We drove the Renault Espace 160 dCi EDC Initale Paris: your noble transport.

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French diplomats and heads of state use it for ceremonies and their daily business: indeed, this car has earned its marks amongst people which matter. And rightly so. Laurens van den Acker and his styling people succeeded in giving the latest generation of the Renault flagship people carrier this style and panache which sets it out from the crowd. But the latest Renault Grand Espace does not only please the eye. It also has qualities which make it enviable to own and drive. Just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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Well proportioned.

Renault wanted to give its latest generation Espace more leaner proportions, putting it somewhere in between a classic, full blown people carrier and a more streamlined, big crossover. In our modest opinion, they succeeded quite well. As said, the Espace stands taller on its wheels, and has gained in aura and character, with a judicious juxtaposition of curves and lines combined with just the right amount of chromium touches. The self assured styling language is also found in the interior, which is well proportioned and shaped, with proper use of high quality leather upholstery and materials.

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In the centre of the large console one finds the big vertical portrait shaped touchscreen, featuring the excellent R-Link infotainment and navigation functions, which are pleasant and intuitive to use.

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We already applauded in previous tests the excellent virtual instrumentation, which displays several different well laid out profiles according to the chosen driving mode or car setup. We are also always very fond of the Renault audio system controls, which they introduced as early as the seventies in the Renault 25 and 30, and which are an industry standard ever since.

Well honed drivetrain

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The Renault Nissan-Alliance displays formidable expertise in drivetrain technology, and are nothing less than state of the art in this respect. The Initiale Paris we tested was equipped with the 1,6  liter dCi 160 HP diesel engine, coupled to the 6 speed auto box. It proved smooth, powerful and (very) frugal. The generous torque of this unit, 380 Nm at 1750 rpm, succeeds in giving this imposing Grand Espace more than enough zest to make it a lively contender in any traffic situation.

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Acceleration from 0 to 100 is up to the mark with a time of 9,9 seconds, and thanks to its slippery shape top speed is a very adequate 202 km/h. Needless to say that the Espace is an excellent long distance cruiser, feeling ideally at home on long fast trips on the autoroutes. We used our test car on a somewhat longer motorway trip to the presentation of the latest Nissan Leaf, and cruising at legal speeds, it impressed us with excellent consumption figures, in the region between 5,5 and 6 liters/100 km.

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This again goes to show that with modern day drivetrains and diesel engines, very creditable figures can be achieved, which proves that whereas diesel engined cars can present a problem, they also are part of the (C02) solution. As we mentioned in these columns, car manufacturers like Audi are researching with partners into synthetic (E) fuels, both petrol and diesel, to achieve also reduced emissions for the existing fleet of cars, driving around on our cherished planet. We can only applaud their initiatives, and hope that energy multinationals will also enter the game. The manufacturer quotes 4,7 liters as combined consumption, with CO2 emissions being 123 g/km.

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The gearbox pleases with timely and smooth changes, making moving this Espace in urban traffic a very relaxing affair. Driving assistance systems help you in and out of tight spaces, and we always appreciated in everyday use the keyless entry system, which pleasantly locks or opens up the car with a warning beep, so useful when you are leaving or entering the car with both hands full of cases or handbags.

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Passenger space is quite generous, as you can expect, and boot space is also more than adequate with a standard volume of some 600 liters with the seat backrests upright. When you opt for the third row bench, for two persons, there is still 273 liter available.

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The tall wheels of the Espace make the car look outstanding, and do not impair ride comfort at all. The well balanced suspension and long wheelbase make the Grand Espace a very comfortable car indeed, and along with this comfort, handling is accurate and stable up to very high speeds, also in the wet. As said, several driving modes are possible, in comfort mode the car just floats over the road, but body roll and steering precision remain reasonable nevertheless.

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The Espace rolls on a brand new Renault/Nissan modular platform, and one clearly feels this. The car remains comfortable, even in the Sport mode, just gaining then in surefootedness and steering precision. One clearly notices too that the Espace is now 250 kilos lighter, and the 4 wheel steering makes the Espace nimble on roundabouts and tight curves, as well as maneuvering.

Conclusion

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The fifth generation Espace has gained in zest and character, trending now towards a (very) large Crossover. A very comfortable companion on your long trips and urban outings, a practical companion in daily family life, and last but not least, adding style to it all…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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