In the beginning there was nothing in the D-segment. Oh sorry, it was the Laguna – which never achieved a production volume advantage over its fierce competitors, despite delivering some enticing segment firsts.
But life in the European large family car segment – “D” – has never been easy considering how many options are there to choose from. The Laguna lived for three generations and had great perks – the second iteration was the first vehicle in Europe to achieve the EuroNCAP five stars protection rating, had a “keyless” ignitions system with the first appearance of the well known “card” still in use by the company. The third later on evolved it to the “hands free” capabilities that are deeply loved by Renault fans and is still among the most comfortable to use in the industry because all you have to do is walk to the car to have it unlocked – and walk away from it to have it locked. The model never lived up to the expectations – everyone can agree on that – so Renault decided to change everything, beginning with the name.
The Talisman appeared last year and fittingly introduced the all-new design language on the mainstream models after it was first premiered by the Espace V MPV-crossover. Arguably, the Espace is the more iconic model when compared to the Talisman – but everyone can agree the Espace only represented the preview of the all-new design language subsequently implemented on all new generations of the French brand – Talisman, Megane and even Scenic, though the latter does share more styling connections with the Espace than any other model. Actually Renault seems to have opted for a different vibe for each of its big model lineups – MPVs, SUVs and cars. The Talisman is also a significant departure from the bland and often criticized for being dull Laguna – while also bringing new technologies to the French brand that trickle down from luxury models.
Design, Interior and Gadgets
We’re still unsure of the market success of the model, but one thing is for sure – no one will consider the Talisman to be either bland or boring. Renault’s latest design language is in full swing on the D-segment car which currently serves as the flagship in the car series. The front end is dominated by the huge radiator grille and diamond logo – but still everyone will be looking at the huge daylight driving lights with LED strips. The styling might not appeal to everyone – but Renault actually did a great job of hiding the car’s impressive dimensions. It has a bulky front end with rather large overhangs but still doesn’t convey the same sense of bulkiness as the Ford Mondeo or Mazda6 do (and they are both shorter, actually). This can be credited to the designers, which managed to achieve a stylish and rackish assembly that is both sporty and elegant. There are things to fret about though – for one thing everyone is adding more and more elements to the design of each car and they will look overburden from certain angles. In this respect, while I personally condemn the evolutionary design of the Passat, the clear cut lines there exude a better sense of simplicity – of zen.
Arriving in a Talisman will be a statement – because the car does have personality. I agree that the front end needs to deliver the brand statement – which is why it’s a little exaggerated, but actually love most about the Talisman the rear end, which is simple and clear cut – with the lighting clusters almost joined to direct your attention towards the logo. It’s a trend in the business to have these longer strips of lights and they’re both stylish and increase safety because, well, they’re visible from afar. Moving on to the interior, you’ll be amazed by the seating position – every Renault I’ve driven before (even the new Megane) comes with a rather high seating position for the driver even on the lowest setting. But here the French seem to have adopted some ideas from sports cars, because you arguably sit lower than in other midsize cars. The dimensions here play an effect – at 4848 mm in length, 1869 mm in width and 1463 mm in height, with a 2808 mm wheelbase – it usually compares favorably with the rest of its competitors. As always, I selected a batch of compatible rivals – and because the segment is so important for every manufacturer I had a big pool to chose from. In this respect I excluded models (for example Hyundai’s i40) that theoretically qualified as competitors because of their smaller size – the Talisman is at the very edge of the segment in this respect. There are bigger players here, like the Volvo S90 at 4963 mm – but the Talisman doesn’t compete with them, not even when dressed in the Initiale Paris form. For comparison purposes, the Ford Mondeo is 4871 / 1852 / 1482 / 2850 (mm, length, width, height, wheelbase), the Mazda Mazda6 is 4865 / 1840 / 1450 / 2830, the Opel Insignia is 4842 / 1858 / 1498 / 2737, the Peugeot 508 is 4830 / 1828 / 1456 / 2817 and the VW Passat is 4767 / 1832 / 1456 / 2791.
The front seating position is comfortable and easy to set up – but the seat is definitely oriented towards offering the best comfort in exchange for meager lateral support credentials. The back seat holds enough space for three adults without any hiccup – with great space for knees, elbows and head. Having a family there is also a breeze, because there’s enough interior width to fit a regular child seat and an elevation seat – with room for an adult next to them. The only thing I feel Renault sacrificed in terms of habitability is the dreadful access to the trunk compartment. You can hardly use the trunk lid which is very small due to the liftback design – and the loading sill is also very high – as I saw it you might have trouble fitting bulky travel cases in there, although if you can manage to get them inside there won’t be a problem because of the 515 liters of available space. What the Talisman doesn’t lack are upscale features – you have everything from a head up display to heated/ventilated/massage front seats and a heated steering wheel. As Always, Renault is pretty much top notch in terms of safety and assistance systems – which get their own shortcut on the tablet-like infotainment system to manage them faster. Our recommendation though is to have them all engaged and then forget about accessing that panel ever again. The R–Link 2 infotainment system is now a common presence on the Renault models – because the top selling Megane also has it – in this Tesla-inspired portrait mode orientation. Fortunately, it’s not all about touchscreen commands, because there are some clever shortcuts to certain commands – climate controls, ECO setting of the 4Control system. Unlike the Megane, which gets a simpler version, there’s also a small “command” center on the transmission tunnel behind the transmission lever.
