2005 Frankfurt Preview, Part III

August 10, 2005

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

Smoother SUVs On The Way?


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

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

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.


Initially the range will consist of two five-door models -- the 2.0-liter gasoline engine and the 1.9-liter diesel -- plus a 1.6-liter gasoline SWB three-door model. Both gas-engine models will be available with an optional automatic transmission, and all utilize an all-new Suzuki designed permanent four-wheel-drive system.


For the first time Suzuki has opted for unitary construction for the Grand Vitara, although the monocoque incorporates a ladder frame to provide the necessary rigidity for off-road ability.


Substantially longer and wider than their predecessors, both three- and five-door models will come with higher levels of safety, passenger comfort, and interior room.



Renault Concept Brings F1 Aerodynamics to the Road


2005 Renault Cio Renaulsport concept

2005 Renault Cio Renaulsport concept

The fall of this year will see the launch of the latest iteration of Renault's small sedan, the Clio, which, with sales of around 600,000 units a year, leads its class in Europe. Like most cars of this type, the Clio range features a performance-oriented hot hatch whose image cascades down to add credibility and pizzazz to the more mundane models. The new Clio will be no exception, and the Frankfurt show will see a concept that foreshadows the next generation of Clios for the enthusiast.


The Clio Renaultsport Concept breaks with tradition in abandoning one of the most popular hot-hatch add-ons, the rear wing. Instead, it follows Formula 1 thinking -- and don't forget Renault is currently leading the F1 Drivers' and Constructors' championships -- and features an underfloor air diffuser at the rear. The action of the diffuser is exactly the same as a wing, in that it creates aerodynamic downforce at the rear of the car; the difference is that where the wing effectively presses the rear end down, the diffuser manages the airflow under the car to suck the car down on to the road.


Following the F1 theme, the Clio also has air vents behind the front wheels, which allow hot air from the engine compartment to escape easily and smooth the airflow along the sides of the car.


The interior of the concept car plays with the idea that such cars rarely carry more than two occupants and never have need to carry three passengers in the rear. The result is a passenger space that comes with four individual sports seats. It's an idea that is typical concept car territory, but once the young drivers with money to spare who make up the hot hatch market see this one, it could be forced into production by customer demand.



2005 Jeep Patriot concept

2005 Jeep Patriot concept

Patriot: Jeep Tough or Jeep Trendy?


As well as the smooth Jeep Compass Rallye concept, there will be another Jeep concept on show in Frankfurt that will appeal to those who like traditional Jeep looks. The Patriot is a concept that, like the Compass Rallye, is compact and designed to appeal to a younger generation than the usual Jeep buyer. The aim is to extend the Jeep brand by appealing to that young audience with more compact vehicles. The Patriot is for those that appreciate traditional Jeep values, a rugged-looking vehicle that can also make it far off road by application of the technology that comes from the company's unique 4x4 heritage. Jeep reckons the Patriot could be the toughest 4x4 in its class.



Citroen C6 Coupe


2005 Citroen C-SportLounge

2005 Citroen C-SportLounge

Citroen, with a new luxury sedan, the C6, just about to appear in showrooms, has turned from space to sport for the new concept car it will unveil at the Frankfurt show. The C-SportLounge may not have the most dynamic of names, but its looks make up for what it loses in nomenclature. It is a true 2+2 GT, but it borrows from the Mazda RX8 in using rear suicide doors to give access to the rear seats rather than being a more conventional two-door GT Coupe.


There are no technical details available yet, but the C-Sportlounge certainly looks good, with a low profile and an aggressive nose. Citroen concepts do sometimes give a hint as to future production models, so the car could become a member of the French company's range at some point.

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