The return of an icon at the IAA
Frankfurt, Germany. 12th September 2017. If you look into a rear-view mirror, you generally only see things that are behind you. However, a look back can also generate a vision of the future. That’s certainly true of the thrilling Borgward Isabella Concept, which is celebrating its world premiere at this year’s IAA in Frankfurt. The vehicle unites the brand’s traditional virtues with the attributes of today’s Borgward Group AG. Among the outstanding features of the Borgward Isabella Concept are its fascinating design, its revolutionary interior and operating concept, its digital connectivity, and the electrification of its drive train.
Unlike many other studies, the Isabella Concept is more than just a vision of a future vehicle concept. On the contrary, the main development goal for the reincarnation of the legendary Isabella from the 1950s was the creation of a characteristic design DNA that would serve as the future focus of the entire Borgward company.
Perfect styling: The “Impressions of Flow” design principle
The design idiom of the four-door, four-seat concept coupe is based on Borgward’s “Impressions of Flow” design principle, which will be valid for all vehicles in the future. Anders Warming, Head of Design at Borgward Group AG and the driving force behind the Isabella Concept project, said,
“The carefully coordinated body shape with its smooth transitions creates a perfect balance between rounded organic shapes and precise lines. Our aim was to create stylistic synergies between beauty and technology.”
The Borgward Isabella Concept impresses with its perfect dimensions (5.00 meters long, 1.40 meters high, and 1.92 meters wide) and the beauty of its flowing three-dimensional and sculptural shapes, which are smoothly connected to technical and functional elements such as the cooling air inlets and the aerodynamic components—without any aggressive undertone. Warming is convinced that such an undertone would be unacceptable in an all-electric coupe.
“Aerodynamic excellence and efficiency play a key role in this vehicle and define its flowing shapes,” he said. “We are convinced that a vehicle body with a perfect flow of air through and around it must radiate accessibility, appeal, and a commanding presence. This is fully in line with Borgward’s ‘Impressions of Flow’ design principle for our future electric vehicles.”
A futuristic “graphic tech fade” links the past and the present
The Isabella Concept’s harmonious appearance, with its characteristic flowing transitions between the individual body sections, is enhanced by the “graphic tech fade” coloring. The graphic is based on Borgward’s diamond-shaped brand logo and is a futuristic interpretation of the two-tone paint job of the original Isabella models. The vehicle’s two tones, Zeitgeist Blue1 and Zeitgeist Blue2, fade out in the transition zones between the hood and the windshield, the windshield and the roof, and the rear window and the rear hatch with its distinctive diamond-shaped graphic. In this way, the smooth styling of the Isabella Concept is further enhanced in line with the “Impressions of Flow” principle.
A progressive Isabella front with a centrally mounted diamond-shaped brand logo
As an all-electric coupe, the Isabella Concept represents the future of Borgward. The company already decided during the conceptual phase to dispense with the Octagon radiator grille, which had been a classic feature of the BX models to date. Instead, it chose to create a striking new brand-specific look with a substantially accentuated diamond-shaped Borgward logo as its key element. As a result, the homogeneous and largely closed front section radiates progressiveness and appeal. The prominently positioned diamond-shaped Borgward logo is emphasized by the two futuristic headlights, whose contours and graphic elements also cite the diamond-shaped logo. The headlights view their automotive surroundings with a piercing gaze and at the same time form a harmonious connecting element between the fenders and the sporty flat hood of the electric motor.
The design of the lower front section fulfills the aerodynamic requirements for making the flow of air through and around the vehicle as efficient as possible. In cooperation with the aerodynamics experts, the designers integrated the cooling air inlets in such a way that they enable the air to flow through the wheel housings in order to effectively cool the brakes, for example.
Transformation of the classic Isabella coupe lines into a modern look
The vehicle is as sporty and elegant as a coupe and combines these features with the modern interpretation of a four-door sports sedan. This is enriched by a windshield that is strongly pulled forward in the style of a super sports car. As a result, the Isabella Concept proudly expresses its strong forward thrust even when it’s standing still. However, the real eyecatcher when viewed from the side is the future-oriented transformation of the classic Isabella’s swinging hips—a reminder of the early decade of Germany’s “economic miracle,” when unbridled optimism was the order of the day. This charming hip line is accentuated by an aluminum trim that visually extends the entire side view. In the vehicle’s rear, the elegant curve merges smoothly into the seamlessly integrated slim tail-light bands. The design team headed by Anders Warming chose the modern lines of the Isabella for more reasons than just stylistic ones. They encompass technical features such as sensors for the driver assistance systems and the electronically operated flush-mounted door openers.
