Renault’s New Flagship SUV
Competent, capable, well-appointed and stylish – that summarises Renault’s new Koleos, the French brand’s flagship SUV
Styled by the French, engineered by the Japanese and built by the Koreans – Renault’s new Koleos brings a strong sense of international flair to South Africa’s SUV marketplace.
Though based on alliance partner Nissan’s X-Trail platform, the model features an extended wheelbase, a well-equipped cabin that is claimed by Renault’s spokesmen to be the roomiest in class, and an enticing array of useful safety, comfort and connectivity features.
Power is supplied by a Nissan-developed, naturally-aspirated, four-cylinder, 2,5-litre petrol-fuelled engine that produces 126kW and 233Nm. The unit is coupled with continuously variable transmission (CVT), dubbed X-Tronic, which is said to have been designed to emulate gear change characteristics of a conventional, seven-speed, torque converter auto ’box.
As flagship in Renault’s SUV range, premium quality interior finishes on top-spec models include leather and chrome as well as soft-touch, cushion-backed materials; customisable cabin lighting that offers a palette of colours; digital instrumentation; an 8,7-inch infotainment screen equipped with satellite navigation and mirroring software for smart phones; and even a cup holder at the front that can be heated or chilled.
Across the range, exterior flourishes incorporate stylistic codes that adhere to the brand’s family identity, accentuated by chrome highlights to produce what Renault’s spokesmen describe as a powerful-looking SUV that is not only perceived to be elegant, but also dynamic and modern.
Stretching nearly 4,7 metres in length, the Koleos is longer than most vehicles in its class and slightly wider, too, the benefits of an elongated wheelbase felt not only in increased legroom for rear seat occupants, but also in the size of the boot – a generous 464 litres extending to 1 795 litres with the back bench folded flat.
Additionally, there’s about 35 litres of storage space in the cabin, thanks to two large cubby holes – one situated on the central console between the front seats, where it doubles as an armrest – and decent-sized door pockets
Three derivatives are on offer – the baseline Expression 4x2 (which sells for R399 900), the higher specified Dynamique 4x2 (R439 900) and the range-topping Dynamique 4x4 (R479 900). Under scrutiny here is the range-topper, the only model available for test drive purposes during the launch of the vehicle last month in Johannesburg
On the road the variant feels solid and stable, its drivetrain – which offers of choice of two-wheel-drive, four-wheel-drive or, for off-road applications, four-wheel-drive lock – based on technology that is similar to that used in the X-Trail and other models within the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance.
In fuel-saving two-wheel-drive, power and torque is channeled only to the front wheels; in four-wheel-drive auto, propulsion forces are split proportionately between front and rear axles, depending on grip levels at the wheels; while, in four-wheel-drive lock, the system distributes torque equally between front and rear axles, defaulting to 4WD auto when the vehicle’s speed exceeds 40km/h.
The modes are selectable through a dashboard mounted control and, not surprisingly, the last mentioned is designed to get the Koleos through or over obstacles encountered in off-road situations, such as thick mud or sand, or wet, slippery inclines.
Big rubber – the Dynamique is shod with 18-inch tyres as opposed to 17-inch equivalents on the Expression – and ground clearance of 210mm help the vehicle’s off-road cause, aided by underbody protection in the form of a skid plate at the front.
On rain-soaked gravel and tarred roads encountered on the launch route, 4WD Auto proved a reassuring drive mode, helping to deliver good vehicle stability through sensor-based technology which continuously checked longitudinal and lateral acceleration, as well as steering angles, to optimise the front to rear torque split in accordance with grip levels.
Incidentally, such is the Koleos’s level of tech, the proportion by which the propulsion forces are being split can be monitored in real time by the driver via a display on the instrument panel.
That’s just one of many useful attributes on a long list of Dynamique features, other standard items extending to Pure Vision LED headlights; dual-zone air-conditioning; electrically adjustable seats; keyless entry and start; blind-spot detection and parking sensors coupled with a reverse camera. There’s also voice recognition for GPS navigation, telephony and radio; USB ports front and rear; cruise control with a speed limiter; cornering fog lights, a tyre pressure monitor and a self-dimming, electrochromic rear-view mirror.
On the safety front the vehicle has been awarded five stars in Euro-NCAP tests. Six airbags in the cabin are reinforced by features that include satellite sensors for early detection of lateral impact forces; a sensor to control airbag deployment in relation to the position of the front seat track; an anti-lock braking system; electronic brakeforce distribution; an electronic stability programme; anti-skid regulation and hill start assist.
On the downside, in spite of Renault’s tweaks to the transmission system, the gearbox still tends to behave like a CVT rather than a conventional torque converter automatic, particularly under hard throttle. Treated demurely, however, the unit reacts quietly and efficiently to accelerator inputs and, judging by fuel consumption figures of 8,6 litres/100km achieved during the test run, appears well-matched to the engine.
On the economy score, Renault’s spokesmen claim an official figure of 8,3 litres/100km for the combined cycle – probably achievable if two-wheel-drive only is engaged. Other official performance indicators encompass a zero to 100km/h time of 9,8 seconds, a top speed of 199km/h and CO2 output of 192g/km.
Overall, in my view the Koleos’s ride is well refined, the cabin is comfortable and welcoming and the design is practical, stylish and modern. With Renault’s products fast moving up South Africa’s vehicle sales charts – the brand saw growth of 12,7% last year, despite a shrinking market, to finish fourth in the local title race – the Koleos is likely to prove a capable, value-for-money contender in an ever-expanding segment.
Renault Koleos 2,5 4x4 Dynamique CVT
- Price: R479 900
- Engine: 2,5-litre, four-cylinder, petrol
- Power: 126kW @ 6 000 revs/min
- Torque: 233Nm @ 4 000 revs/min
- Transmission: CVT, all-wheel-drive
- 0-100km/h: 9,8 secs
- Top speed: 199km/h
- Economy: 8,3 litres/100km
- CO2 emissions: 192g/km
The Koleos is sold with a five-year/150 000km mechanical warranty; a five-year/ 90 000km service plan and a six-year anti-corrosion warranty. Services are carried out at 15 000km intervals.