If you've been keeping up with concept cars lately, you might have noticed a trend. From Mercedes Benz's "chill-out" Vision Tokyo to Nissan's deranged Teatro for Dayz — you could even throw Google's self-driving car in the mix — carmakers seem intent on capturing the hearts of young people by stripping out basically anything recognizable from an automobile in favor of flashy screens and high-tech features.
That's why Toyota's Kikai concept is so refreshing.
I don't think the Kikai is particularly beautiful or practical. Kind of the opposite, in fact — it looks like someone tried to build a character from Pixar's Cars out of Meccano. But it's the meaning behind the concept that makes the Kikai relevant. By taking the car's physical machinery and displaying it on the outside of the vehicle for all to see, Toyota is reminding drivers, passengers, and bystanders of the fundamental technology that actually makes cars work. The entire vehicle has been designed to emphasize what it means to drive.
The driver's seat is in the center of the dashboard, which Toyota says "gives a more instinctive sensory connection with the vehicle." There's also a window panel at the driver's feet, showing how the wheels and suspension operate and helping to convey a feeling of speed. And, of course, there's no touchscreen interface — you'll be looking at a lot of analog dials and flipping a bunch of physical switches.
"While most vehicles conceal their inner workings beneath smooth sheet metal," says Toyota in a press release, "this concept encourages us to appreciate the complex beauty of the mechanical aspects of cars. More broadly, it reminds us of the appeal of the physical and tactile in a digital age."
Kikai means "machine" in Japanese, and the name couldn't be more appropriate — this car isn't a gadget. It's a machine.