The Truth About Cars » Renault The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 23 Jul 2014 16:29:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Renault Ghosn Presents 2020 Autonomous Drive Roadmap Fri, 18 Jul 2014 12:00:37 +0000 Carlos-Ghosn-5112012-10

Before the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan Thursday, Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn issued a roadmap outlining the automaker’s path toward the first autonomous vehicles in 2020.

The Wall Street Journal reports the following steps Renault-Nissan will take towards its 2020 Autonomous Drive target:

  • 2016: The automaker will introduce a traffic jam pilot and fully automated parking systems, the former of which would allow vehicles to safely drive their passengers through rush hour and other congestion scenarios.
  • 2018: Vehicles will use multiple lane controls to safely negotiate road hazards and lane changes.
  • 2020: Vehicles will use intersection autonomy to delivery their passengers safely through intersections without the need for driver intervention.

Ghosn emphasized the difference between his company’s approach to autonomy over those like Google, who are pursuing vehicles that drive themselves:

Autonomous Drive is about relieving motorists of everyday tasks, particularly in congested or long-distance situations. The driver remains in control, at the wheel, of a car that is capable of doing more things automatically. Self-driving cars, by comparison, don’t require any human intervention — and remain a long-way from commercial reality. They are suitable only for tightly-controlled road-environments, at slow speeds, and face a regulatory minefield

He concluded that the 2020 roadmap was only the beginning, with further advancements to come on the momentum generated by the plan.

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Ghosn Top Earner In Japan For Fourth Time In Five Years Wed, 25 Jun 2014 10:00:45 +0000

Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn will once more be graced with the honor of being the highest paid executive at a Japanese corporation, having held the honor three previous times in the past five years.

Bloomberg reports Ghosn made ¥995 million ($9.76 million USD) in salary and bonuses for fiscal year 2013, which ended March 31 of this year; total compensation, including dividends, amounts to ¥10 billion ($9.81 million). This puts the CEO ahead of Toyota president Akio Toyoda, who made four times less than Ghosn despite Nissan eking out a profit amid incentive spending and recall costs in the same period. However, Toyoda’s ¥757 million ($7.42 million) in dividends narrows the gap between the two leaders.

Though Ghosn may be killing it in Japan, his total earnings are outgunned by those of his standing among European and U.S. automakers. Outgoing Ford CEO Alan Mullaly earned $23 million in total compensation last year, while GM CEO Mary Barra may receive as much as $14.4 million at the end of FY 2014. Meanwhile, VW boss Martin Winterkorn took home €15 million ($20 million) and Daimler’s doctor Dieter Zetche made €8.25 million ($11.2 million) in 2013. Renault paid €2.3 million ($3.1 million) to Ghosn, bringing total earnings from the alliance to around $13 million USD..

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Renault, Caterham Part Ways Over Direction Of Alpine Joint Venture Wed, 11 Jun 2014 13:00:01 +0000 renault-alpine-a110-50-concept-rear-view

Though a new Alpine is set to come out in 2016, the new car will be lacking in English blood: Renault and Caterham have broken off their engagement to revive the historic French marque.

Autoblog reports the joint venture dissolved amid tensions over development of a pair of sports cars that were set to debut in 2016. Renault and Caterham first came together to build the cars in November 2012. At the time, the latter’s Formula One team ran the former’s engines, and team owner Tony Fernandes wanted to do the same for the Caterham 7. From there, the Société des Automobiles Alpine Caterham was formed under the roof of the Alpine factory in Dieppe, France, and had delivered the A110-50 concept in the brief time the two entities worked together.

Regarding the future, both automakers will pursue building their sports cars separately, though they hinted that “other forms of cooperation” could come about given the right conditions. The joint venture will be renamed Société des Automobiles Alpine during a general meeting this month.

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Renault, LG Chem Sign MOU To Develop Long-Range Battery Technology Wed, 28 May 2014 11:00:52 +0000 Renault LG Signing Ceremony

With most EVs getting around 100 miles on a single charge from their battery packs, such vehicles are more suited for the downtown core than a trip to the mountains. However, Renault and LG Chem are looking toward boosting range toward Tesla-like levels, together.

Autoblog Green reports Renault’s CCO Thierry Bolloré and LG Chem’s battery chief Kwon Young-soo signed a memorandum of understanding to develop battery range technology through the use of the latter company’s high-energy-density batteries. LG makes the batteries for EVs and PHEVs, including the Chevrolet Volt, and will supply packs to 20 automakers in 2015, double the business it does currently.

Meanwhile, Renault may use the results of its joint-venture with LG Chem to improve the range — and therefore, potential sales — of its Twingo and other Z.E. EVs. The Twingo was recently shelved in part to less-than-expected demand for the city car, with no word on when the EV will go back on sale.

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Ghosn To Fight For Position Atop Global Three Podium Fri, 09 May 2014 12:00:12 +0000 Carlos Ghosn speaks -07. Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt

Re-appointed through 2018 last month by Renault-Nissan shareholders by a margin of 85 percent, CEO Carlos Ghosn has adjusted his sights on Volkswagen, General Motors and Toyota in an effort to take one of their spots as a member of the Global Three.

Automotive News reports the No. 4 automaker has a ways to go before taking the lowest spot on the podium; in 2013, Renault-Nissan moved 8.3 million off the lot behind VW’s 9.73 million, Toyota’s 9.98 million and GM’s 9.71 million. The Franco-Japanese automaker also relies heavily upon its Nissan division for the majority of sales and profits, Nissan having remained the same size as it was when the alliance formed in 1999 while doubling sales and reaping the rewards over the years.

