When it comes to European auto shows, your intrepid Autoblog coverage staff is always keen to see what the French have to offer. That's because Gallic companies let their designers off the leash more often than the rest of their global counterparts, freeing them to produce the sort of moonshot, future-think concept cars that we used to associate with the US and Japan.
Even when their showcars are seemingly more rational and production-minded – as is the case with the Renault Initiale Paris concept shown here – they still employ fantastical details. In the case of this Frankfurt Motor Show debut, said details include things like an aluminum and plexiglass roof that proudly displays a map of Paris (complete with the city's districts, roads, and the River Seine), color-shifting paint and and headlamps with eyelash-like blinking mechanisms. Did we mention the 32-speaker Bose audio system? This Renault concept may further the brand's obsession with selling the idea of a luxury car wrapped in a minivan body (see also: Vel Satis, Avantime), but it's really said to presage the next-generation Espace MPV, while showcasing where the company's new high-line Initiale brand may go.
The automaker hasn't provided much in the way of powertrain details, other than to say the engine for this people mover is a modest dCi 130 – Renault-speak for a 1.6-liter twin-turbo diesel four – with 295 pound-feet of torque paired to a shift-by-wire dual-clutch gearbox. That powertrain might just be the most down-to-earth aspect of this whole concept, and we wouldn't be surprised to see it survive intact on the production Espace. Let's hope the claimed 250-kilogram weight loss versus to the current production Grand Scenic – around 550 pounds – also makes it to the production model.
Related GalleryRenault Initiale Paris Concept: Frankfurt 2013
INITIALE PARIS CONCEPT CAR - THE ART OF PREMIUM-CLASS TRAVEL
Renault is opening up three new paths with Initiale Paris. Making its debut at Frankfurt, the concept car:
- illustrates the sixth petal in the design daisy, "Wisdom", expressing open-mindedness;
- previews the Espace replacement in Initiale Paris guise;
- embodies the brand's expertise and ambitions in the premium segment.
Initiale Paris concept car, the sixth petal in Renault's design strategy
Renault's "life cycle" design strategy encompasses the experiences of its customers as they fall in love, discover the world, found a family, work, play, and attain wisdom. The strategy is based on an emotional styling language that is simple, sensual and warm in equal parts.
FROM PASSION TO RENEWAL: A COMPLETE DESIGN CYCLE
It is rare to see a brand display six concept cars together on its stand. By doing so, Renault is expressing the culmination of a cycle and the success of its design renewal. The exhibition puts each life stage into perspective by bringing visitors a few simple keys to make the brand's approach easier to interpret.
Renault designs cars for each stage in life.
From this premise was born a design strategy that builds strong links with our customers.
The six "petals" in the life cycle have now been revealed:
Love: Life starts when you fall in love, a founding step expressed by DeZir.
Explore: Then comes the moment to explore the world as a couple with the Captur crossover.
Family: After which, you found a family, with R-Space, embodying the minivan and family car.
Work: Life is all about professional activity, with the Frenzy light commercial vehicle, and the associated moments of leisure.
Play: Then there are the good times and fun, in the shape of the Twin'Z and Twin'Run concept cars.
Wisdom: At some point, everyone aspires to serenity, a time when they can take full advantage of life. The Initiale Paris concept car, making its debut at Frankfurt, illustrates open-mindedness and the pleasures and sensations associated with a premium vehicle.
"By making direct links between concept and production cars, Renault is delivering on the promise to design simple, sensual and warm vehicles with emotional appeal."
Axel Breun – Concept and Show Car Design Director
"Wisdom" is the sixth petal in the strategy, unveiled at this year's Frankfurt Motor Show. Embodied by Initiale Paris, this petal stands for open-mindedness and the ability to enjoy life to the full by focusing on feelings and pleasure. It is in this spirit that Renault designers created Initiale Paris, an all-new take on travel, premium class, with all the emotions the brand sees in that experience.
