By IOL Motoring Staff
Frankfurt motor show - Renault's Initiale Paris concept MPV forms the last petal in what the maker has termed a daisy of concept vehicles, the final part of a journey where knowledge becomes wisdom - but it also previews the streamlined premium MPV that will replace the Espace.
The Initiale Paris concept was inspired, says Renault, by the worlds of architecture and aeronautics, bringing together strength and lightness; its structure is aircraft-like but with a nod to the Grand Palais and the Eiffel Tower - but its most formal tribute to Paris is in its aluminium and plexiglass roof.
THE KEY WORD IS MATURITY
Milled directly out of the main body, it depicts a map of Paris - solid and transparent - showing the city's districts and arteries and the River Seine - hence the name, Initiale Paris.
Aluminium and wood are often used in the automotive industry; in this application the key word is maturity. All the chrome detailing is satin finished, while the matt-finish walnut wood is laminated from slim blades and the centre console uses a similar technique to shift colour almost imperceptibly from natural wood to gloss black.
The body is finished in a special paint that changes colour from a rich plum to a deep metallic black, depending on the light and your viewpoint.
BLINKING IN THE LIGHT
LED daytime running lights enclose each headlight in brackets - and a little electric motor gives them makes an eyelid-like “blink” in the direct sunlight.
You enter the car through rear-hinged doors, stepping on a motorised running board - another nod to the aircraft industry - as are the profiled gearshift lever, the lightstrips running the length of the cabin and the first two rows of seats, cantilevered from the centre tunnel with no vertical link to the floor and seeming floating in the middle of the cabin space.
A 21st-century take on classic marquetry sees the floor laid out in a wave-like pattern of wood and aluminium, segements while the centre stack seems to float between the two front seats, forming a bridge between the centre tunnel and the dashboard. It houses two screens displaying videos and information on points of interest in the surrounding area, set flush with the matt wood-veneer finish.
The third row of seats is a bench made up of independent segmwents or blades that can be positioned to create separate seats with armrests, partly or completely folded down - or just arranged in sequence like a Mexican wave, for pure visual pleasure.
Renault called on composer and sound designer Andrea Cera to create the car's acoustic signature, using an audio system custom-built by Bose with a total of 32 speakers, including two subwoofers. Bass, mid-range and treble are processed independently by specific speakers, controlled by the digital amplifier that manages the signal according the acoustic characteristics of the cabin.
Each headrest has a pair of speakers, creating an individual sound zone for each seat, while seven two-litre bass-reflex boxes, each containing a 100mm cone for depth and a 36mm speaker for crisp treble, deliver clear and detailed mid-range.
There's a compact four-litre subwoofer under the dashboard and a 200mm speaker inside a 25-litre bass-reflex box built into the tailgate.
All of which is controlled by a Bose 12-channel digital amplifier that continuously analyses the stereo signal to reproduce a five-channel surround sound experience for all occupants.
The Initiale Paris concept uses a modified dCi 130 turbodiesel, fitted with steel pistons rather than aluminium, hollowed out so they're no heavier than the aluminium equivalents. Aluminium expands far less than steel, thus allowing very tight bore clearances; it's not a new idea - Renault uses steel pistons in its Formula One engines.
The engine has a small, low-inertia turbo for low revs and a second , larger turbo that kicks in at higher revs, so that 90 percent of the engine's peak torque of 1500rpm is available from 1500rpm.
It drives the front wheels via a six-speed, shift-by-wire dual-clutch transmission, also borrowed from F1 technology.
The Initiale Paris Concept is about the same size as an Espace but weighs 250kg less, and uses about 25 percent less fuel than an Espace with a conventional diesel engine of the same power.