The Renault Koleos‘ infotainment system caught our attention when it appeared in a TV commercial. It showed Apple CarPlay in vertical mode, filling the portrait-oriented display.
As a Volvo XC60 owner which also has a vertical display, the Renault does something the Volvo infotainment system cannot. And so, the call to review the Koleos was made.
The Renault Koleos uses the R-Link 2 infotainment system on its available 7.0-inch and 8.7-inch touchscreens, supporting wired Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The high-grade Intens model we were testing also had the Bose speaker system fitted which was a pleasant surprise.
The instrument cluster for the driver uses analogue dials for the temperature and fuel levels while a small central display will show you speed, RPM and vehicle information.
You’ll also find plenty of steering wheel controls and a control block on the steering column. So how well does it all work together?
Jumping behind the wheel of the Renault Koleos is typically French. They do things their way.
We’ve had a lot of cars through the CarExpert garage and this is the first which felt completely different to the rest.
On the steering wheel you’ll find two dials to push up/down yet neither control the volume. Two buttons are available labeled “R” and “O” suggesting nothing intuitive.
It turns out, these buttons are for the cruise control, if it’s activated. The button to activate the cruise control in the first place is behind the handbrake lever near the centre console.
Obviously. If you’re looking for the volume or real media controls, you need to fumble behind the steering wheel and feel a stubby bar with various dials and buttons.
Here is where you memorise and then control the volume, audio mode and track selection. When parked, you can turn the wheel to get a peek of this control arm which is normally hidden.
With that said, once you learn the French way, you manage just fine, it’s just takes a little getting used to.
Looking at the 8.7-inch portrait display the R-Link 2 system is relatively intuitive and easy to navigate. One wouldn’t call the design sexy or alluring, but it’s functional.
The on-screen buttons are big enough for the largest fingers and there isn’t too many layers in the system to get lost.
There are volume controls next to the display which are touch-sensitive rather than a physical dial, which has been debated before as a slower way to turn the volume up or down, but lends a cleaner aesthetic.
When you connect your iPhone or Android smartphone into one of the two USB ports in the Koleos you’ll be presented with a portrait layout of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
CarPlay shows four icons wide and two rows with the frequent apps beneath it, rather than to the side on most landscape displays. Android Auto however shows four icons wide and three rows of apps on the one page.
Looking at Google Maps on either platform, it fills the screen and in satellite view which looks excellent and really makes use of the real estate on offer, something I can’t say for my Volvo.
Considering the price of this vehicle compared to the alternative from Sweden, it’s crazy that Renault has been able to use the entire display for smartphone mirroring using a portrait orientation when others don’t.
If you pop out of the smartphone mirroring application and back to R-Link 2, you will still be able to see and control what you are playing and even opt to use the in-built navigation instead, if you really want to.
Outside of smartphone connectivity, you can change the colour theme of the displays, including the instrument cluster and ambient cabin lighting, to one of five colours.
There’s also a dedicated eco section in the infotainment system, with a tree branch symbol in the instrument cluster that loses its leaves if you’re heavy footed.
On the main display you’ll be able to view information about your gas guzzling behaviour and see a score, if you want to be competitive with yourself or other drivers.
The Koleos also features parking assist, accessible from a large physical button near your seat cooling/warming functions. The park assist requires you to choose what kind of parking manoeuvre you plan on making before it encourages you to creep through the carpark.
Once the Koleos detects a free spot – and it misses many – you’ll receive appropriate assistance to get the job done. The issue here is how many it misses. It did relatively well identifying spots where a car was on either side.
In an empty parking lot you were essentially on your own. Fortunately, a reverse camera and sensors all around means the Koleos shouldn’t be too difficult to park if the automated assistant won’t help you.
Renault should be congratulated on how they have managed to use a vertical display to their advantage.
They have proven that it is possible for smartphone mirroring to work effectively in a portrait orientation and put it all together in an easy-to-use package.
There are some strange design choices and questionable button placements, but this is because we’re not thinking French. C’est la vie.