Meanwhile, Renault struggled to move toward its goal of 3 million cars sold globally in 2013, falling 370,000 units short. Stalled sales of the Zoe EV, the loss of COO Carlos Tavares to PSA Peugeot Citroën, and poor handling of the crisis involving high-level executives falsely accused of stealing corporate secrets — leading to the forced departure of previous COO Patrick Pelata — also dinged both Renault and Ghosn.

On the plus side, Ghosn managed to keep Renault’s manufacturing in its native France, with plans to boost local production by 180,000 units by 2016, as well as helped the French brand meet its cash flow target of 2.5 billion euros over the past three years. While the Zoe may have been a bust, Ghosn proclaimed Renault was still the No. 1 seller of EVs in the European market, accounting for 37 percent to 42 percent of the local market; the alliance has an overall 60 percent of the global EV market. Finally, the CEO believes Renault will see 50 billion euros in revenue by 2017, compared to 41 billion euros in 2013.

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Renault Twingo Goes Upscale, RWD Wed, 12 Feb 2014 17:00:34 +0000 Renault Twin'Run Concept

Renault’s production alliance with Daimler is about to bear fruit as the automaker will unveil their new Twingo minicar at the 2014 Geneva Auto Show next month.

The new car — going from three doors to five for this outing — will be underpinned by a platform shared with Smart’s upcoming four-seater, both of which will also be rear-wheel drive, and assembled at Renault’s Novo Mesto, Slovenia plant.

Automotive News Europe is reporting that the switch to RWD is part of an effort to take the Twingo upscale, offering a level of personalization Fiat and Opel offer in their respective minicars to the customer. Styling is expected to take cues from the Twin’Z and above Twin’Run concepts shown at auto shows last year.

Renault aims for conquest sales with the next-gen Twingo, wanting to attract more men to the car; the majority of current-gen Twingo buyers are women.

The newly revised minicar will enter Renault showrooms in the third quarter of 2014.

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Renault Resumes Supply Shipments To Iranian Production Lines Thu, 30 Jan 2014 17:30:16 +0000 Iran Khodro Renault Production Line

After a six-month self-imposed hiatus, Renault has begun shipping “a very low volume” of parts overland to Iran for vehicle assembly.

According to Automotive News, over the past 10 days, parts for the Renault Tondar — the variant of the Dacia Logan built and sold by Iran Khodro — have made their way to Iranian production lines overland from Romania upon temporary easing of sanctions against the Iranian government for their nuclear ambitions. The lifting of sanctions is currently expected to last six months after Tehran pledged to freeze key components of their nuclear program, with talks due next month to work out a permanent deal to wind down sanctions in exchange for curbs in Iran’s aforementioned program.

For Renault and their rivals in Peugeot/PSA, the six-month window is crucial in rebuilding their relationships with their partners in Iran Khodro and Pars Khodro, as well as regaining their foothold on the Persian auto market before more players — such as General Motors — enter the room.

According to Renault’s Asia-Pacific boss Giles Normand, the window marks an opportunity to “gradually restart the supply of parts for vehicle production as well as flow of payments,” noting that the current state of things “must be allowed to improve visibly in Iran” lest their customers feel their country has been short-changed through a lack of visible change.

Total production of vehicles in Iran peaked at 1.6 million units in 2011, the year the sanctions were imposed. Renault lost 64,500 deliveries as a result in 2013, marginally dampening global growth to 2.63 million units overall. With the possibility of 1 million to 1.5 million annual sales at stake, Renault nor PSA can afford another setback.

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Datsun to Unveil Concept at 2014 Delhi Auto Expo Thu, 23 Jan 2014 16:32:14 +0000 Datsun Concept India

Should you happen to be in India two weeks from now, Datsun will unveil the above concept at the 2014 Delhi Auto Expo during a conference held by the offshoot automaker.

The concept heralds a possible expansion of Datsun’s current lineup, aimed at the young customers in South Africa, Russia, India and other high-growth markets. The concept appears to be a three-door hatch slotted just below the Go five-door supermini, with the Go+ MPV completing the future trio.

As far as production is concerned, the hatch will be underpinned by Renault-Nissan’s Compact Module Family platform. The flexible platform is expected to support up to 14 vehicles within the Franco-Japanese alliance’s complete range.

The concept will debut at Datsun’s press conference February 5.

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Section 1201 and Automotive DRM: The Future is Locked Fri, 15 Nov 2013 15:15:18 +0000 Renault Zoe

This is the Renault Zoe. It’s like most EVs on the road, with its limited range, limited power, and limited usability.

Unlike the other EVs, however, the Zoe comes with DRM attached to its battery pack. In short: If you value your ability to drive the Zoe at all, then you will submit to a rental contract with the pack’s manufacturer. Should you fail to pay the rent or your lease term expires, Renault can and will turn your Zoe into an expensive, useless paperweight by preventing the pack’s ability to be recharged, consequences be damned.

It’s only the beginning.

Ever since the Digital Millennium Copyright Act came into force in 1998, one particular section has managed to do more damage to innovation than to protect the innovators: Section 1201:

No person shall circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under this title.

The application of Section 1201 in the past has led to actions such as: The delay in disclosing copy-protection vulnerability found in Sony’s CDs; takedown notices issued by Hewlitt-Packard to researchers for publishing a security flaw in the former’s Tru64 UNIX OS; Lexmark suing anyone who sells aftermarket refilled toner cartridges; and even displacing laws meant to deal with hacking and electronic intrusion, such as the Wiretap and Electronic Communications Privacy acts.