"Initiale Paris is the sixth concept car in Renault's design strategy. It previews the Espace replacement in an 'Initiale Paris' version embodying Renault's vision of the premium segment."
Laurens van den Acker – Vice President, Corporate Design
Flowing and robust body styling, high-tech and upgradeable interior
"The Initiale Paris concept car is a concentrate of the very best of Renault, caressing the senses through style and innovation."
François Leboine – Initiale Paris designer
Exterior design: flow and force, colour and light
Initiale Paris is a large car, at 4.85 m long. Prestigious but without excess, the new concept car promises impressive spaciousness on board. Its body styling immediately expresses:
- the vitality of a saloon, through its emphatic grille and muscular shoulders,
- the character of an SUV, with large 22-inch wheels and sculptured wings,
- and the light and space of an MPV, through a generous glazed surface and innovative roof that plays with light.
The flowing and contemporary body styling of the Initiale Paris concept car is inspired by the worlds of architecture and aeronautics, two fields in which the generally mutually-exclusive qualities of robustness and lightness come together.
The shape of the side windows evokes that of a feather. The rear quarter light, shaped like an aircraft tail fin, houses innovative, motorized aerodynamic screens that deploy like the flaps of a tail fin with a sophisticated movement heightening the emotional content of the styling.
The harmony between robustness and lightness is showcased further by the repetition of a strong graphic design on several parts of the vehicle. The motif, made out of an assembly of diamond shapes, shares the spirit and design of a bee hive. It features on the exterior of the grille, the wheels, and the sides of the vehicle. Linking exterior and interior, it also figures on the floor section where the rear-hinged doors open.
The structural composition brings to mind the frame of an aeroplane, but also gives a nod to the Grand Palais and the Eiffel Tower, emblematic Parisian monuments, the capital of French-style elegance. The most formal homage to Paris is made by the concept car's highly original aluminium and plexiglass roof. 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. The technical feat, with its spectacular aesthetic result, gives meaning to the new "Initiale Paris" signature in particular and to Renault in general, since it was on the banks of the Seine that Renault's industrial adventure began. And what city better than Paris embodies French joie de vivre and refinement or luxury in the eyes of the world?
RENAULT, A VISION OF FRENCH-STYLE PREMIUM MOTORING
Renault's design team didn't think twice about taking their inspiration from non-automotive fields. Each time they called on classic automotive and luxury cues, they made sure to take a fresh and original angle on them. And they continuously drew on a singularly "French" spirit of challenge to shake up the established order.
The designers took their inspiration from aeronautics and ultra-high-end contemporary outdoor furniture – worlds featuring elegant and refined shapes along with a great deal of vitality, and at the same time evoking warmth, light and space.
Aluminium and wood are often used in the automotive industry, but on Initiale Paris they attain a much more "mature" and dynamic expression than usual. Chrome detailing is satin finished, while the matt-finish walnut wood is assembled using slim blades for a more refined air. The centre console has a similar design, shifting imperceptibly from natural wood to gloss black.
The concept car body is cloaked in an "Amethyst" colour that shifts from deep metallic black to luminous plum violet as the light and viewpoint change. The body paint plays with shifting reflections much as a jewellery setting showcases the gem it holds. The letter "I" for Initiale Paris adorns the vehicle sides and wheels.
The full-LED lights give the Initiale Paris concept car a strong light signature. At the front, the daytime running lights enclose each headlamp in parentheses. A built-in mechanism causes an eyelid-like "blink" in the light. At the rear, the lights are harmoniously positioned in relation to the horizontal and vertical lines of the car through their size and artful proportions. Rearward vision is ensured by ultra-slim, profiled cameras that serve as exterior mirrors. Each exterior detail evokes and fosters movement.
Interior design: light, space and technology
Motorists enter the car via rear-hinged doors with the help of a motorized running board – in a further nod to aeronautics. The promise of the exclusive pleasure of travelling in private jet-style comfort becomes a reality when occupants see the armchair seats in the first two rows, together with the profiled gearstick, the light guides covering the entire cabin, and the shapes echoing the tail-fin motif employed on the exterior.
