Re­nault does a Bent­ley

Re­nault’s lat­est con­cept seeks to prove that, in a fu­ture of iden­tikit driver­less rideshar­ing blobs, there is still hope for pri­vacy, lux­ury and beauty. By Ben Miller

CAR (UK) - - Contents -

‘WE WERE AN­NOYED by this no­tion that we’re all go­ing be rid­ing around in white boxes,’ smiles Re­nault se­nior de­sign VP Lau­rens van den Acker. ‘I’m not say­ing we won’t – for most of us, 90 per cent of the time, that will be the re­al­ity – but we won’t only be do­ing that. I like to think there is hope for de­sign, even in this new world. Who wouldn’t want to be driven in this? Tell me this is a white box!’ There’s noth­ing like a dead­line to set minds rac­ing and change in mo­tion. But when CEO Car­los Ghosn an­nounced that a Re­nault robo-taxi would be a re­al­ity by 2022, you can’t imag­ine van den Acker and his de­sign team were very in­spired. Isn’t the ride-shar­ing, elec­tri­fied, con­nected, au­tonomous pod noth­ing less than the au­to­mo­bile stripped of its ro­mance, and anath­ema to car peo­ple like you, me and van den Acker? Ap­par­ently not, and the EZ Ul­timo con­cept is van den Acker fight­ing back – bring­ing hope where all ap­pears lost. Of­fi­cially it’s the third of a trip­tych of robo-taxi con­cepts ex­plor­ing the op­por­tu­ni­ties the paradigm shift to driver­less ve­hi­cles throws up. The first two (a robo-Uber and the best-look­ing de­liv­ery van yet con­ceived by man) were all very wor­thy, but van den

Acker and his team have let rip with the EZ Ul­timo, the near-fu­ture equiv­a­lent of a Rolls-Royce or Bent­ley limo with no driver.

And more mar­ble.

‘My boss Car­los is say­ing this is a big busi­ness and he wants us to take our fair share of it,’ says van den Acker. ‘But we couldn’t re­sist do­ing some­thing more ex­otic be­cause peo­ple say that when we’re all us­ing th­ese robo-ve­hi­cles then de­sign is dead. I needed to prove that we don’t agree.’

Provoca­tive and thought-pro­vok­ing, the EZ Ul­timo riffs on fa­mil­iar themes – a lounge-like in­te­rior lib­er­ated of driv­ing con­trols, ar­chi­tec­tural de­sign in­flu­ences – but de­liv­ers them with such flair you’re happy to sus­pend all dis­be­lief.

The 1800kg pack­age uses a sin­gle e-mo­tor driv­ing the front wheels, wire­less charg­ing to keep the 310-mile bat­tery topped up and a mag­is­te­rial body some 5.8 me­tres long but low like a su­per­car (1.35 me­tres high). A pair of vast two-part doors un­furl to give ac­cess to the in­te­rior and its very in­dul­gent rear-fac­ing front seat (which ro­tates to face the opened door for eas­ier en­try) and rear bench seat. Gor­geous de­tail­ing abounds: moody light­ing from lamps in pale gold, emer­ald green vel­vet seats, smooth ex­panses of mar­ble, a be­spoke flask for re­fresh­ments, the her­ring­bone par­quet floor in Amer­i­can wal­nut, and con­trols that work with the tac­tile pre­ci­sion of a top-end stereo. And all the time the car’s sig­na­ture lat­tice-like skin, in­spired by the Prada store in Tokyo, cre­ates a cosy co­coon of con­tem­po­rary cool.

Why so big? ‘It’s more premium to be stretched out.’

Sexy, pri­vate, pub­lic trans­port? The fu­ture ac­cord­ing to van den Acker’s bright.

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