It would be true to say that, up to now,
the emphasis has been on the vehicle's utility aspects because of the amazing
number of ways the seats can be arranged, and the large number of interior hideaways
for small items. Now, with the release of the RX4, a 4x4 version of the Scénic,
the concept's sporty side has been brought to the fore.
Externally, the RX4 is slightly wider than the normal model, due to the shape
of the composite wings/wheel arches that have to accommodate greater wheel travel,
as well as the wider and larger diameter wheels. In addition, the lower half of
the body is fitted with protective colour-coded composite panels, complemented
by a prominent front bumper with a built-in bull-bar. At the rear there is a large
electrically latched door, which is opened in two stages. Pressing a button on
the door opens the window so that it can be swivelled upwards, and pressing it
again unlatches the door so that it can be opened. The spare wheel is mounted
on the door and has an anti-theft locking device. The model tested, the Privilege,
also had a very neat glass-fibre spare wheel cover.
The RX4 is a "part-time" four-wheel drive, which uses a viscous
coupling in the driveline connecting the front and rear wheels. This type of lockup
is also used on the Land Rover Freelander and the Toyota RAV4, and a number of
other 4x4s, because it's totally automatic, but still mechanical, so does
not need any electronics. The unit locks up progressively when there is a significant
difference in speed between the front and rear driveshafts, which means that the
RX4 is in front-wheel drive mode on a level hard surface, but becomes a four-wheel
drive when the front wheels develop some spin. In addition, an electronic traction
control unit curbs excessive wheelspin at the front wheels.
The off-road abilities are obviously limited by the lack of a low-range transmission,
and there is no hill-descent control either. This does not necessarily detract
from the vehicle's practicality because it's not designed for serious
bundu-bashing. It's as capable as any of the so-called Class One off-roaders
that have been designed to compete with the RAV4, which started this class. Their
forte is the sort of dirt road that a normal saloon cannot tackle because it does
not have enough ground clearance. On a very rough surface, the level of insulation
from shocks experienced by the occupants of the Scénic is second only to
the Freelander, but, when one compares the interior layout, the RX4 is a clear
The front suspension, comprising MacPherson struts and lower wishbones, is the
same as on the 4x2 model, except for the spring rates and damper settings, and
the addition of a special anti-roll bar. At the rear, the previous four-bar set-up
has been replaced by a fully independent system utilising trailing arms, coil
springs and separate dampers, mounted on a galvanised sub-frame that also carries
the rear transmission components.
The front seats are height-adjustable, with a lumbar adjustment for the driver,
as well as the normal fore-and-aft and seatback movement. The steering column
is also height-adjustable, and there are heating ducts to the rear seats and pull-down
trays on the seatbacks. The three rear seats can be folded down individually,
or any one can be removed, the centre one removed and the others spaced closer
together, or two seats can be mounted further back.
European crash testing has shown that Renaults are very safe cars, so it is no
surprise that the RX4 has a total of six airbags, comprising two progressive front
airbags and two head/chest side airbags on each side. Furthermore, the front safety
belts have pre-tensioners and load limiters. The two outer rear belts have load
limiters, but the centre one does not. All five seats have head restraints.
It's interesting to compare the effect of the 4x4 conversion with the performance
of a 4x2 Scénic. The new model is 175 kg heavier and 55 mm higher, because
of the greater ground clearance. The engine is practically the same as the two-litre
engine used in the 4x2, but the gear ratios have been revised slightly, to compensate
for the one-inch bigger wheels that are fitted to the off-road version. The zero
to 100 km/h time of 12,82 seconds and top speed of 179 km/h achieved by the RX4
are significantly slower than figures achieved with the two-wheel drive version.
Top speed has been lowered by just under 20 km/h and the zero to 100 km/h time
increased by nearly three seconds.
However, these figures are respectable for a two-litre off-road vehicle, and on
the road the Scénic feels nippy and can maintain high average speeds. The
instrumentation is comprehensive and most of the controls are within easy reach.
The switches for the climate control are an exception, because they're
so low on the console that you have to lean far forward to reach them, and look
down as well, making it very difficult to change any setting while you're
driving. In contrast, the excellent radio/CD player has satellite controls on
the steering column, which are very easy to operate.
The ABS brakes haul the RX4 down from 100 km/h in an average time of 3,4 seconds,
without any sign of instability, which is about par for a good 4x4. The gearchange
is normally effortless, once you get used to the slightly wide gate, but reverse
gear was sometimes very difficult to engage. The power-assisted rack and pinion
steering felt quick on the road with very little lost motion, but displayed rather
an inordinate amount of kickback on a stony surface.
Two models of the RX4 are being imported. The Expression costs R205 000 and has
cloth upholstery, steel wheels, air-conditioning with a refrigerated console compartment,
electric headlight adjustment, a transponder engine immobiliser, 12V sockets in
the rear cabin and the boot, an open spare wheel, a coded radio/tape with six
speakers, remote-controlled central locking, tinted glass all round, a seven-function
trip computer and electric front and rear windows and mirrors.
The Privilege, which costs R225 000, has in addition to the above features leather
seats, alloy wheels, climate control, a composite spare wheel cover, a front-loading
CD player and rear window blinds.
Original article from Car