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Renault at Geneva: Megane Coupe, Koleos, and Active Drive

March 6, 2008
World debuts for three new production cars plus a concept that hints at the future design direction of another – that was the big news from Renault at the Geneva motor show.

The star of the show for the French automaker was undoubtedly the last of these; called the Megane Coupe Concept, with its dramatic two-stage gull-wing doors it gives clues as to what the forthcoming Megane Coupe will look like. Just over 177.2 inches long, one innovation is the use of a Samsung cell phone to lock and unlock the cabin. It reveals a state-of-the-art red and black interior with touch-screen functions and four-zone climate control. The phone is also used to fire up the engine. It’s a 200-hp 2.0-liter gasoline unit linked to a six-speed manual gearbox. Riding on 21-inch Michelin rubber, it will hit 60 mph in 7.2 seconds. Insiders say the prototype is fully drivable.

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Renault’s first ever SUV was also at Geneva. Called the Koleos after the two concepts of the same name, it’s a crossover compact 4x4. It’s been developed using technology borrowed from alliance partner Nissan, whose X-Trail off-roader is a similar size and in its second incarnation already. The Koleos goes on sale in Europe this summer, with a 2.0-liter diesel engine likely to be the most popular choice with buyers. Two power variants, with 150 and 175- hp, will be available. A front-wheel drive 4x2 model will also be launched. With Renault among the last volume car makers not to have an SUV of any sort, the Koleos is expected to offer excellent value for money. Insiders say it will be priced to tempt buyers away from the likes of the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4.

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Active Drive is the name of Renault’s newest chassis, and it’s called that because it allows all-wheel steering. The car the technology will first appear on is the Laguna GT, and that too was at the Swiss exhibition. Available as a hatchback or tourer, here’s how the system works. At speeds below 60 kph, the rear wheels turn in the opposite direction to the front ones, up to an angle of 3.5 degrees to cut the turning circle by up to 10 percent. At higher speeds, the rear wheels turn in the same direction to enhance cornering stability. The car goes on sale next month, and the technology will also appear on the Laguna Coupe that’s due for launch at September’s Paris Motor Show.

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The French car maker’s final offering was its new pocket rocket, the Renaultsport version of the Twingo city car. Under the bonnet is a naturally aspirated 1.6-liter gasoline engine developing 133 hp. The track has been widened by 2.4 inches over the standard Twingo to improve grip, and the springs have been stiffened and the dampers uprated to give a sportier ride. The car can be ordered with a choice of two chassis; either Sport or Cup. The latter rides 0.16 inches lower, creating an improved center of gravity and better handling. The car will go on sale across Europe later in the year.--Richard Yarrow

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