Why do designers make the decisions they do? It’s been fodder for armchair debate since long before armchairs, not to mention subreddits, were even invented. From the sidelines, car design can seem arbitrary. But—as is in engineering—there’s always a brief, everything has a reason, and someone had to defend that reason in front of a stern-faced panel of some description. That’s why I've always enjoyed hearing about design from the designers themselves. This past week, Polestar held an event at the Classic Car Club Manhattan where I got my first look at the company’s Precept concept in person. I also got a full walkaround from Maximilian Missoni, head of design at Polestar.
His is the team that created the Precept, a concept for a sedan that will appear in the EV-focused automaker's lineup as the Polestar 5 in 2024, so he's familiar with all the whats and whys. A graduate of the Royal College of Art in London, Missoni launched his career at Volkswagen Group, designing for several of its brands. In 2012, Volvo Car Corporation hired him as a chief exterior designer, tasked with modernizing the brand’s styling. In 2018, he was promoted to being head of design at Polestar.
Up close, the Precept is attractive, with a combination of busy futurism and low-slung sleekness, which at some angles scans as the kind of sexiness a humanoid would appreciate. Those moments keep the overall design from seeming bloodless and dystopian. Indeed, Polestar is leaning into a look Missoni calls “robotic,” which contrasts with other automakers’ embrace of organic, flowing shapes.
The car has its share of meticulous, high-tech lines, along with some familiar sports-car metaphors. A pair of mild fender humps, for example, give the concept a hint of exotica at the front. Over at Polestar’s cousin Lotus, also at the Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, they might call those humps “Becker points” after legendary engineering director Roger Becker, who believed they helped a driver place a car accurately.
Similarly, the nose-mounted airfoil, which accelerates air through the deeply channeled hood to reduce turbulence and improve laminar flow, allowed designers to deviate from the typical, if aerodynamically efficient, rounded front surfaces seen in other EVs.
With the car’s LiDAR sensor, which protrudes above the Precept's windshield, designers had two choices: obscure it with some sort of facade or make it an external design feature. The location of a LiDAR sensor on a vehicle plays a significant role in how well the ADAS system can detect objects. By separating the sensor assembly design from the rest of the body, designers could choose an optimal location for the camera without designing the rest of the car around it. The Drive's Chris Tsui said he thought it "looks as if the car is wearing a tiny hat, or somebody, somewhere is missing a WiFi router." Tesla, which uses a system of cameras and software instead of LiDAR for object detection in advanced driver-assistance systems, doesn't have the same design issue to solve, but I didn't wade into that debate. Polestar is all-in with its LiDAR-based system, which uses tech from Luminar.
Considering how many concept cars over the years have swapped rear- and side-view mirrors for cameras and screens, it's no surprise to see them in use here. Of course, the Precept's slim, side-view camera housings are more tantalizing purely because of the possibility that they just might be legal by the time the production model hits the streets in '24. Maybe.
Inside, the cabin reflects Polestar's corporate commitment to sustainability and circularity by reducing the amount of virgin plastics used on board. Taking cues from non-automotive influences such as Nike and Prada, designers made prominent use of a backlit texture made of a flax-based natural composite, a kind of vegan carbon fiber, as well as seat covers 3D-knitted from recycled PET bottles. The company says these and other materials have helped the Precept cut weight by 50 percent and plastics consumption by 80 percent.
The upcoming Polestar 5, according to the advance image above, looks as though the design team will dial back some of the more future-forward aesthetic elements and turn up the modern, curvy sports-sedan knob. Nonetheless, with the production model coming in 2024, I'm happy to settle in for a couple of years' worth of speculation, spy shots, and teasers until I know exactly how much of the concept design—both interior and exterior—carries over.
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