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Story Of Renault Avantime
#1
What do a Mini Cooper, a DeLorean DMC-12 and a Lamborghini Countach all have in common? They were all conceived by design visionaries, people who simply wanted to do something a little different and have some fun in the process. When you think about it, car designers are nothing more than children trapped inside adult bodies.
Sadly, just like when parents interrupt a kid’s video game so they can do homework instead, car designers often hit dead ends where bean counters—essentially people who dont know how to fun—wait for them with a straight face.
But what happens when the big boss gives a car designer carte blanche to do whatever the hell they want? Miraculous things happen. Creativity is set free, immaturity takes over, fun is activated and cars like the Renault Avantime are born.
Because this vehicle reminds me of something a child would have sketched in a coloring book, and because it’s abnormally attractive in an indescribably odd manner, I just had to get my hands on one. I did just that, and I’m here to tell you that the world would be a much happier place if carmakers gave their designers more power.

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The Renault Avantime, whose name literally means “ahead of its time”, was the brainchild of French automotive designer Patrick Le Quément, the man who also penned the Ford Sierra, or as we knew it in this part of the world, the Merkur XR4Ti.

The idea behind the Avantime was to blend the practical attributes of a minivan —or as Europeans like to call it, an MPV—with the racy, two-door styling of a sports coupe.

Back then, Renault believed that the children who had been riding around in a Renault Espace growing up (Renault’s bread and butter MPV) would remain “loyal” to this type of vehicle as they’d grow older and seek something similar for themselves, but sportier.
Now, at this point, you’re probably wondering what the Renault execs were smoking to come up with such a ridiculous assumption. Nothing about this business case makes sense. A minivan coupe? Really?
Then again, we are talking about the same company that gave birth to the equally bonkers Clio V6.


Anyway, the end result was nothing short of extraordinary. When it hit showroom floors in 2001, the car had no B pillars and its entire roof would open up in one solid piece. The front end looked like the rear, and vice versa.
The interior was just as intense as the exterior, and no matter from which angle you looked at the thing, you’d find something fun to look at.

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Also, the Avantime was crammed with a plethora of forward-thinking technology for its time, like back-up sensors that beep at you when you approach an obstacle. It had a heat-reflecting panoramic sunroof, aluminum body panels and “double kinematic” door hinges, which I’ll get back to in a bit.

But more importantly, the Avantime matters because Renault actually had the guts to build it. Someone wearing a suit up in the confines of a profit-making corporation looked at this unusual contraption and thought “yeah, let’s make this!”

Sadly, that gamble only works some of the time. The Avantime was a monumental failure from a sales standpoint, with only 8,500 units sold during the two (!) years it was produced. But I think that makes it even more unique and special today.
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