Looking at the previous gen Renault Koleos was like getting punched in the face. The design was brutal and not in a positive way. A true assault on the senses. The present generation Koleos tries hard to follow in its older sibling's footsteps except that it's been toned down from a Mike Tyson knock out to more of a tight slap from the Godfather. Still a rather unpleasant experience. The new found gentleness comes from Renault's new design elements up front. Behind the facelift remains a mechanically identical car but the few changes incorporated by Renault's India division have made this a far more pleasant beast to stare at in the eye.
Revisions affect the hood, headlamps, fenders, bumpers and the grille. Prior to this the Koleos had an ugly bridge connecting the hood to the bumper with a massive Renault logo glued right in the middle and two narrow and small honeycomb mesh grille flanking that bridge. This has been replaced by a conventional six-sided grille with three chrome slats to brighten up the face. Inside the cabin everything is the same except for the colours. The two-tone black and beige shade rather than the all black on the older SUV makes this cabin look spacious and roomy. The stereo and multi media panel is the same as on the Fluence, including its ungainly and not the most user friendly interface. The rest of the world has yet to learn a lot from the Germans in this regard.
The Koleos will be powered by just one engine, a 2-litre direct injection common rail diesel, whose turbo kicks in at around 1700rpm. Max power output is rated at 150PS at 4000rpm while there's a hefty 320Nm of maximum torque available at 2000rpm. It's a strong engine and well suited for both the city and highway driving, and one clear advantage is that it powers a SUV that weighs just 1.7 tonnes which is around 100kgs lighter than its closest competition, the Santa Fe. On the flip side the engine does not feel too refined and there is a small amount of engine noise in the cabin at above 3500rpm.
Renault has provided the Koleos with a primary 2WD drivetrain with the clutch transferring power to the front and not rear wheels. You can manually select between a 2WD or 4WD or automatic mode by flipping a switch on the centre stack. In auto mode, the Koleos senses wheel slip and without human intervention shifts into 4WD to counter it.
But the one area where the Koleos truly excels, setting a new benchmark for the segment is in the ride quality. It quite brilliantly rolls over anything without getting disturbed in the least. Interestingly the suspension isn't soft and boat like. Don't get me wrong, there is a fair amount of body roll, 206mm of ground clearance will do that to any SUV, yet the Koleos controls both pitch and roll admirably. On twisty high speed highway stretches she felt composed, safe and assured. She corners with ease, giving no signs of understeer despite the front wheel drivetrain, though there are limits to this SUV that can easily be crossed.
Feature wise you get the best sound system there is in the segment, courtesy an eight-speaker Bose system with rich and clear tones, climate control, Bluetooth cell phone connectivity, parking sensors etc. On the safety front the Koleos comes with a 5-star NCAP rating which is higher than the Santa Fe, is equipped with ABS, Brake Assist and EBD. But strangely enough the Koleos earned its safety rating before 2009 without a stability control package which is still absent in this SUV!
So the Koleos turned out to be quite more promising than the first impressions we had of it months ago. Unlike the Fluence this is not going to grow on you. What you can appreciate is the ride quality and interior comfort and what we expect will be very good fuel efficiency but only a complete test will confirm that.