By Christopher Tan, Senior Correspondent
If there is one distinguishing feature that separates the Renault Koleos from other SUVs, it would be its low noise level.
Sports-utility vehicles, with their fat semi- offroad tyres, less-than-ideal aerodynamics and all-wheel-drive, are often noisier than other cars. Sometimes, a lot noisier.
But the Renault is uncannily silent. Which is a good thing, because the car comes with a hi-fi developed by Bose. It includes a digital amplifier, seven speakers and a thumper of a woofer.
Radio reception is also crystal clear. (You would be surprised how some car systems cannot achieve something as basic as decent radio reception.)
The civility of the 4x4 extends to its other areas. Its drivetrain, for instance. Power delivery is smooth, instant and of course, quiet. With the benefit of a CVT gearbox, fuel consumption is kept in check too.
Its ride is similar to what you would find in a mid-range sedan. Definitely no hippo-on-springs sensation here.
Its chassis seems to handle the rigours of city life well, although you would naturally hold back on overly enthusiastic cornering, if you get my drift.
Which pretty much leaves only one thing that tells you you are in an SUV while you are behind the wheel: the ride height. Even though the Koleos is not an out-and-out SUV, it is taller than many passenger carriages here, including MPVs.
It is a vantage point that is easy to appreciate, especially when you leave the Renault and hop into a "normal" car.
The Koleos' SUV-ness is obvious. It has the unmistakable cut of a multi-terrain vehicle.
Strong lines and muscular bulges make the relatively compact Renault more imposing than its actual dimensions. Instead of the right-angle tailgates that typify old-school SUVs, the Koleos sports a rakish rear profile you see on BMW X5s and Porsche Cayennes.
|The Renault Koleos has a big cargo capacity.
Its split tailgate allows you to deposit light
bags by just opening the upper portion.
But from certain angles, it has a tinge of Ssangyong styling. I am not merely saying that because the car is made in Korea.
The Koleos is manufactured at the Renault's Samsung joint venture plant in Busan. Its genes, however, are Japanese. The car uses the platform and engine of Nissan's X-Trail. Renault is a majority shareholder of Nissan and the pair shares componentry for several models.
In the cockpit, the Nissan bits are not obvious except for the button that gives you the choice of two-wheel-drive (front wheels), all-wheel-drive or Auto.
Unless you are taking the car offroad (a test- drive in Morocco in June showed it to be quite at home on unpaved surfaces), it is best to pick Auto, which lets the car decide how much torque to send to each axle.
The other "utility" factor the Koleos boasts is its huge and versatile load-carrying capacity.
The car has a split tailgate (a la X5), which allows you to drop in light shopping by just opening the upper portion.
For heavy-duty cargo, the lower section can be lowered. Pulling levers on either side collapses the rear seats, transforming the SUV into a covered flat-bed truck.
Its spaciousness does not seem to extend to rear passengers though. Legroom is rather limited for a vehicle its size. Thankfully, the backrests of the rear seats can be reclined, making the second row appear less cramped.
The Koleos is impressively equipped. It comes with conveniences such as sun blinds on rear windows and automatic headlamps and wipers, climate control with pollen filter and chiller function in glovebox.
The driver has an electrically-adjustable seat, steering-mounted controls, Start button, electronic parking brake and cruise control.
As with most Renaults today, the Koleos scores high on safety. It has six airbags (including curtain side airbags), Isofix child seat anchor points, adjustable headrests for rear occupants and a tough body structure that helped it achieve five stars in the European New Car Assessment Programme crash tests.
There is only one thing I dislike about the car: its overpowering "new car smell". I hate to imagine how much volatile organic chemicals I am inhaling in the cabin.
|RENAULT KOLEOS 4x4
|Engine: 2,488cc 16-valve inline-4
Transmission: Continuously variable transmission with six-speed manual select
Power: 170bhp at 6,000rpm
Torque: 226Nm at 4,400rpm
0-100 kmh: 10.3 seconds
Top speed: 188kmh
Fuel consumption: 9.5 litres/100km (city-highway)
Price: $98,900 with COE
Distributor: Wearnes Automotive
This article was first published in The Straits Times on Oct 11, 2008.
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