Renault unveiled the original car that gives styling clues to its luxury car programme for the next decade in September 1995. Named Initiale, the new Renault Concept car is powered by a 392bhp version of the company’s V10 Formula 1 engine and features four-wheel-drive, an automatic hydraulic clutch, a six-speed sequentially-controlled gearbox and an intelligent speed regulator capable of reacting to traffic flow.
But Initiale’s advanced technical specification is only part of the story.
Back to the Future
The car that hints at Renault’s large saloon aspirations for the start of the 21st Century has strong links with the great tradition of French coach-building. Elegance and creativity are Initiale’s watchwords, elements of design having been lavished on every detail of the vehicle.
Seventy years ago, the Renault 40CV stole the show at numerous coachwork competitions – from Monte Carlo to Deauville, from Enghien to Bagatelle – the Parisian park. On 9 September 1995, Renault returned to Bagatelle to unveil Initiale at the prestigious “Classic Cars and Louis Vuitton” competition as a prelude to the car making its world debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show the following week.
That Initiale sports a hatchback profile is an echo of every luxury Renault saloon from the innovative 16 right through to the Safrane. A glazed section runs the length of the vehicle – from front screen, over the roof to the V-shaped rear window. But unlike other hatch designs, Initiale’s passenger space is not disturbed when the boot is opened. Renault has patented the complex opening mechanism that slides the boot lid up and over the roof when opened, giving unhindered access to the luggage space.
Initiale’s luggage has been created by world-famous Louis Vuitton and is designed to compliment an exceptional vehicle. Louis Vuitton’s new concept to accompany a concept car includes a large case containing an extra pliable bag, a medium-sized case and vanity case.
Interior luxury – with assistance from Scotland
Inside, Patrick Le Quement’s Renault Design team have treated passenger space as they would a favoured living area – diffused light, generous amounts of space and four “variometric” seats clad in Scottish Bridge of Weir leather. Up front, the two seats can pivot 20 deg. Outwards to ease access, whereas in the rear a central console suspended beneath the fully-glazed panoramic roof allows passengers to watch films on laser disc whilst enjoying a glass of champagne.
The moment the ignition key is turned, the wooden dashboard cover slides back to reveal Initiale’s instrumentation and, in the centre, a keyboard allows control over on-board climate, hi-fi, telephone and driving aids.
In terms of colour and trim clear tones and classical harmony are the order of the day – the frosted glass on instruments and meters, the natural tints, maple wood and beige leather blending with navy blue panels.
Initiale is contructed on a completely new platform and incorporates the drive-train of the Safrane biturbo (a four-wheel drive, twin turbocharged Safrane not available in the UK).
The team at Renault Sport have developed a subdued version of the 3.5-litre V10 RS6 Formula 1 engine to give 392bhp at 8,000rpm and 360Nm of torque at 6,200rpm. Gearing of the six-speed sequential gearbox allows a theoretical top speed of 190mph. Initiale’s road manners are boosted by an “intelligent” cruise control – a direct spin-off from Renault research carried out for the Prometheus programme – that slows and accelerates the car as it reacts to traffic speed. The car also features sensors in the front and rear bumpers aimed at avoiding even the slightest bump when carrying out a parking manoeuvre.
Year: 2000 Status: Prototype produced
Engine: 3.5 litre V10
Power: 392 HP / 288 kW at 8,000rpm