I have a soft spot for daring flops. Of all kinds, really: into swimming pools, ambitious but misguided movies, products like the 3DO, you name it, if it had big ideas and crashed and burned, I’m on board. So I guess you can keep that in mind when you watch me gush over this daring flop, the Renault Avantime, the answer to a question nobody asked: what would happen if we turned a minivan into a swanky executive coupé?
I don’t normally seek out cars this modern for Jason Drives (the last episode had a car almost 100 years old, remember) but the Avantime is a special case, and absolutely worth it.
The Avantime is a special case because it’s based on some of the absolute strangest thinking I’ve ever encountered in the automotive product-planning world: since kids grew up in minivans, so that’s what they’ll want when they’re adults! Fancy, two-door minivans!
Yes, Renault thought that kids who grew up in Renault Espaces would retain so much loyalty that they’d want only Espace-based cars into adulthood, making one wonder if anyone at Renault had met human former-children, who seem to reject their parent’s car choices on a repeatable, generational basis.
It’d be like if Chrysler decided that all those Town & Country kids from the ‘80s and ‘90s would grow up to want Town & Country minivan-based Challengers and Chargers.
It’s not how things work.
Also, if you didn’t know the origin of the name, it’s actually pretty straightforward, a portmanteau of a French word, avant, for “ahead” and the English word time for, um, “time.” Like all portmanteaus of French and English, you know it’s going to be something great. Don’t believe me? Then consider the Croissanwich.
Here, you should just watch the video, so you understand why the Avantime is amazing, anyway:
The Avantime is such a wonderful, clean-sheet approach to car design. It feels architectural, incredibly roomy inside, with novel approaches to pretty much everything, from dash layout to fundamental packaging to even the damn door hinges.
Oh, I should make a correction in that video—the V6 engine in the Avantime isn’t the PRV V6 like you’d find in a DeLorean—it’s that engine’s successor, the ES9, which also ended up in the Clio V6 and a bunch of Peugeots and Citroëns. Sorry about that.
To make up for that error, I’ll give you a tidbit of information I heard from a trusted source who knows what they’re talking about: the Aventime was focused-grouped for possible release into the American market, as an Infiniti. Think how incredible that would have been. Imagine a world where Infiniti did something that bold and daring!
The Avantime may have been too much for its era, but I think it deserves a chance to be re-evaluated; the idea of a luxurious one-box design is likely to become even more relevant as we enter an age of automated driving, so don’t count out the Aventime concept just yet.