There’s a new wind blowing through the Renault range, and it’s bringing a downpour of crossovers.
Renault’s new flagship will be a crossover coupe to be known as Rafale, which is French for gust, as well as the name of a 1930s racing plane made by Caudron Renault.
From the cut lines of the bonnet, and the shape of the side windows, the Rafale looks to be the vehicle snapped by our spy photography agency back in April this year.
The new Rafale rides on the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance’s CMF-CD that already serves as the basis of the Austral five-seat crossover, and the long-wheelbase Espace crossover, which is available with either five or seven seats.
Like its lesser siblings, the Rafale seems to feature the company’s signature C-shaped headlights, albeit with different graphics. The Rafale also looks as though it will have completely unique sheet metal, and more expressive tail-lights.
According to Renault, the Rafale will use a selection E-Tech hybrid drivetrains.
At launch the Espace will be available with a 146kW E-Tech Hybrid setup featuring a 96kW/205Nm 1.2-litre turbocharged three-cylinder engine paired with a 50kW/205Nm electric drive motor and a secondary 25kW/50Nm motor to start the engine and help shift gears. The electric motors are connected to a 2kWh lithium-ion battery pack.
In the Austral there’s also a less powerful 118kW version of the E-Tech Hybrid drivetrain available.
For those unwilling to make the leap into a full hybrid model, the Austral can also be equipped with a selection of mild-hybrid petrol engines: a 96kW 1.2-litre, and a 1.3-litre with either 103kW or 116kW.
Given the flagship nature of the Rafale, these mild-hybrid drivetrains probably won’t be available on the new crossover, at least initially.
According to Autocar, the Rafale will be made in right-hand drive unlike the more practical Espace, which is a left-hand drive-only proposition for now.
The British publication also understands there will be a Esprit Alpine version with larger wheels, sportier styling components, and more luxurious interior trim.
It’s unclear what relationship, if any, the Rafale has with vehicles being jointly developed by Renault Korea — formerly Renault Samsung — and Geely.
Geely bought a 34 per cent stake in Renault Korea in mid-2022 as part of wide-ranging partnership between the two firms in China and South Korea.
In China, Geely will engineer and produce cars for Renault to sell in the world’s largest auto market. While in South Korea, Renault Korea will build vehicles based on the Compact Modular Architecture developed by Geely subsidiary Volvo.
Rumours indicate these Korean-built models will be extensively based on the Lynk & Co range sold in China and parts of Europe.