Regarding DRM, many a gamer has experienced their favorite games rendered unplayable because the online component — having reached its end-of-life phase and, thus, the creator no longer supports the software — can no longer be authenticated. So, imagine Zoe owners one day going to work or to visit their grandmother on her death bed when, because Renault decided to no longer support the battery pack nor verify new packs, not being able to start their car. They can’t resell the EV on the used car market, and thus, can’t make some of their $23,000 back on their purchase.

Or worse, imagine if a Zoe driver and their friends were going to a major protest — like the one that led to the Battle of Seattle, for example — only to find their government told Renault to “block” charging of the pack to hinder either their progress to the action or allow the police to “say hello,” as it were.

And of course, let’s say a Zoe owner is the target of a sociopath. They bribe a Renault employee for access to the DRM through social engineering, find “the bitch” who left them, shutdown the battery at home… you can see where this is going.

Now, imagine it happening here with the theorhetical (for now) autonomous commuter pod of 2025 your sons and daughters may end up “piloting.”

At present, Representative Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., is leading a bipartisan charge to bring about the Unlocking Technology Act, designed to limit the overzealous use of the DMCA and Section 1201 to cases where real intellectual property infringement has occurred. Should this bill become law, it would go a long way to preventing the abuses that have hindered progress elsewhere from infecting the automotive industry any further.

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Renault Duster Captures India Sun, 15 Jul 2012 18:24:05 +0000

My last post on TTAC was on the Renault Logan, but the vehicle pictured above, also a Romanian derived Dacia, is one that changed Renault’s fortunes in India overnight. After the Logan was licensed to Mahindra, Renault re-started its India innings with the launch of the Fluence and Koleos in 2011. The French automaker launched a re-badged Nissan Micra (called the Pulse) earlier this year. Renault’s monthly sales after the launch of these three cars revolved around 400 odd units, which equates to an yearly figure of around 5000 units. This gives them a 0.24% market share in India and places them in 13th position.

Earlier this month, Renault India launched the Duster, positioning it as a compact SUV. The Duster is offered with three engines, 1.6-litre petrol which produces 104 PS and the 1.5-litre k9k diesel in two sets of tune – 85 PS and 110 PS. All the engines are mated to a manual gearbox and Renault has tweaked the interiors (added beige inserts) slightly to give them a premium appeal. Prices start at Rs. 7.19 lakhs ($13000) and goes all the way upto Rs. 11.29 lakhs ($20434). These prices are ex-showroom and not inclusive of registration, road tax and insurance costs. So, yes the Duster does look a bit overpriced, considering it is highly localized and India is an export base for the right hand drive Duster.

However, the SUV loving Indians have taken to the Duster like a storm. The vehicle received 4000 bookings on launch day itself and 8000 bookings within a week. As I write this post, Renault has managed to get 10000 bookings for the Duster. That is more than what Renault has sold in the last twelve months in India. Getting inside a Renault dealership is not an easy task, as its crowded like a fish market. Every prospective buyer wants the Duster. There is no alternative to the vehicle and Renault can continue to make hay while the sun shines. The real competitor to the Duster comes in the form of the Ford EcoSport in 2013.

Faisal Ali Khan is the owner/operator of, a website covering the auto industry of India.

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Review: 2010 Renaultsport Clio 200 On The Ring Fri, 04 Mar 2011 07:56:34 +0000

The glare I received from the 997 GT3 RS driver was classical mix of shock and anger. His confused facial expression was not the result of me cutting him off, blocking his driving line, or any other error of vehicular piloting. I simply rocketed past him upon the exit of Aremberg on the Nurburgring due to two factors: I knew the track better, and I was behind the wheel of the second most impressive offering from Renaultsport, the Clio 200 Cup.

Having introduced you to the Renaultsport Megane 250 Cup previously, I felt compelled to educate our American populace on the other French clutter offering that in some ways bests the more powerful and larger hatchback. While the Megane boasts a turbo, 250 more horses, and a limited slip differential, the Clio adds lightness and a bit more nimbleness to the mixture. Think of the Clio as the Jimmy MacElroy to the Chaz Michael Michaels of the Megane (Blades of Glory anyone?). Both are incredibly capable cars in their own right, but just different enough to offer a different driving feel for different driving skills. Favor power and high levels of grip in order to go around the corner fast, get the Megane. Do you want delicate controls, nimbleness, and a feeling of extracting 100% from the car all the time, get the Clio.

Just like the Megane, Renaultsport takes a Clio chassis to their fabrication facility in Dieppe, France. There, they put on the finest suspension to come from a large scale manufacturer, bespoke fender flares (compared to the tacked on plastic ones of the Megane), dual exhaust, a diffuser, and awesome Recaro racing seats (regular Recaro sport buckets are available, but only recommended for those who might be a bit wide in the hips). The Clio comes out looking like Nicole fresh from the gym, cute, perfectly proportioned, and ready for business; an approachable beauty that’s not quite as evocative, or as controversial as the larger Megane.

The interior however never lets you forget you are driving a mainstream hatchback designed to get Papa from market to Marseilles with a minimum of fuss and wear. Soft touch VAG style plastics abound in a well screwed together minimalist symphony of petroleum byproducts. Controls are well laid out with air-con, radio, and all that other stuff that detracts from the driving experience and makes for a boring car review. Look upon the large dials, and the gigantic yellow tachometer reminds you of the Clio’s true purpose, unbridled, but economic fun.

Punch the gas, let the 2.0L four cylinder sing, snick the long lever with the short throws, and embrace your inner Gallic-ness. Carve the corner and corrections to your line are met with instant response with prodigious levels of feedback. Power comes on smoothly as the chassis unloads itself upon the corner exit, and boom goes the dynamite. The Clio never surrenders. It burns the white flag of civility like an angry Maquis. There are more powerful and exotic cars out there, but behind the wheel of a Clio, you dismiss them as toys of those who feel they need to compensate for perceived deficiencies.

