According to Peugeot, the autonomous and alternative energy cars destined to hit our roads in the near future are boring. The French carmaker believes that future technologies should always be at the service of automotive pleasure and that “an exciting future is a future that gives you the choice over the silhouette, the type of propulsion or driving.”
Their take on that choice, and the drive to make the future “un-boring”, was presented at October’s Paris Motor Show in the form of the e-Legend Concept. Aside from the retro-inspired styling, the e-Legend Conceot differs from most current and predictive future automobiles in one key area – the ability to actually drive the car is retained. Granted the new and future metal on show in Paris this year was minimal, with many major marques not displaying at all, but the Peugeot concept was a clear star of the 2018 show.
The concept’s all-electric power train is fuelled by batteries with a 100kWh capacity and while the number and type of electric motors is unrevealed, presumably at least two are employed, as the concept is four-wheel drive.
The drivetrain delivers a claimed 340kW and 800Nm for 0-100km/h in less than 4 seconds and a maximum speed of 220km/h. Range is 600km, of which 500km is accessible in 25 minutes with a fast recharge system, with induction charging also part of the specification.
504 for the New Millennium
For those that haven’t already picked it, the e-Legend Concept takes much of its styling inspiration from Peugeot’s 504 Coupe (see breakout).
Without the packaging constraints of a conventional combustion engine, the e-Legend could have been styled in any number of ways, but in choosing a familiar three-box design, specifically that of a coupe, the appearance is both more familiar and palatable, while the sharper, sportier style of a coupe is also part of the “unboring” mantra behind this build.
Measuring 4560mm x 1930mm x 1370mm (LxWxH), the e-Legend Concept is larger, but not significantly so, in all areas compared to the 504 coupe from 1969, with the wheelbase longer, too, at 2690mm.
Peugeot call the styling “light, athletic, sharp and sensual” and there’s almost a modern muscle car look in some areas, especially the aggressive front end. Hooded headlights in a quad arrangement are inspired by the original 504 coupe, with all the cameras and sensors mounted underneath. The tail light treatment is a modernisation of the original, too, and has been enhanced with a full-width, roof-level brake light.
In profile, the links to the 504 coupe, and particularly its large glass area, are more apparent, but Peugeot say they deliberately broke this element into three levels, with the lowest section suggesting the underlying technical platform (and including heat-extraction vents aft of the front wheels), while the mid-section carries some interesting details, like wheelarch surrounds that are actually inset into the body at the upper edges, but blended below.
The thin pillars of the original 504 coupe are carried over for the concept, as is the blacked-out bottom section of the C-pillar, but on the concept, this carries a ‘welcome screen’ for the driver and also displays the vehicle’s charge level. The concept’s bespoke wheels are 19-inches in size, fitted with production Michelin (of course) rubber.
An interesting feature that isn’t immediately apparent in these images is the treatment of the front and rear bumpers. While they look integrated, these black aluminium beams actually sit proud of the body and are only connected at each end. Similarly, the lack of conventional door handles is addressed by the use of a touch panel incorporated into the side glass.
While its exterior is striking, the e-Legend Concept is arguably more of a visual feast inside, with oh-so-’70s touches including velvet trim for the seats and the use of real wood on the steering wheel and door cappings. Peugeot says the selection of this was to contrast the “cold” digital displays that dominate the cabin. The seat upholstery uses a specially-woven silk velvet mixed with a modern technical mesh that’s currently in use in Peugeot’s 3008 and 5008 SUVs.
The timber trim is carved from renewable Paldao wood and was supposedly chosen for its resemblance to rosewood and ebony timber popular in the 1960s. Again, a version of this finish is offered on the Peugeot’s 3008 and 5008, as well as the 508 sedan. Adding to the ambience is a fragrance diffuser with a choice of two scents, developed by French perfumery Ex-Nihilo and unique to the e-Legend Concept.
Hands-On or Hands-Free
Look past the retro velvet seats and timber and the e-Legend is a real tech-fest inside, with 29-inch touchscreens occupying almost the entire inner door area, while a 49-inch display spreads across the lower dashboard and footwell, below a full-width ‘soundbar’. The displays on these screens change, depending on the driving mode engaged.
Drivers are able to choose from hands-on or hands-free operation, with two different driving modes available for each. The manual modes are ‘Legend’ and ‘Boost’. Legend displays conventional dials on the trio of smartphone-sized screens ahead of the steering wheel (in the style of the triple-gauge cluster on the 504 coupe), while the larger screens on the dash and doors display “digitally-processed” wood.
In Boost mode, enhanced performance from the electric power is reflected inside, projecting images of the road ahead and around the vehicle to give an ‘open cockpit’ feel to the cabin (look for the videos of this online – it’s pretty wild).
Choose either of the level-four autonomous modes – ‘Soft’ or ‘Sharp’ - and the concept’s party piece comes into play. In these modes, the steering wheel tilts 90 degrees and retracts into the dash, freeing up cabin space for the driver. Steer-by-wire technology enables the removal of the wheel from the cabin without affecting vehicle operation.
The driver still retains control, though, and can adjust the selected mode or revert back to manual operation via the rotary dial and small touchscreen on the funkily-styled centre console, or via voice-activation. Also in Soft and Sharp, the front seats recline and side armrests deploy for additional comfort, revealing storage and an induction charging area for smartphones.
Sunvisors fold down, too, with the 12-inch screens mounted in them enabling occupants to watch video content or play games, including a version of the famous ‘Pong’ game that was popular at the same time as the original 504 coupe.
The main differences between Soft and Sharp is the display information. In Soft, on-screen information relating to vehicle operation, navigation and in-car settings is kept to a minimum, so occupants can enjoy their preferred on-screen entertainment with minimal distractions. In Sharp, more information is displayed, with “maximum connection” to calendar information, social networking and other non-vehicle features also provided in this mode.
The aforementioned soundbar is part of the concept’s artificial intelligence technology that uses voice-activation to change the driving mode, access music and video playlists and even open and close the doors.
Developed in conjunction with Soundhound Inc., a whimsical part of the e-Legend Concept’s AI tech is the use of Gilles Vidal’s (Peugeot’s Style Director) voice as the ‘Siri’ of the system. In the concept, Vidal’s digitised voice can recognise and respond to 17 different languages. Peugeot says a production version of this technology will be offered in their vehicles within the next two years.
Another part of the concept’s in-cabin experience is “individualisation” of the sound. This element was developed in partnership with Focal and features two sound diffusion functions claimed to be unprecedented in automotive application. The first, described as ‘mapping’, allows aural navigation messages to be sent to the driver only, while passengers listen to music uninterrupted
The second is ‘zoning’, which Peugeot describe as the total individualisation of the contents, so all four occupants can listen to different music or voice instructions without overlap. It’s mind-bending stuff, and the fact that Peugeot haven’t put a timeframe on a production version of this particular feature suggests it’s still some way off.
Almost immediately after they unveiled the e-Legend Concept, Peugeot were fielding questions about when – or if – they’d bring it to production.
Given the current automotive market and its insatiable appetite for SUVs and Crossovers, a production future for a coupe or sports car is unlikely, but Peugeot have left the door open, saying the coupe could be made after electrification of the rest of their range has been implemented, but that won’t happen until 2020 at the earliest.
Words: Mike Ryan Photos: Newspress, Peugeot media