The Paris Motor Show is Renault’s “home” car exhibition, so the big French company always makes an extra effort for it. Today’s new self-driving concept from Renault is arguably its least realistic, but certainly one of its most provocative. Called the EZ-Ultimo, it expands the EZ family of all-electric, distant-future concept vehicles — which also includes the EZ-Go robot taxi — with a self-driving luxury limo.
Photos scarcely do justice to the scale of the EZ-Ultimo. This thing is better compared in size to yachts than any sort of regular car. Fans of ultra opulent concept cars will recognize an affinity between Renault’s Ultimo and Rolls-Royce’s Vision 100 car, Aston Martin’s Lagonda, and, to a lesser extent, Volvo’s recent 360c concept. All of these fully autonomous vehicles have unconventional doors that slide, lift, or swing open in dramatic style. They’re about a sense of occasion and celebration and other such things that really rich people think about.
Renault envisions its new concept car as a mobile “first-class lounge” that serves to extend a premium experience offered by an airline, hotel, or resort. So it’s directed less at high-net-worth individuals and more toward service providers to high-net-worth individuals.
The interior of the Renault EZ-Ultimo matches the extravagant exterior with surfaces made of real marble, accompanied by wood paneling, leather, and lights with accompanying dimmer knobs. There’s one swiveling, armchair-like seat facing backwards and a bench seat opposite it. As large as the car is, it can accommodate only three people at most. The roof features segmented glass panels. The sides are clad in a lattice structure and blacked-out windows, both of which let the passengers look out to the world outside while maintaining their privacy inside.
Renault says that it built this concept for the classic reason of wanting to show what’s possible. Car companies are fond of saying that you can’t build the future if you don’t envision and consider it first. And yet, I find myself troubled by the ratio of concepts for self-driving electric luxury cars versus basic urban mobility ideas. We’re going to need a whole lot more of the latter class of vehicle, and I’d expect car companies to be committing the majority of their time solving the problems of an increasingly urbanized global population. Then again, car exhibitions are intended to thrill the eye, and car makers can moreover feel more at ease disclosing their long-term ideas — the ones that competitors aren’t likely to immediately copy or counter — than stuff that’s imminent. And that’s how we get concepts like the EZ-Ultimo.