First look at Fiat Chrysler’s Portal

Michael Wayland

Las Vegas — Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV on Tuesday unveiled its vision for the next generation of family transportation at the CES technology trade show in Las Vegas.


The Portal targets millennials now and as they transition to “family mode,” said FCA exec Ralph Gilles.

The automaker took the wraps off the Chrysler Portal concept, an all-electric, self-driving-capable vehicle with a customizable interior for up to six people. The concept vehicle was developed, officials say, to meet the ever-changing needs of a “tech-savvy, environmentally friendly and cost-conscious millennial consumer.”

For the people interested in this car, smart is the new sexy,” said Ashley Edgar, a Fiat Chrysler engineer who worked on the vehicle. “The Portal concept delivers everything we know millennials want — modular components, flexible space, upgradable space and affordability.”

Edgar was one of four millennial presenters to unveil the family hauler concept for the tech trade show, which has become increasingly important for automakers to attend in recent years

Millennials — generally defined as those born between the early 1980s and early 2000s — are viewed as the next major car buyers, although many have deferred getting licenses, purchasing new vehicles and starting families later than previous generations.


The front-wheel-drive Portal is estimated to have more than 250 miles of range on a full charge, including 150 miles of range in less than 20 minutes when using a DC fast-charge system. The charge port is concealed behind an access door in the Portal’s front fascia. During charging, the Chrysler winged badge on the front fascia pulses with light to indicate the battery pack’s charge level.

“The Chrysler Portal concept is backed by significant research on the millennial generation,” said Tim Kuniskis, Fiat Chrysler’s head of passenger car brands for North America, in a news release. “Millennials have clearly defined that they want a long-term vehicle that will grow with them as they experience life changes.”

The exterior and interior designs of the vehicle are sleek, modern and focused on technological aspects — from sliding doors that open from the middle of the vehicle to adjustable LED accent lighting. Track-mounted seats have bottom cushions that fold up and allow the seats to be pushed together to free up more cargo space.


Ralph Gilles, Fiat Chrysler’s head of design, said the Portal was designed from the inside out, with designers aiming to create a “third space” for the commute between home and work.

“The Chrysler Portal concept appeals to the millennial lifestyle on various levels — it serves as a social hub where up to six can enjoy, and it’s also designed to accommodate millennials as they begin their transition into family mode,” Gilles said.

The steering wheel is designed to fold and stow away inside the instrument panel when parked, a feature that will become more realized after the vehicle is equipped with higher levels of autonomous capability, according to officials.

Fiat Chrysler says the Portal is capable of Level Three semi-autonomous operation, which means the driver has the option to turn control over to the vehicle under certain highway situations. Unlike higher levels of autonomy, such as fully autonomous Level Five, the driver must keep monitoring the road and driving environment. A camera mounted on the instrument panel uses facial-recognition software to monitor the driver.


If the vehicle determines the driver is not monitoring the road or driving conditions change, it alerts the driver to retake manual control. If the driver does not respond to the alerts, the vehicle will maneuver itself to the side of the road and come to a safe stop.

The company says the Portal is engineered to upgrade to higher levels of autonomy as technology progresses, and if the owner is interested in adding it.

The vehicle is equipped with sensor technologies (LIDAR/radar/sonar/vision) that constantly monitor conditions outside and inside the vehicle. It is constantly “talking” with its surroundings through the array of sensors and internet connectivity — a main focus for designers.

Flexibility and social communication are paramount inside the Chrysler Portal concept. Passengers can dock their mobile devices on the seat backs. Connected to the vehicle network and the internet, people inside the Portal can share their preferences and experiences with each other and the outside world.

The Portal concept was created in collaboration with supplier partners, including Adient, Magneti Marelli, Panasonic Automotive and Samsung Electronics Co.

The Portal is the first vehicle Fiat Chrysler has unveiled at CES.

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Twitter: @MikeWayland