The peerlessly comfortable seats make travel a more enticing prospect than ever. Attached to the central tunnel with no vertical link with the floor, they seem to float in the midst of the cabin. The levitating effect is heightened by the discreet joint between seat back and seat base that lets the light pass through.
The floor blends prestigious matt wood with high-tech aluminium set in a regular pattern. The contemporary marquetry lends a distinct sense of relief – both literally and figuratively – through the wave-like movement that softly washes across its surface.
Drivers are treated to uncluttered instruments and a centre console that seems to float above the cabin floor. Free of side support, the console fits seamlessly into the cabin like a bridge linking the central tunnel and the dashboard. The console houses two screens displaying videos and information on points of interest in the surrounding area. The screens are built into the surface and curve of the console, merging as one with the matt wood veneer.
The third row of the cabin is home to an original bench made of independent mobile blades. The blades compose a poetic expression of the modular design expected of this type of vehicle. Their respective positions open up entirely new in use. The seat back can be partly or totally folded down, while the bench can form a single whole with an armrest separating the passengers. For visual pleasure rather than pure practicality, the blades can be set in a range of positions to suggest different kinds of movement, that of a wave, for example.
Travelling is also about transformation. The emphasis inside Initiale Paris interior is on original, consummately-worked grades in colours and materials, as seen on the seats in particular. Variations in light and the corresponding mood go hand in hand with the changes in rhythm of the journey. By day, natural light from above is diffused through the roof prism, creating an ever-changing play of light and shadow. At night, the soft light sources bathe all occupants in a soothing nocturnal ambience. A succession of light guides above the instrument cluster lights up and switches off in step with the forward movement of the car.
An all-new approach to acoustics
To heighten travelling pleasure through music and sound, acoustics were thoroughly thought out on Initiale Paris. The concept car brings all occupants a totally immersive and shared experience in this respect.
Initiale Paris occupants are greeted by a sound ambience as soon as the car is started. The special sound signature sets the tone for a premium experience and delivers on the "Initiale Paris" promise. Renault called on the skills of composer and sound designer Andrea Cera to create the signature, as part of the collaborative effort between the Group and France's acoustic and music research and coordination institute, IRCAM, which previously developed the pedestrian warning sounds for ZOE.
Renault asked BOSE®, its production-vehicle sound partner since 2008, to design a custom-engineered audio system. Purposefully discreet and fully integrated in the cabin, the acoustic installation developed by BOSE® reflects the simplicity and elegance of Initiale Paris.
The result of a close collaborative project, the technical challenge met by BOSE® – a first for a concept car – signals the upcoming arrival on Renault models of Surround Sound®, an enveloping and rich audio experience close to that of a live concert.
"We are honoured that Renault asked us to be part in the project, one that testifies to the importance Renault places on sound quality and travelling pleasure and to the trust it places in our expertise."
Karsten Uhde – European Director, Bose Automotive Systems
BOSE & INITIALE PARIS: EMOTIONAL SOUND MADE-TO-MEASURE
Initiale Paris is equipped with 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.
Sixteen exclusive Personal® Surround speakers
Each headrest offers 2 specific enclosures with a pair of speakers. This unique design creates an individual 360° sound zone for each seat. Listeners are immersed in enveloping Surround Sound® placing them at the centre of the music.
Seven BOSE® bass-reflex enclosures
This solution offers a high level of sound performance in the mid-range and lower mid-range for clear and detailed sound delivering all the subtleties of the music. The seven two-litre enclosures were designed and developed by BOSE® exclusively for the needs of Initiale Paris. Each one features a high-performance 100mm speaker combined with a 36mm unit with particularly precise treble performance. One of them is built into the centre of the dashboard, ensuring the stability of the sound stage and a balanced, rich and ultra-centred sound wherever the listener is seated.