The driving feel of the Clio alone justifies purchasing one, however, it comes with a secret bonus. It’s astonishingly cheap. Costing on the British market a mere £17,500, it undercuts the Volkswagen GTI by nearly £7500, while offering a better driving experience. The next VAG product down, the Polo GTI costs about the same, yet delivers less horsepower, and feels stilted and sedate by comparison.
The benefits continue with fuel economy averaging at 35mpg in the combined cycle and 18mpg on the Nurburgring itself. Insurance levels remain in the sane zone, and parts are no more expensive than if you were driving Papa’s 1.4 Diesel. For example, brake pads on my 911 Carrera S were over £500 for a set capable for the stresses of the ‘Ring. The Clio’s however cost just £50 or so from Pagid.

Quick, fun, inexpensive, reliable, economic, and stylish, the Clio seems to have all the things a petrolhead could ever want. Yet to our American readers, it will never reach the shores of the land of the free. Pity really… yet, you do have a chance to fly your flag of Lorraine, and experience one of the finest Euro rockets on the market. Several companies in my little village of Nurburg rent these finely tuned beasts for a paltry sum of €500 a day or so, with insurance, and the opportunity to experience the true intention of Renaultsport.

You do not need an M3 or a GT3, you only need Nicole, some bravery, and a credit card. And for our British, French, German, and other Euro readers… buy one already!

(To avoid unnecessary rehash of VAT, purchase power and Big Mac rates, I left the currencies alone. Frankly, I’m flummoxed why an American jet-jockey would even think in pounds other than the ones that denote  bombs. ED)

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Review: 2011 RenaultSport Megane 250 Cup Mon, 07 Feb 2011 18:29:43 +0000

I discovered the French sense of humor piloting the new Renault Megane 250 Cup through the Scottish Highlands. When I inadvertently induced a lift-off oversteer situation, I found myself staring at an oncoming tractor through a strategically placed EuroNCAP 5-star crash rating sticker on the windscreen. The team at Renaultsport might have made one of the finest hot hatches on the market today (again!), yet its nice to know that the engineers at Renault in Paris crafted a safety cage among the best on the continent to protect you when your talent runs out, whether you impact a tractor, hedge, or stray Italian.

The vehicles from Renaultsport are not your typical French hatch. The team takes the shell of a regular Renault Megane to their workshop in some wine infused countryside barn, and create monster three-doors of such brilliance, you’ll swear they sold their souls to the devil (again) in order to learn such unholy talents. The Megane 250 Cup leaves the premises much more than a body-molded and be-spoilered wannabe. What you receive from the dealer forecourt becomes one of those cars that only comes along once in great while, a car with soul, passion, and pure awesome.

The swoopy body work takes a great departure from the interesting angled front and flat rear window from the previous Megane. The front looks aggressive, especially with LED running lights, and the rear evokes the classic French boat-tail styling with a few aggressive cues limited to the central exhaust and straked spoiler. Pictures do not do the Megane justice, as seeing it in real life, where it has real presence, it looks just so…. right. Despite being so French. Look closer though, and you find real, functional design cues. That rear diffuser is real, and works well at high speed on the Nurburgring (I know from personal experience). The brake vents on the front wheel arches really do help keep the massive stoppers cool, and the rear spoiler works efficiently not for downforce, but to clean up the airflow for better high speed stability. Renaultsport added everything you need, but tacked on nothing you don’t.

Strapping yourself into the immensely comfortable Recaros (real race-prepped versions are also available, but not as long-trip worthy), you realize despite Renaultsport’s best intentions, the interior still comes straight from the line that produced the 5-door diesel family hatch. Durable, but well screwed together soft-touch plastics abound in a simple, but useful arrangement. The yellow tachometer gives you the only hint at the true nature of the Megane.

Renault must have hired some Citroen designers, as weirdness crept into the cabin in unusual places. For instance, the instrument panel needles do not light up at all, so in every situation, you cannot tell what speed you are doing, which necessitates turning on the headlights in order to get everything to legibly illuminate. The air-con resets itself to the default “on” position every time you restart the car. The handbrake and engine start button are placed on the opposite side of the car as the driver, a right-hand drive market only problem… but how hard would hit have been to move the buttons and lever? The stylish rear C-pillars, while awesome looking, create a serious blind spot as well, making you rely on your mirrors quite a bit more. However, in the 250 Cup, who cares if anything is behind you really?

You don’t buy a Megane 250 Cup for its interior cleverness or annoyance. You buy it to drive the living snot out of it, which this weekend, I did for 4 hours through some of the best driving roads of Scotland.

In this element of damp, twisty, bumpy roads the Megane came alive in a way I have very rarely experienced. The steering wheel communicated things to your hands as if psychic. You knew exactly what the front wheels were doing, where it was gripping, and which way the car wanted to go, yet put in a slight inputs, and the car responded with alacrity and precision superior to that of anything coming out of Wolfsburg. The brakes responded with gravitational force, yet were very linear and adjustable, once you get used to the sharp initial bite.

The exhaust, while a bit muted for this genre, popped and banged as if little demons were detonating IEDs in the muffler. The turbo mill whistled, and whooshed while the cylinders snapped and crackled in a display only a romance language speaking nation can produce. The firm suspension, while making me regret wearing loose boxer shorts in St. Andrews, became a thing of controlled beauty when landing after getting all four wheels in the air. The whole thing sounded and felt alive, as if you were taming a dragon spitting real flames out the back, and only your raw driving talent was keeping you, and your passengers from careening into the Cairghorns in a fiery death not seen since the time of William Wallace.

