Design of the Year

By Design: Renault Trezor Concept

The electric anti-pod

A concept car? No way. Renault’s Trezor is a pure show car, something meant to startle and stimulate, but never destined to become a product. It’s what we used to call a dream car; its practicality quotient is nil, but it tells us a great deal about our automotive future. The lift-up-hood-front-fender-windshield-roof assembly makes no provision for doors on the side, so that’s not going to happen — seeing as how only athletic young people wearing futuristic Syd Mead clothing would be able to get into it. But its all-electric drivetrain is sure to be part of what will happen in the next couple decades.

That certainty is problematic for designers and marketers. Just as classic cars of the 1930s and ’40s had long, tall hoods over long, low engines to convey the sense of power expressed by steam locomotives, stylists seem to be using very long front ends to make us think of “real” cars, not the automated Google pods we’re dreading. Look at the grotesque Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 electric coupe, which is very close to this Renault in having an excessively long hood, a severely chopped top, a surprisingly round tail in plan view, and limited seating capacity given its giant footprint. It’s not a future formula I particularly welcome, but it’s one we’ll probably see in several more iterations from other firms.

Most interesting about the Trezor are its elaborately textured surfaces under the nose, down the sides, and over the entire rear body aft of the lift-up hood-fenders and roof. Impossible to achieve in deep-draw stamped metal, we saw a simpler, shallow-depth version of this texture in the pre-textured sheet-steel inner-door surrounds of the Ford Mustang more than half a century ago. It was a well-executed idea that proved too basic for most marketers, who struggled to talk about imitation leather made of painted steel during a sales pitch.

However far removed from a potential commercial product the Trezor may be, it is the kind of car I rejoice in seeing presented to the world, one embodying new ideas for materials and forms, even including its silly red windows. Actually, window, since it’s a single piece of glass all the way around. In plan view, the tail of the car is almost a perfect half-circle, another example of the designers playing with surfaces and shapes. So maybe this is a concept car after all, and maybe we’ll see textured composite surfaces on some future Renault. I rather hope so.

By Design Renault Trezor Concept front three quarter

1. The ribs inside the corner ducts are rather nice and look like the product of an exercise in 3D printing.

2. This little lip curves upward from the continuation of the painted surfaces on top that run under the entire nose and back along the side sills below the textured outlet duct behind the front wheels.

3. The huge badge is a reversion to the 1920s, but raising it above the surface at the top and indenting it below the peak is a new look for Renault.

4. Voluptuous surfaces that don’t quite come to a peaked crease at the after-portion of the fenders are elegantly impressive, very fluid.

5. Seeing the world through red glass is an extremely odd notion. Rose-colored glass is something we’ll never see in a production car, but it’s good for show.

6. With a top this low, the driver’s eye level is only slightly above the lower DLO line.

7. All four fenders are above the window sill line — and above the driver’s sight lines. Visibility from the cockpit wouldn’t be very good, even with clear glazing.

8. This strong horizontal line ties together the front and rear elements of the body, transporting the textured surface of the lower nose through to the rear of the car.

9. The lower cheeks of the front fenders carry the smooth, reflective, painted surface under the body.

10. Headlamps are cut into the upper surface and bounded below by the scoop perimeter, making them clearly separate from the huge opening below.

11. The oblate spheroid shape of the center nose and the flipper-like shape of the outer fender leave me with a very strong impression of a whale — the same impression I got from the Mercedes-Maybach, although a whale of a different species.

By Design Renault Trezor Concept rear three quarter

12. The huge tires so thoroughly fill the wheel openings that it appears there is no jounce room in the fenders.

13. The hood is inscribed with 56 hexagons, 22 of which are hinged at the back and open as needed for ventilation, presumably automatically.

14. A central rib inside the roof transparency becomes a fin behind the cockpit, defining the centerline profile as the roof surface drops to make a translucent scoop.

15. Not a fuel filler nor an electrical plug, but a state-of-charge gauge for the battery packs.

16. Fat Corvette-style fenders, complete with center peaks, provide an aggressive impression with the giant 22-inch wheel-and-tire package custom-sculpted for this car.

17. The leading edge of the red translucent scoop takes a sudden bend, so its rear extremity describes a point, leading to …

18. … a protuberant Renault lozenge badge set upright.

19. The paint-transparency break follows the sudden bend shape-change of the scoop just ahead.

20. Taillights, unlike the headlamps, are completely contained below the break line between upper and lower surfaces.

21. Notice that while the upper part of the big rear corner outlet tends to describe the semi-circular plane above, the lower portion straightens out a bit to allow two horizontal openings at the bottom of the bumper.

22. Lower leading edge of the fender bulges out beyond the nominal body side.

23. These little Renault badges also serve as alignment pins for the big hood-foot assembly.

By Design Renault Trezor Concept interior

24. True, if strange, innovation: The fitted luggage is carried under the windshield, near the occupants’ feet.

25. A rectangular, race-car-like steering wheel is about what you’d expect on such an exotic car.

26. Really an impressive piece, this whole assembly is carried on substantial arms with wide attachment points.