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Future models - Renault - Vel Satis - hatch

Renault plots V8 flagship

Upmarket push: The radically-styled Vel Satis is expected to wear the upmarket nameplate being mooted by Renault.

Renault aims to beat the Germans at their own game

10 Apr 2001

RENAULT has confirmed it is in the early stages of developing a flagship V8 luxury sedan to compete head-on against the might of the Mercedes-Benz S-class and BMW 7 Series.

And it may not be called a Renault. The French giant is considering the creation of a new luxury brand to market the V8, in the same way Toyota created Lexus to market the LS400 a decade ago.

The rear-wheel drive platform and V8 engine developed for the luxury sedan would almost certainly be shared with global alliance partner Nissan, which already markets luxury cars under the Infiniti brand in the USA.

The new brand would be expected to market the adventurously styled Vel Satis hatch launched at the Geneva Motor Show in March and the Espace people-mover.

The Vel Satis is targeted at the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-class.

"In the future we are working on a bigger car than Vel Satis with a V8 engine," confirmed Gustavo Fosco, Renault's Large Size Car program Design Director.

"But it's really, really early days." If given the go-ahead, the car would be signed off in 2003/2004 and go on sale in 2007.

Mr Fosco said Renault had been forced to consider the car in response to increased competition in its traditional domain - the small car market.

"When you look at Mercedes now, they do a small car, so we need to do a big car," Mr Fosco said. "But for us it is not very easy because our range is very large.

"Perhaps in the future we will have to spin-off the name for the high-end vehicles." The future plan, as painted by Mr Fosco, would see Renault's wholly-owned Romanian subsidiary Dacia producing budget cars for developing markets, the Renault name staying on its range of small and medium cars and the possible creation of a new brand name for the upper market vehicles.

Despite the launch of the Vel Satis as a hatch, it is unlikely that Renault would be as adventurous with its V8 flagship: "In that high level of luxury it maybe would have to be a sedan," Mr Fosco said.

Meanwhile, a Renault source said the Vel Satis was confirmed for Australia and would arrive late in 2002.

Pricing for the single model is expected to be set between $75,000 and $80,000, with a maximum annual sales volume of as much as 500 units.

Powered by a 3.5-litre V6 quad cam engine which produces 180kW, it will be mated to a five-speed tiptronic gearbox and be laden down with equipment, including front, side and curtain airbags, keycard start, integrated seatbelts, telematics, satellite-navigation, adaptive cruise control and an auto parking brake.

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