OCCASIONALLY things go tits-up on a Wheels road test. The severity can differ, of course. I recall one really terrible one; the time at a cafe in some Hicksville town in central
NSW where Jimmy Whitbourn learned from the ‘chef’ that the allegedly freshly caught ocean trout was, in fact, from a river. A table was upended in fury that day. Then there was the Bathurst Disaster of 2011, when Thomas Wielecki, aka World’s Pickiest Eater, and stickler for circular crockery, had to have his meal served on a hexagonal plate.
But sometimes even minor things get in the way, like recently, when a certain 375kW Italian sports sedan that shall remain nameless lunched its own key while parked outside a remote cafe several hundred kays from home.
The central locking mysteriously went click with the key clearly visible inside, and that was that; the only fix was to have the spare key sent from Melbourne overnight.
On the upside, it gave me a chance to give the Koleos a decent shakedown on some excellent rural roads when I returned the next day on the recovery mission.
The bare facts are these: around town, where you’d expect most Kolei to do their service, is not where it is at its most agreeable. The steering is woefully low-geared; you constantly need a second bite at the wheel for mundane T-junction turns. The low- to medium-speed ride, too, is in a constant state of mild agitation with any surface short of a billiard table.
And the lack of torque in concert with the CVT transmission can make the throttle feel like more of an attenuation device, rather than a velocity controller.
Thankfully, some of these demerits are assuaged in faster, flowing roads away from suburbia. The powertrain still demands you shift manually if you’re to avoid the snoozy throttle response – and lack of paddles becomes a real shortcoming – but at least higher speeds allow you to keep the engine percolating (noisily) where the torque lives.
The slow steering is much less of an issue when smaller inputs are needed, and progressively loading the front corner, rather than heaving on it, negates some of the body control issues.
Yet the dry-road grip from the Nexen tyres is low, and they’re super skatey in the wet. The brakes held up reasonably well to hard use, but the mushy pedal also irked.
In the wash-up, though, it’s clear Renault has work to do if the Koleos is to fully capitalise on its style and equipment appeal.
This is a company with some supremely talented chassis and powertrain people; you only have to look at the brilliant Clio – the brand’s best car – and even the Megane GT, with its excellent four-wheel steering system.
Then there are the RenaultSport models that have stoked the fires of enthusiasts for almost two decades. The Koleos could benefit from some of that expertise.
This article was originally published in the March 2017 issue of Wheels magazine.