New, dramatic and futuristic Vauxhall Experimental concept EV revealed | CAR Magazine

New, dramatic and futuristic Vauxhall Experimental concept EV revealed

Published: 04 September 2023 Updated: 04 September 2023

► Vauxhall’s future vision revealed at IAA 2023
► Experimental shows off design and tech direction
► Astra-sized EV concept is envisioned to be capable of autonomy

The striking-looking Vauxhall Experimental concept has made its public debut at the 2023 IAA Munich motor show.

The dramatic new concept car is designed to show the medium-to-long-term vision of how future Vauxhalls will look, with design head Mark Adams and his team at the helm of the brand’s increasingly impactful design journey.

The brand’s new-age revolution is done, according to Adams, after the wild period post-PSA buyout. ‘It felt like literally having to require the plane mid-flight,’ he tells CAR, ‘because we still had to keep the brand going.

‘Now, though, we’ve finished 1.0 of the new direction,’ he says. ‘The cars coming in the next 12 to 18 months are done – well, for me they are anyway! – so Experimental is all about representing what the flavour of the brand will be after that time.’

And is that new flavour a grandiose GT car?

Nope. While it may look it, the Experimental occupies a very similar footprint to the Astra in the C-segment, despite its rakish proportions and stretching glasshouse implying something much larger. ‘We didn’t want this to be some five-metre long grand coupe when we’re a core brand in the middle of society,’ Adams tells CAR, adding that the Experimental’s size and footprint means ‘it’s right in the middle of the portfolio, which we felt was very important to make sure we’re grounded as a brand.’ And that’s the continuing theme Mark is going for: bringing new tech and new ideas to a brand that’s firmly in the mainstream.

Vauxhall Experimental concept at IAA Munich motor show 2023 - rear

For example, the ‘Vizor’ front end graphic that’s become a Vauxhall staple has evolved with the times. It features a glowing griffin badge – something Adams is very keen to see implemented as legal restrictions on backlit logos are relaxed – and what he calls a 4D Vizor. ‘I call it that because all the sensors and cameras needed for autonomous driving are contained in this tech hub of the car – it has everything it needs here to see and feel its way around.’

The car also features Vauxhall’s less-obvious-but-still-there compass motif, where a horizontal and vertical axis meet across the car. You can see it on bulges down the centre of the bonnet of cars like the Astra and Mokka, and it’s featured here too, but backlit.

Clean surfacing obscures the inclusion of various vents and air dams at the front and rear, including air ducts in the lower part of the front end that are inspired by the half-hexagonal wings on Darth Vader’s TIE Advanced X-1 starfighter in Star Wars. ‘That’s where the shape comes from,’ smiles Adams, ‘I just wanted to give it a bit of bite, a bit of personality as well as it performing a functional role.’ The wheels, too, feature active aerodynamic elements, morphing to direct airflow towards the brakes for additional cooling or away for lower drag.

What kind of tech does it have?

The interior is immensely clean and minimalistic. A large single dashboard panel stretches across the entire width of the cockpit – devoid of any switches or buttons – while a ‘floating’ centre console seems to be your only physical interaction tool. ‘The idea is to dematerialise the interior a little bit, so we’ve created something called Pure Experience. We think the world’s gone crazy with bombarding you with endless information, social media and so on – when you’re driving, you need to be aware of what you’re doing.’

You sit in chairs that use lightweight, breathable and supportive mesh to their advantage in an environment upholstered in recycled or natural materials. The steering wheel can slide up and out from beneath the dashboard, too.

Adams says the interior also uses light (in place of toxic chrome trimmings) and augmented reality to its advantage. Adams and his team have envisioned its future cars displaying information virtually. The Experimental even deploys animations ahead of you, including one of the restomod Manta GSe and a ‘follow me’ prompt, instead of a more traditional navigation arrow.

In keeping with the car’s autonomous capabilities, Adams and his team imagines the steering wheel sliding out of the dashboard or fitting flush. The Experimental even includes electrochromatic side glass that turns opaque, with Adams saying it can be used to give you some privacy when the car is in an autonomous driving mode, or provide an extra layer of security if your car’s parked or charging.

And it’s an EV?

Of course. But, given the Experimental is largely a design study, there are no performance specs for it. Safe to say, however, that what ever will be spun out of the Experimental concept will use the Stellantis-wide STLA platforms.

I’m still just surprised that this is a Vauxhall…

It does take some processing, doesn’t it? But the brand has gone from strength to strength in recent years, capitalising on PSA platform sharing and finding a design direction different enough from the other mainstream brands from within the Stellantis group.

‘We’re not under any illusions,’ Adams tells CAR. ‘We know that, from a brand perspective at least, we’ve got a lot of work still to do to not necessarily repair the brand with what the products are now, but the perception of it. Perception always drags behind the reality.

‘All we can do now is consistently hit the mark with every new vehicle we bring and, over time, that will bring the brand to the level we want.’

So, when will we see this thing beyond concept form?

Well, you have to remember this is a concept previewing a whole design language, rather than just one car. And this doesn’t entirely preview stuff that’s imminently going to be revealed (like the Manta EV teased back in 2021, or new-generation models of the Crossland or Grandland SUVs expected to launch next year).

But Adams promises that we will really see design elements from the Experimental hit the market. ‘I can honestly say that you’re going to see elements of this car appear in varying degrees on our cars in the future. We’ve been on a journey over the last few years, and this car really does represent a clear and confident next step. No deviating from the path – we’re just taking it to a whole new level.’

By Jake Groves

CAR's deputy news editor, gamer, serial Lego-ist, lover of hot hatches