Having a chance to sit inside a Renault Vel Satis allowed me to check out two things.
When Car magazine reviewed the Renault Vel Satis I remember being disappointed in their judgement. Stephen Bayley said it was not ugly enough and Anthony ffrench-Constant spent much of the article’s text talking about tropical parasites*. The part I remember is that ffrench-Constant criticised the rear compartment for the lack of room for feet under the front seats.
Recently I had an opportunity to sit inside one of the cars, a 2005 2.0T version which was once belonged or was used by the present prime minister of Denmark, Lars Lökke Rasmussen. The second thing I checked was the rear foot room. And I can report that there is no shortage of room for feet. The car is incredibly spacious inside and the rear seats are the most immediately comfortable and luxuriously shaped I can remember. I would call them the car’s selling point if one did not fall for the striking shapes and high-quality woodwork on the dash and doors. The boot is also large and very well-shaped too. That hatchback aperture makes the boot very well-lit and easy to access. I would have no hesitation in owning one of these if the need and the opportunity arose.
Turning to the main theme, I had a good look at the Vel Satis’ ashtrays. One is fitted up front and two are located in the back on the doors.
Alas, the Vel Satis’ driver ashtray is not a patch on the magnificent trough found in the Renault 25 of a few decades earlier. People are simply smoking less and obviously need less voluminous ashtrays. I was not able to check if the ashtray had illumination. This ashtray is as small as the one on the Lancia Kappa and Ford Mondeo. It would, at best, hold one cigar’s worth of ash or maybe two Villiger Moccas. The tray is well placed though, being behind the gear lever and not in front. In the rear, things are better, but not much better. The trays are door mounted just like the Opel Senator and Lancia Thesis. They are set nicely high up, which is pleasant.
Sitting in the back led me to discover that, like the Citroen XM, the Vel Satis is a real presidential car. The driver’s and passenger’s seats are asymmetrical. The inner upper corner of the seats is cut away and this affords a really superb view out for the rear passenger. It is the equal of the XM, which also has a nearly unobstructed view for the rear passengers. This is very, very delightful feature and it really ought to be a goal of designers to make the view out for rear passengers good enough for the president of France.
All in all, this static examination of the car resulted in me entirely re-appraising my view of the car. Yes, the interior looks astonishing. Furthermore, ashtray size notwithstanding, it feels truly cossetting to be inside the car. Was the ride quality so bad as to outweigh the advantages of the car’s striking appearance, clever packaging and first-rate comfort and interior design? Really?
*That´s not really true.