Renault conceives the car for everyman, with its Scenic replacement due 2024
There exists one burning issue with all carmakers rubbing their crystal balls, considers Iain Robertson, and it lies in a combination of concept/style car costs and whatever its brand production potential might be, which goes someway towards amortising such burdens, perhaps even justifying its very existence in the first place.
The terrible events that unveiled in New York in 2001 more than overshadowed the one-off Frankfurt appearance of Jaguar Car’s prodigiously ritzy XK prototype that its creator, the magnificently well-paid and occasionally original stylist, Ian Callum, tried to ‘sell’ to an international clientele that year. With its hallmarked solid gold details (including the ‘leaper’), refractive green fish scales paint and ultra-soft Nappa hide upholstery, Callum boasted of its £1m price tag. However, XK got shelved, Jag got sold and the show car frippery is said to reside lifeless in a barn somewhere in the West Midlands, never to be seen again…until somebody wants to release its intrinsic value, when balancing the books.
There was a time, when carmakers had clearly not dispensed with their Dan Dare (Eagle comic) imagery of the 1960s, all Americana, pointy fenders and some degree of aeronautical capability. While the ‘Yanks’ were only too happy to drive their tanks, Europe was always prepared to plough its own design furrow and, while a few concepts slipped into the production net virtually unchanged, most notably the Vauxhall Tigra, only one car company seemed prepared to bank on its styling team’s forward-thinking, the very Gallic Renault. Its concepts have proved mostly to be realistic propositions and its latest iteration, the Renault Scenic Vision is of particular interest, because, for the first time I can believe genuinely that a car company has greener, cleaner, safer and greater inclusivity in its future than all of the bleating evangelists for the electrified generation.
Just sticking with the powertrain for a moment, while Renault is already electrically invested, it has adopted a broader view by contemplating hydrogen as a primary fuel source but utilising the battery pack as a storage medium and secondary source of propulsion. While the option does exist on most manufacturers’ drawing boards, very few have committed to both and the results are abundantly clear to Renault through its claim that the neu-Scenic can deliver a carbon footprint 75% less than a conventional electric vehicle. Its rivals can only read it and weep. An outstanding 95% of the concept is recyclable, including its battery pack, although even Renault has found that recycling 100% is still unfeasible, despite the intensity of its research.
The exterior design is entirely suitable for line manufacture and provides a charming and tangible image of what to anticipate from Renault in 2024, with the comprehensively revised Scenic, which is admittedly a slightly larger proposition than the last version of Renault carrying that model name. The need for space arises from the battery pack and running gear of what will be a BEV. It is a most eye-pleasing design that will be sure to tug at potential end-users’ heart-strings, without veering into the realms of ‘oddball electric’. While my usual rallying call might be ‘caveat emptor’, in this instance, upgradable technology should ensure that the Scenic acquired in 2024 will retain a high degree of currency by 2030, when ‘EV switch on day’ occurs, without losing any of its kerb appeal.
You may recall a story we presented a couple of years ago that referred to Renault’s laudable commitment to recycled trim materials in that its history in cloth yarns and weaving technology heralded fresh beginnings in the sustainable supply market. Gathering plastic bottles from beaches was a starter option but it has already been expanded and new carding, weaving, colouring and stitching technology have combined to cover potentially every seat, door card, roof panel and dashboard in Renault’s range, with extra capacity that can be supplied, or sold, profitably to sister and even rival firms. It is a magnificent achievement that will clean up environments and will lead to Renault claiming that more than 70% of its new models will be produced from recycled and renewable materials.
Yet, Renault has not stopped at alternative drivetrain, interior and exterior features, as its dip into future technology, a lot of which has been undertaken by both of its strategic partners Nissan and Mitsubishi, can reveal, with a headlining onboard claim that driver and occupant safety enhancements can reduce accidents by another wholesome 70%. Statistics suggest that 90% of all road traffic incidents are due to a combo of human and sometimes external factors. By incorporating ‘Safety Coach’ each of them is addressed by way of detection, warning and guidance to avoid repetition. Nissan’s developments into human nature, physical and psychological comfort over the past couple of decades has led to new ADAS systems that have the potential to lead the market. The ‘Safety Score'[element gives a monitorable target with individual driver tips designed to improve driving habits, with a fun AI proactivity to alter certain practices that can even result in incentivising rewards.
It can also give drivers more room to plan ahead, avoid the risk and change speed to suit the specific situation (roundabout, questionable junction, speed limit and so on), and take stock of the various visual, audible, or tactile warnings. Gentle, multisensory notifications can help the driver to remain alert, anticipative and responsive. Contrary to popular belief, training and guiding drivers to adopt better driving practices helps reduce risk and stress, while avoiding accidents. However, in cases of real and present danger, connected on-board systems will take over, in the role of the ‘Safe Guardian’ that activates when there is a proven risk (dangerous turning, wheel not under control for a prolonged period, drowsiness, etc.). In such cases, the vehicle slows down and draws itself back in control automatically. To support the systems, a heart rate sensor is placed in the steering wheel and a camera serves to detect signs of driver fatigue, or inattentiveness. Should a problem arise, warning signals are sent to the driver and passengers, and emergency services are alerted automatically.
I would have loved to explore the ‘cocoon airbags’ and even the fireman safety equipment that will also feature on the new Scenic but feel that it can be left for another opportunity to talk Renault and its value-packed driver and occupant equipment tally. Needless to say, no prices are available as yet but you can expect them to commence from around £40,000, as Renault’s EV pricing has been surprisingly realistic thus far.