The aerodynamic excellence of the Isabella Concept becomes particularly evident when the vehicle is viewed from the side. From this angle, efficiency is enhanced by a variety of detailed solutions as well as the streamlined shape of the basic vehicle body. Behind the front wheels are two free-standing vertical spoilers that enable air to perfectly ventilate the wheel housings by being actively channeled through them, as well as flowing around the vehicle’s flanks. This is also where the lenses of the two optoelectronic side-view mirrors are integrated. They replace the conventional rear-view mirrors and also reduce wind resistance. There is also a flow of air through the two free-standing C-pillars, which additionally generate the downforce on the rear axle that is needed for maintaining driving stability.
Thanks to doors that open in opposite directions, front and rear-seat passengers can easily get in and out of the vehicle, especially because the highly stable Isabella body has no B-pillars. A clever swinging/sliding mechanism lets the doors slide forward and backward and provides an unobstructed view of the lounge-like interior. The dynamically sporty design of the Isabella Concept is also energy-efficient and is accentuated by large 21-inch wheels. They combine low rolling resistance with great traction and help to ensure that the modern Isabella is very enjoyable to drive and ride in, no matter whether it’s fuel-efficiently gliding along or sprinting through hilly terrain.
A unique and sensuous sculpture—the rear of the Isabella Concept
The rear section of the Isabella Concept is like a three-dimensional automotive sculpture that makes a strong statement about aerodynamic excellence and the typically high quality of the brand’s design. At the same time, it radiates the dignity and stateliness that characterized the large Borgward coupes of the 1930s in particular. Here, softly flowing surfaces join with sharp, crisp lines and a slim tail-light design to create an impressive ensemble. The lower diffusor is made of real carbon and, like the ventilated C-pillars, optimizes the entire flow of air in the rear section, thus making an additional spoiler on the rear hatch unnecessary.
Inner values: A revolutionary interior concept
The automotive world is being thoroughly transformed, and it’s looking for ways to harmonize the digital universe with traditional aspects of individual mobility. This becomes especially clear in car interiors, which will change greatly in the future. According to Anders Warming, this paradigm shift is ambivalent in nature. “Traditional and innovative interior concepts should effectively complement one another, as they do in our Isabella Concept. The operating and display concept, which features 3D animations and interaction surfaces, is really revolutionary, as is the design of the Surfboard instrument panel and the Scarf center console with its touch display. On the other hand, the interior also includes classic features such as a puristic steering wheel that lacks additional controls, as well as a lounge-like design with individual rear seats that provide the kind of superior comfort one expects of a chauffeur-driven limousine.”
Unique features: the Surfboard, the Scarf, and interaction surfaces
The main eyecatcher in the front section of the Isabella Concept’s interior is the futuristic Surfboard instrument panel. It seems to float freely in space and is only connected to the middle of the center console. In turn, the console, which is called the Scarf, serves as the central element that flows around the space separating the driver from the front passenger. The upper section contains a holographic display that can three-dimensionally depict a wide variety of services ranging from 3D navigation and reservation systems to vehicle menus. Under this display are the raised three-dimensional interaction surfaces that are operated by means of touchscreen technology. These seamlessly integrated triangular surfaces can be individually assigned in accordance with the front passengers’ preferences. Thus they enable users to ideally position their hands so that they can intuitively operate the system without being distracted from driving. This is an intentional departure from the conventional philosophy, which always requires the occupants to adapt themselves to the vehicle’s existing controls such as switches, buttons or levers. By contrast, the Isabella Concept adapts itself to the driver and the front passenger, who quickly learn how to operate their customized user interfaces like a familiar musical instrument.
