They’re called extreme commutes. Spending 90 minutes or more getting to and from work is no one’s idea of a good time. What if you could while away the traffic doing email or playing Parcheesi with your family? The Japanese already treat the car like a mobile office or living room, and automakers, in their latest attempt to actually sell some cars, are encouraging customers to “hang out” on wheels, offering amenities such as Wi-Fi, satellite TV, and seating cushier than what you have at home. Let’s face it, if the economy doesn’t improve soon, we’re all going to be living out of our cars, so think of these vehicles as a down payment on our dystopian, post-apocalyptic future.
The Cube answers the burning question, what if Ikea designed furniture for your first car the same way it outfits your first apartment? This aesthetic is most evident in the funky Cube’s “sofa-style” rear seat and cubbyholes galore for storing electronics, clothing, and toiletries. Already popular in Japan, the economical Cube enters the U.S. market later this year. Although it’s highly customizable, much like Toyota’s Scion vehicles, thankfully there’s no assembly required.
Had Ford commercialized this Brinks truck-like vehicle, it surely would have kept any driver’s virginity secure. This fanciful but tough-looking concept notably included a “lockdown mode” for when passengers wanted to ignore the outside world and watch a movie, play a game, or relax. (Ask any dog: Nothing screams relaxation like being locked in an automobile.) As hard as it is to believe this car was never made, take heart: Its portable “lounge” eventually found its way into Ford Flex vehicles, and newer compact SUVs carry over SYNUS’s smaller windows and muscular look to make the driver feel secure and comfortable.
Soccer moms, rejoice! The first true minivan is back with innovations even cooler than tummy-control jeans. The latest generation turns the van into a portable game room, featuring its own satellite hookup and flat-screen TVs waiting to be plugged into your DVD player and game console of choice. The middle row of seats can be turned backwards, and the kids can fold out a table for a round of Monopoly.
Ford Transit Connect W/ Work Solutions
When Hollywood makes The A-Team: The Movie (and it’s just a matter of time), if the gang doesn’t drive the Ford Transit Connect, they should. The setup includes an integrated computer system equipped with a portable keyboard and GPS. It’s also configurable to include printers, inventory scanners, and other equipment. The van is also taller, easier to park, and cheaper to operate than a full-size van. If your job involves spending more time driving to see customers than sitting at your desk, this mobile office sure beats Starbucks. Available later this year.
Maserati Quattroporte Collezione Cento
You can take the CEO out of his renovated $10 million office, but you can’t take the $10 million office out of the CEO. Enter the Maserati Quattroporte Collezione Cento. For merely $142,500 of taxpayer bailout money, the already loaded sedan includes a built-in rear-seat computer system (what? You think he’s giving up his driver?) with wireless mouse and keyboard. Between the rear passenger seats is a foldout table for important documents and/or a cappuccino. Check your plummeting stock, fire thousands, and still make it to lunch at the club in style.
Carpooling in Japan must be different than in the United States. Rather than pull over to pick up doughnuts, when you park the Airwave (similar to the Honda Fit), the seats can be moved to form a small seating area for groups in need of a quick meeting space.
Mobile Mini House
Living in a car has heretofore been limited to camping families, RVing retirees, and folk singers down-on-their-luck. Stephanie Bellanger, Amaury Watine, François Gustin, and David Dethoor hope to change that with this accordion-style trailer. Rather than just a large rectangular room, the Mobile Mini House is like a fold-out Airstream trailer. Unpack this small, sustainable package to get a five-room abode, including bathroom and office. Perfect for hometown-displaced employees sick of Residence Inns or hipster drifters tired of couchsurfing.
Honda Element Ursa Minor Camper
This perfect accessory for the Honda Element “lifestyle” consumers interested in extending a rock climbing or mountain-biking adventure into a weekend-long excursion. The Ursa Minor ECamper turns the little Honda into a portable basecamp. The conversion folds outwards from the roof, creating a sleeping tent for up to two people. It’s small enough to still work as a convenient city car but large enough to live in temporarily in the woods.
If James Brown taught us anything, it was that you’ve got to have soul. (Also, don’t do angel dust.) The Kia Soul is a boxy little compact like the Scion xB, except that it’s tricked out for Burning Man. The audio system is connected to bright red lights in the speakers, pulsing to the beat and reflecting off the glow-in-the-dark seats. It’s also jammed with tech-friendly goodies such as hands-free Bluetooth connectivity, USB/Aux input, satellite radio, and power in the front and back.
Nissan NV2500 Concept
If Nissan makes its NV2500 large commercial truck, its slogan should be, If you worked here, you’d be working by now. The truck is divided into three parts: driver and passenger zone, work/design station, and conference center/cargo bay. The showstopper within the workspace is the laser-projected keyboard. The car of the future can’t get here soon enough.