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Renault Rafale unveiled – Renault’s new flagship

Renault has unveiled its new global flagship model, the Rafale SUV coupe.

Its name comes from a French word that “evokes wind” and is also inspired by the Caudron-Renault Rafale airplane from 1934, which flew a record-breaking 445km/h at the time.

The Rafale is the first production car to showcase the brand’s new design language that will be a mainstay for the new era of Renault vehicles, and it features the latest in connected technologies and hybrid powertrains.

The SUV is slated to go on sale in Europe before the first half of 2024, however, the domestic subsidiary confirmed to TopAuto that “it’s not in the local planning for South Africa yet” but that it is “under consideration.”

Ideal proportions

Renault reckons its new Rafale boasts the “ideal proportions” for the “quintessential sporty SUV.”

At 4.71m long, 1.86m wide, and 1.61m tall, the vehicle sits in the middle of the D-segment in terms of size and the sloping roofline is positioned in such a way that it still provides satisfactory headroom for passengers at the rear while simultaneously improving aerodynamic efficiency in comparison to other vehicles on the same platform, such as the Renault Espace.

Since the rear window is installed at a near-flat 17 degrees, there is also no need for a rear wiper which “keeps the car’s line pure,” said the automaker.

The exterior design of the Rafale further shows off the new artistic direction that Renault is pursuing, consisting of geometric surfaces, a “three-dimensional” grille with a diamond pattern that mimics that of the brand’s redesigned logo, a signature LED headlight pattern that first debuted on the new Clio, and taillights with micro-optic technologies that makes them “spring to life” when they are on and create a “floating ice-cube” effect when they are off.

Hybrid drive

Under the skin, the new Renault will only be sold with hybrid foundations, the launch model featuring a 147kW, front-wheel-drive (FWD) setup.

Power is derived from a combination of a 1.2-litre, turbo-petrol engine and two electric motors, with fuel consumption coming in at a low 4.7l/100km allowing for a driving range of up to 1,100km.

The transmission isn’t the traditional automatic, rather, it’s a “multimode automatic dog box” that merges the electric side’s two speed ratios with the petrol side’s four ratios, the result being “15 possible ways of combining the motors.”

The multimode box also selects the drive mode depending on the road conditions, which include all-electric, all combustion, dynamic hybrid, e-drive, or regeneration.

The company further confirmed that a 221kW, four-wheel-drive (4WD) variant will follow in the future.

This version of the Rafale gains an additional electric motor on the rear axle that turn the wheels directly, and has the ability to charge via a cable.

Tech galore

Inside, the Rafale offers a modern cabin design with clever quality-of-life features.

The front fascia sees an L-shaped design and hosts a 12-inch touchscreen, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, and a new-design multifunction steering wheel.

There is also a heads-up display, ambient lighting, sports seats with Alcantara inserts, a movable centre console with a wireless charger, and rear armrests with USB outlets, cupholders, and smartphone/tablet stands.

The Rafale’s party trick is then a new panoramic glass roof that goes dark at the push of a button, or via voice commands.

“The roof’s AmpliSky technology replaces standard screens with a full active system that darkens each of its segments on demand, using electric fields to displace molecules,” said Renault.

“It provides maximum protection from the sun in seconds, and the sequential darkening of the nine segments across the glass surface is exhilarating to watch.”

Renault Rafale

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