Renault Rafale flagship SUV ushers in new design era for the French brand

Published Jun 19, 2023


Paris - Renault has ripped the covers off its new flagship SUV, the Rafale, which ushers in a new design era for the French brand.

Named after the Renault-powered Caudron Rafale aeroplane that set a world speed record of 443km/h back in 1934, the hybrid-only Renault Rafale is classified as a D-segment SUV with coupe-inspired lines.

Measuring 4.71 metres in length, it’s fairly close to the BMW X4 in terms of overall size.

This is Renault’s first vehicle to be designed completely in accordance with design head Gilles Vidal’s new visual identity for the brand, which you would also have seen the first signs of in the recently announced Clio facelift.

Renault describes the Rafale’s design as “visionary, daring, perfectly in tune with its time and tailor-made for a period when everything is moving ever faster.” Even the grille is a work of “optical art”, featuring a constellation of small 3D diamonds, with blue or grey inner sections that are only visible from certain angles.

The Renault Rafale is set to go on sale in European markets from the second quarter of 2024, but it has yet to be confirmed for South African introduction.

“New products are always under consideration for SA, however, the new Renault Rafale is not in the planning for local launch yet,” said our contact at Renault SA, meaning it's unlikely to reach our shores any time soon, if ever.

The line-up will eventually be topped by an all-wheel drive plug-in hybrid variant that offers 220kW, but initially the only choice will be a self-charging hybrid with a system output of 147kW.

This powertrain pairs a 1.2-litre, three-cylinder Miller combustion cycle turbopetrol engine with two electric motors, which can be employed up to 80% of the time during urban driving in order to minimise fuel use, Renault’s chief engineer Gwenaël Le Merrer says.

Inside the Renault Rafale mimics the Megane E-Tech and Austral with an L-shaped screen interface featuring a Google-based navigation system, however the visuals and sound effects have been adapted for the sportier nature of the Rafale, Renault says.

In addition to all-new seats with reinforced sides, and a high-tech rear armrest with two USB outlets and storage space for devices, the Rafale also boasts an innovative sunroof.

This Solarbay panoramic glass roof allows separate sections to be darkened on demand, using electric fields to displace molecules. Renault reckons the sequential darkening of its nine segments across the glass surface is exhilarating to watch.

“The all new Renault Rafale symbolises our move upmarket and shows that we belong in every customer segment,” said Renault brand CEO Fabrice Cambolive.

“With its captivating coupe SUV design crafted for intense experiences, it provides unprecedented driving pleasure with its hybrid powertrains and a standard-setting chassis brimming with passion and know-how from Renault engineers.”

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