Doubling the Multi in multi-purpose

Since it's introduction, Renault's iconic Scenic model was an instant hit with South African motorists. A vehicle that combined space, comfort, load versatility and economy in a single package based on a relatively short wheelbase, seemed exactly what family oriented South Africans were looking for. Simultaneously, the SUV market also burgeoned as more South Africans began chasing the wild outdoors as well as the fashion statement that SUVs made. Now, once again, Renault have pioneered a vehicle that combines the attributes of the MPV with that of an SUV to create a vehicle that surely offers the best of all worlds. I recently I had the opportunity to put it through it's paces

and despite the fact that it feels much like the regular scenic to drive, albeit with slightly different performance characteristics, it handled the moderate off-road course provided with ease, promising to overshadow many pure SUVs. The Renault F4R engine delivers  90 percent of its 190 Nm peak torque between 2 000 and 5 750 revs/min contributing to it's driveability under everyday conditions.

Based on the standard Scenic, the RX4 combines practicality, ruggedness and versatility in one vehicle. It is unique in the SUV sector, however, in also offering the virtues of a multi-activity vehicle - a monobox layout with a flat floor, modular seating and an extremely spacious cabin. At the same time, its road behaviour and driving characteristics are very similar to those of the standard Scenic.

In appearance, the RX4 with its sculpted bonnet, honeycomb grille and integrated twin headlight units with inbuilt indicators and crystal clear lenses render it instantly recognizable as a member of the Scenic family, although it does differ in certain important respects. The headlights are subtly different to those on other versions, with a black background for a more sporty appearance; the electrically operated exterior mirrors are larger, and it boasts several protective bodywork additions.

Because of its off-road ability, the RX4 is fitted with a wide protective waistline colour-coded to the body; a more prominent front bumper with an inbuilt bullbar; and enhanced wheelarches to accommodate its greater suspension travel. The front wings are made of composite material like those on other Scenics, and are slightly wider for a more broad shouldered appearance. The greatest difference is at the rear, where a large electrically-latched door, hinged on one side the standard hatch.

One push of the button releases the window and a second push the rear door. The spare wheel is mounted on the centre of the door with an anti-theft locking device. A special roof rack is available as an accessory.

Inside, it's very much business as usual, the RX4 retaining the features that have helped make the Scenic so popular: Abundant cabin room, a commanding but comfortable driving position, modular seating and lots of storage space. The interior finish is at once upmarket and sporty, the black upper section of the dashboard contrasting with the rest of the interior trim, in varying shades of nutmeg. Carpet and upholstery colours are unique to the RX4 in the Scenic range.

Two versions of the RX4 will be offered in South Africa - Expression and Privilege. Both, however, offer extremely generous equipment levels.

The Expression boasts air conditioning with a refrigerated console compartment, Cross cloth upholstery, tinted glass all round, a seven-function trip computer, a coded stereo with satellite controls on the steering column and six speakers, remote controlled central locking with auto lock when the vehicle is in motion, and electric front and rear windows and mirrors.
Other features include power steering and a height adjustable steering column, electric headlight adjustment, a transponder engine immobilizer, 12 Volt auxiliary sockets in the rear cabin and the boot, rear seat footrests, integrated front foglamps, intelligent windscreen wipers, height adjustment for both front seats with lumbar adjustment for the driver, heating ducts to the rear seats and pull-down trays on the front seatbacks. Moving up to the Privilege adds light alloy wheels, automatic climate control, full leather upholstery, leather trimmed three-spoke steering wheel and gearshift gaiter, a front loading CD Receiver, rear window blinds and a colour-coded composite spare wheel cover.

Both versions of the RX4 are fitted with ABS and an EBV brake limiter/proportioner, and a total of six airbags - two progressive front airbags and four head/chest side airbags - close contact front headrests with height adjustment, three headrests in the rear protecting both front and rear passengers, programmed restraint front safety belts with pretensioners and load limiters, three point rear safety belts with load limiters on the outer two.

For South Africa, the RX4 is equipped with Renault's F4R 2.0 16-valve four-cylinder engine. Maximum power output is 101,5 kW at 5 500 revs/min, while torque is an impressive 188 Nm at 3 750 revs/min. The engine is optimized to deliver a broad spread of torque in the midrange for better engine response and relaxed cruising ability. Maximum speed is 180 km/h, with the 0 to 100 km/h benchmark taking 14,0 seconds. It is claimed that the RX4 uses just 8,2 l/100 km on the extra urban cycle and 11,8 l/100 km on the urban cycle, for a combined figure of 9,5 l/100 km.

The integration of a fulltime four wheel drive system into the Scenic bodyshell required some modifications, as might be expected. The front suspension layout remains as before, with MacPherson struts and lower wishbones. The wishbones are of cast iron, while the struts and dampers have been uprated accordingly, and a special anti-roll bar added. Spring- and damper rates are unique to the RX4, chosen in accordance with the vehicle's on- and off-road capabilities.
At the rear, a fully independent system with trailing arms, coil springs and dampers replaces the four-bar setup of the standard vehicle. All components are mounted on a detachable galvanized subframe which also carries the rear transmission components.

Designed jointly by Renault and Austrian four-wheel drive specialists Steyr Daimler Puch, the RX4's system uses a centre viscous coupling for front/rear torque distribution, and electronic traction control on the front axle. With these systems working in tandem, the RX4 can easily extricate itself from situations where grip is limited.

 Together with 16-inch wheels shod with specially developed 215/65 Michelin XPC radials, the revised suspension provides a healthy increase in ground clearance to 210 mm. Disc brakes are fitted all round, measuring 280 mm at the front and 265 mm at the rear.

The RX4 weighs some 175 kg more than its two-wheel drive siblings, due to the suspension and body revisions and its higher standard equipment levels. The RX4 is assembled at Renault's Douai plant in northern France with production currently running at around 2000 units per day.

South African Renault importers Imperial Car Imports are confident that the RX4 will be as much of a success as the standard Scenic, which has already proven immensely popular with local motorists.

"South Africans embraced the SUV concept long before the Europeans", opines Manny de Canha, managing director of Imperial Car Imports. "The RX4, with its unique characteristics in this sector, is sure to be a hit. As a bonus, it offers real all-road ability in a package with unbeatable versatility".

Every Scenic is covered by Renault's 3-year, 100 000 kilometre warranty, with a 6 year anti-corrosion guarantee. Service intervals are every 15 000 kilometres, and Imperial's expanding countrywide network of dealers and service agents is well-placed to cater to the requirements of South African Renault owners.

Prices for the two model derivatives are:

Expression R205 000, Privilege R225 000

A dedicated Renault Scenic RX4 info line has been established on number 0861 794 794.

Related story - "Anatomy of an SUV" (Renault press release)