The race to produce the first production autonomous supercar is well and truely on, as many doomsayers mourn the passing of true driving – missed gearshifts and terrible lines around corners – Supercar manufacturers and their highly specialised engineers are more excited than ever. Why? ….
…. because they will at last see their cars perform at the maximum. Currently they resign themselves to the fact that the people who buy these ultimate performance vehicles are unable to exploit the full potential of the car.
Far from autonomous cars reducing us all to the lowest common denominator commuter speeds, the real benefit is for ‘B’ road experiences like never before.
With autonomous control, owners will choose their preferred setting, not suspension stiffness but style of driving, clicking the dial to their driver of choice. And it is here that McLaren and Mercedes have stolen a march on their competitors. Mercedes are now able to use the 2016 data of the current world champion Rosberg without giving away any advantage to their current F1 opposition, and McLaren have played a blinder, creating a scenario where they will have 2017 data from two world champions, Button racing in a one off at Monaco, and Alonso covering off the US market at Indy.
Moving to autonomy has relieved the need for a steering wheel, and this reduction in production costs for right and left hand drive, has allowed other manufacturers to contemplate entering the supercar market, and niche to compete on more even terms. With steering wheels, pedals and gear shifts now being additional cost options for those who wish to pretend to be driving, the commercial benefits are clear.
So with autonomous supercars using all the latest sophisticated positioning and sensoring technology, the passenger phrase “Slow down, you don’t know what’s around the corner” will at last be erased from the English language.
The missing piece to the Caterham / Renault joint venture puzzle has been revealed in September’s issue of Top Gear magazine. For Drive it brings a mixture of emotions… excitement seeing it again and frustration that it will probably never go into production.
So where did it start for us at Drive? It goes back 5 years to an initial meeting with Caterham in Hethel, Norwich. The original project became a distant memory as aspirations changed with the introduction of a partner in major manufacturer Renault, a completely new package and advanced aluminium construction. As the engineering package was developed at Caterham and Renault bases, Drive’s design team were seconded to work at the Renault R&D headquarters in Guyancourt, Paris, forming an important conduit for the Anglo-French alliance.
Arriving at Renault, Drive’s close team of designers and digital modellers with Caterham’s studio engineers, were allocated space within the Alpine facet of the complex, an impressively large studio with several clay plates. It was one of the most exciting environments to work in, with the presence of some of the Renault concept greats dotted around the place; the Alpine A110-50, DeZir, and Twingo to name a few.
Sharing the studio space, facing each other were the C120 and AS1 clay models, two cars showing great potential with their two respective design teams working on them. If I could sum up the entire studio atmosphere, including the Alpine team, it would be passion. Passion was what drove these concepts forward.
The Drive design team lived, breathed and dreamt C120, flying out to France in the early hours of Monday morning and returning on a Friday evening for 6 consecutive months. Some weeks were tiring, stressful and occasionally deflating, with our attempts at the French language appreciated, even if laughed at by the canteen staff. Our commitment, comradery and passion pulled us through every time, to be part of history, taking part in something that would bring a British sports car brand into a new era. The sad demise of the joint venture was a bad dream. For a long time we couldn’t believe that with all the effort everyone put into the project and with it so close to being realised, there would be no exciting moment of that first drive.
So enough about our emotions….what of the car itself?
Biased I may be, but I believe there is no doubt that this is a great looking car, with fantastic proportions and pure surfacing. So how is it a Caterham? What defines the character of a Caterham? At Drive we aren’t just a hired arm that draws cars, we extract and develop core brand DNA, establishing a clear aesthetic direction that our clients understand and can incorporate in their brand’s future.
Establishing this new brand aesthetic was no easy task. Caterham was clearly defined by the Seven, a car with a cult following and essentially unchanged from the original design. First of all the C120 was to be a completely new package, and one that a Caterham has never used before – a mid-mounted engine. This already moved the vehicle far away from the instantly recognisable visual cues of a Caterham 7 (long bonnet, front engine), so we knew we would have to evoke that Caterham feeling in other ways. We were also aware that the C120 was to be an everyday car, as well as a weekend toy, aimed at taking on the more premium market of Porsche, Audi and BMW. With this in mind the language the car spoke was critical, this was to be the line in the sand for Caterham; a fresh modern interpretation of a historic brand.
The car is designed as a complete entity from front to back, a holistic approach. Starting with the overall proportion, it is lithe, nimble and carries no excess weight whilst remaining visually planted in stance. The front rakes back from the iconic Caterham nose to a short rear overhang. The arch lines communicate some of the iconic Caterham 7 design gestures, the combination of the long diving front agile arch line and the rear pert, perfectly poised line evokes the similar feeling you get from looking at a 7. It looks alive, on its toes and ready to be driven.
