|When the Safrane took over from the successful R25 as Renault's high-spec topmodel, it was clear that they needed something more, and it was decided to build a luxury coupe-like version of the Espace. A cross between the people mover and a coupé You sit high up, with glass all around you, and no pillars - which adds a roadster feel to it, with windows down and sunroofs away..|
It was named the Avantime - which surprisingly ebnough even by Matra themselves 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 as quite probably right, and its not the first time Matra have spotted a niche.(check the little videoclip at the bottom og the Gallery1, to listen their own pronouncation :-) )
Matra came up with the concept, and Renault decided to go ahead with it - even if they also had decide to let their own (?) Vel-Satis prototype hit the streets in almost unchanged form from the prototype-phase.
This means that Renault today has two different approaches to the high-end
luxury car - the one being almost entirely Renault, the other a Matra.
The Renault Vel Satis has 4 doors, which should appeal to less adventurous (or more conservaitve) people, - but then again, it has a whacky front-end design, that I'm astonished to see accepted in conservative circles ...
The Avantime, however, is a pillarless "coupe" type - with the usual
pleasing Matra lines. The front 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.
It is a two-doors only car, but the doors are _huge_ to allow for easy access, and are novel in the way they open, as they are internally hinged. No other car has these ingenious doors, and I'm sure this feature will be the most remembered.