusual wheel design, with twin touchscreens behind the spokes in place of buttons on the face of the wheel. On the passenger side, an information screen is hidden behind a cork surface that slides up to cover it when inactive. “We have this physical door that slides down,” Fontaeus explained. “If you don’t need the technology you don’t want to look at a black screen. How boring is that?”

Cork as an interior material is “super interesting,” according to Fontaeus: “It’s something you harvest every six-to-nine years from the tree bark, and then it regrows throughout the 300-year life of the tree, so it’s a super sustainable material.”

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The interior also features swathes of carbon-neutral Alcantara, in forest-inspired colours, with warm brass highlights. Melange two-tone shades are used to soften the geometric shapes of the seating and the patterns on the floor. “Everything in food is textures, and it should be in cars too,” Fontaeus said.