The Auto Channel
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
Official Website of the New Car Buyer

Renault's first 4x4 crossover, Koleos, makes world debut in Geneva

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND - Making its world debut at the Geneva Motor Show, Koleos, Renault’s first 4x4 crossover, is ideal for escaping the everyday routine, comfortable, easy to drive and boasts genuine off-road ability. It has been designed to be versatile too, offering the same reassuring drive when motoring in and around town, on open roads and motorways, as it does when it is taken off the beaten track. At the same time, Koleos delivers the same levels of comfort expected in a hatchback, as well as cabin space worthy of a compact MPV.

Designed by Renault, developed by Nissan and manufactured in Renault Samsung Motors' Busan plant in Korea, Koleos is the fruit of extremely close collaboration between teams from each of these Renault-Nissan Alliance brands.

The launch of Koleos marks a decisive step in the brand's development, not only in Europe but across the world. The release of its first 4x4 crossover is a sure sign that Renault has the capacity to take its own genuine stance and completely fresh approach in segments from which it has traditionally been absent. Koleos offers a unique standard of safety and comfort, a parameter that has become a recognised Renault hallmark which is not only clear for all to see but also highly affordable.

The release of Koleos sees Renault take the wraps off its first-ever 4x4 crossover, a vehicle designed for getting away from it all, combining an efficient all-wheel drive chassis, the dynamic lines of hatchback and the cabin space of an MPV. Renault has made sure that Koleos has all the necessary genes to ensure that all passengers travel first class and that the new car is easy to use. The seating and suspension provide a high standard of comfort and the driver benefits from outstanding forward visibility thanks to the low-mounted dashboard, while Koleos' split-opening tailgate allows for simple loading.

Koleos, the easy-to-use crossover
While 4x4 models are frequently associated with bulky volumes and considered complex to use, one of the key features of Koleos is the speed and ease with which drivers feel at home behind its wheel. The length and width of Koleos are 4.52m and 1.85m respectively and these contained dimensions ensure that it copes as effortlessly with city motoring as it does when taken off the beaten track. Indeed, despite the presence of styling cues from the world of 4x4s, Koleos is a crossover that offers a successful blend of dynamic and balanced lines. Meanwhile, in addition to all-terrain attributes like high ground clearance and skid-plates, the impression of ruggedness exuded by Koleos gives it a reassuring feel.

The cabin is very simple to use. The practical dashboard design and development logic behind the easy-to-operate controls allow drivers to swiftly familiarise themselves with the layout, while use of the navigation, radio, heating and climate controls is intended to be intuitive. Controls for the navigation system, hands-free telephone, audio system and automatic parking brake are all positioned either on the steering wheel or within easy reach of the driver. Information relating to the navigation system and radio is displayed centrally on the upper part of the dashboard to make sure that it is both clearly legible for the driver and easy to read for other occupants.

A raft of equipment aimed at taking the stress out of motoring underpins how effortlessly Koleos fits into the Renault family. Such features include the hands-free card and keyless starting functions, automatic headlamp and wiper activation, cruise control and speed limiter, while the controls for the electric windows, adjustment of the exterior mirrors and central locking are all located on the driver's door. The cabin itself couldn't be more driver-friendly. Careful attention has been paid to ensure that Koleos boasts segment-leading head-up visibility and forward field of vision, while its rearward angle of vision figures amongst the best available in the segment. The driving position can be precisely adjusted thanks to the adjustable seat and height-and reach-adjustable steering column.

The sensation of being in control is felt as soon as the driver settles behind the wheel of Koleos. The power steering is precise, progressive, and accurately feeds back information from the road. Despite its higher ground clearance, Koleos handles like a hatchback thanks to its chassis which was purposely developed to provide an optimal balance between comfort and handling, both of which are of a remarkably high standard. Special attention was paid to cornering performance with the intention of curbing body-roll which can often be a feature of this type of car.

