By: IOL Motoring Staff

Medellin, Colombia - It's tall, imposing and chunky, with bold design cues and very little in the way of fine detail.

Even its name, Alaskan (Alaska is the Aleut word for 'big country') conjures up visions of adventurous people driving rugged vehicles over wild terrain.

This is Renault's first global one-ton bakkie, it says, developed in France, Latin America and Japan for the world market - and in truth, it is rather closely based on alliance partner Nissan’s latest Navara.

Its basic design is quite conventional, a box-section ladder chassis with a proven twin-turbo 2.3-litre dCi diesel four (in either 118 or 140kW format) and a six-speed manual 'box driving the rear wheels. There's no doubt as to where it's aimed - directly at the latest crop of one-tonners with names like Amarok, Hilux and Ranger.

Renault has kept the overhangs short, and the ground clearance high at 230mm, for decent off-road ability - and it has used the innate versatility of the separate chassis format to create single cab, double cab and chassis cab versions, with long or short beds, and even a wide-body option, depending on the market.

Independent rear suspension

But this is where it gets interesting. Upscale double-cab models will have a seven-speed auto transmission and five-link independent rear suspension (as per the new Navara), rather than a live axle and leaf springs, for improved ride comfort, opening the door for a fully-bodied SUV version later on, to compete with Toyota's Fortuner.

In some markets, where diesel is not a strong seller, it will also be offered with a 118kW, 2.5-litre naturally-aspirated petrol four. And in countries where diesel quality is suspect, the 2.3-litre twin-turbo dCi will be replaced by a less sophisticated but more forgiving 2.5-litre turbodiesel, also in 118 and 140kW variants.

All-wheel drive will be available on most mid and upscale variants, with electronic limited-slip differentials as standard at both ends. Actually, this is a bit of a cheat, as it's really a form of traction control, using the ABS sensors to brake whichever wheels are threatening to spin, rather than locking up the differentials.

However, an old-school locking rear differential will be available for derivatives with serious off-road pretensions, along with hill descent control.

Renault SA says there is 'no confirmation' as yet as to whether or when the Alaskan will be released on the SA market, but it is said to be under consideration.

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