The 1989 Renault Megane concept car performance was as influenced by futuristic technology as was the rest of the car.
The gearshift for the automatic/manual transmission was just to the right of the steering wheel, in the form of a miniature lever. Even though there was no clutch pedal, the transmission could be shifted manually, by simply moving the selector.
The clutch disengaged as soon as the lever moved. The clutchless system, according to Renault, let drivers adopt the "sporting" style of shifting gears, using the left foot to operate the brake pedal. Automatic shifts could also be made via the Valeo electronic control system.
Arriving at your destination, you wouldn't have to strain your back to reach all the luggage stuffed into the Mégane's rear compartment. A sliding platform pulled out like a drawer, for easy access from the sides as well as the back. One section of the compartment was also reachable from inside.
Pretty heady stuff. And we haven't even begun to talk about the unusually long look of the car, with wheels positioned far apart on a 122.5-inch wheelbase. Nor have we flipped up the hood to glimpse the powertrain. This was a running prototype sedan, not an idle mockup.
A transverse-mounted, Garrett turbo-charged, 3.0-liter V-6 produced 250 horsepower, eager to haul the two-ton Mégane all the way past 160 miles an hour. From a standing start, the car could reach 100 kilometers per hour (about 62 mph) in 8.3 seconds.
The 1989 Renault Megane concept car performance was enhanced by the fact that all four wheels transmitted power to the pavement. As if that were not enough, all four wheels also steered -- the back ones were moved by hydraulic jacks, and steered either in the same direction as the fronts (at high speed) or opposite (low speed).
An electronically controlled adaptive suspension started with one of three settings: soft, normal, or hard. Variable-rate shock absorbers then altered their stiffness automatically according to the road surface and car speed. If you tried to steer around an obstacle at high speed the shocks shifted immediately into "hard."
Michelin run-flat ATS tires could be driven for up to 60 miles at highway speeds following a puncture. Foam expanded to fill the tire's interior almost completely. A Michelin system also kept track of tire pressure.
All of these features of the Renault Megane concept car were part of the designers grand plan for an intelligent vehicle for the next century. See how they put their plan into action on the next page.