The car also feels like a complete entity, it is not a case of projecting design features on the side rear and front which can often make cars look disjointed, features and graphics encompass the wheels, giving it visual strength and a sense of purity, a holistic approach.
The front displays an approachable face, not too aggressive, but a well-balanced and open eyed character that evokes the same feelings you get from the 7. It’s serious enough not to be taken lightly. Everything works together to deliver maximum performance whist interpreting the Caterham design philosophy for the 21st century. Everything is there for a reason too, from the central grill, splitter and side intakes, designed for function hinting at influences from Caterham motorsport, such as their former Formula 1 division.
Following down the side of the car, the iconic side exhaust and graphics that you commonly see on most 7s is interpreted by a graphic that follows all the way from the central nose through to the side intakes and onto the body side. The surfaces and body side is all about losing as much visual weight as possible, with surfaces sculpted away whilst retaining a sense of beauty and tension. Moving towards the rear the stance of the car is exaggerated to show the power moving through the rear axle, with large arch blisters further enhancing this visual width.
The rear completes the strength of the car, hinting at the DNA of the 7 in a very modern and crisp way. Lamp positions are high as is the integrated spoiler, not only gain better performance but to give the car a sense of agility. Simple, clean lines make up the rear to further emphasise as much visual width as possible. Heat exits at the base of the rear screen and under the rear floating lamps, were all necessary to manage heat for the mid-engine package. Moving lower down, the number plate is located within the diffuser trim allowing the upper surfaces to be as clean as possible and retain some of that Caterham 7 box like rear end feeling.
Working with the Alpine team was a pleasure, we had our moments of course, whilst fighting for certain design features and gestures that related to each of the cars providing much discussion and debate! For a program that relied heavily upon financial necessities of sharing the complete running platform and common parts such as lamps, the result is two concepts that side by side have a totally different attitude, stance and feeling. Quite an achievement.
Sadly what you are seeing here is only a point in time and is not the finished article, I can tell you… it only got better! When you see those fantastic shots of the Alpine darting around the Alps or parked in the Italian sunshine at Villa d’Este in Lake Como….. imagine the Caterham C120 hammering through the roads of Norfolk or poised in the car park at the Linton Travel Tavern!
I could probably carry on talking about this car, the design and just how special we feel it is, for an eternity. It was a landmark project for Caterham, Drive and our team; something none of us will forget and I only wish you could see on the road.
Images courtesy of Caterham Cars
It is a historic moment for Drive as the Limited Edition Drive E10R from Zenos takes to the road carrying the Drive logo, on the distinctive new colour and trim package with Charged Graphite colour, black anodised chassis and additional equipment that makes this the fastest Zenos yet.
This is the first time ‘designed by Drive’ has appeared on a car, and it is a great honour. With Zenos recognising the importance of the design in their success, they are keen to celebrate the relationship with Drive who penned their car, by displaying ‘designed by Drive’ on the buttress.
“Zenos Cars has a long standing relationship with the team at Drive and the E10R provided the perfect opportunity for us to celebrate our partnership. Who better to style and detail our range topping product than the brilliant team that designed it from the outset?” enthused Mark Edwards, CEO of Zenos Cars.
Lead designer Mark Przeslawski commented “The Drive edition E10R had to stand out from the rest of the E10 range, being one of the most exciting cars you can drive we had to inject this emotion into its appearance. As designers we are passionate about everything down to the last detail, being able to have the freedom of paint finishes and colour schematics gave us the scope to create the ultimate E10R.”
With the drive team all very keen drivers it is appropriate that it should be the fastest Zenos yet that carries the Drive Logo. The Drive Edition E10R is track-ready, with adjustable suspension, updated brakes and 6-speed transmission, with race harnesses. It’s track-quick, too, with 500 bhp/tonne serving up 60 mph in as little as 3 seconds, and masses of torque available throughout the rev range.
Designer Gareth Culverhouse commented “The visual expression of the car is completely different, and this is all down to the colour and trim we chose in-house, it’s how we always envisioned a Zenos should be. We used a range of dark finishes and deep metallic paint to give the car a sinister but premium feel, whilst the contrast of the yellow graphics adds visual drama.”
This partnership between Drive and Zenos can be seen as the beginning of a long term relationship akin to that of Pininfarina and Ferrari.
