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New 2024 Renault Rafale coupe-SUV revealed as brand’s latest flagship

Renault is re-entering the big-car class with a sleek new coupe-SUV to rival everything from the Audi Q5 Sportback to the Citroen C5 X

Large Renault flagships have historically come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, but the new Renault Rafale has taken a more pragmatic approach by making its debut in the form of an on-trend coupe-SUV. Rivalling everything from an Audi Q5 Sportback to the Citroen C5 X, it’ll launch with two hybrid powertrains and is likely to cost around £40,000 when it arrives in the middle of 2024. 

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Based on Renault’s CMF-CD platform, the new coupe-SUV is closely related to the Austral but is around 200mm longer and 10mm lower, with 40mm wider tracks. This gives the flagship a clear distinction on the road, with much crisper surfacing and sophisticated detailing. The Rafale is the first clean-sheet project under the eye of Renault’s design director Gilles Vidal, whose wrap sheet includes the reinvigoration of Peugeot – and it’s a connection you can see in the final design.

It is full of clever details, including a three-dimensional grille that reveals a coloured inner section as you rotate around the car, to others such as the ‘oil-slick’ coatings in the headlight elements and a continued evolution of Renault’s front-end lighting signature. Inside, the cabin is similar to the Austral’s, but material quality has taken another leap up thanks to extended use of soft-touch materials and trim highlights in materials such as blackened cork or even real slate. As standard, all Rafale’s will feature Renault’s l-shaped digital interfaces, with the central touchscreen coming with Google-designed software.

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Other high-end inclusions such as a Harmon Kardon stereo, illuminated elements in the seats and even a full-length electronically controlled frosted glass roof help reinforce this premium undercurrent, giving it all the toys it needs to compete against premium rivals. 

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Speaking about the Rafale’s design to Auto Express, design director Gilles Vidal said: “The Rafale project wasn’t born as a coupe-SUV, but a new flagship model for the brand that we think our consumers will love. We sketched all sorts of shapes, from a shooting brake to a saloon, but decided on this to be something we know customers will really love.”

With such a varied history in the D-segment, both in form and success, this might yet be one of the more pragmatic iterations that, with the right pricing, could see Renault finally break into this upper segment in the UK. 

From launch, the Rafale will be offered with Renault’s 197bhp E-Tech powertrain that pairs a 1.2-litre, three-cylinder engine with two electric motors that act as a generator and main propulsion motor. This system is already in use in the current Austral and has already impressed with its economy figures, which are reflected in the Rafale’s proposed 60mpg and 105g/km CO2 targets.

A flagship 296bhp plug-in hybrid option will be offered after launch; it pairs the same hybrid system up front with an additional electric motor on the rear axle for all-wheel-drive capability. It also features a larger battery pack that will dramatically improve its electric range. 

Renault has given the Rafale a totally unique suspension tune, with modifications made to the front MacPherson strut and multi-link rear set-up. The dampers are passive, and with up to 20-inch wheels fitted, the Rafale has been designed to provide a sporty set-up while retaining a certain level of ride comfort. It also features a third-generation 4Control Advance four-wheel-steering system that helps reduce the turning circle and improves high-speed stability. 

The Rafale will reach European showrooms in spring 2024, with sales commencing in the UK some time later. The range will launch in standard and up-scale Alpine Esprit trims with a T-Tech hybrid powertrain, with the plug-in to follow some time later. Prices are yet to be confirmed, but are likely to start at around £40,000. 

Click here for our list of the best SUVs on sale right now...

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Senior staff writer

Senior staff writer at Auto Express, Jordan joined the team after six years at evo magazine where he specialised in news and reviews of cars at the high performance end of the car market. 

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