2024 Renault Rafale world premiere: new flagship SUV drives the “Renaulution” forward
Finally, the curtain has been lifted. This is the all-new Rafale and it’s a bit of a looker, isn’t it? Renault certainly hopes so anyway, as it’s pinning a lot on the success of this new range topping hybrid coupe-SUV.
Unveiled to the world’s press yesterday at the Paris Air Show in Le Bourget (a fitting location given the Rafale shares its name with a record-breaking French monoplane) Renault’s latest offering will first hit European showrooms in spring 2024, but we won’t get it in the UK until a little later.
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Due to its position at the top of brand’s food chain, both the exterior and interior design need to reflect this higher entry point — which will have to be around the £40,000 mark if it wants to compete with rivals like the Cupra Formentor and Citroen C5X .
On the outside, it would appear the design team have stepped up to the brief. Gilles Vidal, VP Design, Renault brand, argues that the styling is: “in keeping with its DNA through generous curves, treated with great precision, combined with lines of tension and technical details that bring character and sophistication to the whole”. In simpler terms though, it seems to have paid off; It’s a handsome and well-proportioned machine.
The cabin should be equally classy too, thanks to luxurious materials and cool tech solutions. Notably, materials include: Alcantara, dyed cork and even slate as trim options. The Rafale also benefits from a panoramic glass sunroof which can be darkened at the touch of a button, illuminated Alpine seat badges that pulse like a heartbeat, and an “ingenious” rear armrest which houses charging ports and extendable cupholders.
Things start to look a little less groundbreaking when it comes to the engine lineup. From launch only one powertrain will be offered: the same 1.2-litre, 197 bhp three-cylinder engine with two electric motors that currently powers the Austral and Espace. Although efficiency is impressive at a combined 60mpg and 105g/km of CO2, the performance is unlikely to challenge some of its faster rivals. Luckily though, a near 300 bhp Rafale will follow — boasting four-wheel drive courtesy of an electrified rear axle.
That performance variant certainly could be interesting given that Renault have invested time and energy to ensure the Rafale is an engaging steer. Evidence of which comes from the 40mm-wider front and rear tracks and revised suspension geometry compared to the other models sharing the platform.
We’re eager to see if the Rafale can walk the walk that its sporty styling suggests. But based on looks alone, do you think it’s a fitting flagship for the French brand?