The display concept is augmented by a seamlessly integrated display that extends beneath the windshield across the entire width of the vehicle, links the two A-pillars with one another, and further enhances the interior’s spacious feel. The windshield is strongly pulled forward in the style of classic super sports cars. It also pushes this display far to the front, which makes it easier for the eyes to accommodate themselves when the driver switches back and forth between looking at the display and the road. In addition to a variety of infotainment content, the images from the side-mounted exterior cameras are shown at the extreme left and right of the display. This eliminates the need for a conventional rear-view mirror.
The puristic steering wheel is used exclusively for its original purpose and the designers have deliberately decided to dispense with the excessive number of switches, buttons, and rollers that have become common nowadays. As a result, the classic steering wheel forms a nice contrast to the triangulated avant-garde user interface of the Scarf.
Free-standing sculptured seats and fractured landscapes
The intricately shaped individual sculptured seats, which are a design statement in and of themselves, remind viewers of the free-swinging, high-quality seats in modern apartments and form an appealing contrast to the complex designs of the interior surfaces. The trim of the rear doors and the surface between the individual rear seats follow the design principle of fractured landscapes. Here the topography is split into seamlessly linked triangular surfaces and incorporates the design principle of triangulated surfaces that is used in the Scarf and the “graphic tech fade” coloring.
In the elegant and sublimely futuristic rear with its two individual seats, the airy impression of the interior is heightened by the Carpet concept. This concept dispenses
with the rear supports of the front seats, thus creating plenty of foot room, whose breadth is emphasized by the homogeneous lining made of high-quality Chameleon fabric floor coverings. The lounge-like atmosphere in the rear is heightened by the rear-seat entertainment system. The designers intentionally refrained from firmly integrating displays into the roof liner or the backrests of the front seats. Instead, they integrated two tablet computers that rear-seat passengers can easily store in side slots after use.
A large passenger compartment with plenty of space
Of course the amount of room available in a low four-door sedan such as the Isabella Concept is more limited than in the full-size BXi7 SUV, mainly because the enclosed space is much smaller. Nonetheless, the designers and packaging specialists at Borgward Group AG have managed to perfectly integrate the ePROPULSION drive platform with the battery stacks, air conditioner, performance electronics, charge management system, and electric motors. As a result, the sedan provides an outstanding amount of space for four occupants, who enjoy a sense of spaciousness that is similar to that of the Borgward BXi7.
Borgward’s electric drive platform ePROPULSION is installed in a sedan for the first time
In the near-series Borgward BXi7 concept car, Borgward Group AG presented the Borgward ePROPULSION electric drive system platform in an SUV at the beginning of this year. Now the modular Borgward ePROPULSION system is celebrating its premiere in the Isabella Concept, a four-door sedan. Here the electric platform’s impressive performance is especially evident. The battery, which was jointly developed by Borgward and its strategic partner LG Electronics, makes a big impression with its high energy density. In the next development steps, the drive platform’s electric range is due to be increased to as much as 500 kilometers. The charging cycle to 80 percent capacity takes only 30 minutes at a fast-charging station. The Isabella Concept can be recharged inductively as well.
The eAWD electronic control and electric motors at both the front and the rear axle turn the Isabella Concept into an all-wheel-drive vehicle with a fully variable torque distribution system. The two permanent magnet synchronous motors with integrated converters have a combined output of 220 kW/300 hp, deliver a maximum torque of 450 Newton meters and unite, in line with the driver’s wishes, sporty performance and handling with the highest degree of efficiency. As a result, the vehicle accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in 4.5 seconds, and its thunderous forward thrust does not end until 250 km/h is reached.
Specific driving programs for a customized driving experience
In addition to a high level of energy efficiency, the Borgward Isabella Concept provides plenty of driving pleasure. The sporty sedan has a total of five driving programs in order to fulfill different driving requirements. The ECO program ensures maximum energy efficiency and an optimal range, while COMFORT is the NVH-optimized mode for very relaxed driving. When set to the AWD program, the system activates permanent all-wheel drive with symmetrical torque distribution in order to ensure the best possible winter performance on low-friction surfaces such as snow and ice. The SPORT and SPORT+ modes offer a rear-wheel drive focus, more direct responsiveness of the control systems, and a steeper accelerator response to ensure great agility and dynamic handling. In accordance with the philosophy behind the Isabella Concept, these driving programs are not subject to rigid control strategies. Instead, they respond to the driver’s requirements and accommodate themselves accordingly.
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