Launch review: Renault Trucks unveils latest range

Everything you need to know about the Qatari unveiling of Renault Trucks’ latest ranges for the Middle East

ANALYSIS, PMV, Qatar, Renault, Renault Trucks

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After a decade of development, Renault Trucks has introduced its overhauled C and K ranges to the Middle East market, but has it been worth the wait? PMV travelled to Qatar to find out.

Renault Trucks chose Qatar as the stage to launch its new range for the Middle East. The French manufacturer’s latest models received an evening unveiling against the glittering backdrop of The Pearl-Qatar (TPQ).

Impressive though this spectacle was, the real fun came when the region’s motoring journalists were invited to test drive the trucks around Losail International Circuit [page 46]. But before we come to that, let’s get down to brass tacks. What’s on offer?

The Qatar launch was actually a double bill. Renault introduced two overhauled lines for the Middle Eastern market: the C and K ranges. The auto maker claims that it has designed both lines with the capacity to accommodate a variety of body types. Each model can be adapted to customers’ specific requirements.

The C range, for example, has been launched with two cabin width options: 2.3m or 2.5m. The 2.3m configuration is built for distribution and delivery applications, whilst the 2.5m cab has been tailored for long-haul, light construction, and heavy distribution tasks.

If the C range represents Renault’s utility tool, the K range is its sledgehammer. Also available in a selection of customisable formats, these trucks are the ‘tough guys’ of the manufacturer’s fleet, built to handle anything that the region’s unforgiving operating environment cares to throw at them.

“In developing the C and K ranges, we have deployed significant resources to ensure these vehicles deliver maximum reliability,” commented Renault Trucks’ president, Bruno Blin, who flew in from France for the launch.

“Each range has undergone rigorous quality trials and has also been exhaustively field tested under actual operating conditions. Ruggedness, driver comfort, payload, pulling capacity, and easy body mounting, are the features that set these trucks apart, and make them the perfect tools for demanding businesses.

“The Renault Trucks C range offers superior driver comfort, exceptional reliability, and optimal fuel efficiency, making it ideal for both long-haul and certain construction applications. The K range offers new standards in durability and robustness. The front bumper is 100% steel with headlamp protection, and has models that suit the harsh demands of the construction industry,” he said.

The Doha launch was Renault Trucks’ largest in the Middle East to date. More than 250 industry professionals and officials from across the region attended the two-day event.

The scale of the unveiling, however, is hardly surprising when one considers the resources that Renault has invested in its new range. These trucks have been a decade in the making. As Thierry Hours, vice president programme manager for the range pointed out, when he and his team began conceptualising the vehicles, the iPhone was still a glint in Steve Jobs’ eye.

“When you design a truck, you don’t design it for five years like you do a car; you design it for 15 years,” he explained.

“We had two options: one conservative, the other radical. We decided to be radical. Conservatism is safe, but it doesn’t send a signal to the market. We wanted to convey that these trucks represent a breakthrough for Renault, both in terms of performance and design,” he told PMV.

Rather than follow a conventional, V-shaped design, Hours and his colleagues decided to create a trapezoid-shaped cab with 12° angles. Not only does this choice make a powerful aesthetic statement, but the resultant 12% improvement to the air-penetration coefficient (CX) has also resulted in reduced fuel consumption, according to Renault. This, it appears, is a tangible example of design-driven performance.

And make no mistake, these vehicles have been rigorously tested. Renault Trucks involved end users at every stage of the development process, from conception to manufacture.

“Every year, Renault Trucks interviews around 4,000 customers,” explained Hours.

“This is our standard approach. However, for the new range, we decided to integrate 50 customers into the development team itself. Those 50 customers – who hailed from across the globe – have been our partners
throughout,” he added.

Following the preliminary design phases, these end-users-turned-developers were invited to test the prototypes. For two years, from 2012 to 2013, each fleet owner used one of the trucks in the field.

The frontline trials were conducted to complement Renault Trucks’ in-house testing. The manufacturer ran 300 units 24 hours a day, seven days a week, from 2010 until 2014. The result? The range has proven itself in temperatures ranging from -40°C to 60°C.

To provide some context, the Airbus A350 was tested in temperatures spanning -40°C to 45°C. In total, the Renault Trucks range has undergone 5mn hours of tests – equivalent to 1,000 flights from Earth to Mars. The vehicles have travelled 15mn kilometres – equivalent to 375 round-the-world trips.

If Hours and his colleagues had any doubts at the outset concerning their trucks’ durability and robustness, they have most certainly been allayed by now.

The Euro 3 C models, for example, sport DXi 7-and-11-litre engines. The line boasts power outputs that range from 320 hp to 440 hp, 4x2 and 8x4 configurations, and are available in both rigid-frame and tractor formats. The Euro 3 K models, meanwhile, are powered by DXi 11 engines, but boast outputs spanning from 380 hp to 440 hp, and are available in either tractor or rigid-framed 6x4 configurations.

A selection of Euro 6 models were also on display during the event, although when exactly they will reach the Middle East is very much dependent on the pace at which the region adopts ultra-low-sulphur diesel (ULSD). In addition to higher maximum power outputs (520 hp for both ranges), these models are available with Renault’s Optidriver automated transmission system and Voith retarders.

ULSD or no ULSD, Renault Trucks has created offerings to suit pretty much every taste. The question, therefore, is: why has the manufacturer invested so much time and so many resources in the Middle East? Put simply, this is a territory of strategic importance for the company’s future.

“Five of the world’s seven-largest oil producing countries are located in this region,” commented Lars-Erik Forsbergh, president of Renault Trucks Middle East.

“Approximately 50% of known oil reserves are here in this part of the world. I think that as long as the world is addicted to oil, money will continue to flow into the Middle East. At the same time, countries like Iraq are rebuilding. They are developing their infrastructures so there’s a lot of construction.

“The good news for us is that everything needs to be transported. Whether you’re talking about building materials for construction sites, refuse, or consumable goods, the Middle East does not offer many alternatives to road haulage,” he explained.

Renault’s ambition is to break into the top-three truck brands in the Middle East. Of course, the manufacturer has stiff competition to overcome, but Forsbergh is confident that its latest units have what it takes to succeed.
You’ll have to read on to find out how the K range fared around Doha’s MotoGP circuit, but suffice it to say, Renault Trucks has realised its initial goal.

The firm wanted to make a statement, and after 10 years of toil, this message is coming through loud and clear. The new cohort boasts a bold design, improved efficiency, and – spoiler alert – impressive performance. A decade well spent? It would seem so.

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