One has to admire the resilient spirit of Peugeot Citroen.
Budgets too tight to stay in LeMans?
Take the powertrain up Pikes Peak in the new 208’s body shell! And then keep rocking that super-diesel at the 2015 Dakar rally’s of Chile!
A similar feat today with the just-revealed Exalt concept for Beijing. It carries forward many of the ideas first explored on the bare-metal Onyx hypercar concept, but this time with the gorgeous proportions of a RWD four-door coupe.
That cab-backward layout is something French engineers and the buying public have been clamoring for since the demise of the Africa-spec cars in PSA’s back catalog. There simple has not been a rear-drive French-made car in decades. Prove me wrong! I am slow this morning, but cannot think of one since the Citroen SX really tried to class up front-drive layouts.
Or the original fun-cooker: the DS.
As wonderful as the Citroen’s TractionAvant ideas were when they reached the mass market of the 1950s and 1960s — twenty years before American manufacturers — and forty years before ABS, snow tires and traction control — it is a soggy mess today of bad handling that actively discourages corner speed.
Most enthusiasts cringe at the idea of owning only front-drive cars for their entire lifetime. It is a sort of forced austerity. One that grows a huge backlash of pent-up demand for oversteer.
So how has Peugeot delivered this desirable cab-backward stance? Bought in some old bones from somewhere? Oh no.
They have designed themselves out of another pickle. A tiny 1.6-liter THP turbo in the front is mounted well behind the front axle (somehow) — delivering the short-overhand look that has been woefully absent since NCAP started testing cars in France. This is a huge breath of fresh air. How do all those bottle-nose Citroen and Peugeot and Renault cars even get up the notoriously-steep driveways and mountain roads of France? A big “Scrape” must be a frightfully-common sound in Paris parking areas, to say nothing of Nice.
On further inspection, the Exalt does still have a gigantic front overhang. But it is so balanced by the long-wheelbase, low roof and rear-shifted windshield base that one might hardly notice.
This design is made more authentic by a battery-driven rear axle, using the same principle as the Lexus RS450h for more than a decade.
So it is three big leaps forward for Peugeot with the EXALT:
— cab-backward layout with a hint of “F.U.” crisp and un-ruined appeal about its rear spoilers and glass
— a low roof that shows a shred of RWD coupe coolness
— and a new nose that is finally attractive, distinctive, and well-executed
But is it all sunshine and lollipops for drive-starved French drivers? Not really. The front engine delivers more than 75-percent of the total 340-horsepower output figure — meaning any tail-happiness will still be very hard to achieve.
But little by little, Peugeot seems to be carving itself anew based not on engineered mediocrity — but actual, writ-large buyer Wants.
Just in time, too.
It is not that people will not pay for a French luxury car like the would a 535i BMW. But buyers will not pay for a stretched front-drive car at these prices.
Rationality of market forces, just as the firm slices off huge chunks of equity for both foreign and domestic lifelines? Who’d have ever thought it would play out like this.
The EXALT is very fresh and very exciting. My advice for Peogeot is to listen to the least-popular vote at the table: make this car, or something like it. Do not price it in stratosphere. Achieve results.
But even better? What if the mini turbo petrol engine were in the back, and the electric hybrid stuff were in the front? Porsche seems to think that makes the 918 Spyder a fun plaything, and they are correct.
Official Details below from Peugeot.
THE PEUGEOT EXALT CONCEPT- DESIGN INNOVATOR FOR HEIGHTENED SENSATIONS10/04/14
Imposing Concept car moves to heighten sensations
Radical styling and choice of materials make an impact at first acquaintance
Initiated with the Onyx Concept, EXALT places on show an array of potential materials and textures
With EXALT, PEUGEOT unveils its imposing vision of the saloon car by following the approach initiated in 2012 with the Onyx Concept. EXALT aims to please the senses. It stands out at first contact by its radical styling choices and the materials selected.
First seen on Onyx, the distinct line in the bodywork is reinterpreted by the association of bare metal and an efficient textile, Shark Skin, inspired by the unique texture of a shark’s skin.
The remarkable acoustic comfort achieved inside permits the discovery of an array of materials – natural wool-based ‘chiné’ mixed fabric, aged leather, bare steel and ebony – used to finish the cabin. This high end variety of wood takes on its Chinese identity through the design created by the trio PINWU Design agency.
The technology incorporated makes every journey an experience: PEUGEOT i-Cockpit, black light, Pure Blue air purifier … this art of travel is powered by a petrol HYbrid4 drive train with an output of 340bhp.
