Concept Car of the Week: Renault Talisman (2001)

10 July 2015 | by Owen Ready

In the week Renault announced its Laguna-replacing Talisman sedan, we're returning to the first car to bear the name, the rather more daring concept that debuted at the 2001 Frankfurt motor show.

This is what CDN's Giancarlo Perini said of the extravagant gran turismo at the time:

The latest piece of design creativity from the design team led by Patrick Le Quément, looks at the concept of a 'top of the range' coupe powered by a 4.5 liter V8 engine (courtesy of Nissan...pardon, Infiniti) and focusing on interior design and the emerging trend for a friendlier man-machine interface.

Never mind if a similar concept was presented a couple of years ago with the BMW Z9 show car and the simplicity of relation between the driver and the increasing number of functions is actually achieved by the all-new BMW 7 series saloon. What matters here is that Renault is aiming at the upper sphere of the car market and is looking right in the same direction as today’s market leaders.

So here we go: the Z9 had large gull-wing doors? The Talisman has even larger ones: measuring as much as 2450 mm. This dimension is just 500 mm shorter than the rather long 2950 mm wheelbase. Overall, the car is 4805mm. long and 1950 mm wide (but with the doors open its extend to 2480 mm). The height however is limited to 1380 mm (up to 2130 with open doors).

The body design is impressive for its dimensions while the style is a mixture of modern times Alpine-Renault with a glass area “à la Gandini” (or “à la Lamborghini Diablo”), for the side and rear view, while the front design is a further development of the Megane show-car.

At the four corners, the car is fitted with huge wheels carrying Michelin Pax System tyres on 21" light alloy rims.

The best view of the car is from the top, at least if one has to judge from the images provided by the French company. It is from this perspective that one can better perceive the subtle lines, edges and interplay of the shapes.

Renault concedes their prototype (reportedly built in Torino by G Studio) weights as much as 1.6 metric tons with no passengers on board. Talisman is a four-seater coupe and once fully loaded with passengers and luggage it will very close to two metric tons and be very close to a typically Teutonic luxury car.

The best part of the Renault Talisman is its interior. Starting with a most comfortable access and egress through the wide doors. The long gull wing doors open electro-hydraulically to unveil an impressive, yet simple, interior; with no centre pillar to hinder access to the cabin.

The two rows of seats, front and rear, are very similar in their design, making no distinction between the driver and passenger’s needs. They are very thin indeed and would look great even in the show room of famous furniture brands, but do not appear to grant the comfort that a trans-European GT commands. The door panels, with striking wavelike forms, provide the perfect background for a graphic presentation of the design concept.

The eye is immediately drawn to a strip of red leather that seems to levitate in space then unfurls around a central tunnel, upholstered in grey, to form the carbon-structure seats that closely follow the contours of the body. In an elegant curve it becomes the cabin floor, rising towards the windscreen to lead into the opening movement of the dashboard.

Attached to the front body panel by slender metal beams, the shape of the dashboard evokes that of an aircraft’s wing. It epitomizes simplicity and purity. Its elegance is captured in its unique feature: a Tag Heuer clock. The upper section pivots open to reveal stowage space.

The cockpit is designed to grant the sort of "Simplexity" Renault intends to be at the core of their concept. Patrick Le Quément explains this is a process aiming at “transforming necessarily complex technology into something simple to use. Such "simplexity" can be found in Talisman’s controls. The soft leather that envelops the gear selector adapts perfectly to the shape of the hand so that using the gears becomes a natural extension of their form.”

The light touch needed to operate the control switches is also extremely pleasant as, under the leather, a supple material yields beneath the fingertip. The shape of the hand or finger is also sculpted into the steering wheel and controls respectively, giving the latter their "spatula" shape.

In this respect, Renault’s Talisman showcases the company's “Touch Design” philosophy that will characterize the interior of Renault vehicles in the future. Patrick le Quément explains this notion, which he proposed to Renault design teams some two years ago, as a form of "sensual and emotional ergonomics. Each control feature must suggest its function and encourage people to reach out and use it. This means using materials that are soft to the touch. Each shape must be seen as an invitation while the way each one reacts must exactly reflect its mechanism."

Patrick le Quément, Senior Vice President, Corporate Design at Renault hastened to explain that "The quality of the ideas and concepts we wished to express required a suitably prestigious medium; this is why we chose a GT model, combining beauty with an aura of top performance, control and serenity."