We jumped over crests, drifted through hairpin turns spraying snow and grit at Balmoral Castle in an attempt to annoy the Queen. We blew past Corsas full of Chavs in a turbo boost symphony of epic. The Megane rewarded, flattered, and kept us safe while making us driving gods of the highest order. The Megane costs less than a Focus RS, yet turns in quicker lap times, goes faster on real roads, and returns 27mpg in real time traffic. Five days after my return from Afghanistan, the Megane gave me heaven after seeing only hell.

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Review: 2010/2011 Renault Logan Expression 1.0 16v (Brazilian) Sun, 06 Jun 2010 20:32:33 +0000

One of the reasons I jumped at the chance when invited to write for this site was that I thought there would be a lot of chances to discuss the many fundamental differences between driving in the Southern hemisphere of this world and the Northern one. One big difference is that our cars are small. Why? Taxes. Why? Only Brazilians are passive enough to take this lying down. Although continental in size, Brazil limits itself to driving puny 1.0L engines (almost 50 percent of our market). You might as well think that doesn’t work. Well, it’s time to find out.

The recently launched Renault Logan is a good example of this. Its mini-me engine must struggle to make this relatively big car (its wheelbase of 2.63 m is bigger than the Corolla’s, the Astra’s and the Focuses’) move. The little-engine-that-should produces all of 76 hp when drinking dino-juice and 77 hp when using up the gift of sugarcane, ethanol. Being that the car weighs in at 1,080 kg, and that all the torque the engine can muster is 9.9 or 10.1 m.kgf (71/ 73 lb-ft, gas/ethanol) and that maximum pulling power is reached at a lofty 4,250 rpm, you can see it struggles to keep up speed. But more on that later. The new face-lifted car is mechanically identical to the departing one according to the enthusiasts over at (all numbers, head bow to them).

If Renault skimped on the mechanical side, it wasted, err, spent whatever budget it had inside. The Logan takes a page from its hatchback brother the Sandero, and takes its door handle, instrument gauge and steering wheel, while it’s at it. The result is a little more fake-plastic-chrome inside (good for a tropical sun when it’s glaring down in all its anger). Also purloined from the Sandero is the (poor) fabric found on the seats. The big news is that the door now harbors the power window buttons. Striving to correct an ergonomic mishap (the buttons were placed on the dash before), Renault created another one. Since said buttons are placed not on the door handle itself, but rather in an extension that comes from the door map holders, it’s now more difficult to access the deep recesses of the map holders and the door opener. Such genius.

Renault has always sold the Logan as the medium-sized (for Brazil) car with a compact car (again, for Brazil) pricing. So, taking whatever money was left over from the “huge” changes inside, outside the car is longer by 4 cm, you know, to give you more bang for your buck. This is due to new bumpers (according to the largest Brazilian’s newspaper O Globo’s news portal).

The face has also changed. The headlights are bigger and they changed the shape of the grill and didn’t paint it and changed the fog lights’ housing (and didn’t paint that, either). The portion of the bumper that is open to allow air to flow in was turned upside down. In the back, the bumpers are also changed. They copied the copy Fiat made of Volkswagen’s original design. They also borrowed a page from VeeDub’s book and tried integrating a spoiler on the lid of the trunk (if you squint your eyes you can see). And boy what a trunk! It holds a total of 510 liters, making it the biggest in Brazil (Lincoln, bite yourself) and is a strong selling point. Its usefulness though is hampered by the fact that the back seat doesn’t fold, like it does in all of its competitors.

Did I mention you now also have a strip of “chrome” on the front hood and out in the back, too? Yummy.

But how does it drive? you ask.

To sum up, well, sort of. No, it’s ok. Ok, it’s good. If you drive it like it’s intended to be driven (sedate, economic family sedan). If you drive it like you are Alain Prost, you’ll be frustrated fast

As noted by our own Martin Schwoerer, when he reviewed the 2008 Dacia Logan SW/minivan for TTAC, you might end up having some fun. It does go down the highway with that Gallic aplomb many find inspiring. Note I said, “when going down the road. When going up the road, you’ll have to row through the gears in earnest to keep up speed (gain speed? No, just maintaining speed.) There’ll come a point you’ll just have to scoot over to the right lane and join the other grannies and slowpokes driving their 1.0’s. Then you’ll get frustrated because they’re going so slow. You, being an accomplished driver, could eventually prod it to go faster. You just have to try real hard!

This car is long and wide. Not to mention tall. The suspension of the Logan is very well sorted out. It does not wiggle uncomfortably or lean over too much when thrown at curves of varying angles. There are limits, though. Remember physics? The Logan takes most curves with a sang-froid (not to mention grip) its smaller competitors just can’t pull off as well, damn their shorter wheelbase.  Steering is great. Light, though never isolating. Just point it and go. It provides the right amount of feedback. Due to its (boxy) design, you can see the hood out front. There’s something to be said for that.

There you are then, enjoying the road. You’ll notice that top speed is not great. In this version I only managed to get it up to 155km/h (on the odometer, probably more like 147 or so in real life) for short bursts. At that point, it’s screaming. You can hear by all the wind noise that it is literally fighting the wind (and losing). It will cruise happily all day at 120 km/h (75 mph). Even at that speed the RPMs are going at 4,000. So you have to shout a little. Using my unscientific measures I recorded a best run from 0 to 100 km/h (0 to 62.5 mph) in a bit over 16 seconds. In this market, about average.

Since you’re going slowly, you have a chance to take in your surroundings. You will be sitting comfortably as you can easily find a good position to sit as there are all the adjustments. Just don’t expect them to be electronic. The seats themselves are on the smallish side, and could use more bolstering in the cushion. I can imagine many a corn-fed American having gripes about it. Though I’m a big fellow myself, I felt comfortable.

