TopGear 2002 Season 1 (Episode 6): Renault AVANTIME on the Cool Wall: Jeremy Clarkson places the Renault AVANTIME on the very edge of the Sub-Zero section!
TopGear 2008 Season 12 (Episode 3) a used AVANTIME was recognized by the presenters Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May as one of the few cars that they all three liked.
This is my 2002 Renault AVANTIME 2.0 16V TURBO 'NOIR NOCTURNE' photographed on our driveway.
No other car in the world has these ingenious doors and I'm sure this feature will be one of the most remembered features of this AVANTGARDE LOOKING FUTURE CLASSIC.
Detail ingenious doors: www.autoreview.ru/new_site/year2001/n13/avantime/avant-19...
THE AVANTIME HISTORY RETOLD
Renault suffered from over-capacity at their factories, and rather than letting people off, they wanted to take over the manufacture of the hugely successful Espace. So, they made the agreement with Matra that if Matra was given the task of developing this new high-spec topmodel, Renault could bring the Espace production in-house. Since Renault don't have the knowhow and expertise to produce cars like Matra do, they had to redesign the Espace, making it the conventional steel car we see marketed as "Espace IV". Matra took on the task and they came up with a series of design-ideas, all based on the "Espace III".
The Geneva motor show in March 1999 saw the unveiling of a new Renault concept car - where it was called a "Coupéspace" - which leads the way in opening up a long forgotten niche - that of a luxurious Grand Tourer Coupé with space for four adults to relax in comfort.
Poster AVANTIME 1999: www.flickr.com/photos/m_and_jiji/6920221965/
In the 1920's and '30's Renault's main products were luxurious sports models like the 1929 eight-cylinder Reinastella and 1930 Nervastella, driven by Royalty and Europe's aristocracy. The AVANTIME takes some inspiration from these powerful Grand Tourers, built to cover large distances in great comfort and style, whilst focusing firmly on the future. The AVANTIME, illustrates in a forthright manner Renault's ability to shape the future of the motor car. The manufacturer is convinced that there is room in the market for a new breed of coupe, targeted at a customer group seeking the visual distinction, rarity and driving enjoyment of a coupe with the luxury of space and comfort found in a large car or monospace, all wrapped up in a vehicle which is technologically advanced and forward looking. Styled by Patrick Le Quément, the AVANTIME was intended to combine the space of an MPV with four-place pillarless qualities of a coupé. Regarding the styling, Thierry Metroz, design project manager, said, "We wanted someone walking around the car to be continually astonished."
You sit high up, with glass all around you. The AVANTIME has no B-pillars - one thing that certainly delayed the project was getting the pillar-less design safety-approved - which adds a roadster feel to it, with windows down.
It was named the AVANTIME, which is not pronounced fully in French, but a combination 'AVANT' as in French for "ahead" and 'TIME' pronounced in english. In other words "Ahead of its time". They are quite probably right, and it will not be the first time Matra have been ahead of their time, and have spotted a niche almost before it appeared. It is an avantgarde looking car, the target group were people (former Espace-owners) whose kids have left home, but who still prefer the style and flexibility of the Espace, spiced up with a more luxurious interior and some decent performance. Very similar to the Espace the AVANTIME uses a warm-galvanized chassis in the lower part, but with the upper structure done in aluminium, to get the centre of gravity even lower than the Espace. The bodywork is still polyester, which is bonded in place. The doors are now a (galvanized) steel construction with polyester bodypanels bonded to it, making them much stronger than standard Espace doors, which were all fibreglass, with a metal frame, and in later models (J63 and JE) a side-impact steel bar about halfway up, on the inside. The frontend design is developed from the Espace, with the air-con intake moved to above the headlights, rather than the sidemirrors. The sidemirrors, on the other hand, have moved towards the door-windows again, as on the early Espace models.
Matra's engineers have avoided the top-heaviness of a minivan or SUV by fitting a lightweight aluminum superstructure to the Espace chassis. The track has been widened, the suspension lowered, and the wheels and brakes enlarged. Careful development has produced a car that feels stable at high speed on the autobahn, steers accurately, rolls only a little when cornered hard, yet smoothes all but the roughest roads. This is an impressive achievement and makes the AVANTIME fun for the driver and calm and secure for the passengers.
