The five-door car may not be as bizarre as the radical Avantime but it is still unconventional, especially in the conservative premium car class where Renault concedes that its attempts to outgun the Germans with the Safrane failed.
The Vel Satis represents a French vision of an executive car. This equates to a driver seat height closer to the Espace than the Safrane, a spacious, futuristic and beautifully finished cabin that is set off in top of the range models by light leather seats and wonderful wood marquetry in the doors.
New safety technology also features on the Vel Satis, including a cruise control system equipped with radar in order to maintain a safe distance behind cars in front.
Four engines will be available: a new turbocharged 165bhp 2.0-litre petrol, a 245bhp 3.5-litre V6 petrol, a 150bhp 2.2 dCi turbodiesel and a 180bhp 3.0-litre dV6 common rail turbodiesel.
These enjoy extended oil change intervals to 30,000 km (about 20,000 miles) or 20,000km (15,000 miles) for the 3.0 dV6. In addition, spark plugs and cam belts only need changing every 120,000km (80,000 miles), so neither of these items should be replaced in a standard three-year/60,000 -mile fleet life. As a result, Renault claims maintenance costs for the Vel Satis over 100,000km are half those of the Safrane.
The Vel Satis goes on sale in the UK next April, with a projected price of about £25,000 and a 2002 sales target of 3,000 units.