2024 Renault Rafale SUV revealed

The Renault Rafale is the brand's new flagship model, combining chunky SUV styling with a sleek, coupé-like roofline and plug-in hybrid power...

Renault Rafale front

On sale Spring 2024 | Price from £40,000 (est)

What do Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg and Tim Cook all have in common? Well, aside from eye-wateringly large bank accounts, they’re all the figureheads of the companies they represent. If their firms ever have an all-company dinner, they’d sit at the head of the table. And the new Renault Rafale will occupy the same position for the French brand.

This all-new range-topping coupé SUV shares its underpinnings with the Renault Austral family SUV but, at 4.7 metres long, is larger and more upmarket than its sibling. It’s aimed squarely at rivals such as the Citroën C5 X, Cupra Formentor and Peugeot 408.

Renault Rafale rear

The Rafale’s looks might well turn a few CEOs’ heads. The distinctive front grille looks like it’s backlit in bright blue and its appearance changes depending on the angle it’s viewed from. There are also thin LED lights at the front and rear, as well as body cladding around the car’s lower edges to give it a more rugged appearance. All versions come with adaptive headlights that shape their beams around cars ahead, giving you maximum visibility at night without the threat of dazzling other drivers.

At launch, the sole engine option will be a hybrid, combining a 1.2-litre petrol engine with two electric motors – one of which drives the front whees, and the other sits in the automatic gearbox – and have a combined power output of 197bhp. Like other regular hybrids, this version of the Rafale will be capable of driving on electric power alone for short distances, such as around town. Indeed, Renault says that it expects 80% of urban driving to be completed without the petrol engine firing up. 

This should result in low running costs; the Rafale hybrid officially returns 60.1mpg and emits 105g/km of CO2.

Renault Rafale front

The hybrid will be joined later in 2024 by a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) version, with a bigger battery and an additional electric motor to drive the rear wheels (making it four-wheel drive). This version produces a combined 296bhp, and while Renault has yet to confirm the size of the battery, we’d expect an electric-only range of at least 35 miles. As with the Austral, there will be no fully electric version.

Despite its size, the Rafale should be reasonably easy to manoeuvre around town, because it comes with four-wheel steering that turns the rear wheels in the opposite direction to the fronts at low speeds. This results in a turning circle that’s smaller than that of its 408 rival. At higher speeds, the rear wheels turn in the same direction as the fronts to improve agility.

Renault Rafale interior

The Rafale’s interior features a 12.3in digital instrument cluster and a 12.0in infotainment touchscreen in a portrait format. It’s good news for Google CEO Sundar Pichai too, because the Rafale’s infotainment runs his company’s Android-based operating system, which brings Google Maps navigation and Google Assistant, among other features. There’s also a large head-up display that can put key information – including directions from the sat-nav – directly in your line of sight on the windscreen.

We’ve already sat inside the new Rafale and can confirm that the new infotainment system looks fancy, although some of the smaller icons might be tricky to hit accurately on the move. Thankfully, there are physical controls for adjusting the temperature.

Renault Rafale rear seats

Elsewhere, the Rafale’s seats are comfortable and supportive, and there’s plenty of space whether you’re sitting in the front or rear. Indeed, a 6ft-plus rear passenger can comfortably sit behind someone of a similar height. The materials used feel premium in the places you touch the most, but harder plastics abound lower down inside the car. There are also lots of sustainably sourced materials, including part-recycled Alcantara leather, dyed cork and slate.

If your passengers get bored on long trips, they can host a movie night inside the Rafale, using phone and tablet display stands that fold out from the rear centre console, USB-C power ports and a panoramic glass roof that can be set to darken or lighten in segments at the touch of a button. That means you can enjoy the sun’s warmth up front, for example, while your children are shielded in the back seats.

Other interior features include ambient lights that change colour every 30 minutes to match the time of day, adopting cooler tones during the day and becoming warmer at night.

Renault Rafale side

With a 530-litre boot, the Rafale should have no trouble coping with the luggage of a frequent business flyer; it’s bigger than any rival’s. 

Advanced driving aids include semi-autonomous features that allow the Rafale to control its own speed and positioning on the motorway, as well as a driver attention monitor and bird’s-eye view camera to help you when parking.

Official prices have yet to be revealed, but the Renault Rafale is expected to start at around £40,000. That’s significantly more than the C5 X and 408, and about on par with PHEV versions of the Formentor, but if you’re looking to be the top dog in the company car park, it could be a price worth paying.

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