Patrick Le Quément’s legacy of highly convincing, but unrealised Renault concepts begins here…
Renault seem to have been making attempts to crack the luxury car market for decades now. During the 1970’s they offered us the R30 hatchback – a kind of updated R16 with a V6 engine and luxury trim. It wasn’t a bad car – in fact contemporary reports suggest it was rather good. But success eluded it – although the smaller-engined R20 model sharing an identical bodyshell can’t have aided matters.
During the 1980’s Renault tried again with the more attractive looking Robert Opron-inspired R25. They got around the issue this time by offering the same model with a range of engines and while the car proved moderately successful outside of its home market, it too failed to make serious inroads upon rivals like the contemporary Audi 100 and Ford Scorpio.
During 1987, with Opron (and consultant, Marcello Gandini) gone, Renault appointed Partick Le Quément as Vice President of Corporate Design with a remit to shake up Renault’s styling and by dint, its position in the market. Le Quément got to work and one of the first fruits of this new regime was shown at the 1988 Paris Motor Show. The Megane concept was a three volume saloon with a drag coefficient of 0.21; Renault describing the Megane’s appearance as “plump yet not appearing so, a completely new form.” (Note the complete absence of the word ‘sporty’ – although one has to admit, ‘plump’ wouldn’t have been my choice of words)
Its huge sliding doors revealed an interior that resembled that of a private jet, the Megane in some ways anticipating the later Avantime in providing exceptional comfort for four occupants – Le Quément calling it “a supercar for living.” Some of the more outré features such as the two luggage compartments and its ability to switch from a three volume to a hatchback by sliding its frameless rear window aft were somewhat far fetched show car frippery, but there was within this concept, the bones of a convincing big Renault for the 1990’s – one that could have given the Citroën XM a bit of a fright. So how on earth they went from this to the 1992 Safrane is anyone’s guess. One can only assume it was an argument Le Quément lost to more risk-averse minds.
Certainly, it was one that served Renault poorly, given the Safrane’s lack of sales success and Renault’s continued inability to wrest even a decent proportion of their German rival’s market. The Safrane’s lack of appeal saw Renault’s share of the mainstream luxury car market shrink to levels that were frankly unsustainable by the time it was eventually replaced by the Avantime and Vel Satis. A matter that should be borne in mind when considering their eventual fate.
The Megane concept therefore marks the beginning of a generation of avant garde Renault concepts – visions of what would become an impossible future.
Further musings on Renault’s recent design history can be read here and here
Photo credits/sources: howstuffworks.com/ favcars.com/ onliner.by
2 thoughts on “Renault Megane – Here’s One They Made Earlier”
I realise concepts are exactly that. However this concept had a truly awful boot shape compared to the rest of the car and anything with windows that won’t wind down has serious design flaws. I appreciate this may have been a cost saving device for the concept vehicle. What little I can see of the interior looks fantastic. Citroen and SAAB have both proved that when your objective is volume, being different doesn’t pay the dividends. It’s a shame that because a company has corporate shareholders a manufacturer is unable to provide simply a “satisfying profit”. When car manufacturers are owned by an individual, they can be satisfied with the profit they make and can thus afford to make a product that doesn’t have to maximise the financials. Sadly there aren’t many of those left and the corporates have anaesthetised the buying public to only accept their version of normal. There are some exceptions but very few.
What´s most peculiar about this car is that it seems to be a continuation of the Citroen CX concept: the pod-like IP looks very much like something Citroen should have done. The long wheelbase, with the rear axle set back is also a Citroen touch. Then there are the blacked out a-pillars which, from the front view, looks XM-ish to my eyes. I wonder did a Citroen designer migrate from PSA to Citroen and take some ideas with him or her? Or did PLQ see spyshots of the XM and try to do a spoiler? Unlike Stephen above, I think the boot is plausible. The flush glass idea was tried on the Subaru SVX which also had a smaller window-in-a-window (and a similar grille, now I come to think of it. Renault didn´t handle the a-pillar to the front wing transition so well. Citroen masked it with a side-mirror moulding into which the a-pillar dives. )The Vectra B also did this).