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Venturi, Peugeot, Citroen tastes


... even among the crowd of cutting-edge cars at Michelin Challenge Bibendum in Berlin. You'd expect that from the formerly French manufacturer that made its name in the 80s with track-bred cars and now - after a bankruptcy and rescue - is based in Monaco with a focus on alternative technology.

But the Volage, unveiled at the 2008 Paris motor show and slated to go on sale in 2013, even tops the brand's solar-electric hybrid Astrolab and solar/wind powered Eclectic concepts.

What's special about this exotic two-seater is not the Tron-like styling but the wheels, each of which holds two electric motors - a 55kw one to drive the wheel while the other is an active suspension motor that controls traction, torque distribution and all the damping.

Out on the test track this meant it handled like it was pinned to rails, staying flat through high-speed cornering, braking and acceleration that made the most of the total 220kW/232Nm outputs.

It's the latest version of Michelin's Active Wheel concept, but the first time a brand has planned to put it into production - and hinted at it spreading into other models.

"The Volage will be very limited, and the price will be also very exclusive," Venturi spokesman Clement Dorance said. "It will be only for those who want something so special in a performance car, but yes, we will think also about this in a saloon. This is the future."

There's no similar sales future planned so far for the other two stand-out exotics at Challenge Bibendum: the Peugeot EX1 and Citroen Survolt.

But the new-age Batmobile that is the EX1 is already getting the chance to prove itself on the track, having broken a Nurburgring record a few weeks ago. Don't get too excited - it was the fastest time for an electric car, but at just over nine minutes for the 20.8km lap it's still more than two minutes behind the petrol cars.

Under the carbon-fibre body are two motors - one on each axle - that let it log a 0-100km/h time of about 3.5secs with the electric signature of torque on tap from start.

There's a similar surge off the line in the Survolt, but with only 224kw from its pair of electric motors it's a good second behind the Pug in getting to 100km/h, and there's an odd and unpleasant noise from the undercarriage as it winds up.

While we're all for the usually-silent electric cars warning pedestrians on approach, this wouldn't be our pick for a soundtrack and is something Citroen will have to work on if they use the Survolt technology - as they've hinted - for a smaller production model.