Another success in making sure that I'm invited: There was a blogger gathering, a tour actually, to the factory the car I currently drive was produced. Witnessing flat sheets of metal become the monster I spend some hours inside almost every day firsthand alone is a fascinating experience. That set aside, I had to be there, because Oyak-Renault Bursa factory is where the successor to our ride, Fluence (a 4-door saloon small family car), is going to be made.
Man, it is big. Wait, I mean it, really big:
3 weeks before the tour, in Frankfurt Motor Show, Renault announced their full line of electric vehicles. In case you didn't see it, here is a picture of the world's most complete line up of EVs (Concept electric versions of Fluence, Twizy, Kangoo and Zoe, respectively):
Now that the word is well out, and every little bit of information about the all new Fluence is available on the Google, I'm not going to post pictures here, but you can get to see them on my Public Picasa Gallery. Instead, I'll post main differences between the Megane II Sedan and Fluence. I'm yet to test drive the Fluence, please bear with me.
- Fluence is slightly longer than Megane, and again is a slightly lowered ride.
- Many of the in-cabin storage boxes are gone: front under-mat hidden boxes, front in-door boxes, wide but short box under rear window, and more. Storage under the arm rest is slightly smaller in Fluence, but (illuminated and refrigerated) glovebox is slightly larger.
- Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF) is standard for all diesel models now.
- They will start offering the Volkswagen-invented super efficient dual-clutch automatic (they call it DCT) gearbox starting from 2011. This is the simplest, yet the best idea I've seen in this area. CVT gearbox will also be available, no exact date of availability though.
- Fuel consumption is further improved, but your mileage may vary. You really can do better by improving your shifting times and avoiding unnecessary braking; but new hardware on Fluence helps a bit more too. DCT, for example, is a real good step forward. I hold the record in this area; I've done a bit more than 1300km on a single tank of diesel fuel (Megane has a 60lt tank).
- Driver seat provides a more comfortable (read: laid back) driving position, compared to Megane. Although it's a boring sedan, the seat makes you feel like you're driving a large sports car.
- Dashboard has more electronics: there's a small LCD display in the middle. I really like this electronics trend in all cars: I'd rather have a display in the middle of the steering wheel and ditch the dashboard altogether in favor of a better view. Maybe I'll do some sketches sometime.
- While we're on it, they have replaced the steering wheel with the one from Laguna. It's a weird shape you have to get used to, but it's okay. I think I liked the one in Renault Megane Coupe Concept much better, but you know, it's probably a concept for a reason.
- They offer integrated navigation as an option. Meh.
- Sunroof is still small. You can't get an all-glass roof yet.
- Fluence gets the upgraded air conditioner from Megane III.
- Overall quality is upgraded. More durable, better quality plastics are used. Particularly I like the little upgrades to doors: added softeners make a more stable sound when you slam a door.
- I don't give a flying kite about the upgraded music system. I honestly couldn't tell any difference from my stock-music-system Megane.
- Passenger cabin is a little bit more comfortable. Megane Sedan was a choice because I'm slightly tall, I don't feel comfortable when my knees are too close to anything. I like to be able to use backseats when I sit comfortable at the driver's seat, and that's what Megane provided. Fluence improves a bit, and there's more room for backseats now.
Overall, Fluence is a nice upgrade over my ride. It mimics some exterior features of Laguna, particularly the bonnet, which I like quite a bit. I'm slightly upset about the tail though -- they could have designed something better, I guess.
We were not allowed to take pictures of the production line, but I spotted this where the just-produced-rubber-meets-the-road. In case you don't know the car; it's Devrim, an icon of some sad history of Turkish car manufacturing industry.
What really would have made me wet my pants would be examining this baby firsthand, but unfortunately that didn't happen:
I'm really looking forward to learn any specific details about the zero-emission electric Fluence, and I'll be the #1 customer: I would have left my beloved Megane in Bursa and come back with the prototype Fluence ZE right away.
A bunch of thanks go to Cem Batu, Beliz Top and all the other friends from Proximity Istanbul, and congrats for the great idea of trying out an offline blog design event, and also for bearing with my tight-schedule on that Saturday morning. I'd really have preferred to join other fellow bloggers on the VIP bus, but I had to attend some other event I was invited as a speaker and thus had to rush-drive to the factory after the keynote. Fortunately, I arrived earlier than the rest of the crew and enjoyed a 30 minute privilege of meeting our hosts.
When it comes to hosting; Ertan Etike, Directeur de la Communication Oyak-Renault, also a Bosniak like myself, was an honour to meet in person, is among the best presentation speakers I met. Emre Demirel, Chef de Produit Fluence, whom I owe a few drinks handled a plethora of questions I was throwing at him all day long patiently and professionally. It was a pleasure to chat with him. I'd also like to thank all the people, names I unfortunately didn't have the chance to note down, working at the factory who spent considerable effort throughout our visit.
Last words guys, I'm closing: I'd also like to thank Uğur Günyüz of Kırmızı Kedi, the tireless and exceptionally good photographer, for all the hard work he has done.
There's more to blog about Renault's zero-emissions line, probably this week. Way too much has been changing rapidly in the last couple weeks, please bear with me until I settle everything down. Thanks for reading.