Design = quality.
How does that sentence strike you? Do you agree? Disagree? Can a vehicle's look and thoughtful functions inside make you perceive quality?
I think so.
Back in the eras that are normally featured on Car of the Day quality design was sort of hit and miss—automakers, coach builders, you name it: design is a difficult business.
For Patrick Le Quément, former Renault senior vice president of design, the way a car looked was about more than where the headlights were mounted and how the roof was shaped. A modern vehicle had to convey intent.
He understands that even glancing at a vehicle should give the viewer some indication of what the vehicle is for, who it's for, who might have designed it, how well it's made, how it will perform, how much it costs…
I'd guess that Le Quément and his team at Renault had designed the Racoon concept for Jalopnik commenters…if Jalopnik had been around back then!
Renault doesn't exactly have a great off-road pedigree. So what better way to stamp your authority on the genre—and evoke images of hardy French colonists as they set up camp in the West Indies, Africa, North America, and Asia…
Designed to go anywhere, the Racoon had a height-adjustable suspension, massive all-terrain tires, mid-mounted twin-turbocharged V6 engine, manual transmission, and all-wheel drive—basically a technophile's off-road wet dream. This is before I mention three differentials and a top speed off-road of 155 km/h (96 mph).
Unlike an actual racoon, the concept was not exactly subtle—but as you take to the sea (at up to 5 knots!) in your concept off-roader, it's probably best if rescuers could spot you from far away.
Inside—once you'd climbed through its remote-controlled single canopy door, like a fighter jet—the concept car tricks kept on: rain-diffusing glass (no wipers needed), satellite navigation, rear view cameras (including infrared!), hands-free telephone, and three seats.
More interesting, and the reason I picked the car today, is that the Racoon was the subject of a short film that won a few awards in 1992. To show the world how advanced Renault Design's tools were, the studio worked with computer graphics artists to create a virtual Racoon—the real one was shown nearly a year later!
Today, this is commonplace, but back in 1992 it was revolutionary—so much so that the Racoon wasn't debuted at an auto show but as a 3D image within a promotional film! Here's a link to an archive French TV report, it's quite impressive.
Design = quality, right? How else to show the world that even as computer-aided design becomes more advanced, Le Quément and his team could produce such an emotive vehicle?