Two built-in subwoofers
To reproduce low frequencies in the cabin, BOSE® opted to use two subwoofers, one in the front, one in the rear :
- a compact 4-liter subwoofer integrated underneath the dashboard,
- a 200-mm speaker inside a 25-liter bass-reflex enclosure built into the tailgate.
The set-up provides high-level performance on low frequencies, for deep and realistic bass sounds in all seats, with no compromise on cabin space.
Surround Sound® amplification
The sound system is controlled via a 12-channel digital amplifier with a Bose digital signal processing and 12 channels of customized equalisation. It features Centerpoint® signal processing to fully benefit from BOSE Surround Sound®, including from stereo sources (CD and MP3). The Centerpoint® signal processing circuit continuously analyses the stereo signal to reproduce a 5-channel Surround Sound experience for all occupants.
A responsible and efficient concept engine
Renault engine-makers took a dCi 130 engine and enhanced it to bring drivers generous torque (peaking at 400 Nm) across a broad operating range. The engine builds on Renault fundamentals in powertrain technology and explores new paths for making the brand's power plants even more efficient in the future.
- Downsizing: Faithful to its downsizing strategy, Renault combines driving pleasure with low fuel consumption by using smaller but particularly efficient cylinder blocks.
- EDC: The six-speed EDC (Efficient Dual Clutch) automatic transmission is responsive and easy to use, and provides good fuel consumption.
Renault is exploring two new directions with the concept engine:
- Twin-turbo technology: A small, low-inertia turbo is used for low engine speeds and a second turbo kicks in for higher speeds. Torque is generous and plentiful from low speed – with a full 90% on hand from 1,500 rpm – for smooth and athletic driving.
- Shift-by-Wire control for the EDC transmission: This system, borrowed from Formula 1 racing, enhances the precision and smoothness of the controls through better-controlled effort. It also has a styling advantage as the gearstick is slimmer and the floating console has no cables to conceal.
A further particularity of the concept engine used for Initiale Paris is the use of optimized steel pistons to cut down on friction. Steel pistons dilate less than aluminium pistons, resulting in enhanced piston-to-cylinder wall clearances at high temperatures. Lower friction between pistons and cylinder walls means lower fuel consumption. And to keep them light, the steel pistons are hollowed out. The design is exactly the same as that used in Renault's Formula 1 engine.
The Initiale Paris concept car has roughly the same dimensions as a Grand Espace but weighs in at some 250 kg less.
Overall, the concept engine emits 40 g/km less CO2 and burns 25% less fuel than an equivalent-performance diesel.
The "Initiale Paris" signature. Renault's take on the art of travel
Besides the concept car itself, "Initiale Paris" is a signature that embodies Renault's vision of premium cars. The signature is based on Renault's ability to see trends coming and on the pioneering spirit it harnesses to create new ideas and transform the way we use cars.
With Initiale Paris, Renault wants to bring its customers a liveable premium vehicle infused with the very best of the brand and offering an all-new take on the art of travel.
Initiale Paris will bring motorists an authentic and emotional experience appealing to all the senses.
Attractive. Initiale Paris styling will elicit emotion with products featuring warm design, top-quality materials and finish, a peerless acoustic and thermal ambience, and discreetly integrated advanced technology.
Adapted. Initiale Paris will build on Renault's commitment to make its customers lives easier, through innovation and the widespread availability of technologies for everyday use and comfort. This will also involve engines designed with day-to-day use and environmental respect in mind. The keywords will be comfort, well-being and driving pleasure.
Attentive. Initiale Paris will be accompanied by special services forging closer ties with customers and bringing them more peace of mind.
Renault at the 2013 Frankfurt Motor Show is fully expressing its intention to carve out its rightful place in the premium segment. The show will underline the brand's commitment to building this place in the long term, methodically and in its own unique way.
