Paris motor show: Mercedes’ B-Class is practical, Renault’s EZ-Ultimo is futuristic

New B-Class once again lacks a seven-seat option, while Renault takes another stab at luxury motoring with the EZ-Ultimo

 

We knew that one of the big production car reveals at the Paris motor show was going to be the new Mercedes-Benz B-Class and now that the covers have been taken off it’s rather hard not to feel an overwhelming sense of ‘meh’ about it.

Once again, the B-Class is basically a tall A-Class, and while this new version looks a touch more rakish and attractive than the too-upright old model, it’s still hardly going to set your pulse afire. More worryingly, unlike its only real rival, the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer, there’s still no seven-seat model, or if there is Mercedes isn’t talking about it for now.

Inside, the B-Class gets a 30mm wheelbase extension, relative to that of the old model, for ever better legroom, while the driving position is mounted some 90mm higher than it used to be. The rear seats slide, split, and fold and can vary the available boot space from 455-litres to 705-litres, or when folded flat, up to 1,540-litres.

The engine range will mirror that of the A-Class, kicking off with the new 1.33-litre petrol turbo, in 136hp and 163hp forms, as well as 1.5-litre and 2.0-litre diesel engines in varying states of tune. An automatic gearbox and, eventually, four wheel drive will be available.

The interior is basically that of the A-Class’ but taller, and uses the same ‘digital plank’ MBUX all-screen dashboard, which looks seriously cool and classy.

Those looking for something a little more forward-looking than a taller A-Class should mosey on over to the Renault stand. Last night, Renault revealed its new Chinese-built cheap electric car, the K-ZE, but today the French brand is showing that it hasn’t quite given up on the idea of making luxury cars (in spite of having had its fingers repeatedly burned in that arena in recent decades).

Renault's far-out future vision

The EZ-Ultimo is a properly far-out motor show concept, and has been designed to be fully autonomous (and that in spite of many car makers seemingly stepping back from full autonomy). The idea is that it’s not just a robotic luxury car, but a shared robotic luxury car, designed to be “available on-demand, for a single trip, for an hour or for a day.”

Renault’s EZ-Ultimo is a properly far-out motor show concept, and has been designed to be fully autonomous (and that in spite of many car makers seemingly stepping back from full autonomy
Renault’s EZ-Ultimo is a properly far-out motor show concept, and has been designed to be fully autonomous (and that in spite of many car makers seemingly stepping back from full autonomy

“As consumer trends change and people are enjoying ride-hailing services more and more, a new paradigm for mobility will emerge. Embodying this revolution, EZ-Ultimo offers a unique luxurious experience aboard a robo-vehicle that can be adapted depending on the service provider,” said Laurens van den Acker, Renault’s head of design. “Inspired by contemporary architecture, and completely integrated in future smart cities, EZ-Ultimo will provide an exclusive experience for all. With autonomous, electric and connected cars, we are entering a new exciting era in automotive design.”

The whole side of the car opens up to allow passengers in, and the seats rotate and slide out a little to make access even easier. Faceted glass gives them privacy on the inside, while the cabin is stuffed with the usual wood and leather, and the unusual marble.

The idea is that you use it to swish around town, make use of Renault’s new connected stream service, the Augmented Editorial Experience, and then disembark, and the car autonomously rolls off for its next engagement. The future of luxury motoring? Or should the French just give up on the luxury car idea?