“PEUGEOT’s 125 year automobile history is punctuated by models that made their mark on their era. With the EXALT Concept, the Brand asserts its position and writes a new chapter. We are moving forward, resolutely and with confidence.”
Maxime Picat, PEUGEOT Brand CEO
The dynamic saloon
“With EXALT, PEUGEOT unveils its vision of the saloon, combining a sleek design with versatility. This radical approach and original qualities make EXALT instantly desirable.”
Gilles Vidal, PEUGEOT Director of Style
With its sleek and athletic lines, EXALT embodies the power of PEUGEOT design. Sitting on wide tracks and powerfully rounded wheel arches, this five-door saloon expresses its style over a length of 4.70m. The alliance of flat surfaces and straight cut lines reconciles aggressiveness and softness.
EXALT chooses to be radical by deleting all superfluous materials, keeping only what is really useful. Its specification comprises materials from the melding of cultures with French and Chinese expertise. Each one of the materials used has been rigorously selected for their efficiency.
“PEUGEOT EXALT is athletic, powerful and sleek, incorporating original materials. Its cabin, trimmed in natural materials, is dedicated to comfort and instinctive driving. This innovative concept makes the saloon even more attractive and more versatile, in particular the boot with its unique opening mechanism exposing a large boot.”
Pierre Paul Mattei, PEUGEOT EXALT Styling Manager
In homage to the art of the French motor car from the twenties and thirties, its bare steel bodywork is hand-formed by a master panel beater.
One of a kind, it reinterprets the historical cues that make up automobile passion: taut and dynamic lines, a high waist line, a raked windscreen, a low roof (just 1.31m), a very slender profile that conceals a cabin that is still spacious, tightly shaped side panels with basalt fibre sills and 20-inch wheels.
The long bonnet grows out of the particularly expressive front end where the twin headlamps, set in the bumper, integrate the Brand’s recognizable signature lighting. In the middle, the powerful grille emerges from the bodywork and provides the backdrop for the doubly symbolic lion. This is because this animal is both the emblem of the Brand and in Chinese culture, the expression of power and prestige. At the bottom, the flow of air supplying the engine is divided by ‘fins’ carrying the LED direction indicators.
To improve the drag coefficient, the rear of EXALT is trimmed in Shark Skin, an efficient textile. Due to its technical grain structure, this material resulting from bio-mimicry markedly improves the aerodynamic performance of the vehicle, with the aim of reducing fuel consumption.
Its use is elevated by a straight line making the transition between the rear door and the quarter light, the transition between the grey of the steel and the red of the Shark Skin. This material contributes towards EXALT’s aerodynamic performance – with an SCx of 0.6 – in association with other elements: an air extractor in the rear bumper, the curve of the roof and the profiled mirrors.
With such remarkable aerodynamics, the mark left by EXALT on its surroundings is essentially visual. A horizontal band in the hollow of the rear spoiler shows the width of the car and the sculpted facet of the lighting signature.
PEUGEOT EXALT also provides exceptional versatility for a saloon. The boot works with an innovative pantograph mechanism. This arrangement allows maximum opening while needing less space externally. The boot with its integral motorised aperture reveals a boot with a low load sill. Trimmed in wood, it presents a delightful space and facilitates the handling of luggage.
“I was inspired by the musical world for this project. Colour is a fundamental notion in it. Notes combine together to create a score which is profoundly moving. This is how technology and tradition merge together in EXALT.
In the PEUGEOT i-Cockpit, a digital instrument panel is side by side with toggle switches. The result is pure and timeless.”
Alessandro Riga, PEUGEOT EXALT Interior Stylist
The PEUGEOT i-Cockpit delivers an intense driving experience dedicated to enjoyment. The small wheel trimmed in leather and ‘chiné’, a natural wool-based mixed fabric, and the digital instrument panel are intuitively arranged in front of the driver for improved operation and reading. On the extended centre console, two folding touch screens emerge from the dashboard. The upper screen gives access to the on board computer and the Hi-Fi and navigation systems. The second screen presents a permanently visible control bar to provide access to the automatic air conditioning and the Pure Blue system.
Nine Toggle Switches are located on the dashboard, evocative in their design of the world of music. They are arranged in two groups, two to the left of the small steering wheel, seven to the right. This distribution was adopted because of the human brain’s ability to easily remember up to seven elements, for their position and their function. Furthermore, the driver is free to associate Toggle Switches with functions, as desired: access to navigation with a particular switch, vehicle settings with another, etc.
