Renault has unveiled Initiale Paris, the sixth concept car in the design strategy initiated by designer Laurens van den Acker. The new concept car previews the Espace replacement and embodies the brand’s ambitions in the premium segment.
The six concept cars will collectively aim to illustrate the brand’s design renewal in its “Life Cycle” strategy and are appearing together on the Renault stand for the first time.
“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,” says Axel Breun – Renault’s Concept and Show Car Design Director.
Each concept vehicle in the series is referred to as a “petal” (as in a flower), the latest being the Initiale Paris concept. This sixth petal in the French car brand’s design strategy represents an all-new take on premium class travel.
With the character of an SUV, and being 4.85 m long, the Initiale Paris is a large car. Its body styling has been inspired by the worlds of architecture and aeronautics say the designers.
The shape of the side windows are designed to evoke that of a feather. The rear quarter light, shaped like an aircraft tail fin, houses motorised aerodynamic screens that deploy like the flaps of a tail fin.
A concept of robustness-meets-lightness is showcased 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 form 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 is designed to bring to mind the frame of an aeroplane, but also gives a nod to the Grand Palais and the Eiffel Tower, emblematic Parisian monuments. The most formal homage to Paris is made by the concept car’s aluminium and plexiglass roof. Milled directly out of the main body, it depicts a map of Paris showing the city’s districts and arteries and the River Seine.
The concept car body is cloaked in an “Amethyst” colour that shifts from deep metallic black to plum violet as the light and viewpoint change. The letter “I” for Initiale Paris features on the vehicle sides and wheels.
Full-LED lights help form the concept car’s 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 positioned in relation to the horizontal and vertical lines of the car through their size and proportions. Rearward vision is aided by ultra-slim, profiled cameras that serve as exterior mirrors.
For the car’s interior design, the designers have taken their inspiration from aeronautics and high-end contemporary outdoor furniture.
Motorists enter the car via rear-hinged doors with the help of a motorised running board – in a further nod to aeronautics. The sense of travelling in private jet-style comfort becomes apparent 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 seats are attached to the central tunnel with no vertical link with the floor. The “floating” effect is heightened by the discreet joint between seat back and seat base that lets the light pass through.
The floor blends matt wood with aluminium in a 3D wave-like structure that sweeps across its surface.
Free of side support, the car’s centre console is designed to fit 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 a bench made of independent mobile blades. The seat back can be partly or totally folded down, while the bench can form a single whole with an armrest separating the passengers.
By day, natural light from above is diffused through the roof prism, creating a play of light and shadow. At night, colourful ambient lighting is deployed. A succession of light guides above the instrument cluster lights up and switches off in step with the forward movement of the car.
Initiale Paris occupants are also greeted by a sound ambience as soon as the car is started. 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. 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 a dedicated surround sound system.
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. Each headrest offers 2 specific enclosures with a pair of speakers. This design creates an individual 360° sound zone for each seat.
As a commitment to its downsizing strategy, Renault has fitted the Initiale Paris with a dCi 130 engine, which has been further enhanced for improved torque (peaking at 400 Nm) response. The engine uses smaller, more efficient cylinder blocks say Renault’s engine-makers.
A further particularity of the concept engine used for Initiale Paris is the use of 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, Renault claims the concept engine emits 40 g/km less CO2 and burns 25% less fuel than an equivalent-performance diesel.