Renault Rafale revealed

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Renault has shown its newest SUV which harnesses hybrid drivetrains and takes on posh rivals.

Renault has unveiled its long-awaited D-segment flagship, the Rafale, a powerful hybrid coupé-SUV it promises will be “a vehicle born and bred for driving pleasure”.

The new flagship will appear first as a 145kW front-wheel-drive hybrid, but a 217kW all-wheel-drive version is also scheduled.

The Rafale launch is the latest move in the comprehensive Renaulution model-renewal plan laid out by group boss Luca de Meo after he arrived three years ago.

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De Meo identified the firm’s first mission as being to strengthen Renault’s C-segment range – which it has done with the Mégane, Arkana and Austral – and the next priority is the Rafale’s D-segment, which accounts for 15 per cent of car sales across Europe.

Rafale uses the CMF-CD platform, its own version of a component that already underpins 15 million Renault Group models from the Clio upwards. It fits into the heart of the D-segment with an overall length of 4.7m, is quite tall at 1.61m (as befits a sporty SUV) and has a long wheelbase for the class of 2.74m.

Its prominent features include a striking new grille, prominent haunches and a long fastback roof, carefully configured both for generous rear passenger head room and to have a 17deg rake angle, considered ideal for efficient aerodynamics.

At launch, the Rafale gets the 145kW clutchless hybrid powertrain already used by its siblings, the Austral and Espace. It derives its power from a 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol engine and two electric motors.

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The 95kW Atkinson-cycle engine drives the front wheels via a four-speed automatic transmission in unit with the final drive. A 50kW electric drive motor (with its own integral two-speed dog box) is sandwiched between the engine and main transmission.

The second electric motor is an integrated starter-generator that starts the petrol engine, collects energy when the car coasts or brakes and can assist with acceleration when needed.

This powertrain, electronically governed, doesn’t need a clutch because the car always starts under electric power only, and the meshing of the two-speed dog box is managed by the electric motor. There’s a 2kWh battery under the driver’s seat that allows short-range electric driving.

No performance figures are offered, but they should broadly match those of the 145kW Austral, given that Renault engineers estimate the similarly powered Rafale’s kerb weight to be “from 1600kg”.

The 217kW all-wheel-drive Rafale has the same front-mounted powertrain as the original, but accompanies that with an electrified rear axle that uses a separate electric motor in unit with a rear differential. This model has a much bigger battery and is understood to be a plug-in hybrid with an EV-only range of around 60km.

The Rafale shares its platform, including wheelbase, with the family-oriented Austral and Espace but advertises its greater focus as a driver’s car with 40mm-wider front and rear tracks plus unique spring, damper and anti-roll bar specifications.

The car won’t appear in France until spring next year and is undergoing final chassis development now.

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