Heritage

This woman is responsible for the iconic Volkswagen GTI's plaid interior

Her name may not be familiar to the average customer, but Gunhild Liljequist's plaid design helped Volkswagen reach a new audience in the 1970s.

Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

Plaid is nearly as iconic in the Volkswagen enthusiast world as the Light Bus and the Beetle. When it debuted in the 1976 Golf GTI, it was thanks to one woman, one of the company's first female designers, Gunhild Liljequist.

Life wasn't always all horizontal and vertical lines for Liljequist. She was a porcelain painter and chocolatier candy-box designer by trade who made a career change to join Volkswagen's Germany-based Department of Fabrics and Colors in Wolfsburg in 1964. She was 28.

With the first Golf GTI set to come into production, Liljequist was tasked with designing a variety of interior elements of the compact car. Her work primarily focused on paint hues, trims, and interior detailing. At a time when bold patterns in muted colors was commonplace, Liljequist gave the GTI two distinct design elements - a tartan seat pattern and a golf ball-style gear knob.

Gunhild Liljequist Volkswagen Clark Plaid Liljequist sits in the Golf GTI she helped make popular.Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

"Black was sporty, but I also wanted color and quality," Liljequist said. "I took a lot of inspiration from my travels around Great Britain and I was always taken by high-quality fabrics with checked patterns … you could say that there is an element of British sportiness in the GTI."

She, unsurprisingly, faced resistance. However, the tartan seat pattern, now known as Clark Plaid, and the new style of the car's shifter knob made it through to production.

Though she's more of a black and white pattern gal, Liljequist dove deep into the color spectrum during her time at Volkswagen. The culture and rapid pace of vehicle evolution allowed Liljequist to experiment with her influence reaching into some of the brand's most iconic paint hues, trims, and interior accents.

Clark Plaid is available in the 2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI Rabbit Edition.Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

She also contributed to the 2987 limited edition Etienne Aigner Mk1 Golf Cabrioet, a car that was influenced by women's leather accessories. Liljequist formulated the iridescent pearl color that is on the vehicle's exterior and applied it using a transparent foil.

Liljequist retired in 1991 but her legacy endures. U.S. buyers can currently purchase a 2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI Rabbit Edition, which features Liljequist's Clark Plaid in its seats.

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Thought the 2021 Toyota Corolla Cross just debuted in Thailand, it could be slated to come to the U.S.

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Corporation

Let's face it, the Toyota CH-R was never really supposed to be a Toyota. The model, destined to be a Scion, had its life's direction altered when Scion closed up shop and parent company Toyota merged select members of its lineup with the Toyota line. For the last three years, the model has been doing its damnedest to escape the Scion mold, but hasn't. It remains the odd duck in the stable, not delivering the high-quality interior, good handling, and capability that earns the brand sufficient praise.

Enter: the Toyota Corolla Cross. Though its name doesn't quite invoke the feelings, of "Why? Whhhhhhyyyy?" that the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross moniker does, the Corolla Cross name is clearly a strategic move meant to capitalize on the one already worn by one of the best-selling cars of all time.

2021 Toyota Corolla Cross

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Corporation

Marketed as "Corolla Meets SUV", the Corolla Cross looks like it executes at every level. It rides on the same TNGA platform as the Toyota Prius, Prius Prime, C-HR, and Corolla, and the Lexus UX. That architecture make the slightly longer and taller Corolla Cross spacious with class-leading cargo room for its class.

Though the model is undoubtedly going to be modified a smidge if it comes to America, Toyota has outlined its highlights as part of its launch in Thailand.

The Corolla Cross makes much of its looks from the RAV4, but it's a copy. It's a natural progression of the design language, the same way the Highlander is. Toyota notes that this design allows for an "impressive rearview".

A new torsion-beam suspension delivers a cushioned ride. Toyota notes that the Corolla Cross is easy to maneuver and has a tight turning circle.

Toyota is selling the front-wheel drive model with a traditional gasoline-powered engine setup and as a hybrid. These variants are similar to the Corolla and Lexus UX in the States.

The gasoline-powered model has a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers 140 horsepower and 129 pound-feet of torque. The hybrid model returns 122 total system horsepower. Both engines are paired with a CVT.

The interior has good headroom and wide door openings. These are similar characteristics to the modern Corolla.

Toyota has already trademarked the Corolla Cross name for the U.S. according to Car & Driver. The model, which would fill a slot in Toyota product plans that were leaked earlier this year, may be the vehicle set to be made at the end joint Mazda-Toyota plant that is under construction in Alabama. It would fill the gap between the C-HR and RAV4 in the Toyota lineup, and compete directly with the Kia Seltos and Hyundai Kona.

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