Road trip! Going south in Renault’s new Koleos

Aah, school holidays. A time for that well-deserved break, kicking back, and putting some meat on the braai with your favourite wine or beer in hand. Sounds just about idyllic, but even more so when your destination is the most Southern tip of Africa. Cape L’Agulhas here we come, but not before saddling up the new Renault Koleos 4WD.

Launched earlier in 2019, the Koleos name returns to South Africa and does the big SUV replace the Kadjar in the Renault range. In its blue hue the Koleos looks ready for the open road and was all that’s needed to get our baggage in the boot. Unfortunately for most men, when you travel with the fairer sex you’re bound to have extra luggage that could’ve stayed home. And being outnumbered three-to-two, the ladies made the boot theirs.

Their luggage was so overwhelming, in fact, that the boot cover had to stay home. All 464L of boot space got taken up and some luggage had to be squeezed in-between the rear passengers’ feet. It’s a mindboggling thing traveling with women. Whether going for one night or two (or more), they believe in bringing the entire cupboard.

But we got going and began the journey outbound over Sir Lowry’s Pass on the N2.

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Image: Charlen Raymond

Play some funky music!

A lekker road trip is nothing without good music and in the nights leading up to the Groot Trek, various genres were scoured for the perfect road trip music. Funny enough, we never got round to listening to 3/4 of the music, because when push came to shove the music was in no one’s taste. Fortunately, in an attempt to stave off any heightened tension thanks to the compact arrangements for the rear passengers, we settled on gospel music because God is love.

At one point four of the passengers had their phones connected and was it a stress-free exercise to switch between devices. Tired of the one phone’s music? Easy, just change to device and let it rip. Music to loud? I don’t mind turning it down from behind the steering wheel.

The touchscreen from which to control the media is nice and big and is it easy to read the instructions and lettering. However, it is a bit slow to the touch and does it not really react as fast as I would like to my commands. The menus, too, are just too overwhelming at times and does it take an unnecessary amount of time to find your desired choice.

It’s not a confusing system, just so we’re clear, but one would’ve liked the system to be as simple and as intuitive as possible. Renault’s R-Link system is known for being one of the simplest yet highly effective media systems in the automotive world, but the one in the Koleos tries a bit too hard.

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Image: QuickPic

In the sandpit

We arrived in Suiderstrand – a few kilometres down the road from Cape L’Agulhas – that very evening and no time was wasted to get the fire going. It was a bit of a tiring drive, given how dead straight the road is, but the next day’s adventure is sure to be an epic one.

Morning comes and we take our seats in the Koleos; driving out of the estate at leisurely pace. We’re only a few steps from the ocean, so the sea breeze is still very fresh around us. That and the sharp smell of the little bushes we’re driving through. Some sneeze as we’re driving on, while others sneeze out the other side because of last night’s steak. Regardless, we passed Cape L’Agulhas and Struisbaai and headed towards Bredasdorp before turning onto a gravel road that’ll take us to Arniston.

It’s not a bad gravel road this, but the rain the last couple of days had formed some gaping holes in the ground. Still, we could manage a comfortable 100km/h. The front wheels provided adequate grip and drive, but this vehicle is four-wheel drive and of course I’d want to explore that function. The 4WD system has two modes: auto and lock. In auto, the vehicle will default into front-wheel drive, but when slip is detected it’ll channel power to the rear wheels. Lock puts the vehicle in full 4WD.

With the dial flicked into auto, the Koleos immediately behaved differently. On the information cluster in front of me I could see how the power is channelled between the axles and was there greater sturdiness at 100km/h.

In Arnsiton, we made our way to the caves in Waenhuiskrans, but to get there is a bit of a walk. Knowing that I have a 4WD vehicle, I engaged 4WD Lock and proceeded to scale some (very!) uneven terrain. Ground clearance is a respectable 210mm, meaning that a slow and steady pace will see you overcome some of life’s hardest challenges. A big bed of sand laid waiting before the caves and, just to be naughty, I disengaged 4WD and drove towards and into the sand. Slowly, because I wanted to deliberately get stuck. Calmly I engaged 4WD auto again and the Koleos’ traction kicked in and out we went.

The Koleos 4WD is not meant to tackle arduous and heinous obstacles, but it’s a reassuring thought to know that you can get out of most troubles. Would I go bundu-bashing with it? Nope! But I’ll definitely take the road less traveled.

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Image: Charlen Raymond

Coming back

It’s been a good couple of days in the Overberg region and unfortunately the time has come to pack up and head back to the city. The ocean had a revitalising effect on all of us and our little wooden cabin will be sorely missed. The Koleos packed and everyone in, we exit the estate for the last time.

We’re taking another bit of a detour back to Cape Town via Gansbaai, Stanford, Hermanus and Caledon. It’s a longer route, but more scenic. (*sigh) As fate would have it, all four of my passengers fell asleep and was it only me and my thoughts on the Koleos for most of the drive back.

Thanks to its size the Koleos has no trouble transporting five adults and their luggage (some with extra luggage). There’s ample of space for everyone and the levels of comfort, regardless of road condition, is always on point. Even from behind the wheel you don’t get tired of driving this big SUV. What did come up, though, was how much strain the engine was under. 126kW and 233Nm from its naturally-aspirated 2.5-litre engine is not much, and the CVT gearbox does little to enhance performance. Performing an overtake or building momentum to scale a hill is met with that irritating squeal CVTs are so famously known for.

This has a definite and negative effect on fuel consumption. Average fuel usage was just under 10 L/100km and it was discouraging seeing the fuel needle drop after barely setting off. On a full, 60L tank of petrol I simply could not make 400km; regardless of load. Renault desperately wants to bring a diesel model to SA, but they’re running the risk of the model being too expensive. I say: just do it.

The Koleos is Renault’s top SUV, ready to tackle the open road at a moment’s notice. If something could just be done with that engine/gearbox combination, the SUV would no doubt find favour among a larger group of the population.

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Image: Charlen Raymond