OTHER POINTS OF VIEW ON "FRENCH-STYLE LUXURY"
Choung-Sun Oh worked on the interior design of Initiale Paris. She is Korean. Miguel Ángel Iranzo Sánchez is responsible for the colours and materials. He is Spanish. Their visions of France and Paris, and of luxury goods and cars, provide an original insight into the work carried out on the concept car.
"For me, Paris has a lot of interesting oppositions of style. In architecture, for example, the city has always built ultra-modern buildings and monuments side by side with traditional constructions. And everything makes a harmonious fit. With Initiale Paris, I sought to create and balance out this type of contrast."
Choung-Sun Oh – Interior Design
"France places great emphasis on all things human. It is a multi-cultural country, a nation of unity. Focusing on the human side of a premium vehicle was unusual and exciting. Initiale Paris has six seats. All the occupants are pampered. Passengers dialogue and share in complete peace of mind as they travel onwards. To my mind, that is a real luxury."
Miguel Angel Iranzo Sánchez – Colours and Materials Stylist
"Initiale Paris is a 'liveable luxury car'. I see it as making life easier, a sensual car. It is about authentic luxury, free from conventions, in movement. It upholds strong values of sharing emotions and the pleasure of travel."
Philippe Brunet – Director of the D/E Program
A comprehensive report on the genesis of the Initiale Paris concept car will be posted on the media site on 20th September.
DESIGN AND INNOVATION - THE BRAND'S NEW FACE
STRENGTH THROUGH IDENTITY
Design plays a major part in the "Renault 2016 - Drive the Change" strategic plan. Initiated by New Clio, the brand's styling renewal now features on 27 vehicles in the range. Renault design is informed by three keywords: simple, sensual and warm. The aim is to appeal while strengthening consistency between the vehicles.
From dream to reality
Concept cars are designed to inspire and to explore new trends. Renault seeks to create a strong link between these cars and the resulting production models. DeZir and New Clio share the same inspiration, as do Captur and the production model, and as will Initiale Paris and the future Espace replacement. To bring design dreams into line with industrial realities, Renault's styling department assigns the same team of designers to the concept car and the production model it previews.
We are family
At the front of Renault cars, the brand identity is expressed in a larger, vertical logo contrasting with a black grille. LED daytime running lights lend a dynamic and contemporary touch to numerous models in the range. The logo is clearly visible at the rear, positioned right in the centre. A distinctive design line follows the lower contour of the rear lights, then rises under the rear window to highlight the logo.
For more styling consistency across all segments, Renault has changed the organization system at its design department. Today, two design studios, one working on the exterior the other on the interior, share the same premises and work hand in hand.
Taking-the-lead with personalisation
In-line with market demand, Renault is offering more and more personalisation possibilities on its vehicles to allow their customers to express their own personality. Renault Captur, for example, is Renault's most personalisable model yet, with attractively priced packs created to simplify choices and ensure overall visual harmony. Depending on the version, customers are able to choose from contrast roof and mirror shells, coloured 17" alloy wheels, coloured exterior and interior packs in addition to a range of roof decals and upholstery schemes.
These personalisation packs have been neatly packaged into different colour collections, which not only simplify the personalisation options for customers, but give each vehicle a distinct look and feel -
In addition to the Expression, Expression+, Dynamique and Dynamique S versions, Captur customers can choose from the three Captur Colour Collections; Arizona, Miami and Manhattan, respectively evoking adventure, vibrancy and urban-chic.
New Clio customers can choose between four 'Prêt-à-porter' Clio Colour Collections; comprising red, blue, black and ivory, meaning there's a Clio for every personality.
Twizy boasts a broad range of personalisation features. Customers can change the colour of the roof and doors (decals), the arch, the wing mirror housings and the wheels. Inside, Twizy drivers can opt for black or white seat shells and dashboard. In the UK, this personalisation has been taken one step further with Design Your Own Twizy, which allows customers to wrap any part of the vehicle with any combination of 43 colours, 30 stock designs, or their own creation.