There is often a feeling that reviewers get when looking at the latest new concept car: once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. The Paris Motor Show has been something of a revelation in this respect – the McLaren P1, for instance, is a concept heading for production – and it is no surprise that it was the French who stole the plaudits. They did so with a car that redefines innovation, reinvents originality and, quite frankly, raises a lot of questions: it’s the Peugeot Onyx, and we’re willing to better that you’ve never come across anything quite like it. Rest assured, this is one concept that is like no other, and it may well be talked about in automotive circles for years to come.
Peugeot Onyx – What’s so Special?
Let’s start with the way it’s built: viewers were wowed by the side panels which were presented in polished copper, a look that gave the curvy profile even more impact. What took a moment to sink in was that it actually is copper: Peugeot has deliberately set out to make sure as little as possible on this car is processed, an idea intended to cut down on time. That the copper panels are crafted by hand seems a little at odds with that idea. Furthermore, the panels are unfinished, being simply polished the once, and are left exposed to the elements. The idea, they say, is that each car will age differently as oxidisation takes hold – a curious idea, but one with a romantically ‘green’ ethic that fits with the Onyx’s hybrid motor. The remainder of the body panels are carbon fibre, and are presented in matte black. The contrast with the copper makes for an arresting sight. It is, before we forget, quite a pretty car for a concept, most of which are deliberately over-designed.
Peugeot Onyx – Extreme Interior Design
You may recall the McLaren X-1, the one-off supercar designed with a range of curious influences in mind; that car was reputedly inspired by everything from a grand piano to Audrey Hepburn. The Peugeot Onyx has similar claims – the interior is, apparently, inspired by an egg-box. With a dashboard made from wood processed from old newspapers and a single piece, highly original felt ‘pod’ making up the passenger compartment, Peugeot has pushed the idea of recycling further than we have seen. Write it off as a gimmick if you want, but remember it is a concept. One of the team responsible for the choice of materials explains: “We sought materials fit for a supercar, then they presented themselves of their own accord by their obvious suitability. Carbon for high performance, copper and glass for tradition, felt and paper, natural and used every day.” That explains it, then.
Peugeot Onyx – High Performance Hybrid
The Peugeot Onyx would be powered by a 3.7liter diesel hybrid V8 engine, complete with Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) as found on current Formula One cars. In its basic form the engine would provide around 600bhp, which could be boosted to 680bhp for limited periods. Given that the car is designed to be lightweight – despite the copper panels – this should provide more than adequate performance, although no figures are given. Of course, we expect 200mph (320km/h) from a supercar without question, so we can assume it will meet that criterion. The thing about the Onyx, and about most concept cars, is they are there to showcase technology. As the exterior stylist, Sandeep Bhambra, says: “The silhouette of the Onyx is sculpted softly, sensuously, but it is also alive and technological. From the first sketches I wanted to create a showcase for technological excellence and craftsmanship by combining elements demonstrating high aerodynamic performance, Black Diamond lamps and copper bodywork panels fashioned by hand.”
Peugeot Onyx – Completing The Family
One of the highlights of the Onyx launch was the fact it came with two smaller siblings: a trike and a bike, each featuring the same copper and carbon finish. These delightful additions to the family raised a smile and, no doubt, helped us to understand that the Peugeot Onyx is as much about advancing design and manufacturing methods as creating a fast car. The whole idea of a concept car is to garner the audience’s reaction and, in this case especially, it was very much favourable. Will it ever reach production? We doubt that a car as curiously conceived and presented as this one could ever hit the roads in such a form, but there are certainly elements of the Onyx that will make their way onto future Peugeot road cars. Copper panels, however, are not likely to be among them. Still, this is a fine effort from a company that has become well known for its design ability, and a worthy contender for star of the show.