Welcome to RenaultAvantime.com, a site with everything you would ever want to know about this innovative car.
If you have just discovered this amazing car, scroll down to read a bit more about it, then check out our Photos Page to see all the official photos, plus many more of the concept that wowed crowds back in 99. You can read what the motoring press - in the UK and around the world - made of the car on our Roadtest Page. We also have lots of offical press releases and brochures on the Brochure's Page if you want to know all the details. Or, the Video's Page is packed full with everything from the original TV advert to documentaries by Renault, plus reviews from TV and the famous 'Faster than an Evo' Top Gear Challenge.
Renault Avantime - A Brief History
Launching the Concept
The Renault Avantime first appeared, in concept form, at the 1999 Geneva Motor Show. It's styling was heavily influenced by the Vel Satis concept shown the previous year with the notable features of extra long double hinged pillarless doors, full glass roof and distinctive curved rear screen with protruding boot - later popularised by the Megane. The pillarless doors and lack of central B-pillar gave the car a large uninterrupted glass area on each side, which led to a large open area when the windows were opened. This, along with the full glass roof and light coloured interior gave the inside of the car a very open, airy and spacious feeling.
The car was labelled a ‘coupespace' - or a coupe version of the Espace, which is precisely what it was. It was aimed at customers who had previously owned an Espace, liked the driving position and space available in such a car, but whose children had left home so they no longer needed a full size MPV. The potential customer would of course be looking for something a bit luxurious and certainly different. The idea of a grand tourer is mentioned in the press release, as the car had a powerful 3.0 V6 with 250BHP and had been designed with comfort in mind, the car would be great for long distance travelling, and the large glass area would allow the occupants to enjoy and absorb their surroundings so much better.
The concepts' other features included 4 separate seats, the rear 2 being placed higher in what Renault term ‘theatre seating' to enable everyone a good view all round. The dash was loosely based on the Espace III, but had a more upmarket cream trim, with metal inserts. In place of the Espaces' central glovebox there was a pop-out draw revealing 2 cup holders. Just above this was a fully retractable Pioneer Satellite Navigation screen. The steering wheel was a minimalist design in cream with metal spokes, and much of the switchgear was clear plastic - further adding to the idea of lightness. In the back occupants were treated to a Pioneer screen with DVD player mounted into the back of each of the front seats.
Concept to Production
In September 1999 Renault announced the Avantime would go into production and unveiled the production model. Externally the car was almost identical to the concept, the main differences being the addition of side ‘bumper' strips, the exhaust being switched from the concepts bumper-integrated outlets which were built into the rear bumper for a more conventional twin-pipe outlet and the front lights which had been bi-xenon now just had xenon for the dipped beam and the indicator was now in a separate unit. The main features of the double-hinge ‘kinematic' doors, no B-pillar and all glass roof remained. Although the room was still all glass, rather than being made of one large piece of glass it had now been split to provide a ‘twin sunroof' style, with the front one being fully opening - a full 1sq/m - the largest opening glass sunroof ever fitted to a production car at the time. This also gave more of an open-air driving experience - not far off that of a convertible.
Internally, there were more changes. Although most of the dash remained unchanged, the controls were switched to more conventional production switchgear. The fancy pop-out navigation system was also dispensed with, being replaced by a fixed unit (where fitted) in the centre of the dash on top of a lockable cubby hole. The draw below remained, but no longer served as a cup holder. The biggest difference inside was the seating layout, the 4 individual seats had been replaced with a more conventional 5, the 2 front ones remained relatively unchanged - retaining their inbuilt seatbelts (a necessity with the lack of B-pillar), whilst the rear seats were replaced with a standard bench seat with fold down centre armrest.
Sales and Reception
Although sales were originally announced for the year 2000, technical issues with production, particularly the sophisticated double hinge door, caused delays and the first cars did not roll off the Matra production line until 2001). Initally only available with the 3.0 V6 in Europe, RHD cars reached Britain in 2002, and 2.0T came out later that year, with the 2.2dCI also joining the line up in Europe.
The motoring press were generally positive of the car, particularly praising its forward thinking design and innovations. You can read many original articles on the Roadtests page
No-one (not even Renault) anticipated particularly high volume sales in Britain, as luxury Renaults have never been popular. However, they had projected total sales of 16,000 annually, unfortunately sales proved worse than expected everywhere. Around 8500 were manufactured, half of these were sold in France, and only around 450 ever reached UK shores. One of the big problems the press had, was positioning it in the market, as it was unlike any other car, it was difficult to say what the competition really was. It was pitted against the similarly priced Mercedes CLK in a group test, but beyond price and being a coupe shared little in common, and most likely appealing to a very different customer base.