Tuesday, 12 April 2011

#35 The Car From Another World

This is ‘Spud’ doing a guest post for ‘Kess’. She did ask me a while back to do one, and I did start, but it ended up as a bit of a boring ramble which would probably just bore you all. Today’s post probably won’t be of great interest to you either, but I’ll try and keep it short(ish).

‘Kess’ may have mentioned I have a bit of an interest in cars, ok, a bit of an obsession. Well, one car, the Renault Avantime, holds a special place in my heart. I put this car in my top 3 favourite cars, alongside the Jaguar XJ220 (a beautiful supercar from the early 90s) and the Lamborghini Countach (a mad but iconic super car from the 70’s and 80’s). The Avantime is my achievable dream, as much as I would love an XJ220 or Countach, with the prices being comparable to houses, I’m unlikely to be able to ever afford one.

So, why is the Avantime special? Afterall, it’s a Renault, loads of people have them, they’re not special. Well, the Avantime is quite a unique car. It originated as a concept car, for those who don’t know, concepts are built by companies and displayed at shows as one-offs, some are there just to show off new technology or styling with no intention of the whole car to be put into production, others are a demonstration of what an upcoming car will probably look like, this allows companies to see how much the public like it before putting it into production, so they can make minor changes, although they usually make the concept a bit sportier than the production model just to whet the appetite. The Avantime came into the former category when it was unveiled in 1999, it really didn’t look like a car that they would actually build. However, in 2001, they put it into production virtually unchanged! Well, externally, the concepts interior was completely typical concept - looks nice but far too expensive and impractical for a production car.

The Avantime is a coupe-MPV, a new hybrid-class car which was supposed to appeal to err, well, that’s where it went wrong. Big Renaults are never popular over here, why spend Mercedes money on a car that has no image and might fall to bits, as well as losing all its value? The Avantime is based on an Espace, the original MPV, but it only had 5 seats, not 7, and 3 doors, not 5. So it was a less practical Espace that looked nice. But it is very nice, its totally different with is silver coloured aluminium roof bars, and pillarless doors which create a continuous open window space from the front to the back of the passenger compartment, well, you can see from the pictures, and whether you love it or hate it (or are indifferent) I think you will agree that its completely different and will always turn heads.

A couple of features that can’t easily been seen from the outside include an enormous sunroof (area of 1sq/meter) and a button which simultaneously lowers all the windows and opens the sunroof, making it as close to a convertible as you can get without actually having one. The other unique feature about this car is double hinged doors, as you can see the doors are very long (if you’re nimble you can get in the back without moving the front seat!). With a normal car hinge to open the door enough to get in would mean you would need plenty of space, something you don’t have in a multi-storey! With this design the Avantimes doors only need the same amount of space as a Clio (Renault’s supermini).

So, why am I writing about this? Well, as I mentioned earlier, this car wasn’t too appealing to buyers, and as a result there are less than 450 in the UK. So, I get quite excited whenever I see one, but jump at the chance to drive one, which I got the opportunity to do yesterday. As we are visiting family, we are in a different part of the country, and there was a garage with one nearby. I have test driven one before when there was one at a local garage, about 3 ½ years ago. This one was the favoured colour (illiade blue, as used in the promo pics) and had the more economical engine (it’s not very economical unfortunately). Apart from the lack of heated seats and cruise control, which isn’t a great loss, this car was perfect, as it was also fairly low mileage and in excellent condition.

Driving the Avantime itself isn’t an overly amazing experience, like many modern cars there is a sort of disconnection between the driver and the wheels, our current car, a Perodua Kelisa, very basic car, is a very involved driving experience, whereas the Avantime is more like driving a space ship. You sit miles away from the windscreen and pilot it around, but it’s lovely and quiet, and the engine is very sedate, it’s not sporty (although it was supposed to be as it has a turbo and 165bhp). The car glides along giving you a wide view of the world from your elevated position, you can sit comfortably, looking across to the digital speedo that sits far back into the dash. Kess also drove the car, and although she agreed the car was a very different driving experience to our current car, it was still something she would be happy to drive.

Please check out my website www.renaultavantime.com to see some pictures, videos and info about the car.

1 comment:

Anna said...

Can I be the first to comment?
Wow you know a lot about cars Spud ! :))
No harm in dreaming of owing one that you love one day :))
Great guest post, sorry I kept Kess on the phone so long I'm inclined to ramble lol