Finding a nameplate is anything but easy for any manufacturer as it has to be catchy, not offensive in any language (Mitsubishi Pajero, anyone?) and, of course, not trademarked or used by anyone else.
There must be a reason to ditch it, especially after 21 years and three generations, which is exactly what Renault did with the Laguna.
The French brand’s new midsize family car is labeled the Talisman and, after a lot of highway and city miles behind the wheel, it became obvious that this one is one rung above the Laguna.
Everything that made Renault’s previous mid-size entry slightly inferior to the likes of the Passat, Mondeo, Accord and so on, is now gone. This car is big, comfortable and feels extremely well put together. The first thing that strikes you is the way it’s designed, with the automaker’s new family “face” nicely integrated in a curvy bodywork that might not break new ground yet looks modern and completely different to its predecessor. Perhaps going for a non-offensive styling was the best choice as most customers in the family car segment are not really into polarizing looks but have other priorities.
A solid cabin is definitely one of them and the Talisman scored big there, being remarkably well put together. In fact, it’s very close to the class leaders, that is the Passat and Superb, in terms of cabin quality. It’s miles above older models like the Insignia or the Avensis and you can certainly feel you’ve got more room inside than in most of its rivals as well – another thing that’s on top of prospective buyers’ list.
Speaking of comfort, the driver’s seating position is excellent. Perhaps not as impeccable as the Passat’s but you can’t really complain anymore as you could with the Laguna, a car that had a particularly high driving position. The seats themselves were also great, for both comfort and support. It’s got plenty of storage spaces as well, and you can store relatively large bottles in the door pockets up front (nothing over 1 lt though).
So it’s practical, roomy and extremely well built. But what about other amenities? Well, one thing you’ll definitely enjoy is the R Link 2 multimedia system. The user interface is pretty great, with modern graphics and almost lag-free browsing and comes second in ease of operation only to Volvo’s system. To beat that, you have to move upwards to the premium segment.
Great chassis in search of extra oomph
Now on to the way the Talisman drives. The test car is the 160 PS dCi twin-turbo with the six-speed EDC dual-clutch gearbox that is the fastest of the range after the 200 PS TCe petrol version. The best way to describe it is that it’s unlike any other family car by Renault we’ve seen. It is not the sportiest car in the segment, but it outshines its rivals in the “going from comfortable large car to surprisingly agile large car” mode. Shift everything into Sport and you walk away impressed. The 4Control system does its job admirably, the steering feels firm and sufficiently precise and the ride is excellent. In fact, whichever Multi-Sense setting you choose you’ll find that few other cars in this class have this much versatility when it comes to driving dynamics.
I obviously didn’t take it out on any sort of race track, but if you show it some tight, twisty roads, you can definitely feel Renault has rolled out a nicely tuned chassis, with the 4Control system doing its job, turning the rear wheels up to 1.9 degrees in the same direction as the front wheels at high speed, resulting in a more agile car. If you’re driving around town, the system will turn the rear wheels up to 3.5 degrees in the opposite direction to the front ones, which does make the car a lot more maneuverable.
The six-speed dual-clutch gearbox shifts almost as flawlessly as VW’s DSG. It’s a huge accomplishment for Renault and it suits this engine. Granted, the drive didn’t feel effortless at all time, sometimes lacking a bit in refinement, others in performance.
The average consumer will probably be more than happy with accelerating to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 9.4 seconds, but if you’re in it for the performance, you’ll sigh over not having over 200 PS in some up-hill/full load/high speed overtaking situations. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the engine, but you can certainly do better in this department. Oh, and Sport Mode is a given, as it will make the Talisman feel more responsive as far as the steering and gearbox are concerned.
In terms of fuel economy, the trip computer showed an average consumption of 6.5 liters/100 km (36.1 US MPG / 43/.5 MPG UK) at an average speed of 37.9 km/h (23.5 mph). According to Renault, you can do much better than that but a. manufacturers’ claims are rarely confirmed on the road and b.trying it would require a lot of patience…from other drivers.
