About a year ago we told you Renault was considering launching a luxury sub-brand to help it improve the profitability of its models and tap into the strong demand for premium autos in major markets, particularly China. At the Frankfurt Auto Show this week, we got our first taste of Renault’s new luxury sub-brand in the form of the Initiale Paris concept.

Initiale Paris is the name Renault will use for its future upmarket range, similar to how fellow French automaker PSA Peugeot Citroën uses the DS name for its own premium offerings. However, while DS-branded cars are typically standalone models, Initiale Paris will be a range-topping trim for regular Renault models, at least initially. In fact, the Initiale Paris concept is a preview of Renault’s next-generation Espace MPV.

Luxury comes in the form of premium materials, such as aluminum and fine woods, but also from chrome detailing, a two-tone exterior hue, LED headlights, a floating center console in the cabin and an advanced user interface. The vehicle also sports a custom Bose sound system with 32 speakers!

Power comes from a 1.6-liter turbodiesel engine, which is mated to a six-speed dual-clutch transmission and drives the front wheels. Renault is exploring two new directions with the engine: twin-turbocharging technology  and shift-by-wire technology for the gearbox. The latter has allowed designers to make the gearstick slimmer and the floating center console now has no cables to conceal.

A further highlight of the engine used for the Initiale Paris concept is the use of optimized steel pistons to reduce friction. Steel pistons dilate less than aluminum pistons, resulting in enhanced piston-to-cylinder wall clearances at high temperatures. Lower friction between pistons and cylinder walls means lower fuel consumption. And to keep them light, the steel pistons are hollowed out. The design is exactly the same as that used in Renault’s Formula One engine.

The first Initiale Paris-branded model is due in 2015.

For more from the 2013 Frankfurt Auto Show, click here.


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