Renault wants to make your car part of your house
Frankfurt Motor Show: Symbioz concept integrates car and house, while Toyota adds grunt to its C-HR Hybrid
A couple sits inside the Renault prototype Symbioz
Renault hasn’t just built a concept car for the Frankfurt motor show, it has built and entire house, into which that concept car is integrated. Called Symbioz, the 21-metre-long house has been installed in the Frankfurt show halls, and was co-designed by Renault styling chief Laurens van den Acker, and French firm Marchi Architectes. The idea is that the car, a 4.8-metre long, carbon-fibre, all-electric saloon, plugs into the house to either charge itself, or supply power to the house when necessary, and can also function as an extra space within the house when you need it.
“No longer can we think of car design in isolation from the ecosystem surrounding us, or from the evolution of major changes like electric energy use, connected and autonomous drive technologies that influence our lives as we move from place to place. This is truly a unique project that allowed us to work with our planners, designers & engineers, academics & architects, startups and sociologues to explore new boundaries in customer experience, technology and energy use and design harmony to form a complete experience” said van den Acker a the show.
The Symbioz car itself is pretty brisk — thanks to a 500kW electric motor it can sprint to 100kmh in just six seconds, and Renault claims that the 72hWh battery can be charged to 80 per cent capacity in just 20 minutes. Partially autonomous, the Symbioz’s entire dashboard and steering wheel, developed for Renault by LG Electronics, retract back by 120mm to allow more space for the front seats to move around. Nonetheless, Renault says that when you’re in control, the Symbioz offers an engaging driving experience thanks to a low centre of gravity and rear-wheel drive.
When you get home, the Symbioz docks with an integral lift in the house, which can raise the car up to the roof to act as an extra living space. The seats slide and rotate for a lounge-like atmosphere, while the doors (conventional lower halves, ‘butterfly’ style top halves) open out “like the petals of a flower” to allow you to get in and out more easily.
You’ll have to get into the habit of planning your journeys ahead, though. Renault says that the Symbioz’s systems are designed to mix and match the car’s power levels with that of the house depending on what you’re planning to do. “ If there are no plans for a long trip in the next 48 hours, a minimum charge level will be left in the car battery (i.e. enough energy for a short trip) in order to optimise power distribution at home. However, if a weekend away is planned, the system will fully charge the car battery on Friday night, gradually turning down the home heating overnight” says Renault.
The French car maker claims that a car similar in style and tech to the Symbioz could be on sale by 2023 (and given its size, it could be that Renault is planning to move itself more upmarket as it starts to roll out more electric cars), and that the full-integrated house setup could be part of a further-flung future. Presumably as long as your happy to buy a new house when you buy a new Renault.
At a slightly more realistic level, Renault has brought that perennial petrolhead favourite, the Megane RS, to Frankfurt. The hottest Megane yet uses the same 1.8-litre turbo four-cylinder petrol engine as the forthcoming new Alpine A110 sports car, boasting 290hp and 390Nm, of torque. There will also be a 300hp ‘Trophy’ version by the end of 2018.
The Megane RS sticks with front-wheel drive, and this time around there’s no three-door body shape, just the standard five-door. You can choose from a six-speed manual or six-speed dual-clutch transmission though, and there’s a trick 4CONTROL four-wheel steering system which Renault claims will make up for any power deficits to rivals such as the Ford Focus RS and Honda Civic Type-R.
Full performance figures have not yet been released, but Renault claims that it’s concentrated less on making big numbers than on having big fun. It might help that Renault F1 driver Nico Hulkenberg was involved in the car’s development, saying “thanks to the new technologies it packs, including 4CONTROL technology, New Megane R.S. is even more efficient and nimble than its predecessor. It’s a delight to drive.”
Toyota, too, has made a hotter version of one of its standard cars for the Frankfurt show, but frustratingly won’t tell us exactly how hot. The C-HR HY-Power is a design study that previews an expanded lineup of Toyota hybrid vehicles, and clearly from the chunkier bodykit, and the name, this is a hybrid with more grunt than the standard model’s 122hp. But how much more, Toyota isn’t saying, only that more details will be revealed in early 2018.
Chunky Land Cruiser
The big, chunky Land Cruiser is also getting a Frankfurt refresh. We had been half-expecting an all-new model, but it’s really just a thorough facelift, with new grille and lights, some interior tweaks, and the same 2.8-litre turbo diesel engine. Not a star of Frankfurt, perhaps, but a vehicle that is at least guaranteed to get you home in the real world.