FORGOTTEN HEROES: RENAULT SAFRANE BITURBO BACCARA
Let's do a small exercise. The year is 1994, you are an executive and you want to buy a saloon fast enough to get you to work in time, but comfortable enough for you and your family. The Mercedes-Benz E500 would've been a great choice. Legendary reliability, timeless looks and 322 bhp at your disposal. Or perhaps, you are the sort of person that likes going round a track once in a while. The BMW M5 with its 335 bhp 6-cylinder engine mated to a six-speed manual gearbox was an absolute blast to drive. The Volvo 850R and the Saab 9000 Aero are really nice cars, but you don't want your executive saloon to have front-wheel drive, do you? The Alfa Romeo 164 Q4's reliability just wasn't there yet. You'd have loved a quattro, but the Audi S6 was rather boring to look at, so what the hell were you going to buy? The answer was the Renault Safrane Biturbo Baccara.
Am I right in calling this "genesis" ?
The Renault 25 wasn't the most beautifully built car ever made and so, the Safrane had the difficult task of not only replacing it, but to also keep the sales up in the executive saloon market for the French manufacturer. In order to compete with the Germans, Renault had to launch something that would be as fast as an M5 and as comfortable as an E500. And so, with the assistance of German tuning companies, Hartge (known for modifying BMWs) and Irmscher (known for modifying Opels), they have created the Safrane Biturbo Baccara. It had the softest of the soft seats, pneumatic suspension, dual zone air conditioning, a voice synthesiser and the list goes on and on. And now, we're getting to the really interesting bit. The engine was a 3.0 litre PRV V6, that was fitted with two turbochargers, available with a manual transmission only. They originally wanted to get over 300 bhp out of it, but the only gearbox that would work in an AWD transversely mounted engine combination, just wasn't strong enough, so they had to limit the power to around 258 bhp. Mind you, that was still too much power for it, hence the reliability problems.
The interior looked very futuristic at the time
The lack of power when compared to its main German rivals and the unreliable past of the Safrane's predecessor meant that the Biturbo Baccara was a monumental failure. While the M5 and the E500 were sold in over 10 000 examples each, there have only been 806 Renaults ever made. It's a shame, if you ask me, since the car was genuinely interesting, but unfortunately, not good enough. The Safrane also marked the end of hot(ish) Renault saloons, since we haven't heard of any plans to put the Megane RS engine in a Talisman and fit it with 4WD and an EDC gearbox. Judging by the ammount of information regarding this vehicle, or rather, the lack of it, I'd say that there are less than half of those on the roads right now. Have I got your interest? Well, good luck finding one of these for sale!