Worth considering or pass?
Does the mainstream family car class have a new leader? The answer is that, despite Renault’s best efforts, it has not toppled the VW Passat, Ford Mondeo or Skoda Superb. Its traits are more than enough to propel the Talisman into the customers’ buying list, though, along with the other three. One great step for Renault, one more option worth considering for those in the market for a family car.
Model: 2016 Renault Talisman 1.6 dCi EDC INTENS
Price: €31,400 – Taxes Included
Engine: 1.6-liter twin-turbo diesel four-cylinder | 160PS | 380 Nm (280 lb-ft)
0-100 km/h (62 mph): 9.4 seconds
Fuel Economy: 5.1 l/100km city (18 mpg) | 4.4 l/100km highway (22mpg) | 4.5l/100km avg (30 mpg)
+ Looks: There wasn’t a single person who didn’t walk up to it without giving it some type of compliment. Not only is there no Laguna left in it, there is no previous generation Renault in it either. You can call it stylish, imposing, futuristic. Take your pick.
+ Comfort: There’s really nothing that you’ll be able to fit inside any of its rivals that you won’t be able to fit inside the Talisman. Of course, where there’s plenty of room there’s also plenty of sitting-down comfort and this car feels properly French when it comes to driving it in a relaxed manner. Passengers at the rear will also enjoy sufficient legroom, headroom and shoulder room.
+ Build Quality: Renault went and asked Daimler to help monitor each Talisman during its production stages and it clearly shows. Even the doors close with the most satisfying “thump!” I’ve ever heard in the non-premium mid-size segment. Sorry V-Dub.
+ Agility: It’s right up there with the Mondeo and the Passat. Thanks to its 4Control system, you could make a case that it’s slightly more agile than its most important rivals, though it can still feel a bit softer than the VW, even in Sport mode.
+ Technology: Our test car had all the bells and whistles on it. Full LED Pure Vision headlights with cornering function, LED 3D taillights, ventilated & heated front seats with massage function, heated steering wheel, leather everything, ambient lighting, BOSE audio system, 8.7” R-Link 2 multimedia system, automatic high-beam assist, head-up display, 4Control system with variable dampers and ‘Easy Parking’. The only things it didn’t have were the panoramic sunroof and the proverbial kitchen sink.
+ Gearbox: Renault’s six-speed dual-clutch EDC gearbox isn’t as fast as VW’s DSG but it’s not that far off either. It shifts quickly and at times, almost imperceptibly. Great effort.
– Engine Configurations: Simply put, there aren’t enough engines to go around when it comes to the Talisman. A new range-topping diesel in the 200 to 240 PS range would most certainly go a long way.
– Engine Noise: While the Talisman’s cabin is very well insulated from the outside in terms of wind noise and tire noise, the turbo-diesel engine did make its presence felt a bit too much during idle. It’s no deal-breaker, but it’s definitely not as quiet as the Passat TDI.
– Paddle Shifters: There aren’t any on the EDC. Even though the gearbox is surprisingly good, people used to shifting gears from behind the steering wheel will definitely get turned off by having to move their hand around constantly during sporty driving. A pair of small ones like on the new Mondeo wouldn’t have hurt.
– Climate Control: Accessing the climate control features on the move can be a bit difficult. The analog ones are easy, but for the digital functions (vent speed & direction) you need to accurately touch the button section of the R-Link 2 display, and most times that means taking your eyes off the road.
Renault’s new mid-size saloon is an instant heavyweight fighter in its class. It’s everything the previous generation Laguna wasn’t and at the same time, it’s a chance at redemption for the French automaker. As far as pricing goes, it depends on which part of Europe you live in, but generally speaking you’ll find the Talisman priced similarly to its biggest rivals from Volkswagen, Skoda and Ford. So it will most likely come down to personal taste? Of course. That, coupled with what type of deal you’re able to get from the dealership.
The thing is, you kind of do need to buy a high-spec version in order to enjoy the Talisman for the type of car Renault truly intended it to be.
Photos: Sergiu Tudose/Carscoops