As we approach the Paris Motor Show, one thing is becoming very clear: The French are quite ready to host a big auto show. We've already seen two very interesting French concept cars in the form of the Peugeot Hybrid Air demonstrator and the Renault EOLAB. Now Peugeot has detailed the QUARTZ concept, a hybrid 4x4 that combines elements of crossover and sedan body styles in becoming "an SUV for the future."
After catching a first glimpse of the QUARTZ on the auto newswire, we assumed it was influenced by the gnarly 2008 DKR that's being prepped for next year's Dakar Rally. However, the Dakar car isn't mentioned anywhere in the press release, so it appears that the QUARTZ shares little more with the 2008 than colors and a general aura of fierceness.
Even without the Dakar influence, there's plenty to like about the QUARTZ, not the least of which is its 500-hp hybrid powertrain. The 1.6-liter Peugeot Sport four-cylinder at the heart of that plug-in hybrid drive sounds small at first, but it puts out just under 170 bhp per liter for a total of 270 bhp. That engine drives the front wheels with the help of a 114-hp electric motor, and a second 114-hp motor brings power to the rear wheels. A six-speed automatic transmission and limited slip differential help the output find its way to the wheels.
The three power units are managed via three driving modes: ZEV uses only battery power for distances up to 31 miles (50 km); Road mode teams the engine and front motor for a combination of sharp driving and efficiency; and Race mode puts all three power plants to work for a road-gripping, performance-focused ride. During deceleration, both motors send power back to the 400-volt battery.
The QUARTZ is held up by a bespoke MacPherson suspension up front and a multi-arm rear set-up. With the help of onboard cameras and satellite navigation, pneumatic hardware within the suspension automatically adjusts ground clearance between 11.8 and 13.8 in (300 and 350 mm) based on the road conditions ahead.
Up above the chassis, the QUARTZ is blessed with a muscular, powerful body that looks hungry for a steady diet of road and dirt. It measures 177.2 in (4.5 m) in length by 81.1 in (2.06 m) in width and has short overhangs that drop neatly down next to the large 23-in wheels with aero-optimizing flaps. The long hood rounds its way into a stout face. At the other end of the sedan-inspired, glass-roof cabin, a tight, muscular rear gives the feeling of a car that's about to shoot forward. A distinguishing element of the rear is the split roof spoiler.
"The Peugeot QUARTZ Concept is the marriage in a single form that embraces the lower aspects of an SUV with the upper features of a saloon," explains Matthias Hossann, QUARTZ design manager. "The styling reflects the function of each part. The QUARTZ's sculpted body and innovative materials pack a punch while ensuring dynamic efficiency."
Those innovative materials feature prominently in the composite structure and bonded panels that allow for the loss of the B pillars and introduction of scissor doors. Inside, the QUARTZ features a generous amount of basalt in its center console, a material chosen for its mix of low weight and strength. Peugeot says the concept is the first ever to make use of digitally woven textile, a material that cuts waste by eliminating the need to trim it to size.
Each of the QUARTZ's four leather-trimmed bucket seats has a four-point harness, adding to the sporty feel of the interior. The driver finds himself in an "i-Cockpit" with a head-up display and compact, competition-inspired steering wheel with integrated indicator, drive mode and gear-shift controls.
Peugeot loves to play around with multi-tone exteriors on its concept cars, as we've seen on recent designs like the Onyx and EXALT. On the QUARTZ, it's a combination of mineral grey on 3/4 of the body, matte black at the rear and strokes of red highlighting some of the more angular body elements. The car has LED lights and a checkered-pattern lion badge that changes in appearance depending upon the angle from which it's viewed.
We'll have to wait for the Paris show to get a proper look at the checkered badge and scissor doors because they're not at all apparent in Peugeot's initial renderings. We'll look to bring back photos of those features and every other angle of the QUARTZ.