Outstanding versatility
Koleos is a crossover whose roots can be traced back to the worlds of the hatchback, the MPV and 4x4-type vehicle. It successfully blends the best of all three categories to deliver outstanding versatility and driving pleasure on all types of road. In built-up areas, on motorways and on unsealed surfaces, the Koleos chassis conveys a real sense of safety and being in control. The MacPherson-type front suspension is combined with the fully-independent multilink rear suspension seen on the New Nissan X-Trail. This set-up guarantees comfort and directional stability in all situations, while the dampers and springs have been tuned to match Koleos' specific dimensions and contribute to the targeted balance between comfort and handling.

Ground clearance of 188mm and approach and departure angles of 27 and 31 degrees respectively are further illustrations of Koleos' off-road credentials.

Koleos is the first Renault model to feature four-wheel drive from launch. The torque split between the front and rear is automatically calculated as a function of available grip. In normal conditions, torque is delivered to the front wheels only. However, should less grip become available up to 50 per cent of torque is transferred to the rear. This front-rear split is ensured by an electronic coupler and controlled by the latest-generation 'All mode 4x4-i' system developed by Nissan for New X-Trail.

This system, which is designed to optimise traction in all road conditions, is not only acclaimed for its efficiency but also contributes to Koleos' exceptional off-road ability.

The same all-wheel drive management system also contributes to the vehicle's active safety performance. The instant it detects even a small amount of oversteer or understeer, it immediately modifies the front-rear torque split, even before a possible intervention from the ESP kicks in. When grip is at a premium, such as on snow, mud, dirt or sand, the driver only has to flick a switch on the dashboard to electronically lock the transmission in 4x4 mode. Alternatively, should the driver so wish, the transmission can also be locked in two-wheel drive mode.

Koleos is equipped with a Hill Start Assist function which can prove a particularly useful asset during everyday motoring. This system is automatically activated on gradients of more than 10 per cent with a view to preventing the vehicle slipping back down the slope. It also does away with the need for the driver to switch rapidly from the brake pedal to the accelerator pedal which is inherent in most vehicles.

Similarly, Koleos is equipped with a Hill Descent Control system for even safer off-road motoring. This function is activated via a button mounted on the central fascia and automatically holds the vehicle's speed at a maximum of 4mph on downhill gradients of 10 per cent or more without requiring the brakes to be used. This function works in reverse gear, too.

Koleos' navigation system has a number of specific off-road features, including an altimeter and barometer. The vehicle's angle of inclination, the slope and an altitude graph are equally displayed, while a digital compass takes the stress out of finding the correct heading when there are no signposts about.

Koleos will also be available in two-wheel drive form for those customers who are drawn by its adventurer, crossover looks but who have no call for all-wheel drive transmission.

The practical, modular crossover
The versatility of Koleos concerns not only its on-road ability but also a comprehensive list of clever features and equipment. To assist loading, Koleos comes with a split-opening, 'clamshell'-type tailgate. The upper part of the hatch permits access to the boot in cramped spaces and allows items of more than one metre width to be carried. When lowered, the bottom part of the tailgate facilitates the loading of long items and serves as a handy seat for two adults (up to 200kg) when the vehicle is parked. Last but not least, Koleos' boot aperture of 1.07m is amongst the widest in its category.

Modularity-enhancing features include the ‘Super-fold’ system, like that of New Laguna Sport Tourer, which enables the 60/40-split rear seat to be folded simply by the flick of a switch in the boot. With the rear seat in the folded position, the boot floor becomes entirely flat to further facilitate loading. The boot volume of 450 litres with all five seats in the upright position extends to a very generous 1,380 litres once the rear seat has been folded. The available space can also be compartmented thanks to the presence of several hooks which enable the multipurpose retention net to be fixed in a choice of ways. In keeping with Koleos' calling as a vehicle designed for outdoor leisure activities, its rear seat backrest is equipped with a ski hatch. The back of the front passenger seat can also be folded down to either form a table or permit the transport of items of up to 2.60m in length.

