I am Legend

Peugeot’s design boss Gilles Vidal on the slinky homage to the 504 Coupe


STAR of this year’s Paris Show? That’s easy. Yet Peugeot’s e-Legend coupe provided a very different take on EV autonomy to most.

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“All car manufacturers when they talk about autonomous driving and electrical cars, they try to do something super futuristic, eventually science fiction-esque, you know?” muses Peugeot’s design director, Gilles Vidal. “Science fiction always shows us a scary future. There’s no happy science fiction movie. I looked actually. They’re all dark in one way or another. The future delivered to us in this way is always a bit weird. The future can be superemotional, interesting, bright. Let’s not fear autonomous driving as a loss of something because it will be delightful in many ways. Let’s create a concept that pushes this philosophy.” The e-Legend certainly does that.

Powered by a pair of electric motors making a combined 340kW and 800Nm, the all-wheel-drive e-Legend will sprint to 100km/h in less than four seconds, with the 100kWh battery capable of more than 600km on a charge. There’s a more salient number in the genesis of the e-Legend concept: fifty.

“By luck it’s the 50th anniversary of 504 Coupe, so let’s give it the shape of a heritage car,” says Vidal. “The form language is not retro in any way, if you look at the shape of the body, the surfacing, there’s nothing retro about it.

“Despite the silhouette obviously being the shape of the 504 Coupe, with some graphic gimmicks on the car that are links to the past, but their function is futuristic. The interior has huge screens and super connectivity, a steering wheel that collapses completely, yet we have velour seats that are colourful like in the late 60s, and wood and brass instead of chrome.”

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It’s a tantalising glimpse into a very different future, and one very different to the ‘Googleboxes’ that were snortingly derided by Peugeot’s CEO Philippe Imperato at the Paris event. Likelihood of production? “Maybe 20 percent,” reckoned senior Peugeot product planner Bernard Hesse, yet there are elements of the e-Legend that will inevitably influence the look and feel of future Peugeots.

“There’s a lot of things we can take into production,” says Vidal. “External design, the surface treatment, the form language of the car. You see a very crisp line on the body sides, on the door and it fades to nothing in front and rear. The way this line fades into nothing is quite magical. It might seem a tiny little detail but if you manage to achieve this all around the car in terms of how you create lines and surfacing and graphics then the whole car will look so much more modern than whatever is on the road around it. If you achieve this properly and apply it everywhere there is a tremendous gap in terms of modernity. Done correctly, it’s changing your perception of the car itself.” Inside, the biggest perception is one of airiness, the steering wheel folding into the dash in autonomous mode. That bold blankness is not an accident.

“You will see in the future the biggest revolution in autonomous driving where you remove the architecture of the interior,” says Vidal. “People will bring a lot more physical things into their cars than today. They’ll have more time in their cars to do things. So we need to not just put bigger screens but put more storage, create more space, more room in the car. That’s what we have in the e-Legend.”