Citroën Eole

Welcome to the future.

When this Citroën suppository debuted at the 1986 Geneva Motor Show, I was less than 18 months old, and—had I known about it at the time—would have probably wanted to make baby drool all over its slippery shape.

I can just imagine the collective groan when the design bosses decided that this car would be the first from Citroën designed entirely on computers. Just dealing with file storage, print-outs, faxing it around for approvals…what a nightmare.  The car's surfaces were developed in computer, with the body completed (milled) on a milling machine—and hand-finished from there. This method was chosen, apparently, because the company lacked the resources to do concept cars—and the Eole is really just a CX in a space suit.

These days, if you're talking cost: I suspect most basic car design could be done using an iPad…while sitting on a beach in Hawaii. 

You may think the lady in the lead photo looks a bit hunched over, and for good reason—that can't be a lightweight CD player. Actually, in 1986, they were probably still referred to as compact discs. Imagine that: music extracted with frickin' lasers. Imagine this: all of this concept's functions can be replicated by the phone in your pocket.

As you'll no doubt notice in the interior shot, the, uh, portable CD player stashed neatly on top of the centre console of the Eole, ideal for melting the very discs that seem to take priority in the car's futuristic interior. In fact, an electric track ran the centre of the vehicle, allowing the CD player to slide fore and aft. Kids could play video games, mom and dad could listen to Blondie—I guess there's no real downside.

Citroën's satellite controls are present, too, and closely clustered around the steering wheel. So, too, are little window cut-outs (like the Subaru SVX) that would enable the small windows to open and not the curved glass around it. Drive was thanks to a 1.5-litre 4-cylinder engine, with pushbutton gear selection for its automatic. A pushbutton transmissions: How very '50s American.

But no Citroën would be complete without hydraulics. It's said the success of this system led to the active suspension found on later cars, and for good reason: it was awesome. Hydraulics moved the wheel covers at speed (said to reduce its Cd to just 0.19—a few leagues better than a Toyota Prius), hydraulics altered the ride height, and hydraulics helped to keep the car flat while cornering.

This development led to the XM (including the very similar, XM-based Jensen One) and, l'd imagine, the later Xantia Activa.

These days, overly futuristic vehicles are frowned upon, and our vehicles have adopted black, bunker-like interiors with small windows. Our most-used technologies aren't used to make our cars better, but to monitor our blind spots and parallel park for us.

One day, our cities may be filled with cars like the Eole. It may not be your cup of tea, but just think: your iPad will fit perfectly on its dash. Just remember to lock it in before hard braking or acceleration…

Wait, scratch that: your car will drive better than you do—and promise not to spill your lattes or disrupt a closely-fought game of Jenga.