Coupe-SUVs used to be reserved for the luxury segment, but Renault took the body style mashup mainstream with the compact Arkana introduced a little over three years ago. Fast forward to mid-2023, the company with the diamond logo is introducing a larger model named after a 1934 racing plane. Meet the Rafale, a D-segment swoopy sport utility vehicle serving as the brand’s first model to fully embrace the new design language.
It utilizes the fresh front grille design and new matrix LED light signature as the recently facelifted 2024 Clio. Much like the supermini, it’s offered in a flagship Esprit Alpine trim also available for the Espace from which it has inherited the 2.74-meter (107.8-inch) wheelbase. Because of its sloping roofline, it can’t match the practicality of the conventionally styled SUV but it still offers a generous cargo capacity of 530 liters (18.7 cubic feet) with the rear seats in place.
It loses the Espace’s third row as Renault intends to sell the Rafale only with five seats, with minimal rear headroom loss despite the coupe-like roofline. The new arrival in Renault’s growing lineup stretches at 4.71 meters (185.4 inches) and is 1.86 meters (73.2 inches) wide while having a massive 1,470 x 1,117 mm (57.8 x 43.9 in) panoramic glass roof that can go from fully opaque to fully transparent. It has two additional settings since the front section can be opaque while the rear is transparent, or vice versa.
It should look more imposing in real life than the Espace considering the wider axles (+4 cm) and chunky 245-mm tires. Another novelty is represented by the evolution of Renault’s rear-wheel steering to improve grip and cornering speed on uneven surfaces. The Rafale gets exclusive Satin Pearl White and Alpine Blue paint colors, with the latter being a more intense blue shade than on the A110.
Inside, the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster is joined by a 12-inch portrait-oriented touchscreen to echo many of Renault’s latest models, including the Megane E-Tech Electric where it was installed first. Running on Android Automotive 12, the infotainment supports wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Customers will be able to get the coupe-SUV with a 9.3-inch head-up display projecting the relevant info onto the windshield.
Power is provided by a hybrid setup combining a turbocharged three-cylinder engine with a pair of electric motors. The 1.2-liter gasoline unit produces 130 hp (96 kW) and 205 Nm (151 lb-ft) of torque while the main e-motor is rated at 70 hp (50 kW) and 205 Nm (151 lb-ft). As for the secondary e-motor, it’s a starter generator with 34 hp (25 kW) and 50 Nm (37 lb-ft). Combined, Renault touts a total output of 200 hp to mirror the Espace.
At a later stage, the Rafale will receive a newly developed plug-in hybrid setup featuring 300 hp and all-wheel drive by installing an electric motor at the rear. It too will have the updated rear-wheel steering along with model-specific chassis tuning.