France’s new “sociable car” in the upper class
REGIE RENAULT’S new flagship, the 25, went on sale in France in February and will be available on the British market in June, at prices yet to be announced. The 25 effectively replaces both the 20 and 30 models, neither of which realised their projected sales targets, and is available with a range of engines from the 2-litre 103 bhp four-cylinder to the 144 bhp V6. Including diesels, eight models will be sold in France and four of them will be sold in Britain, the 2-litre TS and GTS, the 2.2-litre GTX, and the V6. The new 25s offer a considerable amount of interior space and a high degree of comfort in a large notchback body shape, which is extremely efficient aerodynamically. Without going to extreme lengths, such as flush-mounting the glass, Renault’s engineers have been able to achieve a drag coefficient of 0.28 on the 2-litre models, rising to 0.33 for the diesel and V6 models due to their need for larger air intakes, air dams and wider wheels. Though aimed at the lower prestige market dominated by the Ford Granada (soon to be replaced), Peugeot, Volvo and BMW, the Renault 25 is what the company admits is an “under-stated” model which though 182 ins in length, has a short tail making it look more like a stretched medium size model. “We were not aiming at orginality with the 25 model, but at producing a new concept for customers moving up from the medium size sector, who have become used to the advantages of having a fifth door,” explains Renault’s technical director Pierre Tiberghien.
The Billancourt, Paris-based nationalised firm has invested three billion francs in the 25 model, 40% in tooling and the rest in research and development, and clearly has very high hopes for its success. Production will build up to 600 cars per day by June, compared with a maximum of 450 per day for the 20/30 models, and British sales are projected at 8-9,000 per year. Comfort, “sociability”, quietness and performance were the main aims for the 25, and in some areas the model excels. The seats, for instance, are set well apart in the cabin, which has 61.4 in of shoulder room at the front and 60.2 in at the rear, and have relatively low backs so that all the passengers can talk to each other, and get a better all-round view. “It is our view that the passengers should also enjoy the experience of riding in the 25, and that it should be a sociable model”, according to M. Tiberghien. The seats are softly cushioned, and deep footwells under the front seats give ample footroom for the occupants of the rear seats.
The 25 succeeds in combining a very comfortable ride with a high level of handling, the GTX models which we drove in France having front and rear anti-roll bars which impart the right amount of stiffness for flat cornering, alloy wheels and Michelin MX tyres taking care of adhesion.
Auxiliary systems are well thought out. Renault is the first to offer remote control central locking, operated by a miniature infra-red beam from the key fob. Using the same principle as remote control for your TV set, you aim the key fob at the interior of the car, from around five feet away or less, and the doors immediately lock, or unlock as required. So simple, so neat and so useful! To order, a Philips stereo sound system can be built into the car, and at around 5,000 francs you would expect it to be good. It is, in fact, the best we have ever heard in a family car straight from the manufacturer, with a clarity of tone and separation of tracks that has to be heard to be believed. The system has no fewer than three volume controls, one on the set, one on the centre console, and one on a steering column satellite.
The heating and ventilation system has advanced controls, too, with great simplicity. Rotating wheels advance pointers up scales for warmth, air distribution and fan setting. The GTX models with 2,165 cc engines and 123 bhp were the only ones available for launch driving, these featuring Renault’s own system of electronic ignition and injection manufactured by the Renix subsidiary, which has as its next main target a voice recognition system; as well as having a car that can talk to you via a synthesiser, you may soon have a car that responds to your commands!
Driving the front wheels through 5-speed gearboxes (automatics will be available by June), the GTX’s power train gives the 25 a top speed of 121 mph, with a 0-60 mph figure of around 10.2 sec. They felt very lively under acceleration and happy at 100 mph cruising speed, though at still higher speeds wind noise and mechanical rumble builds up rather markedly. Our fuel consumption of 24.35 mpg seemed very reasonable after a day of hard driving; including cruising at close to maximum speed from Paris to Tours on the autoroute. Power-assisted rack and pinion steering, disc/drum brake systems, and suspension featuring double wishbones at the front and MacPherson struts at the rear complete the main specification.
As standard equipment the 25 has a digital fuel gauge which tells you how many litres remain in the (72-litre) tank and how far you can travel on what is left, also an electronic speed control, extra-wide seat belts for greater comfort, and a whole range of thoughtfully-provided features.
Time will tell if the 25 will succeed to a greater extent than the 20 and 30, but it excels in comfort and convenience and much will now depend on its price. Renault promise us one new model per year from now on, and though the 25 can’t do a lot for Renault’s sagging share of the UK market, it can achieve greater identification and higher prestige that is part of the French firm’s malaise. — M.L.C.