Renault Koleos automatic facelift review, test drive
7th Apr 2014 5:34 pm
The automatic avatar of Renault's premium SUV drives quite differently from the manual. Here's our first impression.
This is the updated Renault Koleos SUV. We had sampled the manual 4X4 variant earlier this year and were quite impressed with its interior quality and the engine’s strong mid-range, that gives this SUV long legs on highways. This one though is an automatic. Apart from the six-speed auto 'box, the engine and equipment remains identical to the car we’d driven earlier. However, the way it drives varies considerably from its manual counterpart.
The automatic on this updated Koleos is a conventional torque convertor. One of the criticisms we had with the manual Koleos was the huge turbo-lag that made the SUV very lethargic below 2,000rpm. However, this 'box lacks a sense of urgency and doesn’t feel as quick or intuitive as many of the current crop of auto 'boxes. And sadly, at low revs, the arthritic nature of the 2.0-litre diesel engine is magnified by the unhurried gearbox. The automatic variant would mainly appeal to urban buyers looking for an effortless driving experience but due to the delayed response, the Koleos automatic doesn’t shine in stop and go traffic. While driving up the ghat roads leading to Ooty with its infamous 36-hairpin bends, the SUV hesitated to downshift swiftly, making it hard to calculate overtaking manoeuvres. However, the gearbox does respond better when left in manual mode and though it isn’t very swift to react to requests, it’s more predictable.
Open stretches is where the automatic feels the most comfortable. Cruising at around 100kph plants the engine in the meat of the powerband and the Koleos automatic responds quite well to part throttle inputs too. The only difference is that at full tilt, the auto variant lacks the outright punch of the manual Koleos. That said, the 170bhp motor provides more than adequate performance on the highways. In terms of refinement, the well-insulated cabin keeps the diesel clatter at bay but, some vibrations filter through and can be felt on the primary controls.
As for cabin quality and design, the Koleos blends plain surfaces (with soft-touch plastics) and clusters of buttons around the lower half. The switches have a nice, damped feel to them and feel quite premium. Only some bits, such as the 4x4 selection switch, feels a bit low-cost. In terms of comfort, the leather-upholstered front seats offer a nice blend of comfort and support, both of them are electrically adjustable and it’s easy to find a nice driving position. The rear bench is comfy too, with a reclining seat back, good thigh support and enough room for three. However, the knee room isn’t great and feels cramped, especially for an SUV of this footprint.
Since there’s no third row, you also get 450 litres of boot space with the seats up. As before, the Koleos is generously equipped in 4x4 guises, including the nice sounding Bose sound system. You do, however, lose quite a bit of this kit if you opt for the new 4x2 version.
So, how does it tackle our roads? Where the Koleos truly impresses is the way it glides over road undulations. The Renault’s ride is very absorbent and makes easy work of broken tarmac, irrespective of its speed. The suspension also keeps thuds in check and only very large potholes manage to ruffle the Koleos’ composure. The overall stability at speed is impressive, and the accurate steering wheel drills confidence in the driver. For an SUV, the body roll is well controlled too.
So is it worth it? With a starting price of Rs 21.29 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) for the manual 4X2 variant and Rs 24.97 lakh for the 4X4 automatic, the Koleos comes uncomfortably close to the Audi Q3 and BMW X1 in terms of pricing. While the top-spec Koleos is well equipped and quite capable on the highways, the Koleos’s lack of bottom-end grunt (especially with an auto 'box) means it doesn’t shine in an urban environment and customers may prefer the badge-value of an entry-level German SUV over the French brand.