September 12, 2008

Video: Renault Ondelios Concept merges Gallic style, high tech for ultimate luxury

Crossover, trucklet, compact SUV.

All of these words might spring to mind at the first sight of Renault's latest concept. Yet the Gallic automaker sees the Ondelios as a vision of the future high-end luxury sedan, blending performance and luxury with respect for the environment.

We wrap up this week with a detailed examination of the Renault Ondelios — a machine that challenges traditional design concepts in the interest of advancing the art of the luxury automobile.

"Motion rather than speed"
"Ondelios is inspired by motion rather than speed and is a whole new response to the call of the open road," said Patrick Le Quément, design director for Renault.

Sitting on seven-spoke, 23-inch aluminum alloys, the wheels are at first glance the centerpiece of the Ondelios' design. Their propeller-like hubs draw airflow from the sides of the car to prevent turbulence and cool the brake rotors. Rolling on 255/40 R23 next-generation Michelin Pilot Sport tires, the tread pattern is designed to minimize deformation of the contact patch, reducing rolling resistance and offering responsive handling.

Unified design through advanced materials
In designing the Ondelios, spaciousness, efficiency and avant-garde style were top priorities. Le Quément chose to use broad gullwing doors to span the pillarless opening, allowing easy entry into all three rows of seats. At the push of a button, the second row of seats will automatically slide forward and fold down to facilitate access to the third row.

Outside, the fully glazed roof, broad windscreen and low window sill are all complimented by flush-fitting glass and anthracite blue bodywork, lending the car a windswept and unified look. The steeply raked windscreen, which extends well down the bonnet, further accentuates this ethereal feel.

"We think of it as made from a single material, where the body and glazed areas merge into one. Ondelios is a glimpse of what the automobile might be in the medium term future," said Le Quément.

At the front, the Ondelios' aluminum grille is flanked by highly efficient LED headlamps with sculpted polycarbonate covers featuring integrated lenses. Out back, boomerang-shaped LED tail lights are mounted flush with the bodywork and ringed with air extractors to control the flow of air from the wheel arches. The tailgate's upper section rounds off the car's sleek, aerodynamic lines with a glare shield that slides inwards to air and cool the cabin.

These advanced aerodynamic aids are key to the Ondelios concept's efficiency. Proving that not all hybrids need to be miniaturized, anodyne and awkward, the 5 meter long and 1.6 meter high Ondelios uses a fully enclosed undercarriage to deliver a drag coefficient of 0.26, rivaling the Toyota Prius for wind-cheating efficiency.

To compliment the extensive aerodynamic tuning, the Ondelios is also designed to be highly recyclable. Non-structural body parts are made from a natural flax fiber composite for greater recyclability. Since weight is also a detriment to fuel efficiency, the car's monocoque is made from carbon fiber and the glazed roof from polycarbonate.

Next generation diesel hybrid power
Under the hood, the Renault Ondelios features a diesel-electric drivetrain; a 205-horsepower 2.0 liter turbodiesel four and two 20kW electric motors positioned at the front and rear axles, respectively.

The Ondelios will run on electric power alone using the front electric motor at speeds up to 45 mph. The torque-rich diesel four and the rear electric motor add power during acceleration; regenerative braking is used to charge the on-board battery pack.

When traction is poor, the rear electric motor will activate, providing all-wheel-drive stability without relying on a heavy and drag-laden mechanical driveshaft. Thus, the Ondelios provides all-wheel-drive traction when it is beneficial and front-wheel drive efficiency when it isn't needed.

The Ondelios can hustle from 0 to 60 mph in 7 seconds, while using 4.5 liters of diesel every 100 kilometers. CO2 emissions are also remarkably low; a mere 120 grams per kilometer. An impressive feat for such a large sedan.

The bottom line: Renault has taken the concept of spaciousness and environmentalism and applied cutting- edge design and materials to create a genre-defying expression of a 21st century luxury automobile.

Like most of Renault's show cars, the design is fanciful with heaps of show car tinsel, but the fundamental technology is already here. The future of the automobile is a lot closer than you'd expect; this is Renault's vision.
[Video: Renault via R2R]
[Pictures: Renault via ABG]

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