There are plenty of cubbies located all around the cabin. The dashboard includes a chilled, 15-litre glovebox, while the stowage space in the centre console is equipped with a removable bin. Extra space is provided in a drawer located beneath the front passenger seat, the lower front door bins will take a 500ml bottle and the lidded stowage space incorporated in the armrest is ideal for CDs. Rear passengers benefit from stowage space in the rear part of the centre console, plus two underfoot lidded compartments of five litres each. The rear door bins can house either a 500ml bottle or up to five CDs, while stowage space is available in the rear central armrest, too.

Underfloor stowage in the boot provides a further 28 litres which takes the total stowage capacity of Renault Koleos to a vast 70 litres. Rear passengers benefit from folding tables complete with cup-holder incorporated in the backs of the front seats.

Latest-generation powertrains
Renault Koleos will be available with two types of Alliance engines in the UK. The latest-generation 2.0 dCi Euro 4 diesel engine (M9R) is available in a choice of two power outputs, 150hp or 175hp. The engine has already been seen on Renault’s Mégane, Laguna and Espace, Nissan's Qashqai and New X-Trail and Renault Samsung Motors' QM5. It features the very latest diesel engine technologies, including piezoelectric injectors, common-rail 1,600-bar fuel injection, a water-cooled variable-geometry turbo and a periodic regeneration particulate filter. The 2.0 dCi engine is available with a broad, useful rev band, with peak torque of either 320 or 360Nm (depending on version) available from low engine speeds. The dCi 150 can be ordered for either the 4x2 or 4x4 versions and mated with either a six-speed manual gearbox or six-speed automatic transmission. The 175hp version of the 2.0 dCi engine is mated to a six-speed manual gearbox and all-wheel drive.

Comfort and space worthy of an MPV
Koleos has everything required to travel in outstanding comfort, and particular attention has been paid to one of the most essential comfort-related preconditions: effective damping of both mechanical and road noise.

The dCi engine represents a benchmark in the domain of minimising vibrations and noise thanks to its balancer shafts and twin-mass flywheel damper. Meanwhile, road noise has been slashed thanks to a package of special features and soundproofing, including an acoustic windscreen and engine subframe filtering, as well as the presence of soundproofing materials between the engine compartment and cabin, under the floor and in the wheel arches. These solutions combine to give Koleos a genuine edge on the acoustic comfort front.

Koleos passengers are also pampered in terms of cabin space, including record headroom and kneeroom for front occupants in the SUV, 4x4 and crossover categories, while rear passengers benefit from a pleasing balance between vertical and transversal space. Given Koleos' contained overall length, access to both the front and rear seats is astonishingly easy, with ample room for legs and hips alike.

The Renault range has long boasted the biggest panoramic opening sunroofs available on the market and the Koleos sunroof features a total, transparent glazed area of 0.75 square metres which is unmatched in the SUV and crossover market. For optimal thermal comfort, the high density-weave sunblind can be pulled shut to any position. The sunroof itself comes with an anti-pinch function and, thanks to the hands-free card, automatically closes if the driver walks away from the car. The combination of a brightly-lit cabin and the promise of wind-in-the-hair motoring with clear views of the sky overhead stand out as one of Renault Koleos' truly appealing features.

To ensure first class travelling comfort for all occupants, Koleos is equipped with an automatic dual-zone heating and climate control system that incorporates specific vents for the rear seats. The driver and front passenger can consequently select the cabin temperature of their choice, while rear passengers, who also benefit from sunblinds, can adjust ventilation using the control located at the rear of the centre console.

Music lovers will be won over by the comprehensive range of audio systems that are available for Koleos, including a top-end system developed by Bose®. Specifically tailored to the acoustic properties of the cabin, it comprises a digital amplifier, seven loudspeakers and a woofer. The outstanding hi-fi quality means that occupants are able to profit from their favourite music whether it is delivered by the radio, the six-CD/MP3-compatabile multi-changer or an external source such as an iPod® connected to the fascia-mounted jack plug.