Renault has enlisted the services of French fashion designer Jean-Paul Gaultier to front its first-ever cross-brand advertising campaign "Créateur d'automobiles" (a one-minute spot with music by Etienne de Crécy). The pan-European ad aims to position the French motor brand as being creative and innovative, paving the way for forthcoming launches such as the new AVANTIME GT Coupe in 2001. TV advertising, by incumbent agency Publicis, breaks on October 17 (2000) and shows Gaultier designing and producing a new dress, from sketches to the finished product on the catwalk. After the fashion show, the model sees a Renault AVANTIME and is captivated by it. The ad then shows the process by which the car was created, in reverse from the completed car back to the production line. The designer's sketch is reduced to a blank piece of paper, mirroring Gaultier's process. Eric Bernard, Renault's worldwide advertising director, said: 'We're going to cause a stir with this campaign, and we hope to surprise and interest those who only think of Renault as a brand for small and medium-sized cars. 'It will trigger awareness and help us develop the new message in preparation for the launch of our new large cars.' The TV campaign's launch is being timed to coincide with the Birmingham International Motor Show, where Renault is unveiling its production version of the AVANTIME. It is being supported by press and poster activity.
Link Renault AVANTIME spot commercial 2001: www.youtube.com/watch?v=2FS3V-akz-c
In the meantime - there was a considerable delay in launching the AVANTIME - Renault had tested their design studio VEL SATIS with the public at car-shows and put the VEL SATIS into production, and hit the marked about the same time as the Avantime was finally ready. This means that Renault had two different approaches to the high-end luxury car, one being almost entirely Renault, the other a Matra. The Renault VEL SATIS has 4 doors, which should appeal to less adventurous (or more conservative) people. The AVANTIME was a two-doors only car (well, Matra did have a prototype 4-door version, but it never made it to production), but the doors are "huge" to allow for easy access, and are novel in the way they open, as they are internally hinged, making them sort of fold when you open them. Hereby even these huge doors will only require the same parkingspace as any other car, but at the same time offering excellent access. Having the AVANTIME compete with its Renault sibling obviously was not a good thing for Matra, who must have felt that Renault had not kept their part of the deal. To add insult to injury, its no secret that Renault urged their sales-organisation to push the VEL SATIS before the AVANTIME (by offering higher bonuses to the sales-people). This caused the AVANTIME to sell suficciently poor, to drain Matra for funds, and since there were no hopes for Renault helping them out, Matra decided in december 2002 that enough was enough and in April 2003 they shut down Matra Automobile and closed the factory in Romorantin. The last AVANTIME left the Matra assembly lines 18th of April 2003.
The following production figures have been published (Source: Matra France, L.Thimonner, 2003 ):
2001 : 2067
2002 : 5097
2003 : 1286
Only 8450 Renault AVANTIME's were eventually built, before its abrubt end-of-life...
In the science fiction movie 'Children of men' (released 2006), the AVANTIME prototype 4-door version was seen in the cinema, Clive Owen and Julianne Moore travel in the AVANTIME until a breathtaking action sequence disrupt the journey...
Avantime has retained its feeling of novelty!
The tale of Renault's short lived but stunning coupé is brought to life using interviews with the key players in the cars development, including ex Renault Head of Design Patrick Le Quement and Matra's Phillipe Guedon. With a colourful gathering of over 200 of the iconic cars at the famous Montlhery race track, the Avantime's 10th anniversary is the centre piece of this programme. Enthusiasts and experts swap opinions about what prevented this car becoming as much of a success as it perhaps should have been. Even more of the car's story is provided by Renault Avantime insiders Thierry Metroz and Carole Hurel, while current boss of Renault design, Laurens Van Den Acker gives his verdict on what makes this unique car so special.
Official Video Renault 10 Years AVANTIME, the "Coupéspace"
Explore Renault AVANTIME