Toyota’s off-road concept vehicle, the FT4X, is a “casual-core” vehicle for “outdoorsy millennials.” It’s a carabiner-orange (more on that later), boxy SUV with knobby tires and a four-cylinder engine. But the engine is the least interesting thing about it.
With a breathtaking flurry of buzzwords, delivered with an appropriate number of winks, Ian Cartabiano, Studio Chief Designer at Calty Design Research, the Newport Beach, California-based firm that designed the FT4X, introduced all of its plug-ins, cameras, and sleeping bag/armrests on Wednesday at the New York Auto Show.
It’s a daunting task to talk about millennials while not sounding out of touch, but Cartabiano did an admirable job navigating a minefield of cliches. While avoiding calling the car “chill,” It was described as “casual core” a few times.
“In today’s swipe-left, swipe-right world, the FT4X is equipped with switchable knobs at every touch point,” Cartabiano said.
Among its tech-centric features, the concept vehicle — this isn’t going to be on a lot anytime soon — boasts a GoPro camera built into the rear-view mirror, mountain-bike style. There are also power outlets and tent tie-hooks on the roof:
“Whenever the FT4X encounters some heroic scenery, a Go Pro camera built into the driver’s side rearview mirror captures it all, mud splats and everything,” Cartabiano said, referencing the GoPro Hero camera mounted outside the car. (One wonders how this expensive piece of electronics won’t be ripped out while parked on the street.)
Inside, a North Face-branded armrest unfolds into a sleeping bag. There are metal water bottles in the cupholders. It’s all color coded. It’s incredibly roomy. It’s a rolling clubhouse. It’s the joke that some kids make about having a van where they could do whatever they wanted, free of parental oversight, realized. (Finally!)
Very few people asked what was under the hood, which is probably for the best. Climate-conscious millennials skeptical of spending money on a car that runs on carbon-emitting, planet-warming, poisonous, fossil fuels might shy away from the idea of buying a gas-powered car, even if it has cameras built-in.
“Right now, it’s just a concept, so we need to study the overall reaction first and see where it goes in the future,” Cartabiano told Inverse when asked if his vision for this concept includes an electric motor. A Toyota representative chimed in: “We do envision this to be a four-cylinder.”
Instead, Cartabiano focused attention on the rear-end of the car. The FT4X (which stands for “Future Toyota Four-Wheel Drive”) boasts a hatch that opens both vertically and horizontally. It’s Cartabiano’s favorite feature. It opens horizontally (“urban mode”) and vertically, for a chill camp sesh or presumably, like, Snapchat opportunities.
Car designers have always looked to the world around them for inspiration, and Cartabiano quickly offers an example. The mountain-climbing carabiner, which is why the car’s orange.
“Even the paint is inspired by a carabiner,” he tells Inverse. “We saw this hook and we were like, ‘man, we want to make this orange.’”
“Outdoorsy millennials” made up the research pool that Kevin Hunter, President of Calty, said was tapped for the FT4X’s design. Hunter says his team found that while millennials like to go outside, there’s a difference between them and previous generations. It’s not that they’re softer, they’re just “less hardcore.”
“Their needs and appetites are less hardcore and more of what we like to call, ‘casual-core,’” Hunter said. “Now in generations past, basecamp symbolized the beginning of a journey, but today for many millennials, basecamp has become the destination.”
FT4X’s slogan might be something like, “Why climb the mountain? The sunset looks the same on Instagram, right here at basecamp.”