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Concept Car of the Week: Renault Altica (2006)

Fri, 18 Jul 2014 00:00:00 -0700

Back in 2006 Renault was still well into its design-leadership stride, if perhaps not for much longer. The Altica concept, shown at that year's Geneva motor show, showcased all the French brand had to offer at that time – a brilliantly brave, architectural interior, a style that could only be associated with its country of origin and an interior that thoroughly questioned and readdressed layout, control and format.

It also served to preview the renaissance of the Shooting Brake that the industry is still experiencing. Here's what Nick Hull wrote about the Altica at the time:

Is the classic 'shooting brake' estate that epitomized glamor and style over thirty years ago about to make a comeback? First seen in the 1960s on coachbuilt Aston Martins, the 'shooting brake' became a popular 1970s European bodystyle. The Altica concept is Renault's interpretation of this format, updated for 21st century tastes, and proved one of the most creative concepts of the recent Geneva Motor Show.

The shooting brake look is defined on the Altica by use of a long hood, long cabin with slim DLO and a fairly upright tail. The lower bodysides are elegant and sheer, with no obvious wheelarch lips and feature a twisted shoulderline running from near-horizontal over the front wheel to around 45 degrees at the rear of the door. An aluminium scoop breaks up the lower door surface and neatly incorporates an acrylic blade and side repeater lamp, while an unusual two-tone paint finish of pale gold over matte olive grey provides a luxurious yet contemporary look to the car, somewhat reminiscent of the seminal Initiale concept of 1995.

Renault Design is noted for creating striking graphic motifs and the Altica is no exception. Most obvious is the 'mosaic' DLO towards the rear that allows light to filter into the interior, providing better three-quarter visibility and a welcoming feel. Up close, it's actually made up of one large glass and eight fragmented sections and is notable for the way it references architecture such as Le Corbusier's chapel at Ronchamp.

The Altica's active headlamps feature four different modes: daytime running lights (DRL), sidelights, dipped beam and main beam. A cluster of LED bulbs form the main 'eye' with a vertical amber direction lamp sitting above, while the sidelight function employs an unusual 'veil of light' over the entire headlamp using Valeo's new MicroOptique technology.

The clouded reptilian eyes mounted over a wide, thin lower mouth have an air of menace about them, possibly like a crocodile that's about to eat you. But that's precisely what concept cars are all about: for designers to experiment with an emerging technology such as MicroOptique in order to find successful new graphics and expressions: some succeed, some require more work.

However, it's the interior of this concept that impresses most. Accessed through butterfly doors, one is immediately struck by the sense of space provided by the lack of an IP. While it's not the first car to attempt this, the Altica offers one the nicest solutions yet to this idea. The suspended steering column assembly becomes the mounting for a compact square section acrylic instrument binnacle that takes its inspiration from the world of aeronautics. The column is held in place by four profiled rods inspired by Formula 1 and the slim bucket seats are fixed with the steering column and pedal assembly adjusting to match the driver's physique.

The folded rear seatbacks can be raised and two sections of this trunk surface removed and stowed to reveal the rear footwells – a particularly neat solution that enhances the shooting brake appeal over a normal estate car.

New aerodynamics ideas include the use of a patented 'Synthetic Jet' to reduce drag by generating jets of air which are alternately blown and sucked through a 2mm wide slit at the extremity of the roof to reduce the car's Cd by 15 percent at 80mph.

Dimensions length 4270mm, width 1830mm, height 1360mm, wheelbase 2620mm

By Owen Ready