As much as I love cars, smart phones too tickle my interest. I always want the fastest and coolest phone. A phone with the zingiest processor and an OS that has something new to offer all the time. Phones these days need to be constantly upgraded or are left behind in this never ending technology race. The same applies to cars and the customer's roving eye needs to be arrested with constant upgrades. This brings me to the Renault Fluence. Less than a year back the car was launched in both diesel and petrol variants. Despite the Indian penchant for diesel cars, the Fluence oil burner didn't rake in the expected numbers since Renault launched it only as a basic entry level model. The French manufacturer acted quick and launched the feature laden E4 diesel to satisfy the demand for a more premium variant. But Renault didn't think that was enough. So now the Fluence gets another update and this time the engine has gone under the knife.
Since there are no cosmetic changes made to the car and we've already spoken about the car's styling earlier, we'll head straight to the heart of the matter. The 1.5-litre Renault K9K engine is used in more than 1.2 million cars internationally, including India, where various cars sport it in different states of tune. It is in fact the best selling engine for Renault.
The Fluence too is powered by the same engine and produces 105PS of max power. The updated engine with a few changes now produces a higher 110PS at 4000rpm, 4PS more than before. Peak torque of 240Nm produced at 1850rpm remains the same but it is now produced earlier (150rpm to be precise) in the rev range.
The changes done to the engine include a new turbocharger, intake, new fuel injectors and revised engine mapping. A variable geometry turbocharger has been used just like in the previous model but with a different blade design and intake system. The engine also gets swirl induction since swirling air in the intake system produces a better air to fuel mixture and hence boosts power delivery as well as fuel economy. The piezoelectric fuel injectors are also new and feature 7 ports per injector. On the road all this translates into better driveability and performance.
The older Fluence suffered from massive turbo lag and this meant one had to change gears more frequently. The new Fluence displays very little lag and the new engine mapping has made the engine a lot more linear. This makes it easier to drive in the city and a boon while overtaking. In terms of performance the car takes 12.53 seconds to reach the ton making it quicker than the older car by a full two seconds, in fact the car is even quicker than the manual transmission Skoda Laura diesel.
Lesser turbo lag also means better roll on times, 20-80kmph in 3rd gear takes 12.56 seconds (2.06 seconds quicker than before) while 40-100kmph in 4th and 5th gear is covered in 14.36 seconds and 25.15 seconds respectively (1.67 and 1.27 seconds quicker than the earlier model), while top speed hasn't changed. The increase in performance however has resulted in a drop in fuel efficiency. The ARAI claimed figure has gone down from 21.80kmpl to 20.40kmpl.
Step inside and one will notice the same interiors, the E4 variant's dual tone dashboard looks clean and elegant and exudes good quality. The Fluence also features a gear shift indicator to help improve fuel economy. An upshift or downshift light flashes in the instrument cluster depending on the situation.
The price has gone up marginally and now costs Rs 15.20 lakh, ex-Delhi for the fully loaded E4 variant. The basic E2 variant will continue to use the older 106PS dCi engine. The updates may be minor but the Fluence is now better to drive in town, more powerful and most importantly only slightly less fuel efficient than before.
The slight trade-off between fuel efficiency in favour of performance has greatly improved the car's overall position in the D-segment ladder. For all those looking to enter this segment, the Fluence now makes a stronger case for itself.