Driving pleasure is enhanced by an array of comfort-enhancing features, from the front and rear proximity sensors for easier parking to the automatic parking brake which is applied whenever the engine is switched off, and then automatically released when the engine is started. Koleos can also be equipped with a Carminat Navigation and Communication system incorporating three functions: a GPS navigation system with 7-inch, 16/9 screen and DVD atlas, a radio and six-CD multichanger and controls for a hands-free Bluetooth® telephone. The controls for these functions are located within easy reach on the centre console.

For enhanced night-time vision, Koleos is available with bi-xenon headlamps and cornering lights. These additional lights illuminate the inside of corners, thereby permitting the driver to spot a possible hazard or obstacle much sooner. This feature vastly improves the field of vision in risk situations (junctions, corners) and consequently enhances night-time safety and driving comfort.

Koleos: benefits from Alliance's extensive active and passive safety expertise
Safety is a fundamental feature built into all Renault models, and Koleos has been engineered to provide impeccable performance on both the active and passive safety fronts. Its active safety is based on its carefully engineered chassis and large brakes which bring the model to a standstill from 62mph in just 42 metres, one of the shortest stopping distances to be found in the SUV/crossover segment. In emergency braking situations, when taking avoidance action or when grip is lost, Koleos can count on ABS with EBD (Electronic Brakeforce Distribution), EBA (Emergency Brake Assist) and ESP with understeer control. Even before the latter kicks in, the all-wheel drive transmission control system intervenes to adjust the front-rear torque split as soon as the first signs of oversteer or understeer are detected.

The fact that Renault's range includes eight models that have been awarded the maximum five-star EuroNCAP crash test rating speaks volumes for the brand's expertise when it comes to passive safety. It goes without saying that Koleos has benefited from the years of extensive research that have gone into studying real-life accidents. Its very structure has been engineered to include programmed crumple zones both at the front and rear, while the design of the cabin's structure allows it to serve as a protective cell in the case of an accident. Furthermore, Koleos comes with a long list of equipment committed to optimising occupant protection, including six airbags (including two adaptive front airbags which adapt to the passenger's build), load limiters for the front and outer rear seat seatbelts, front seatbelt pretensioners and Isofix child seat anchorage for the outer rear seats.

The dynamic lines of a hatchback with 4x4 styling cues
Koleos' lines were designed to be both distinctive and expressive. Koleos is unmistakably a 4x4, yet its looks are in no way aggressive and its styling is appealing without being ostentatious. The front end features the logo of the brand flanked by air intakes and modern elliptical headlamps, notably the module which incorporates the bi-xenon headlamps and additional cornering lights. The side profile of Koleos – including high ground clearance and prominent wheel arches – betrays its 4x4 calling.

"Koleos has a strong personality. In our programme, it is a unique model that stands out from its rivals thanks to its raked rear screen which is suggestive of propulsion," notes Renault's Director of Design, Patrick le Quement. The distinctive lines of its hatch form a movement that flows from the bottom of the rear window to converge on the logo which sits on a gloss black finish plaque.

The cabin and driving environment are purposely intuitive and the interior design is based on a series of elegantly flowing curves. The bottom of the dashboard forms a wave-like line which gives the impression that the cowling is actually floating on the dashboard. The form of the centre console, which houses all of the vehicle's principal functions, contributes to an inescapable sense of well-being. This is further compounded by the quality of the materials selected for Koleos and by the careful attention that has been paid to the play and mating between panels and components. "The carefully-honed interior of Koleos is of a very high quality," observes Patrick le Quement. "Its graphic design is very pleasing, while special attention has been paid to perceived quality."

For customers wishing to personalise their car, Renault has developed a range of accessories, some of which underpin the all-terrain calling of Koleos.

A new-generation vehicle
Evolutions in consumer demand and the world's growing awareness of environmental issues have led carmakers to rethink their leisure vehicle line-ups. The traditional 4x4 vehicle, which tends not to be widely accepted by society, has come of age. As a consequence, so-called 'crossover' vehicles have been gaining ground in recent years.

The presence of SUV-type vehicles can be observed in all segments, in the same way that MPVs spread to other categories in the late '90s. Indeed, the notion of segment is no longer clear-cut in the minds of customers. Today, SUVs account for five per cent of the total market worldwide compared with less than one per cent 15 years ago.

