10 June 2004

Renault chose last weekend’s Louis Vuitton Concours d’Elegance – a celebration of all that’s prestigious, elegant and innovative in the automotive world – to showcase the Fluence, a concept that points to its next design direction.

The Fluence is a generously proportioned four-seater with similarities to Renault’s recent Wind concept car. The exterior’s prominent lines ape the Wind’s, running from the tip of the nose to a raised central tail. At the front, elongated headlights house LEDs that illuminate at different points depending on steering input.

Like the Wind, there’s no radiator grille; the Fluence uses twin air intakes under the headlights. And at the rear, long tail lamps sit below a tailgate that slides upwards over the roof on a central arm, granting access to the near 400-litre boot.

Inside the cabin, the Fluence uses organic themes, and what Renault design boss Patrick le Quément calls ‘simplexity’ – allowing access to the car’s most complex features as easily as possible.

Most of the car’s systems are controlled using a joystick and a dash-mounted screen. The front seats slide fore and aft in tandem with separate arm rests, and have electrically adjustable side supports. That the Fluence is unlikely to pitch up at a dealership near you won’t come as a major disappointment to the driving enthusiast; it’s a front-engined, front-wheel-drive coupé powered by a transversely mounted 275bhp 3.5-litre V6, and would probably struggle to satisfy the dynamic purist.

‘The layout of this car suits its conceptual purpose, and it’s best to think about Fluence as a design showpiece,’ a Renault spokesman told Autocar. ‘We wouldn’t seriously entertain a front-driven 275bhp car as a production prospect.’

‘If Fluence ends up fathering a front-driving Laguna coupé, it’s likely to be slightly less powerful,’ one insider claimed. ‘If we want something more sporting, it might be based on a rear-wheel-drive platform like the Nissan 350Z’s.’

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