CES 2022 may be partially virtual, but automakers are still trotting out their plans for the near future. The Chrysler Airflow concept portends the destiny of Stellantis’ premium American brand, which will introduce its first battery-electric vehicle in 2025 before going all-EV by 2028. The Airflow likely presages a production model, but at the very least, it previews Chrysler’s future of EV propulsion and Level 3 driver assistance.
In contrast to its 1930s-era name, the Airflow crossover also previews the future of the automaker’s design language, which will apparently do away with the current 300’s blocky, upright visage in favor of something sleeker and more shapely. The new Chrysler also gets an extensive suite of connectivity features, which will allow the car’s occupants to control other aspects of their lives – like home security, shopping lists, and even video conference calls – right from the car’s cabin.
The first step in Chrysler’s march toward electrification is a robust EV platform. The Airflow concept obliges with Stellantis’ new battery-specific architecture called STLA (say “Stella”). The Airflow is likely based on the STLA Medium platform for mid-sized cars and crossovers, and Chrysler expects a theoretical range of between 350 and 400 miles (563 and 643 kilometers). The Airflow gets all-wheel drive courtesy of two 150-kilowatt (201-horsepower) electric drive modules (EDMs) that combine the motor, geartrain, and inverter into a single package. The Airflow likely has about 400 ponies between the two EDMs.
The automaker also says the platform is capable of accepting larger, more powerful power units, making the prospect of a higher-performance vehicle much more likely – SRT fans, take notice. Stellantis also announced in its EV day last July that all of its future power modules would at least be 400-volt compatible, and that the flagship EDM features 800-volt architecture. As the standard-bearer for Chysler’s electrification plans, it’s likely the Airflow features that technology. As for the battery that powers those electric motors, your guess is as good as ours since the automaker didn’t provide many details.
Technology To Spare
Chrysler was rather verbose as to the Airflow’s technology package, however. The concept car boasts Stellantis’ new STLA Brain electronic/electric architecture, which mates hardware with software in one package to help maximize its life cycle. Theoretically at least, that means the Chrysler Airflow can receive over-the-air updates to keep its user interface and technology current for longer than anything on the market today.
STLA SmartCockpit, which builds on the Brain architecture, features individual screens for each interior occupant that offer connected entertainment, downloadable apps, and e-commerce – good for things like placing to-go orders from restaurants, finding and paying for parking near your destination, and restocking groceries and household supplies. Each screen gets its own camera, perfect for on-the-go video calls and conferencing. Including that feature in the driver’s position would be somewhat concerning were it not for the Airflow’s final technological party trick.
Thanks to a partnership with BMW, the Chrysler Airflow concept boasts STLA AutoDrive technology, a Level 3 driver-assistance suite that can remove the driver from the equation in specific circumstances like freeway or limited-access highway driving. More advanced than other systems currently on sale in the US, Level 3 autonomy allows the driver to take their eyes off the road and their hands off the wheel, freeing them up to catch up on work or play video games with other vehicle occupants.
Chrysler says the Airflow concept’s silent propulsion and low environmental impact inspired designers to take a similar approach to styling. The result is a graceful, aerodynamic flagship that’s a big departure from the old-school blocky 300. The long wheelbase and wide track emphasize passenger space, with 22-inch wheels giving the Airflow a modern, planted stance. Thanks to a low center of gravity and that wheels-at-the-corners layout, Chrysler says the Airflow will offer excellent handling and performance, though we doubt it will challenge the Mercedes-AMG EQS 53 or Porsche Taycan too much.
A two-tone roof and dark Celestial Blue exterior accents provide some visual interest and help the Airflow look slimmer and sleeker, especially in the concept’s Arctic White body color. Up front, the illuminated Chrysler wing emblem connects to the LED headlamps by means of a wide light strip that spans across the beveled grille panel, and a matching single taillight on the rear emphasizes the Airflow’s wide stance. The exterior illumination is animated upon locking and unlocking, and it glows in aqua when the Airflow is charging.
Like many other modern EVs – the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Genesis GV60 come to mind – the Chrysler Airflow concept takes advantage of its battery-specific platform to give the interior a laid-back, lounging vibe. No driveshaft means no center tunnel, so the Airflow’s floor is completely flat. Flowing design forms appear on the door panels, with the driver and passenger interfaces hidden beneath dark panes of glass for a minimalist feel. Crystalized textures on the drive selector and other controls impart a technical, modern appearance.
The front and rear seats feature pedestal-style mounts that improve toe room and, in concert with the full glass roof, reduce claustrophobia. A floating center console separates the front seats, with plenty of storage underneath the bridge for purses and backpacks. In back, a low-profile armrest appears between individual bucket seats, meaning the Airflow is a spacious transportation pod for four – a rear bench will likely appear on the production car. A sliding cargo floor eases loading. Although Chrysler wouldn’t cop to specific passenger or luggage volume, the Airflow looks like it would be a genuinely comfortable place to spend time.
Chrysler will become the vanguard of parent company Stellantis’ EV aspirations in the United States, a notable about-face from last year’s rumors that the brand was on the chopping block. The Airflow concept, which appears practically production-ready thanks to feasible lighting, mirror, and bumper designs, will likely be the first new product from Chrysler in about a decade when it goes on sale by 2025. Just three years later, the entire Chrysler portfolio will be all-electric – well before Ford, Chevrolet, Toyota, and even premium marques like Volvo and Audi.
That’s less of a feat when you remember that the current Chrysler lineup consists of just two products, the Pacifica minivan (and its functionally identical Voyager derivative) and the ancient 300 sedan. After the brand’s first EV arrives in 2025, we expect the profitable minivan family will be next to switch to pure battery power. In the meantime, we expect to see many more EV concepts from Stellantis’ family of brands, including some tantalizing long-range pickups and SUVs built on the STLA Frame platform.
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