The SUV/compact crossover market is constantly expanding in the top five Europe countries and strong growth in the past five years has seen all-makes sales double from 222,500 to 522,000 vehicles (see appendix). This trend can be observed across Europe: in a total market of approximately 15 million vehicles, the SUV/compact crossover category accounts for almost five per cent, with more than 700,000 vehicles of this type sold in 2007. The sector is extremely competitive, too, with 25 models available. The launch of Koleos, Company’s first 4x4 crossover, sees Renault complete its line-up with a new vehicle that benefits from the maturity and expertise of the market's leading players.

European SUV/compact crossover customers come essentially from the C and D segments. The majority of them already own a vehicle of this type (25%), while 22% come from the D segment and 13% from the C segment. Former MPV owners account for eight per cent of SUV/compact crossover buyers.

Koleos is a sign of the group's ongoing international expansion. The newcomer goes on sale in the UK in July and will be available in almost 40 countries on five continents by 2009. Full UK specifications and pricing will be revealed nearer the UK launch date.

A unique industrial adventure
Five years after the Renault-Nissan Alliance was sealed, and four years after the founding of the Renault Samsung Motors brand in Korea, Renault took the decision to launch a 4x4 project driven by a two-fold objective: to complete its C-segment line-up yet remaining true to its philosophy as a company which designs and produces vehicles that respect others.

The synergies afforded by the Alliance, such as the sharing of platforms and mechanical assemblies, and the prospect of increased sales in Korea ensured a first class financial context. The different roles were allocated as follows: Renault would work on the concept, design the vehicle, draw up a brief concerning performance and equipment and supply the diesel powerplants. Nissan would bring its 4x4 technology to the table, supply the petrol engines and take responsibility for validation. Finally, Renault Samsung Motors would ensure the production of Renault Koleos for the world market.

The Alliance's C platform – which had been transformed into the C 4x4 platform by Nissan for its X-Trail and Rogue models – lent itself perfectly to the new crossover's volumes. Production of the vehicle in Korea rapidly emerged as the natural choice, given that SUV and crossovers are the predominant category in the country where they enjoy a market share of some 20 per cent. Meanwhile, the efficiency and flexibility of Renault Samsung Motors' Busan plant was a further parameter that argued in favour of using the Korean facility as the sole production site for Renault Koleos and a letter of intention was signed in March 2004. Koleos was destined to be Renault's first crossover, conceived and designed by Renault, developed by Nissan and built by Renault Samsung Motors.

A team of Japanese engineers from Nissan was despatched to work alongside Renault's own design team at the Technocentre in Guyancourt, France, to validate the project's technical feasibility. The pre-contract milestone was rapidly reached and, in December 2004, the decision was taken to launch the development phase of the H45 project. A Renault project team specialising in the Renault-Nissan Alliance C platform was set up to serve as a small-scale interface and channel requests for information from the project teams at Nissan and Renault Samsung Motors. An equal parity, tripartite steering committee was consequently established and the programme chiefs from each of the three brands met regularly in France, Japan and Korea to arbitrate on the responses of Nissan's vehicle engineering department to the demands of Renault's brief.

The following phase saw the project switch its base near Nissan's Atsugi engineering centre in Japan where designers from Renault and Renault Samsung Motors worked on finalising the exterior and interior design. The first Renault Koleos was born. The design freeze milestone was reached in July 2005 and the go-ahead was given for development of the H45 to begin.

From the design freeze milestone to production sign-off in November 2007, 28 months of active collaboration saw the programme teams of all three brands focus on achieving the objectives set by Renault.

The combination of the project's complexity and the tripartite relationship permitted new, increasingly streamlined practices to be put into place. To ensure that Renault Koleos benefited from the very best that the Renault-Nissan Alliance had to offer, arbitration was called for on several occasions, if only because customer demand has a tendency to differ from one continent to another, making it necessary to anticipate market trends on a global scale. Furthermore, although the operational methodologies employed at Renault and Nissan are converging, the two entities still have strong separate cultural identities and it was necessary to take their specificities into account. The bulk of the work that followed the contract milestone in October 2005 concerned the response of Nissan's vehicle engineering department to the product, performance and equipment demands formulated by Renault.

