By Ayswarya Murthy

Qatar Today test drove the Renault Koleos over one rainy weekend; whatever be the weather and however be your road, inside the Koleos’ luxurious, safe bubble, all is well with the world.

You know the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon? One day you learn a new word and suddenly that word mysteriously keeps popping up everywhere. Soon after the weekend test driving the new Renault Koleos LE, it seemed like the whole of Doha was driving nothing but this specific car. I was seeing it everywhere. But sometimes it was a Nissan X Trail, which looks strikingly similar and reportedly also shares some engine specifications.

Manufactured in the Koleos plant in Busan, South Korea, this XUV is a big car; so big that it ought to have its own moon. You get the full force and meaning of the thing only once you climb inside its cavernous interiors. There is enough room in the back for a baby elephant. There can be no casual tossing your bag into the bag seat here; you might never see it again. So that’s great news for families, campers and those who complain about leg room. However the vehicle seemed a little unwieldy; there were a few times that I wondered if this is how truck drivers felt, manoeuvring 18-wheelers into the city at 100 kmph.

But the 2.4 litre, 4-cylinder, 126-horse power is more than up to task and that’s evident by the effortless pick up and smooth acceleration. Be it on the gravely stretches of the Dukhan desert or the paved roads of Qanat Quartier, the car simply glides across and is a pleasure to behold. There were a couple of times I was well over the speed limit and didn’t even realise it; it was like a bizarre illusion (I soon discovered the speed limiter but having that on simply felt like a waste of the car’s potential).  It’d be scary to think of this beast of a car thundering down the roads at great speeds if not for its wealth of safety features. The Renault Koleos comes with an advanced preventative safety suite with features such as blind-spot monitoring, forward-collision alert and autonomous braking, lane departure indicators, traffic sign recognition, safe distance warnings, tiredness detection, and hands-free, easy park assist. The 360 sensors, with cameras whenever applicable, are a boon for careful/new drivers. The detection of any obstacle immediately sounds the alert along with the activation of camera feed on touchscreen.

The 8.7 inch portrait-oriented capacitive screen is easily my favourite feature of the car because it’s a window to a host of other really cool features. It’s really like your command station – view camera, operate multimedia, access GPS, check tire/engine status, view driving data, choose between driver profiles and control fan speed and ambient lights from this one panel, which can also be controlled by voice. I have always been a fan of minimalism and this one-touch-to-rule-them-all approach thrills me. Let’s do away with as many buttons as we can, is my philosophy. Renault Koleos is proof that this can be done and done well. However, the interface definitely could be more polished and intuitive; for example, it doesn’t return to last state before switch off so each time you restart the car, even if it’s only after a short jog to the shop, you’ll have navigate your way back to Bluetooth settings, for example, and connect again. Surely, this is an easy fix.

The ambient cabin lighting (with five colours) and the look and feel of the dashboard can be altered and saved as separate profiles if you are sharing the car or even if you are in the mood for different each day. The real leather trim seats are ventilated for those really hot or really cold days. The keyless one-touch start can also be activated remotely and the auto lock is great for those who constantly keep forgetting to lock their cars. The often-neglected rear seats get their due here with dedicate AC vents, cup slots and USB ports. You’ll be thankful for the big 12-speaker Bose sound system with a sub, and the large, automatic full body sunroof during those long road trips in cool weather.

These are just some of the standout features in the Renault Koleos; there are plenty of others we can’t mention in the interest of space. But I bring it up because in this context the price of the vehicle is simply astounding. All my friends (all two of them) who experienced the car with me that weekend went slack-jawed when I told them all this came for less QR100,000. I understand how they felt. It makes you question every other car you had ever bought. And that, I think, is the biggest compliment one can give.