As would be expected of a major French manufacturer, Renault had a major presence at the Paris Motor Show. Its new-generation five-door Mégane—redesigned without the distinctive rear "opera window" styling of the previous version—was joined by a handsome three-door Mégane Coupe.
The production version of the Laguna Coupe—based on the Fluence concept—was also at the Show, as was the gull-winged Ondelios concept that might give some hints to a future replacement for the Espace.
The Laguna Coupe will be available with two new V6 engines: the 3.0-L diesel V6 dCi produces 173 kW (232 hp), and the 3.5-L V6 gasoline unit produces 175 kW (235 hp). Four-wheel steering (4Control) will be an option. The car is 4.64 m (182 in) long on a 2.69-m (106-in) wheelbase and is based on the Laguna GT’s chassis.
The Ondelios is described as a "high-end crossover." Length is 4.8 m (189 in), height is 1.6 m (63 in), and Cd is 0.29. "We think of it as made from a single material, where the body and glazed areas merge into one," said Design Director Patrick le Quément.
But it is the Mégane in both five- and three-door Coupe forms that was by far the most important asset on the Renault stand. The five-door loses much of the aesthetic individuality of the previous model, but the whole Mégane range should gain in quality, reliability, and durability as part of Renault’s Commitment 2009 plan, focused on enhanced design and engineering.
Perceived quality is also important, and particular attention has been paid to detail, including reducing the cut lines between the body panels, per car. Laser brazing, which eliminates the need for roof trimming, has been used on Mégane. Front and rear bumpers discreetly incorporate parking proximity sensors.
A broad range of gasoline and diesel engines is available with four of the diesels having CO2 emissions equal to or less than 120 g/km. The new Mégane range will include biofuel-compatible engines (bioethanol and biodiesel), depending on country.
Renault has long achieved high EuroNCAP safety levels, and the new car was designed to offer best-in-class safety. Features include double side-impact sensors and dual-chamber airbags as seen on Laguna III. The car is 95% end-of-life recoverable by weight, and almost 12% of the plastics it contains are sourced from recycled materials—equivalent to an average of 22 kg (49 lb). Although larger than the previous model, the new Mégane is an average 8 kg (18 lb) lighter.
The Mégane’s MacPherson-type front suspension is coupled with a new subframe designed to minimize lateral displacement and improve directional precision. The rear suspension is based on a "programmed" flexible beam, a closed section for which combines stiffer torsional performance and lighter weight.
Capital spending for the program totaled 1.8 billion. The cost included the design of six new body types and their production facilities in Palencia (Spain) and Douai (France). Research and development costs were reduced due to the carryover of a significant number of technologies from the new Laguna. Production-related investment savings were about 30%.
The car has been produced via Renault’s Quality Excellence Plan and the application of the company’s best practices and procedures, as laid out in the Renault Design Way (SCR) and Renault Production Way (SPR). The two factories have been modernized, notably with new body shops.
The substructure of the new Mégane is identical to that of Mégane II. The carryover from Mégane II—which not only concerns platform components but also the principal mechanical assemblies, parts, and technical solutions—proved particularly valuable in curbing production-related investment and ultimately produced few constraints since it gave a free hand to the creativity of the design team, claims Renault.
The 810 million production-related investment saw 370 million invested with suppliers and 440 million in the two factories. Work with suppliers on optimizing capacity dimensioning and the suppression of doubling up of tooling achieved a saving of 125 million. The sourcing of some mass-produced parts in Eastern Europe and Asia has resulted in lower component purchasing costs.
The 95%-automated body shops were modified at a cost of 215 million. An investment of 32 million went into the assembly lines. The introduction of strip and build procedures—for which a car is set aside to be repeatedly built and stripped, enabling operators to monitor startup production—as used by Nissan during the startup phase, enabled operators to maintain a high level of precision when working on early runs of new models, revealed Renault.