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2005 Frankfurt Preview, Part III


2005 Renault Egeus concept

2005 Renault Egeus concept

 

2005 Frankfurt Auto Show Index by TCC Team (8/10/2005)

Smoother SUVs On The Way?

 

2005 Jeep Compass concept

2005 Jeep Compass concept

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Is the macho angular look on the way out for SUVs? According to two concepts that will be unveiled at the Frankfurt Show next month, smooth, almost coupe-like shapes could be the next step for the vehicles whose bulk has turned many against them.

Interestingly, the two newcomers are from Jeep, one of the originators of the SUV, and Renault, which has never built one.

 

The Jeep Compass Rallye concept is designed to broaden the appeal of the Jeep, targeting new buyers who might not have previously considered the brand. Compact and nimble, the Compass Rallye is smaller than the usual U.S.-sized Jeep product. But it's the right size for world markets and is designed to offer a fun-to-drive experience, performance and fuel economy. It features more car-like looks, designed to appeal to those who are turned off by what the Brits call "Chelsea Tractors."

 

 

2005 Renault Egeus concept

2005 Renault Egeus concept

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The anti-tractor influence is also evident in Renault's Egeus concept. Patrick le Quement, Senior Vice-President, Corporate Design at Renault and one of the most influential men in the world where vehicle design is concerned, says the car is "an SUV for city driving and the open road, a sort of "tall coupe" that combines driving pleasure with elegance and sportiness." In other words, it's no Chelsea Tractor.

 

The Egeus follows a design trend that Renault has followed throughout its range, that of the taller car. The trend started with the Megane Scenic, which created a whole market niche in Europe, making every other major manufacturer in Europe and some in Japan follow its lead. 

 

Two larger cars that followed the same trend were the adventurous Avantime coupe and the Vel Satis luxury sedan. Neither has been a great success; the Avantime was dropped after one of the shortest production runs in the modern auto industry following minimal sales and the Vel Satis is a slow seller -- but most upmarket Renaults are slow sellers. The French fear a fancy car in the driveway will attract the interest of the tax man, and export markets don't see Franceas a natural source of luxurious sedans -- although they could be wrong.

 

However, Renault obviously thinks that the tall approach is worth pursuing, and the Egeus has the hallmarks of a concept that is there to prepare the public for a broadly similar production vehicle without the concept car bells and whistles. In the Egeus these take the form of moving front seats that drop down and slide back to ease entry and exit, suicide rear doors, and four individual bucket seats, all in an interior that shouts "concept." Something that is more realistic for an SUV is a tilt indicator for safety in off-road conditions.

 

Mechanically, however, the car is more conventional, with a 250-hp 3.0-liter V-6 mounted north-south and driving all four wheels through a seven-speed auto transmission.

 

To Americans, a new SUV from those cheese-eating surrender monkeys at Renault may be of little import. But don't forget that these days what's good for Renault is also good for Nissan, and that's where the Egeus' V-6 came from. With industry icon Carlos Ghosn now responsible for both companies, there might be plans for this smooth SUV or a close relation to arrive with a more acceptable Japanese badge on its nose.

 

 

2005 Suzuki Grand Vitara

2005 Suzuki Grand Vitara

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Another hint that SUVs are losing their sharp edges: Suzuki will show the next-generation Grand Vitara in Frankfurt and it too has a smoother, less off-road look.

 
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