Supersleek Chrysler Airflow concept officially unveiled at CES 2022
This breezy-looking utility vehicle offers up to 400 miles of range and promises Level 3 autonomous driving capability.
Craig ColeFormer reviews editor
Craig brought 15 years of automotive journalism experience to the Cars team. A lifelong resident of Michigan, he's as happy with a wrench or welding gun in hand as he is in front of the camera or behind a keyboard. When not hosting videos or cranking out features and reviews, he's probably out in the garage working on one of his project cars. He's fully restored a 1936 Ford V8 sedan and then turned to resurrecting another flathead-powered relic, a '51 Ford Crestliner. Craig has been a proud member of the Automotive Press Association (APA) and the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA).
What's old is new again at Chrysler. The automaker reached deep into the past with its latest design study. The new Airflow concept, which debuted on Wednesday at CES 2022, wears a legendary name that dates back to the 1930s, but there is nothing outdated or old-fashioned about this sleek EV.
If it makes it into production, something the automaker has not confirmed, this battery-powered design study could be Chrysler's inaugural all-electric vehicle. The Stellantis division is expected to field its first BEV by the year 2025, though it's unclear if it will be the Airflow or something else entirely. According to a statement provided to Roadshow by the automaker, "At this time, we are not sharing information or details on the Chrysler battery-electric vehicle (BEV) planned for 2025."
Whether it gets built or not, the Airflow concept promises ample range and boatloads of technology, including Level 3 autonomous driving capability. But arguably, this vehicle's coolest feature is that retro name.
The original Airflow, which debuted in the early 1930s, was an engineering tour de force. The car was loaded with clever features that improved safety and passenger comfort, though the sleek, wind tunnel-tuned body was the car's real claim to fame… and, unfortunately, its downfall. Despite having numerous advantages, the Airflow's awkward looks were too avant garde for the 1930s motoring public and few were sold.
Fortunately, this should not be an issue for Chrysler's latest concept. Looking pretty much exactly like the vehicle we stole a glimpse of during parent company Stellantis' battery day broadcast early last month, the new Airflow is sleek and suitably handsome, even if some parts of it seem unfinished, like the front and rear corners, which are just a bit too clean. The Arctic White paint is also quite stark, though it does contrast nicely with the vehicle's black roof and pillars as well as the Celestial Blue accents that are used sparingly on the body. Elegant LED headlamps and taillights punctuate both ends.
The Airflow Concept's wheels, which span 22 inches, look sharp and are pushed outward to the corners. This concept appears to have a strongly cab-forward design, something that helps maximize interior space. And just like its name, this vehicle layout is another old-school Chrysler theme brought back to life. Cab-forward was a big selling point back in the 1990s, particularly with the company's LH cars including the
Inside, the Airflow's cabin is bright and airy, with acres of white leather and contrasting accents. Reducing the environmental impact, those cow hides are vegetable-tanned and the floor mats as well as the carpeting are made of recycled materials. A crystalline control dial looks like a piece of jewelry floating above the center console, adding a bit of richness to the interior, though curiously, the Airflow doesn't appear to have any air vents. There are C-shaped air slots, though they totally blend in with the dashboard design.
Expect this vehicle to feature a phalanx of eight screens, including one for each rear-seat passenger and your copilot riding shotgun. This array of displays is designed to give each passenger a personalized experience, allowing them to seamlessly connect to their digital lives and access entertainment and apps. Information can easily be shared between passengers by swiping it from one screen to another. Increasing the vehicle's usefulness, each seat features an individual camera, so passengers can join group video chats, meaning you're never not available to participate in meetings, so don't even think about lying to your boss. Even the driver gets a camera, but it only works when the vehicle is in park.
All that STLA SmartCockpit tech is powered by the STLA Brain Platform, a new electrical and software architecture. This system allows developers to create new features and services, and then quickly push them out to existing vehicles without having to wait for new hardware to launch. As Chrysler puts it, this breaks the bond between hardware and software generations.
This all-electric vehicle should make driving much less of a chore because will support STLA AutoDrive. This advanced cruise-control system promises Level 3 autonomous driving capability, which according to the Society of Automotive Engineers is conditional automation. This means the vehicle can drive itself in certain situations, like on highways or in traffic jams, though the driver must be ready to take over when the vehicle demands it.
As for nuts and bolts, there aren't too many details to share, but the Chrysler Airflow concept features all-wheel drive, courtesy of two 150-kilowatt (201-horsepower) electric motors, one mounted at each end of the vehicle. With around 400 hp on tap, it should be quite a performer, though there's enough room underneath that rakish body to fit larger motors, so an even higher-performance model could be introduced in the future, assuming, you know, the vehicle gets built at all. No specifics were shared, but this Chrysler's battery pack is intended to deliver between 350 and 400 miles of range, a more-than-competitive figure, at least right now. Given how things are progressing in the automotive industry, that may sound less impressive in a couple years.
Inside and out, the Airflow concept looks great. Nearly everything about it seems ready for production, so fingers crossed that Chrysler will build this vehicle. With plenty of performance and technology, it's a product that could reinvigorate this troubled brand.