Peugeot’s e-Legend doesn’t disappoint on close inspection, cementing its position as a star of the 2018 motor show. The autonomous electric concept with throwback 504 cues splices both high-tech and heritage with great aplomb. It’s also full of clever little details, such as an air-curtain cutout nestling neatly within the curve of the front arch pressing, or the electric skateboard chassis extending out like a running board below the doors, complete with slotted cooling fins.
Nods to the 504 Coupé are both overt – in the unmistakeable silhouette – and subtle – as in the base of the C-pillar.
“If you look at this little black piece on the C-pillar, it used to be a plastic grille on the old car, but here’s it an external communications screen,” says Peugeot design director Gilles Vidal. “It’s welcoming you on board; it’s telling you the charge of the car. So we use the same visual gimmick, except it has a new function.”
Similar reinvention is visible at either end of the exterior, where narrow black bumpers stand proud of the silver bodywork, looking every inch like throwbacks to the era of bolted-on metal bumpers. “It’s not trying to be vintage, because it’s resolving a very modern issue,” says Vidal.
“You know the front overhangs of cars are growing bigger and bigger with each generation. We’ve put the impact beam where it should be for safety and shock, and all the body colour and headlights are pushed back [behind it], letting you visually shorten the overhang. So an old technique is resolving a very modern issue.”
Inside, heritage velvet mixes with the kind of technical knitted fabric used for training shoes. Dark, unvarnished wood (carved timber rather than veneers) and polished brass highlights contrast with big, glossy digital screens.
The part-time steering wheel unfolds from beneath an IP top that is one big speaker, a sound bar stretching from pillar to pillar across the car. Occupants can watch a movie on the widescreen display that runs full width below the dash top, or view individual fold-down widescreens integrated into the sun visors.
Vidal says the turquoise colour of the upholstery is called ‘bleu canard’ in French – duck blue. “We knew we wanted to go with this straight from the beginning,” he adds, noting that the blue interior of the old 504 was “a bit more quiet” than its 21st Century cousin. “We wanted to create almost a colour-block effect inside the car.”
He adds that the colour is an important element of the car’s message, that the start of autonomy doesn’t mean the end of personality. “Whether it’s in the silhouette or the materials in the interior, we said ‘OK, it’s an autonomous car, level four, full electric, but it doesn’t have to be what people fear, a very robotic, clinical thing’. That’s the main idea behind it.”