We drove the Renault Alaskan 190 HP dCi auto: a sturdy gallic companion for all your roads…

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Pickups are all the rage, and they have already inspired entire nations, like the USA for instance. They evoke the lure of wide open spaces, and also Europeans find this ever more attractive. Therefore, it is only logical that Renault uses the opportunities of its alliance with Nissan to add a formidable pickup to its range which bears many similarities with the Nissan Navara NP 300. This Alaskan was initially unveiled in Colombia in 2016 and is already a success in Latin America’s long-standing pick-up market, the Renault Alaskan went on sale in Europe in September 2017. We drove it for you with the powerful 190 HP 2,3 liter diesel engine. Making a strong statement wherever you go…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

A family signature…

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The Renault styling department also took a long hard look at the front end of the Nissan Navara, and succeeded in giving this Alaskan a very pleasing iconic Renault front grille, making it very much a part of the family of cars with the illustrious lozenge. The interior carries the Renault signature in the use of the materials and some knobs and handles, but when it comes to instrumentation, dashboard and center console layout, we find the same solutions in the Nissan Navara NP300. The infotainment is pleasant, top notch and intuitive, and sound quality is also excellent. The sound system offers not only USB player possibilities, but it has also a slot for your old, trusted CD’s, and we can only appreciate this…

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Stepping in and out of the car requires some stamina, but whereas the driver can get hold of the steering wheel when climbing in, all passengers have hefty roof handles to get into their seats. The cabin is roomy enough to seat four, or five with some effort. There is enough legroom with 679 mm of knee room and long trips can certainly be enjoyed in comfort in this Alaskan..

Good seating comfort also awaits you in the Alaskan. In the front, its NASA-inspired so-called “zero gravity” seats ensure better body pressure distribution across the seat’s surface. In the version we tested, these front seats are heated, while the driver’s seat benefits from eight-way electric adjustment. The long wheelbase adds to a supple, quiet ride. Another strong point of the Alaskan is its rear suspension: here Renault has developed a proper multilink coil suspension at the rear rather than leaf springs, which are used in the Navara

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Powerful and smooth 4WD drivetrain…

Push the starting knob and the 2,3 liter twin turbo diesel unit jumps to life. These four cylinders make no mystery of their presence, but this is never obtrusive, even after a (very) cold start. This engine is not only found in the Navara, but also in the … Renault Master for instance.

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Nothing to be ashamed of, and this unit finds also its way in the Mercedes X Class. This Mercedes is indeed the third car to use the Renault-Nissan pickup platform. The automatic box is ideally mated to this engine, and electronic management of both engine and gearbox is flawless. When cold, the gearbox will keep the diesel engine revving somewhat higher, but soon enough it will let the engine use its generous torque to the full. Indeed, the unit develops 450 Nm, and this means you have ample power in all (urban) driving situations, making this Alaskan quite lively and nimble, subjectively belaying its size. The gearbox changes smoothly, and all this adds to the relaxing driving style, to which this Alaskan simply invites you.

It is not only a pleasant companion on city boulevards, it is equally very well at home on motorways and country roads. Thanks to the long wheelbase as we said, good comfort is certainly to be enjoyed, and this makes the Alaskan a very relaxing cruiser on those (very) long trips.

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In the city and when parking, the Alaskan helps you with cameras fore and aft, offering also 360° vision and on top of that audible warning.

Of course, this is nothing said about its excellent off-road capabilities. Here the Alaskan truly comes into its own. The 4WD mode can easily be engaged by a turn of the selector knob, even when on the move. Only when you opt for the low gearing, fit for very heavy terrain, you have to stop to select it, but then this also takes only a further turn of the selector knob and you are done.

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On the center console there are the usual push buttons for hill start assist and hill descent control and this Alaskan makes you an instant master in off-road driving. You will always arrive at your (off road) destination, in any weather, and this is a very comforting thought, every time you step into an Alaskan. Bumpy gravel roads will not upset this Alaskan, nor its passengers…

Efficient and powerful

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The Alaskan performs well with this 190 HP unit. Let’s not forget that the big blower Bentley’s of the ‘30s did not have better performance. We come to this comparison because when it comes to road behavior and handling, the Alaskan sports just like these legendary cars a separate chassis with almost identical track and wheelbase. You got it, these Bentley’s were hardly lower, and therefore you can expect approximately the same grip and stability when cornering and taking these fast bends with your Alaskan. Gentlemen, these iconic Bentley’s were Le Mans winners, so this puts cornering power and sheer performance in proper perspective…

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Consumption is very much function of how you drive this Alaskan. Engine and gearbox are efficient enough. When driving at constant speeds of say 110 km/h on motorways, anticipating speed changes of the traffic in front of you and lifting the accelerator early, then this Alaskan will reward you with average consumption of 6,5 l/100 km. In tight urban traffic situations, driving with restraint and “Zen” will reward you relatively even more, as the extra consumption always stems from accelerating or bringing a substantial mass up to speed. You simply cannot escape the laws of physics, whether you like this or not. The manufacturer quotes 6,9 l/100 km as average NEDC cycle consumption, with C02 emissions being 183 g/km.

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Before changing the “best” consumption, we show you here the results of a motorway drive at 120 km/h cruising speed… 

Of course, this Alaskan is (very) good for towing, and it can pull up to 3,500 kg. The rear load deck is 1578mm long and 1560mm wide, with a total usable area of 2.46m2. It is a good workhorse, for example, the rear lid can take a weight up to 500 kg…

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Conclusion

The Alaskan is a welcome addition to the Renault family, and in this segment the French brand has now a serious iron in the fire. It is built on the vast experience of both Nissan and Renault in making these cars, engines and drivetrains, and this you feel every meter you drive it.

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It has bold, pleasing looks, is well finished, is built to be your sturdy and faithful companion on any path life may take you and your family or friends, and you will have many happy days with it.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

 

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