While the R-Link system is up to date in terms of gadgetry – USB, Bluetooth, apps – you name it – the main selling point for high tech buffs will be the Multi Sense technology. This one integrates and coordinates various technology features for a personalized driving experience – operating the 4Control system, active damping, steering, engine and EDC transmission, but also the instruments, engine sound and ambient lighting. In all earnest, I did appreciate the fact that almost all options could be changed from a single screen – to create your own personal experience, or simply select from the preset ones. What I didn’t appreciate was the gimmicky feel it sometimes delivers – there are different layouts for the digital instrument panel, different ambient light settings, but they all seem to have been implemented for the sole enjoyment of my 4 year old, who liked to fiddle with each and every last one of them. For me, the sport and Eco modes were more than enough – with the occasional Comfort usage on longer trips because this one also activates by default the seat massage. There’s even engine sound control – actually an enhanced voice for the dCi engine.
Engine, Transmission and Handling
Speaking of which, we tested the top diesel option in the lineup – the well known 1.6-liter dCi with dual turbos and 160 hp – hooked to the six-speed EDC dual clutch automatic transmission. It has 160 hp and 380 Nm and seems to be in a league of its own, because no other competitor from my selection achieves (if I left someone with the same specs – displacement and power – feel free to point it out) the same level of power from the displacement. The Peugeot 508 has a 1.6-liter HDI which only gives out 120 hp, so if you want to come closer to the Talisman you need to go for the 2.0-liter HDI with 150 hp (the top option is of 180 hp). The rest of the pack have two liter – or even 2.2-liter in Mazda’s case – diesels to keep up with the Renault offering and they mostly offer 150 hp (and usually have another, more powerful option that is of 180 – 190 hp). The one exception is the Insignia – which can be had with a 1.6 CDTI with 136 hp to compete the Talisman 130 hp version, or with the 2.0 CDTI with 170 hp. So, the Talisman is actually the unique solution if you want a seemingly powerful executive sedan but care a great deal about paying less in terms of taxation – which is what the 1.6 liter displacement mainly grants.
Performance – with the Talisman in this configuration tipping the scales at a hefty 1597 kg – is almost better than every other competitor I selected. The Talisman sprints to 100 km/h in 9.4 seconds and tops out at 215 km/h, which is better than the Mondeo (2.0 TDCI Powershift 150 hp – 9.3 / 213), Mazda6 (2.2 Skyactiv-D Aut. – 9.8 / 204) and Peugeot 508 (GT Line 2.0 BlueHDI 120 EAT6 – 11 / 201). The Insignia is heavier but manages a better top speed thanks to the higher power (2.0 CDTI 170 Aut. – 9.4 / 220) and the Passat is the winner all-round here with the 2.0 TDI DSG specification – 8.7 seconds and 218 km/h – which is most likely due to the dry weight of 1.5 tons. What you do get from the Talisman in this respect is a car that morphs like the best BMWs fitted with all the adaptive bells and whistles at half the price. The French saloon is an excellent all-rounder because of the Multi-Sense tech and 4Control chassis. Go for the Comfort setting (there’s also neutral and personalize – which do exactly as advertised) and you’ll almost glide over the imperfections in the tarmac. Here we do have to point out the Talisman is not exactly there in terms of delivering a pristine ride – sounds from the suspension still come through – this might have to do with the sound deadening process or the 18 inch wheels with 45 mm bead, which is what sports cars usually have, not executive haulers. Change to Sport and all functions are geared towards a dynamic experience – the steering wheel gets harder, the transmission holds to a gear longer, the dampers stiffen. We trialed the Talisman on a few mountain tracks and the feeling is you’re driving a much smaller car – not a big, heavy saloon. Of course, there are limits to the powertrain and technology – the EDC is sometimes hesitant into downshifting when you floor the throttle and the engine does what it can at higher speeds.
For those weary of the planet’s life – or looking to get the most out of a diesel engine – there’s also the Eco, which gears everything towards high efficiency, even the climate controls. The Talisman is not exactly your fuel efficiency champion – unless you only used it in Eco (which defeats the purpose of having multiple driving modes) – and the 4.5 liters / 100 km of fuel consumption is of course a utopia. It can still be used to benchmark it against the others: the Mondeo has a 4.6 average benchmark, the Mazda6 sits at 4.8, the Insignia is even thirstier at 5.6, while the Passat is spot on at 4.5 also – here the champion should of course be the 508 at 3.9 liters, but that’s due to the economy-geared powertrain with just 120 hp. The fuel consumption will of course vary widely depending on your driving habits – even using the Eco mode you won’t see the best possible consumption if you drive at highway speeds for extended periods of time (which is even indicated on the leaf counter indicator embedded in the instrument cluster).
Pro: Stylish and edgy design, easily a standout in the segment. Interior space is great, as is the driving position if you like a low center of gravity. The Multi-Sense and 4Control systems offer a premium driving experience with differentiated modes that can change the car’s overall feeling.
Against: Access to the boot is impaired by the liftback design and small access. There’s lots of gimmicks inside which can make you lose time trying to figure out each setting on the rather complicated R-Link 2 infotainment system.
Starting price – Renault Talisman Energy dCi 110 Life – 21,800 EUR
Tested Version – Renault Talisman Energy dCi 160 EDC Intens – 31,400 EUR
Engine: 1.6L four cylinder, diesel, direct injection commonrail, turbo, intercooler (1598 cc)
Power: 160 HP (118 kW) at 4000 rpm
Torque: 380 Nm at 1,750 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed dual-clutch EDC automatic / 4×2
Dimensions: length – 4,848 mm, width – 1,869 mm, height – 1,463 mm, wheelbase – 2,808 mm
Fuel Tank Capacity: 47 L
Trunk Capacity: 515 liters
Weight: 1597 kg
0 – 100 km/h: 9,4 s
Top Speed: 215 km/h
Fuel consumption: urban – 5L/100 km, highway – 4,1L/100 km, average –4,5L/100 km
Rating: 4.3 / 5