Renault’s move into the leisure bakkie market is complete with the unveiling of the production version of the Alaskan.
Renault showed its Alaskan concept back in September 2015 and it hasn’t taken very long for the bakkie to be shown in production-ready form. Fortunately, it carries over most of the original concept's styling cues. The Alaskan, shown here in double-cab guise, will share a platform with the new Nissan Navara NP300 and the 2020 Mercedes-Benz bakkie.
The French manufacturer will produce the Alaskan in three factories around the globe and position the newcomer at the premium-end of the leisure-bakkie market. It has yet to be confirmed if Renault will produce the bakkie in right-hand-drive form (which would be vital for its viability for the local market, of course), but the firm claims the Alaskan will be trimmed in upmarket interior materials, offer excellent connectivity options and sport a comfort-oriented ride quality. The enlarged wheel arches make provision for 16- or 18-inch alloy wheels.
The Alaskan bakkie is powered by a 2.3-litre 4-cylinder twin-turbo diesel engine pushing out either 120 kW or 141 kW. There will also be petrol and diesel versions of a 2.5-litre four-cylinder available, the latter also in 2 states of tune. The turbo setup is an interesting one as there's a small turbo to assist with low-down torque, which in turn spools up the bigger turbo.
The bakkie has a 5-link rear suspension and will be offered with a choice of a 6-speed manual or 7-speed automatic transmissions and in both 2- or 4-wheel drive guises.
But... can it bakkie?
Apparently so... The payload is rated at 1 tonne and the Renault Alaskan boasts a ground clearance of 230 mm. It can also tow up to 3.5 tonnes. The load bay has an anti-slip surface and has been given a UV-resistant and water-repellent finish. A 12V power supply and C-channels, as well as four quick-fit hooks make securing loads easy. The all-wheel drive configuration includes a 2-wheel (rear-wheel drive) mode, 4H and 4L. An electronic limited slip differential helps with traction, but if the going gets really challenging, the mechanical diff lock will help drivers to get their vehicles out of challenging off-road situations. Electronic aids include ABS with EBD, Hill Start Assist, as well as Hill Descent Control.
The Renault Alaskan is equipped with promising levels of creature comforts. The space inside is claimed to be quite generous and there are adjustable high-comfort seats that should make longer journeys more bearable with the benefit of extra lumbar support and heating functionality. The cabin boasts automatic air conditioning with dual-zone climate control as well as adjustable vents for rear passengers. Over and above cupholders there are numerous storage spaces, such as hidey-holes (for things like keys and phones) around the cabin.
The dashboard features a 5-inch TFT infotainment screen, keyless entry with push start, a multifunction steering wheel, Bluetooth connectivity as well as an MP3-compatible radio/CD audio system. Some markets will receive 7-inch touchscreen navigation as well as 360-degree visibility with 4 cameras (located in the front bumper, door mirrors and tailgate).
The Renault Alaskan comes with one more feature which is definitely worth a mention. Right now it looks like the Alaskan is destined for the South American market and Renault has partnered with a number of conversion companies to kit out the vehicle to suit customer needs. If you need an ambulance, cherry picker, tipper or tow-truck, the Renault Alaskan can be kitted out accordingly. Bakkie accessories such as bull bars and running boards will also be made available.
Given the fact that the new Navara NP300 (with which the Alaskan shares its platform) will be produced in South Africa, it is not inconceivable that Renault-Nissan partnership may consider assembling the newcomer on local soil (just as Ford Motor Company of South Africa did with the Mazda BT-50 in its Pretoria plant). Otherwise, RHD units will have to be imported from elsewhere, providing Renault South Africa can make a business case to introduce the Alaskan on local soil.
Fiat recently joined the local bakkie fray with its Fullback bakkie and it will be interesting to see if new double cabs (from brands not best associated with bakkie products) will have a significant impact on sales of popular models such as the Ford Ranger and Toyota Hilux.
The Renault Alaskan certainly looks the part and we think it would be a welcome addition to the South African bakkie market. Bring it, Renault!