Renault Talisman

Debut: 2015
Maker: Renault
Predecessor: Laguna III

 Published on 15 Sep 2016
All rights reserved. 

Do you remember Renault 25, Safrane or Vel Satis? These large cars used to have a position in the executive car segment which is now dominated by premium brands. The French company withdrew from the class and concentrated on the smaller and cheaper Laguna. Unfortunately, even the latter became a victim of the endless expansion of German premium car makers and the market shift to crossovers. Therefore, after 3 generations, Renault decided to terminate the Laguna. Meanwhile, there are constant demands from emerging markets like China and Turkey for cost-effective large sedans. Renault used to fulfill this demand with its Samsung SM7 and its twins sister Latitude. Following the death of Laguna, the European offering is also combined with this line. They get a new name, Talisman.

Measuring 4848 mm long, 1869 mm wide, 1463 mm tall and 2808 mm in wheelbase, the Talisman is half a class larger than the Laguna and half a class smaller than a true E-segment executive car like BMW 5-Series. However, this strategy is not invented by Renault. In fact, most other mainstream brands also inflate their mid-size cars in order to fend off the competition from premium brands. This means, while the Talisman is noticeably larger than Laguna, it is no larger than a Ford Mondeo, Skoda Superb or Mazda 6.

The Talisman is a handsome design, certainly one of the best looking cars in its class. It is not as athletic as some, but it hits the right balance between sleekness and luxury. Its shoulder line rises gently above the rear wheel arch like traditional Italian designs. The corporate front grille with huge Renault logo, C-shape LED headlights and multi-contour clamshell bonnet are both stylish and unique. There is also enough chrome to deliver a premium feel. At the back, the slim taillights and chrome trapezoidal exhausts add further distinction to the final touches. This is another great work from the team of Laurens van den Acker. Besides, its drag is also well managed, as evident from the Cd of 0.27.

To make a business case in this shrinking segment, Renault reshuffles the car onto the CMF-C/D platform of Renault-Nissan alliance. This means, its cost basis is benefited from the mass selling crossovers like Nissan Qashqai and Rogue/X-Trail as well as Renault Megane, Scenic and Espace. The Talisman supplying European market is produced at the Douai plant in France where Scenic is also built. On the downside, the CMF-C/D platform is not as classy as Volkswagen’s MQB or many others, because it is not designed for a luxury saloon anyway. Most telling, it rides on unsophisticated torsion-beam suspension at the rear axle like most C-segment cars or below. To compensate, Renault adds the option of adaptive dampers and "4Control" rear-wheel steering hardware (taken from the old Laguna and shared with Megane), even though there is no substitution for a fundamentally sounded suspension. Another weak point of the CMF-C/D platform is weight control. It is around 100 kg heavier than a comparable Volkswagen Passat.

The platform also lacks powerful engines – admittedly, this is increasingly a problem shared with most mainstream car makers who are striving to meet the 95g/km emission limit to be enforced in Europe from 2020. The Talisman offers only one petrol engine, i.e. a 1.6-liter TCe direct injection turbo with either 150hp or 200hp – the latter actually comes from the much smaller Clio RS! It is mated to a 7-speed EDC twin-clutch gearbox. It is claimed to be good for 147 mph and 0-60 in 7.2 seconds, but there is little excitement while doing so. The small turbo motor is more about smooth, linear and quiet power delivery. The twin-clutch gearbox is also smooth-shifting, if not as responsive as Volkswagen DSG. Lacking steering-wheel shift paddles robs it some fun.

On the diesel side, there is also only one 1.6-liter dCi engine with 3 states of tune – 110hp, 130hp or 160hp. The last one is achieved with sequential twin-turbo, one works at low rpm and another takes over at higher revs. It is mated with a stronger 6-speed twin-clutch gearbox. The car tops 133 mph and takes nearly 9 seconds to go from zero to 60 mph, hardly exciting. Moreover, the 1.6dCi engine is not the most refined around, with some old-fashioned vibration at idle and more noise at higher revs.

On the road, the driving experience is much the same as the performance of the powertrains. The chassis tuning of Talisman is soft, comfort-biased like traditional luxury cars. It corners with excessive roll and pitch, even if you have switched the adaptive dampers to Sport mode. The mode button also weighs up its steering, speeds up its throttle response and EDC gearshift, but the electrical helm remains numb, failing to tell you about the front-end grip, and the powertrain response still lacks immediacy. The 4Control system does add some agility on twisty roads and directional stability on highway, but with loose body control the Talisman is hopeless to match a Mazda 6, Mondeo or Passat for handling and driver engagement. What it does superbly is to ride with the suppleness of traditional French big cars. Its cabin is also well insulated from all sorts of noises.

The cabin of Talisman has to be a highlight. As the car is much larger than Laguna, it finally offers plenty of room for 4 or even 5 adults. That said, you can actually find more leg and headroom at the rear seats of Passat, a testimony of the Volkswagen’s better use of space. The Renault has a larger boot though – at 608 liters it is only second to Skoda Superb. The build quality is certainly lifted a lot from the Laguna. You enter the car with a solid door thump. Fit and finish seems good. On the top Initiale Paris trim, the cabin looks pretty upmarket. There is Nappa leather upholstery and stitching covering the dash, doors and seats, and wood trims decorating many places. Its large and comfy front seats have heating, ventilation and even massaging function. Nevertheless, as in the case of many Renault-Nissan products, attention to details is not as good as the German. The switch gears, especially the old-fashioned gear lever, look and feel cheap. The portrait touchscreen on center console is a nice idea, as proved by Tesla, but unfortunately it is too small here (8.7-inch), leaving a thick rim made of hard plastic to dominate the console. As a result, it looks more like a cheap photo frame. The R-link 2 infotainment system is responsive, but some basic functions, say, adjusting air-con and radio stations, take a few steps more than necessary.

As seen, the Talisman is designed to be a classy, comfortable large car rather than a rewarding driver’s car. It does the comfort job very well, but it comes with many side effects that most of its rivals, in particular Passat, Mondeo and Superb, managed to avoid. The Passat especially eclipses it in almost every way, no matter build quality, space, electronic tech, performance, handling or refinement. However, the Renault is arguably the better looking car. In fact, a car that looks much better than it drives.

Length / width / height
Valve gears
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Suspension layout

Suspension features
Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
Talisman 1.6 dCi 160
Front-engined, FWD, 4WS
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4848 / 1869 / 1463 mm
2808 mm
Inline-4 diesel
1598 cc
DOHC 16 valves
Sequential twin-turbo
160 hp
280 lbft
6-speed twin-clutch
F: strut
R: torsion-beam
Adaptive damping
1516 kg
133 mph (c)
8.8 (c)
Talisman 1.6 TCe 200
Front-engined, FWD, 4WS
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4848 / 1869 / 1463 mm
2808 mm
1618 cc
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT
200 hp
192 lbft
7-speed twin-clutch
F: strut
R: torsion-beam
Adaptive damping
1430 kg
147 mph (c)
7.2 (c)

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