If you follow emerging automotive industry trends, it’s not hard to see what the the future holds: sleek design, electric powertrains, minimalist interiors organized around high-resolution digital displays and huge touchscreens. Renault’s response: “Hold our pretzelled steering wheel made of marble.”
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This is the Renault Diamant, a one-off showpiece based on the car you probably best remember when it was sold here as the Le Car. France produced some five million Renault 5s, making it a cultural touchstone in Europe, equivalent to the Citroën 2CV or DS21. This one is underpinned by an electric powertrain, and it is also completely bananas.
Or rather, maybe that’s completely strawberries, as the Diamant appears to have been painted in delicious sherbert. Leading French interior designer Pierre Ganalons was let loose on this car, and has created an automotive confection as perfect as a macaron on wheels.
The paint is a three-stage process, gold on pink with a frosted overlay. The door handles incorporate a fingerprint scanner to unlock, and the protruding headlights and taillights are reminiscent of chunky costume jewellery.
The inside is where things get really wild, with a knot of real vintage marble where a normal steering wheel would go. There’s more marble between the seats, and the thick carpeting and two-tone cloth seats are reminiscent of some 1980s French Rivieria hotel.
It’s all quite over the top — until you look a bit closer. By paring back the interior, Ganalons has created a very sensible layout for a small EV. The way the simple and distraction-free dashboard incorporates a smartphone might actually be the solution to all the huge-tablet nonsense currently being foisted on the market. Just plug in and go: and if you aren’t paying for a big screen, your small city car will probably be cheaper as well.
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While a concept and tribute only, rather than a production model, the Diamant will be sold to the public, at auction. The proceeds go towards a charity called Give Me 5, which aims to renovate tennis courts in suburban areas, as part of a move towards making sport more accessible to youth. This, too, seems very French.
The Diamant is deeply odd, yet also very appealing. It offers hope that the cars of the future need not be as coldly technological as a digital device. Grasp its bizarre steering wheel – hands at 10 and 2? 11 and 6? – and plot a course. Here’s hoping that the future of the automobile retains a certain je ne sais quoi.