Visibility is very good. The windows are big (no gun slits here, thank God). The only problem is the back side view as the C columns are massive. The side mirrors though are bigger for this model year (another inheritance from the Sandero). The radio is just ok though it does have a satellite control unit hanging behind the spokes of the steering wheel for your pleasure. As it’s a dealer accessory, your quality may vary.

The most important part (or one of the most) for a consumer of this kind of car? Though the car I test drove was spanking brand new, I have lots of experience with this car as (time for disclaimer) I own a very similar 2008/2009 Logan (as mentioned earlier, mechanically identical to this new car). Drawing from my vast experience, I can tell you it depends extraordinarily on your right foot. Drive it like you stole it, and you’ll get robbed at the pumps a lot. Drive it like a nanny, and you’ll see the gas stations going broke. Realistically, you can expect 6.5 km/l with ethanol or about 8 km/l with gasoline in heavy stop and go traffic (A/C on at all times) and as much as 13km/l on ethanol in (flat) freeway driving and up to 17.5km/l on gas. In the real world though, A/C on and some traffic and uphills and downhills as well as legal speed limits, you can get 10km/l on ethanol and about 13km/l on gasoline.

This is a good car. It’s an engineer’s car. Not a designer’s. It’s honest. It serves a need. Of say, a family with 2 teens and a kid. It’ll hold their luggage and move them around in (relative) comfort, though slowly. If you need more power, you can always ante up for the 1.6 version, though I’d avoid this version for now since its rumored to receive some upgrades in terms of power soon (according to Brazilian car rag Auto Esporte’s February 2010 print issue). The Logan is bigger than any of its (smaller) direct competitors, cheaper than some, insurance is cheaper, the Logan is  more economic (especially in the city) than most of them.

It is, however uglier (to most, though I’ve always like boxy cars), parts are more expensive and harder to come by. Then again it’s the class leader with 3 years guarantee. However, to some Brazilians this is not a tranquilizer, as they worry about the cost of regular maintenance. All I know is that it should sell better than it does. Would I buy another one? Only if bought the 1.6L version.

This car was provided to the reviewer by his father-in-law with no gas and a stern warning, “Don’t f… up the car”.

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Review: Renault Mégane R26.R Mon, 19 Apr 2010 14:46:02 +0000

Driving the Renault Mégane R26.R on the snow-covered L-10–a public road-cum-rally track near the famous Nürburgring–is an unforgettable affair. And not simply because summer tires and slush don’t mix. This particular Mégane is a stunning piece of machinery in any condition: no Stateside machine comes even remotely close. And unlike most European unobtainium, it’s no sculpted, Teutonic monument to cash-flow either. It’s French. Cheap gas, Japanese quality and the Detroit-centric Eisenhower Interstate System have given Americans no reasons to contemplate, let alone lust after, French cars in the modern era, but not having this Ferrari-killing hatchback on crack is a bummer. The Mégane R26.R is so wrong it’s gotta be right.

The Mégane R26.R is simply unmistakable, even if it’s a Renault hatchback. Clock the 18-inch alloys and Piet Mondrian-worthy geometric decals in red ink. And there’s the Lunar Grey paint contrasting against the carbon fiber hood: a not so subtle reminder this three-door is far more than the tall roofline and dorky C-pillar implies. Rear spoiler aside, there’s simply no way to get around the Mégane R26.R’s hatchback roots. But this isn’t a rice boy poseur: resting against the near weightless polycarbonate rear/quarter windows gives the kinds of goose bumps that only come from a real race car.

Note: first timers will push those side windows while going in for a closer look at the spartan and sporty interior of the Mégane R26.R. And because there’s so little to behold, everything in eyeshot will be serious business: race seats with carbon fiber shells, six point harnesses, an optional roll cage (dressed in red, of course) and suede accents on the tiller and shift knob. The ambiance is bare bones, but what’s left is reasonably appealing in ergonomics and touchy-feely build quality. So it’s still a far better place to kill time than any modern Chrysler product.

And what was left on Renault’s chopping block? A loss of 270lbs from the removal of sound insulation, rear seating, a lone airbag (driver’s side), no radio, fog lights or other ancillary creature comforts. But if you missed the Mégane’s racing pedigree, there’s a “R26.R” badge screwed in the dash to remind all and sundry this ain’t no ordinary French econobox. You know, in case the red wheels didn’t tip you off.

And the greasy bits don’t play around. The Mégane R26.R’s mill comes from the RenaultSport racing parts bin: a 2.0L turbocharged mill, 6-speed transaxle and Michelin Pilot street tires. The (optional) titanium exhaust is a wicked affair, providing unfettered access to the turbo’s prodigious “woooosh” at anything more than quarter throttle. George Lucas never made a Tie Fighter hatchback, but Renault is clearly picking up the slack.

Perhaps you heard that the Mégane R26.R is the fastest production wrong-wheel drive whip on the Nürburgring, earning an 8:17 time slip. While weather conditions kept this review off the ‘ring, driving on nearby country roads shows how the Mégane R26.R accomplished that feat: plenty of suspension travel, a body that stays docile and flat in aggressive cornering and what must be the most communicative steering ever installed on a FWD vehicle. Bumpy roads have little chance at upsetting the Mégane R26.R’s racing line, both the steering and suspension keep the driver informed and in control.

But discretion is the better part of valor with a turbo pushing the front wheels, torque steer still rears its ugly head. With a limited-slip axle, modest power output (230hp/229lb-ft of torque) and a torque peak that’s nearly flat, boost is easy to modulate for post-apex bursts of acceleration. The Mégane R26.R will cook when needed, but the whole affair is subtler than the powertrain (or wheel color) suggests. And that’s not a cop out.