Activation of the black light system can also be assigned to one of the Toggle Switches. Built into the headlamps, this system is particularly useful during the transition between day and night. Visibility issues are reduced and driving becomes more relaxed with black light, improving the observation of road markings.
For the comfort of its occupants, PEUGEOT EXALT is fitted with an innovative air treatment system called Pure Blue. When stationary, with the vehicle empty, Pure Blue purifies the cabin surfaces by spreading bactericides and fungicides. Once the vehicle is moving, an active filter treats the air before it enters the cabin, eliminating VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and fine particles. So in all circumstances the occupants travel in a purified environment.
“Our approach is to have a responsible attitude. PEUGEOT EXALT is made of raw and natural elements associated with innovative and efficient materials. The idea was to finish the car with useful touches and to do it intelligently with the constant objective of optimising processes to economise on the use of materials and reduce waste.
“This responsible approach is also applied in the local sourcing of materials, such as black ebony from the tropical forests of South East Asia.”
Sophie Gazeau, PEUGEOT EXALT Colours and Materials Stylist
PEUGEOT EXALT is irresistibly attractive to all motoring enthusiasts, whatever their origin. This concept combines western elegance and eastern sophistication.
Fengyou Gong, PEUGEOT China Stylist
PEUGEOT EXALT advances the approach initiated by the Onyx Concept in 2012.
Regarding the work carried out on the body of the vehicle, bare steel is used to accentuate the expressive lines of the vehicle. Associated parts such as the wheels are also in bare steel in order to highlight the markings left by the milling machines.
Steel remains bare in all areas where it does not come into contact with the bodies of the four occupants. At the elbows and arm contact points, EXALT is trimmed in warm toned wood. From the bottom of the windows, it gives way to a natural wool-based ‘chiné’ mixed fabric used to trim the door panels, the dashboard and the interior roof. Between these two materials, a strip made by 3D printing conceals the speakers of the Hi-Fi system. Its structure draws inspiration from anechoic chambers where the dihedral partitions reduce acoustic interference.
Each occupant has a special welcome on board the PEUGEOT EXALT, whether the driver or a passenger. The bucket seats made of composite material incorporate seat squabs and backrest in natural wool-based ‘chiné’ mixed fabric with the side areas in aged leather.
Fabric and leather are worked together in a process that optimises the use of resources. So to avoid off-cuts and waste, the fabric is shaped using clamps. This simple process is inspired by the tradition of fine gentlemen’s bespoke tailoring. The fabric then presents surfaces with crisp folds and no stitching. Leather for use in cars has always been selected for the absence of markings then tanned to make it perfect. Optimising the skins, EXALT makes use of imperfections in appearance to make each one a unique signature. Then the leathers are aged naturally, without the use of chemicals.
Black ebony wood has been selected for its rare qualities and its indigenous roots to the Asian continent. It bears a motif designed by the trio PINWU Design agency; combining a lion with bamboo stems and leaves, its creation was entrusted to a Chinese master craftsman using traditional techniques.
Finally, carbon fibre gives way to basalt fibre, a natural composite. Produced by smelting the basalt stone, it reduces the use of petrochemical resources.
High performance drive train
Weighing just 1,700kg, PEUGEOT EXALT is powered by a plug-in HYbrid4 drive train with a total maximum power of 340bhp shared between the four wheels. The bonnet houses the 1.6-litre THP 270bhp developed by PEUGEOT Sport. Coupled to a 6-speed automatic gearbox, this 4-cylinder petrol engine develops a specific power output of nearly 170bhp per litre, making it one of the best in the world.
At the rear, the multi-link rear axle contains a 50kW electric machine for electric or hybrid phases of operation. This machine also intervenes to recharge the battery through energy recovery braking. On deceleration, braking is produced by the resistant torque of the electric machine. In this way the HYbrid4 technology converts into electricity the kinetic energy that would otherwise have been dissipated as heat through the brake discs and pads.
Intelligent technology, HYbrid4 instantly adapts to the driver’s wishes by selecting the most suitable mode: pure electric, petrol only, petrol-electric hybrid. The driver feels the intensity of the journey, enjoying PEUGEOT’s expertise in road handling performance.
With PEUGEOT EXALT, the Brand unveils its imposing vision of the saloon. It demonstrates once again that emotion has always been at the heart of our heritage and genes.
Tom Burkart is the founder and managing editor of Car-Revs-Daily.com, an innovative and rapidly-expanding automotive news magazine.
He holds a Journalism JBA degree from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Tom currently resides in Charleston, South Carolina with his two amazing dogs, Drake and Tank.
Mr. Burkart is available for all questions and concerns by email Tom(at)car-revs-daily.com.