Thanks to various logistical issues, and the need for reasonably clear parking where I live, today was the first time that I managed to get my freshly titavated Citroen Xantia Activa and Renault Avantime alongside each other. Given that they’re so vastly different in every way, I still can’t believe how both actually complement each other as well as they do.
The question has to be: why?
One is neat, anonymous, efficient and has otherworldly dynamic prowess. The other is flamboyant and baffling. And in their own uniquely Gallic way, both are tremendously satisfying to drive. The Avantime, we all know about – it’s a brave and ultimately doomed idea of combining a capable MPV platform with coupe pretentions to create a car that majors on luxury space for its decadent owner.
And I love it – from the double-folding doors, to the commanding driving position, via the surpisingly capable dynamics. All that it really needs is a little more performance, something I should look into via a remap in the New Year. It took a drive to the South of France to properly bond with it, but the best cars will do that to you.
The Xantia is something else entirely. It’s ignored as much as the Avantime is gawped at, and most people assume it’s a lardy diesel, so won’t go very quickly. How wrong they are – consider it a motorised Superman, except that Clark Kent never did put on his multi-coloured tights. So, it’s an engineer’s car – proof that active suspension is the only way to go – such a shame that Citroen bottled it, and never followed up the concept.
The dream would be to combine the two cars – an Avantime with the Xantia’s suspension set-up would be a formidable vehicle.
It could be argued that you can buy a car today, brand new, that combines both concepts. The spiritual successor to the Renault Avantime, if you like – and it wears its double-chevrons with pride. But they mixed-up the ingredients in the wrong way: with the Citroen DS5, you get the badge and the Avantime-style flamboyance, but you also get a stiff, coil-sprung suspension set-up. Shame…