WHEN THE current-generation Peugeot 208 was launched, it unleashed onto the world a new layout for driving controls. Called i-Cockpit, Peugeot’s idea constitutes a shrunken steering wheel and raised instrument dials that can be viewed over the top of the wheel, rather than through the middle (that’s the idea, anyway; some find the top of the wheel obscures the dials altogether). Meanwhile, the dashboard is de-cluttered and the centre console raised so that the driver’s eyes don’t have to stray too far from the road. It’s now on the 308, 208 and 2008, and is set for the 3008 next year.
Now, with the unveiling of the new Fractal concept at the Frankfurt motor show, Peugeot has added audio clarity to the i-Cockpit remit. Brazilian artist and DJ Amon Tobin worked with Peugeot’s designers to fettle the interior in a quest for a “level of auditory perception that further enriches the driving experience.”
Audio is provided by a “9.1.2” acoustic system that combines a 9.1 hi-fi set-up (nine speakers and a subwoofer) with infra-bass speakers built into the back of each seat that are designed to send vibrations through the passengers, enabling to feel the sound.
In addition, the interior is fitted with 3D-printed “anechoic protrusions” that guide the sound, just like the jagged walls of a concert hall, while the external door sills have been shaped using mathematical equations to trap sound before it enters the cabin. In combination with skinny tyres, Peugeot claims the Fractal theoretically eliminates all but the worse road and wind noise.
Other future tech ideas include a progressive sat nav voice that appears to get closer to the driver as the car approaches junctions, and can shift from left to right, depending on the car’s direction of travel. “Nav often becomes background noise,” said Gilles Vidal, Peugeot design director. “We’ve discovered we can use cognitive sound to progressively bring the voice closer.”
Described by bosses at the launch as an “electric urban coupé”, the 201bhp fully-electric Fractal is reported to use a 30kWh battery that Peugeot claims is good for 280 miles per charge. That is probably raising a few eyebrows at the Nissan stand where the Japanese EV pioneer has just announced its new, improved 30kWh Leaf with an uprated range of 155 miles.
The Fractal’s incredible range claims could be put down to lightweight construction (it weighs just 1,000kg – little more than a VW Up! city car), clever aerodynamics and adjustable suspension that hunkers down on the motorway, creating even less drag at speed.
The Fractal is also said to represent an all-new design direction that will debut on next year’s refreshed 3008 crossover, such as the grille and headlight clusters, and includes innovative technology such as a tablet infotainment system with HD holographic display, touch pads on the steering wheel and doors that can be opened remotely using a connected Samsung Gear S watch.