The first prototype was produced in Japan at the beginning of 2006 in the Nissan pilot factory where the assembly processes and necessary tooling are developed before the production of a new vehicle can begin in the chosen factory. Koleos naturally followed the same path as the Nissan models based on the same platform – X-Trail and Rogue – and the same manufacturing processes were adopted.

In November 2006, the first waves of physical prototypes marked the start of the H45 project's production phase. Renault Samsung Motors allocated a staff of 68 to work in Zama with Nissan's vehicle engineering department to draw up the standard operation sheets and optimise assembly procedures.

In parallel, a test programme was put into place to validate the performance and reliability of Koleos in extreme conditions. A total of 1,750,000km was covered, either on location or on tests benches. Given the newcomer's broad spectrum of markets, including Russia, Korea, the Middle East and Australia, Koleos was put through its paces in the severest of conditions. The cold climate tests took place in Japan on the island of Hokkaido, while the hot weather programme was organised in Australia and Spain.

Six months later, the vehicle arrived on the production line in Busan, Korea. This timeline enabled the necessary tooling for production start-up to be completed, while the operators themselves received nearly 50,000 hours of specific training.

On November 5, 2007, the Busan factory was given the green light to begin the manufacture of QM5, the Korean version of the forthcoming Renault Koleos. A few months later, the first vehicles for the Korean market rolled off the line just as production of Koleos started in readiness for the model's release in Europe in June 2008.

The Renault-Nissan Alliance: a performance power-house
The concept of co-development, or task-sharing, between three players with such distinctive cultures as France, Japan and Korea turned out to be an extremely stimulating challenge for the Renault-Nissan Alliance.

The performance of Nissan's engineering department, the synergies permitted by the Alliance and the flexibility of Renault Samsung Motors' production plant in Busan, Korea, made it possible to achieve considerable investment-related savings. Indeed, the total capital outlay was a highly competitive €391 million, below the initially targeted figure.

Capital outlay was divided into:

  • engineering costs: €192 million,
  • production-related investment: €178 million, half of which was spent on the Busan factory and the remainder invested in the set-up of specific tooling at supplier premises,
  • start-up costs: €21 million.

    The engineering costs notably covered the work put in by Nissan to adapt to the requirements specified by Renault. The latter's particularly demanding brief stipulated that it would supply Nissan with the technical elements and mechanical assemblies required to develop the sort of features and functions specific to the Renault brand which its customers have come to expect and which can be found on vehicles throughout the range. These include the automatic parking brake as well as the 'magic handle' function of the hands-free card and the 'voir clair' ('clear view') demist function which Nissan succeeded in incorporating from the initial design phases.

    The carryover of Renault mechanical assemblies outweighed the expense of having to adapt them and enabled capital outlay to be kept to a minimum. Production-related investment at Busan notably went on improving work conditions and creating more ergonomic work-stations which are a pledge of quality and productivity.

    Koleos is the 11th of the 26 models that Renault has announced to fuel its growth. The launch of a 4x4 crossover sees Renault pursue its product offensive and complete its vehicle line-up with a model that marks a first in the history of the brand. In addition to the newcomer's proven 4x4 technology, Renault's brings its expertise in the realm of safety to the table, as well as a typically Renault approach to modularity and comfort to provide a spectrum of top-end functions and features of a level similar to those featured on New Laguna.

    From launch, Renault's first 4x4 crossover is targeting a place amongst the best in its class in terms of product and service quality, an undertaking which is backed up by the same three-year or 100,000 mile warranty that covers Renault's other upper-range vehicles. This approach forms part of a global strategy aimed at both promoting brand loyalty and winning over new customers to speed up Renault's presence on the international scene and develop the sale of top-end vehicles while at the same time consolidating its flagship values, namely comfort, intuitive design and modularity.