The groovy rotors and Brembo calipers move with a linear feel you rarely see in a (once) mundane compact platform. The Mégane R26.R stops as smoothly as it corners: with only 2700 lbs to halt, there’s no doubt the Mégane R26.R can handle hot lapping on the Nürburgring with grace and pace. And that’s precisely where this car excels, offering owners a rewarding but pain-free way to kick butt on any road course. I’m prepared to forgive Renault for importing the LeCar if they sell us the Mégane R26.R.

Or not. In reality, some performance icons are better left to the brand loyalists. Think of this as the French Cobra R: limited quantities and a lofty asking price of $35,000 USD, not including US federalization. And I reckon an immaculate C5 Corvette Z06 is a far superior track toy, with more creature comforts too. And buying one won’t require a degree in International Business.

And unless Honda jump-starts the Sport Compact genre in the United States, this French sweetheart is merely a tease. Too bad then, that Renault made a true masterpiece. The Mégane R26.R is the ultimate econobox expression, sporting credible looks with hard-edged, useable performance. Perhaps one day gas prices will inspire our premium compact platforms to reach for the stars the way this whip-sharp Renault has…. and maybe someday we’ll all get 5-8 weeks of mandatory paid vacation.

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Review: Project Better Place Renault Laguna EV Mule Fri, 19 Feb 2010 17:02:17 +0000

Charging stations are okay, really. Battery swapping stations are even better, and I honestly have nothing against Lithium-ion batteries. But we love cars, not infrastructure, and that’s what has been missing from our Better Place coverage: real car related stuff. So here I am, in the front seat of Better Place’s actual electric car. Of course, when I say actual, what I mean is that this is actually a Renault Laguna, a rather bland French midsize car, and one car Renault doesn’t intend to electrify in its joint venture with Better Place. So what’s its business being green in the car park with stickers all around it reading ‘EV’ and flowers emitting from its exhaust?

The Electric Laguna (which sounds like a fun holiday experience) is a part of Better Place’s new visitor center just outside Tel Aviv, Israel. It’s one of a small fleet of demonstration cars visitors would be able to thrash – err, test drive – around a dedicated test track, which is a polite way of describing two turns, one straight and a roundabout.

This Laguna actually has a pretty interesting biography. It started off as a bog-standard diesel in Renault’s factory in Sandouville, France. In an ironic twist, it arrived into Motown, where its powertrain was converted to electricity by FEV, before proceeding to Germany to embark on a costly journey to obtain European specification.

From the outside, save for a handful of giveaway stickers, it looks normal. The cabin is also nothing exceptional; the stock Laguna’s excellent seats and driving position are still here, and there’s ample room for four adults, but not five. It’s European midsize, remember? That means it’s significantly smaller than your intentionally-accelerating Camry, and pretty close in dimensions to the real deal – the Fluence Z.E, itself an enlarged C-segment Megane. But the real deal is still a while away from serial production.

The Electric Laguna then, is remarkably unremarkable. And that’s a good thing, considering that the average EV asks you for compromises when it comes to interior space. Even the smartcard key, push-button ignition and electronic parking brake are standard Renault issue. The future, serial-production Fluence Z.E will have Better Place’s own AutOS operating system, which will provide the driver with a plethora of useful (as well as useless) information.

The only hint at what’s under the bonnet comes from the gearlever, or, more precisely, the lack thereof. Instead of the usual stick, there are four familiar buttons: P, R, N and D. Another giveaway: the tachometer is replaced with a power consumption scale, measured in KW/h , accompanied by Better Place’s ‘switch’ emblem.

If you’ve ever driven a Prius, the startup sequence of the Laguna EV probably won’t rock your world. You press the Start button, wait for the OK and push the ‘D’ button, which illuminates in blue. A few clicks sound from the back of the car and you’re ready to roll. To get started, you need to brush the pedal – there’s no creep – and once you’re there, Better Place’s mule accelerates linearly and swiftly up to an electronically limited speed (got that?) of 84 MPH, but it probably won’t set your tires alight or win any drag races.

It was a sunny day, and three sweaty journalists probably didn’t contribute much in the way of ambience. So we politely asked the Better Place employee riding shotgun to turn on the air conditioning, to which he agreed – rather reluctantly. Lo and behold, a breeze of cool air exited the air vents – probably reducing range by several tens of percents. Definitely a welcome addition to the electric car.

There were only two serious bumps on the Better Place track, but they were enough to ascertain that the Laguna EV isn’t the most comfortable car around. Physics are to blame: with such a big lump of air conditioned metal to carry around, there’s a big lump of battery too, 550 pounds of it, all stored in the trunk, which the tight-lipped Better Place rep refused to open. If we had gone past him, we’d probably discover that it was packed full, though the Fluence Z.E will compensate for this with a slightly bigger trunk.

From the outside, the Laguna looks balanced, so it’s obvious that someone has been tinkering with the suspension. Unfortunately, it still needs work, because it’s simply uncomfortable. Bumps trigger an erratic, bouncy response – not the cosseting type of bouncing, either. The same is true for handling – it simply feels heavy on the turns, doesn’t inspire much confidence and the rear weight bias shows, no matter how much uncommunicative the steering is. Definitely not a Tesla Roadster.

Like many hybrids and EVs, this Renault has a regenerative braking system, which recovers ‘lost’ energy from braking (read: bad) into electricity, which is then returned to the battery (read: good). In the Laguna, this system is less fierce than systems on other EVs – it simulates in-gear braking, but it doesn’t actually brake the car for you when you lift off the throttle. The typical driver will still use the left pedal, which uses a conventional disk brake setup, thus significantly dropping the car’s range.

