Peugeot invited Recombu Cars to go for a spin in a rather special, super secret concept car known as the Fractal, an all-electric four-seater that takes sound very seriously.
Peugeot has more concepts under its belt than anyone else, but the brand suffered a serious drop in desirability after churning out a succession of bland, uninspiring vehicles. Given this is a manufacturer responsible for the brilliant 205 GTi and more recently the 270hp RCZ R, it was frustrating to watch.
But now it seems Peugeot is finding its mojo once more and the Fractal is proof. It’s a car that cares about making you look twice, keeping the planet alive and features the use of sound like nothing else before it. Here’s what you need to know.
It has more speakers than your house
Audio gurus Focal have given the Fractal’s i-Cockpit a sound system with a multitude of speakers comprising subwoofers, tweeters and mid-rangers. Not only that, the strange textured flooring, also seen on the doors, is designed to stop sound waves bouncing around so music sounds its best.
But there’s more to it than that, as there is a clever technology in each of the front seats called Infrabass, which acts like a subwoofer by vibrating, but without shaking the whole car, and a navigation system that uses directional sound to pinpoint where the turning you need to take ahead is. As the turning draws closer, so does the sound. Best of all? Amon Tobin created a song just for the car.
It was printed
Forget traditional manufacturing processes, the Fractal makes use of the magical process that is 3D printing. In fact, 80 per cent of the interior was created using it, ranging from the steering wheel to the crazy textured floor. Said floor pattern, which starts upright and ends at an angle like a wave crashing, was created by an algorithm. Essentially it’s art by maths hence the name Fractal, which actually refers to a pattern that never ends.
It has no engine
Not one but two electric motors push the Fractal from A to B. 0-62mph comes and goes in 6.8 seconds and it can travel a kilometre from standing in 28.8 seconds, which is impressive for a car that only has 170hp and weighs 1,000kg.
This is in part thanks to the electric motors, which begin by powering the rear wheels under acceleration before gradually shifting the power forward. A 30kWh lithium-ion battery located in the central tunnel, meanwhile, gives it a range of 280 miles so it’s it up there with the Tesla Model S.
But it has its own theme tune
Electric cars will have to make a noise to warn pedestrians before 2020, but Peugeot decided it would be boring to mimic an engine. Instead the Fractal uses four speakers, one on each wheel arch, to signify whether it is accelerating, decelerating or cruising at one speed. And no it’s not a loud siren. Sound designer Tobin was brought in to give the car its own soundtrack.
It has a futuristic user-interface
Being all shiny and Tron-esque is only half the story. A clever 45-degree polycarbonate strip and a 12.3-inch HD display allows it to overlay what you see on screen as if it were three-dimensional like a holograph, while the digital element allows it to be fully customisable.
Between the seats is another screen, this time a 7.7-inch AMOLED that lets you control everything the Fractal does, with the exception of a few sleek buttons and an old-fashioned twisty volume button that nods to proper HiFi equipment. Infotainment system interfaces often seem like an afterthought, but the Fractal’s is anything but.
Speed bumps are no problem
Concept cars usually hug the road to make them look more purposeful and sporty, but usually at the expense of practicality. Not so with the Fractal, which can adjust its ride height from 700mm to 1,100mm at the touch of a button, making it perfectly capable of urban annoyances like speed bumps. Not that many people will drive such a car given it’s the only one of its kind and therefore absurdly expensive. Think £2million – hypercar money and then some, basically.
Okay, so the hard-top roof has to be taken off by hand and carried by at least three people but that’s of little consequence when driving around in your all-electric Fractal while the sun shines brightly. The visual difference between roof on and roof is startling, too, meaning it’s almost two looks for the price of one.
Just five journalists have been driven in it
We were lucky enough to go out for a spin in the £2million concept, which is set for its official unveiling at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September 2015. How did it drive? Very slowly, given there’s just one of them and it has a lot of shows to do, but we had to be dragged out of it. It feels zippy like the more powerful electric cars, and although it has no power steering, it felt punchy and agile. Electric cars have this wonderful ability to glide along in relative quiet and the Fractal is no different.
You can open the doors with an app
Yes, it’s entirely possible to use a smartwatch like the Samsung Gear S to open the slightly mad suicide doors without touching them. You can also check the status of the battery so you know if it needs charging, how long it would take to charge, how warm the interior is and whereabouts it is just in case you forget where you parked it.
It looks the business
From the stunning bronze accents taken from the Onyx concept car and rear lights that pulse in mesmerising fashion, to the anechoic design and aggressive front-end, the Fractal is a delight to look at. Thanks to having four-seats and an eco-friendly drivetrain, it’s one that seems much more likely to filter down to the next generation of Peugeots and we really hope it does because there’s method in all that wonderfully chaotic design madness.