Renault Avantime: the return of an icon?
After reading recently on Petrol Blog, about the tenth anniversary of the Avantime’s launch, it got me thinking about this historic model and how Renault should be using it to turn their fortunes around.
Although Renault may not fully realise (or admit to) it, there’s a lot of love for the Avantime which has ensured that it has reached cult status, both for owners and perhaps more importantly the younger (and far wider) Gran Turismo generation.
The Avantime also recently re-entered mainstream consciousness thanks to the BBC Top Gear episode where they modify an Avantime, enabling it to beat a Mitsubishi Evo 10 round the Top Gear test track.
So what exactly is the Renault Avantime?
The Renault Avantime was officially billed as a grand-touring coupé, combining the features of a 2+2 coupé with an MPV, and was built between 2001 and 2003.
Starting off as a styling exercise, it was first shown in concept form at the 1998 Paris motor Show where it received a great response from critics and the general public. A stunning vehicle with great visual impact, it wowed the crowds and was subsequently developed largely unchanged into a production model, echoing (or should it be pre-echoing?) the same journey the LRX concept/Range Rover Evoque would take 9 years later.Featuring design ahead of it’s time the Avantime (whose name infact combines the French word “Avant” meaning “ahead” and the English word “time”) was intended to combine the space of an MPV with the qualities of a coupé.
Key features of the car included unique double hinged pillarless doors allowing easy access to the front and rear seats, the (then) worlds largest opening glass sunroof featuring strengthened heat-reflecting glass, a cavernous 530 litre boot, a ‘grand air’ button which simultaneously opened all windows and sunroof, and finally a choice of powerful engines (a 3.0 V6 or 2.0 turbo) mated to a 6-speed gearbox giving a grand tourer driving style and claimed lowest 0-62mph of 8.6 seconds.
Unfortunately the success of its reception was not to reflect in how well it sold across showrooms. The market didn’t react well to such a futuristic design, and coupled with design problems and the combined launch by Renault of the similar but more conventional but more upmarket Vel Satis meant that it did particularly badly in sales. 40,000 units a year were predicted, but in reality only 4,500 vehicles sold over 18 months. Renault subsequently pulled the plug, and the Matra factory in France which produced the car, was closed. A sad end to an historic company.
The 2012 Renault Model Cull
So why bring it back now? In short Renault needs it.
To establish sustainable future profitability Renault UK at the start of 2012 axed 55 dealerships and five loss-making models; the Wind, Modus, Laguna, Kangoo and Espace.
This left just four models on sale: the Twingo, Clio, Megane and Scenic. None of which (RenaultSport models aside) conjure up much enthusiasm.
So bring back the Renault Avantime!
There have been plenty of examples within the car industry of successfully resurrecting iconic car models; the VW Scirroco, Fiat 500, amongst many.
Renault could capitalise on this and bring the Avantime back. Make it plusher, more crazy, but just as great to drive, plus serene ride comfort and with far better fuel economy.
Position it as a sporty MPV, let RenaultSport lead on the ride and handling, and let it go head to head with the Ford S-Max, a car which pretty much has the sporty-MPV niche all to itself.
The Avantime’s reputation would do the rest; great sales, a timely image boost for Renault and younger buyers flocking to follow the brand.
It’s a success story waiting to happen as far as we’re concerned.
Tell us your thoughts below.