GM Makes Trax - and Groove, Beat - for NY Page 2

April 4, 2007

So, with Trax, Beat, and Groove, GM has tried to deliver designs that are attractive, unexpectedly up-market and surprisingly roomy. In fact, their passenger compartments are, collectively, nearly as big as the larger Chevy Aveo.

 

“The interior was a huge area of priority for us,” stressed Moody. That meant the use of refined and sometimes unusual materials, such as the webbed fabric found in high-end office chairs, such as the popular Aeron. Each of the three show cars boasts plenty of pockets for “stuff,” added Moody, as a well as a “lot of connectivity,” including satellite radio and iPod plugs.

 

With Trax, the Korean development team tried see “how far could we go towards a soft-roader,” suggested Lyons . You might also see a bit of micro-minivan in the design, though there’s a lot more style to the side panels than the typical, slab-sided people-mover, notably the flared wheel wells, which give Trax a more muscular stance.

 

The oversized headlights and large, chromed crossbar grille are designed to say, “Chevrolet.” But there are some unusual design elements that should make Trax a standout. While the hood, roof and doors are traditional steel, painted in a glossy, sunrise orange, most of the other body panels, including the lower front fascia and front fenders, are made of plastic, and they’ve got a more satin-like finish with molded-in color.

 

GM is one of many automakers looking at alternatives to the traditional, high-gloss paint job. Chrysler made use of similar technology with the Dodge Demon concept revealed at the Geneva Motor Show, in March.

 

Another notable feature is Trax’ dual powertrain. Primarily a front-driver, the primary powerplant is a 1.0-liter gasoline engine, which we’re betting would push fuel economy up and well over the 40 mpg range. But Trax also relies on a small electric-drive system, this battery and motor combo hooked up to the rear wheels to create what GM engineers have dubbed an ELSD system, short for electronic limited-slip differential. This is not, they underscore, a hybrid.

 

“Traction is the intent here,” said Moody, “rather than fuel economy.”

 

Among the three minicar concepts, Lyons called Beat “more more sculptural, far more avant garde than you’d expect for a car” in this class.

 

The most sporty of the three minicar concepts, Beat is conceived to use a turbocharged, three-cylinder, 1.0-liter engine. “It’s less about fuel economy and more about performance,” said Lyons.

 

With its fast windshield and nose-down styling, Beat’s overall look is van-like, though as with Trax, the Inchon team worked hard to avoid that slab-sided feel. A five-door hatchback, it would likely fit very readily into today’s European market, Lyons suggested.

 

A 1912 Franklin, one of the Northeast museum’s classics on display

A 1912 Franklin, one of the Northeast museum’s classics on display

Enlarge Photo
Of the three show cars, Beat is the only “runner,” with a fully functioning powertrain and interior. And that cabin is definitely not the sort you’d find in a traditional econobox. The dash is covered in a hand-stitched, multi-color cloth, and the seats use an Aeron-like mesh that promises to be both comfortable and thin. That would permit more knee room for backseat passengers.

 

Of the three show cars, we have a sense that Groove may be the most blessed. Lyons admits it’s the one he can most easily see on the streets of Los Angeles. Think of it as a sort of factory-ready hotrod, “where you buy a car that’s already got a customized look,” asserted Lyons.

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