THE INTERNET OF THINGS
The Internet of Things – electronic devices communicating to each other via the internet mean that we are able to go seemlessly from one area of our lives to the next. Leave the house and the heating lowers, music system turns off, but the same song is playing on your smart phone. On entering your car the music switches to the car sound system, social accounts are accessed and made available, eradicating the need to refer to mobile devices, the accessibility of these being limited to suitable times for safety reasons, and emergency alerts passed on at an appropriate time.
TECHNOLOGY IN CAR INTERIORS
The advancement of technology in the consumer market is incredibly quick, and rapid product cycles allow for these updates to be incorporated swiftly into new and updated products such as mobile phones. In the automotive industry one of the largest components, and therefore one with the longest lead times, is the dashboard and instrument panel, and this means that the technology is evolving quicker than is always possible to incorporate in the latest car. This combined with the longer life cycle of a car than say a mobile device means that the ability of car manufacturers to keep a pace with developments is difficult.
Therefore automotive companies are obviously looking at ways to incorporate these products, such as tablets, into their interiors in order to use the latest technology releases.
What is clear is devices are designed for their intended environment and use, and when they are substituted into other environments like a car interior, at the very least their effectiveness is reduced, through to being totally impractical or downright dangerous. Also this narrow approach where it seems all that needs to happen is to create a device carrier in the centre console, is missing opportunities to make the technology work to improve the experience of the car driver.
SCALING and FILTERING INTERFACE
The single physical control is to filter information, and increase or decrease the amount information the driver requires. The touch screen buttons enlarge due to frequency of use and move closer to the driver thus tailoring the switch layout to the individual’s needs.
How the relevant information is displayed from display area to heads up display, depends on the relevance of the data to driver or passenger.
We actively look for opportunities for collaboration with other consultancies, and on this occasion we teamed up with The Division, a leading product design company run by David Tonge, to undertake a design research study for a major Japanese company. We combined our particular areas of expertise and David’s in-depth understanding of Japan, to provide a comprehensive analysis.
Our study and outputs proved to be very thought provoking and challenged the client design teams to rethink their approach to the interaction between drivers and passengers, and their vehicle.
This way of working, combining expertise from different disciplines, is a rewarding experience, and getting the chance to work with teams like The Division extremely enjoyable.
All rights reserved Drive Inc. Ltd & The Division UK Ltd www.the-division.com
Zenos Cars first hit the headlines in 2014, launching their brand with the E10 show car. This concept marked the culmination of an intense design and development period in which Drive Design and Zenos worked hand-in-hand to lay down the foundation for not just a “lightweight, affordable, fun to drive” road legal track focused vehicle, but a new range of thrilling and accessible sports cars.
The roots of the E10S can be traced back to the summer of 2012, when Zenos management approached Drive Design with plans to build a completely new British sports car brand around a mid-engined, carbon-tubbed car priced at less than £25K. At that point founders Ansar Ali and Mark Edwards had a unique market proposition and a few key words that would define their brand. Drive Design had to create a design language that would embody all of their aspirations.
One of the main challenges during the initial design process was achieving the delicate balance between a friendly, approachable look in keeping with Zenos’ brand values while also communicating to the customer that it’s a thrilling, lightweight trackday car. With affordability in mind, Drive wanted to highlight the innovation of the carbon composite material and reflect the intelligence of the styling, with the break up of panels, wings and tub allowing ease of production and lower repair costs compared to the single clam mouldings used on competitor products.
The public’s response to the car’s design can be measured by the fact that 40 deposits were taken from customers before they had even seen it run. This justification of the product, only raised the pressure to deliver on their promise to have the production model ready for January 2015. Drive and Zenos launched into a rapid productionisation phase sensitive to the fact that the car’s appearance couldn’t alter significantly, though taking the opportunity to tune the car’s character and balance. This phase involved working with suppliers on feasibility whilst ensuring manufacturing costs were kept on target keeping to the business plan and budget. The secret of the E10’s affordability relative to its performance, is off-the-shelf Ford components including engine, gearbox, and brakes with an innovative composite tub made from recycled carbon fibre that offers 70 per cent of the lightness and stiffness of pure carbon-fibre for a tenth of the cost.
The interior is another area where careful thought went into the design, built around the ideal driving positon, the quality of the panels and fit had to exceed what would be expected at the cars price point. This approach has seen Zenos Cars has take more than 110 deposits, first year production run being 200, with a deliveries scheduled for March. For Zenos’s founders Ansar Ali and Mark Edwards, the E10 represents the culmination of a dream. For Drive Design, it provides a mobile showcase for its design strategies and a shop window for carmakers – large and small – searching for the kind of collaborative, ground-up design approach that only Drive can deliver.
The Zenos E10 project is the essence of what we do at Drive. We extract the DNA of a company and express it as a tangible product. We tell a story.