So, what do we have here? An electrically-powered, zero tailpipe emission sedan that accelerates well enough, carries four adults comfortably and doesn’t neglect amenities like air conditioning. It demonstrates what an EV can do – and I emphasize could, because the Laguna EV has about 170 horsepower, compared to the Fluence Z.E’s projected 95 – but saying that is only telling half the story, understandable ride and handling imperfections aside.

We already know that the Laguna’s seats are excellent and that EVs are possible. What would be the car’s real-life range? How would it function in daily traffic? How much would it cost? How much would the batteries last? For these questions to be answered, we need to wait for the real-deal Fluence Z.E.

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Review: 2008 Renault Kangoo 1.5 Diesel Fri, 21 Aug 2009 15:08:01 +0000

It may come off as odd to road test a French car in Sweden. Play along because as you'll soon discover no country's better-suited for the Renault Kangoo. During my brief sojourn in Sweden, I've decided Swedes are the Earth's most utilitarian people. Nowhere else in the Western world do the women own as few shoes or the men know as few jokes. In automotive terms, the Swedish penchant for simplicity has translated into a decades-long love affair with the most utilitarian of all automotive species: the station wagon. The Kangoo is Renault's foray into the compact hauler market. On paper, it's a shoo-in: it's even uglier than an estate, it's more practical and it consumes less fuel with the optional diesel engine! In other words, what French car could possibly be more Swedish?]]>

It may come off as odd to road test a French car in Sweden. Play along because as you’ll soon discover no country’s better-suited for the Renault Kangoo. During my brief sojourn in Sweden, I’ve decided Swedes are the Earth’s most utilitarian people. Nowhere else in the Western world do the women own as few shoes or the men know as few jokes. In automotive terms, the Swedish penchant for simplicity has translated into a decades-long love affair with the most utilitarian of all automotive species: the station wagon. The Kangoo is Renault’s foray into the compact hauler market. On paper, it’s a shoo-in: it’s even uglier than an estate, it’s more practical and it consumes less fuel with the optional diesel engine! In other words, what French car could possibly be more Swedish?

Aesthetically, I’d say the Kangoo has a decidedly European character. That’s not a compliment. Like many European interpretations of the budget automobile, it lacks any flair or machismo. The bubbly front sticks out meekly from the whole, its tiny lights giving it the air of a mouse trying to avoid a congestion charge in central London. Meanwhile, the middle lords disproportionately over the front, but arrives too late to the party to assert any character. It would look perfectly at home schlepping around abused suitcases at Charles de Gaulle airport. The styling is possibly an attempt at minimizing the drag coefficient for a continent where fuel costs slightly less than black market infants. Unfortunately, it’s not appeasing to see a rakish front morphing into a big boxy rear. And at the rear, more disaster lurks in the form of asymmetrical doors and a large plastic bracket outlining both sides of the ass-end.

Obviously, the Kangoo does some things better than others, and I’d say it does inanimate objects the best. That’s because no disassembled Ikea dining set would dare complain about the hard plastics and aesthetically boring instrument panel which RSVP’ed but then failed to meet my inflated European expectations. The seats are adequate, though thigh support could be better. I suppose being brainwashed about European sensibilities on car discussions forums for years does that, but this interior wouldn’t look out of place in a Ford Ranger. You can live with it, but would you want to? On the plus side, at least the gear lever isn’t much of a reach from the pilot.

As a driving machine, the Kangoo is a mixed bag. It adeptly splits the difference between big, ungainly car and small, nimble car. The ride is comparable to a typical econobox, say a Civic or a Cobalt. That’s probably because its DNA originates in the compact Mégane. However, it won’t take too many roundabouts to make you hate the momentous body roll, amplified by the car’s ridiculously high center of gravity. Tall and skinny together unfailingly produce understeer, and the Kangoo has both in droves. Conversely, the Kangoo’s seating position is majestically high and offers a commanding view of the road ahead.

The 1.5L diesel is reasonably peppy and miraculous with a full charge, being competent for most of its rev range. Obviously, at 1.5L, you’d never call it a stump-puller. It’s also far too noisy to pay tribute to the country that produced Berlioz and Debussy.

On the plus side, the towering storage area is the king of practicality. It can hold furniture, bikes, humans, couches—even the kitchen sink—all without the need to fold a seat or remove the spare tire. Any transplanted Baghdadi deliveryman navigating the cobblestone micro-streets in Europe would appreciate the privacy, practicality and tirelessness of this rolling depot.

As a value proposition is where the Kangoo suffers in the eyes of the overtaxed Swede. The base Kangoo sells for a deceptively low 107,000 Swedish crowns. Once you start optioning it out (with such decadent amenities as rear passenger seats), it’s difficult to keep it under 125,000. It’s Daedulus flying too close to the sun. The sun, in this case, is off-lease Volvo or Saab wagons that have benefited from precipitous depreciation. These natives feature a moderate upgrade in road manners, a tremendous upgrade in refinement, and an immeasurable upgrade in aesthetics for only a few thousands more. Sure, you’ll sacrifice somewhat in schleppability, but it’s a price most Swedes have eagerly paid and will continue to eagerly pay.

The result is that the Kangoo toils away mostly as a niche-market, ultra-light commercial vehicle, while the family van version is a rare sight. In the rest of Europe, the Scénic variant of this platform has long fallen by the wayside. That doesn’t make it an abject failure but more of a testament to the fact sometimes form will trump function—even in Sweden. Maybe that’s why the girls here are so pretty.

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