Concept nearly production-ready in terms of designA range of body-styles, plus 4x2 and 4x4 drivelines to featureNissan Navara NP300 side panels, roof and cabin layout to mostly carry over'Alaskan' name good chance to make productionRenault Australia gave input in the form of market researchGlobal launch May/June 2016, in Australia during 2017
The Renault Alaskan one-tonne dual-cab ute concept premiered earlier this month is “95 per cent” reflective of the design we’ll see on the 2016 production version, according the project’s design director Louis Morasse.
Morasse spoke with media including CarAdvice at Renault’s colossal design and R&D ‘Technocentre’ near Paris today, where we were among the first media to see the Alaskan concept in the flesh.
Strip away the Alaskan’s concept-style accoutrements such as the big wheels, fancy door handles, camera in the rear-view mirrors and the like and, voila, you have France’s rival for the Volkswagen Amarok.
As we know, the long-mooted Alaskan is Renault’s much-hyped foray into the booming global pick-up market — which accounts for five million global sales — and a natural extension beyond its strong light commercial van range. Renault has been Europe’s top light commercial brand for 17 years running.
The French/Japanese ute is based entirely on the Nissan Navara NP300 — remember, Renault and Nissan are globally intertwined and as such leverage each other’s strengths — and though the Alaskan will have entirely unique nose and tail designs as previewed by the concept, it will share much of the Nissan’s sheetmetal to save costs.
Expect the doors and roof to be Navara, as well all of the tub bar the outer skin of the tailgate.
Expect also for the cabin to have few changes save the inclusion of a Renault infotainment system (from its R-Link family). The concept we looked at today sported the Navara’s steering wheel, but fitted with a Renault badge. We suspect Renault’s team would have liked more free reign on the interior…
Renault is keeping quiet on all the tech specs, but we can draw a few conclusions. The Navara’s solid axle with coils will feature, while the ‘190dCi’ badges on the Alaskan concept indicate the 190hp (140kW/450Nm) 2.3-litre twin-turbo diesel engine from the Navara will carry over.
Lower grade versions will get the Navara/Renault Master’s 120kW/403Nm (or maybe 360Nm) unit too.
Furthermore, expect to see a large range of Alaskan body-styles to emerge in time beyond the dual-cab pictured, including 4x4 and 4x2, cab-chassis and pick-up body styles, and both two- and four-door cabin styles.
The Alaskan will be made at an Alliance plant in Spain, alongside the imminent Mercedes-Benz version based on the same Renault/Nissan architecture. But it could also run down Nissan's line in Thailand, potentially making it much more accessible in Australia.
As to whether the Alaskan name carries beyond the concept and onto the road car, Morasse would not confirm, though reading between the lines it would seem a reasonable assumption.
“[It’s a] really personal name. I feel strongly everybody who wants to drive a pick-up is dreaming about the US, Grand Canyon, Arizona… I’m deeply convinced. It’s a great name,” he said, mentioning South American markets specifically. Ironically, the Alaskan won’t be sold in Alaska (or the US more generally).
Renault is highly ambitious with the Alaskan. It’s all part of a grand plan which, in the French company’s own words, will see it “shifting up a gear with a view to taking Renault LCV [Light Commercial Vehicles] forward from being a top regional player to a top global player”.
In fact our market — an expected key country for the Alaskan given the vast popularity of utes locally — was consulted from the project’s get-go, with Renault Australia management providing data and feedback more than two years ago, at the project’s infancy. It’ll arrive locally in 2017.
Renault Australia managing director Justin Hocevar told us today that the company was hopeful of making a dent in Australia’s huge ute market, which makes up about 15 per cent of the total new vehicle market.
Expect the Alaskan (or whatever name it bears) to hit Renault’s Australian dealers — including its growing proliferation of Pro + commercial-oriented sites — in 2017, though exact details are a little vague. Expect some, but far from all, Alaskan variants to make it here in time.
“We don’t want to over-proliferate first up, we’ll focus on what sits well within our expertise,” Hocevar said.
"We already do well in ‘pure LCV’ but I think in Australia, expectations of a Euro-branded pick-up are something as a lifestyle vehicle and there’s strong interest in that.”
In other words, expect a few entry versions but also a flagship rival to the Amarok Highline and Ranger Wildtrak, meaning another one of the so-called ‘lifestyle utes’ that see typically see more of lighter duties such as weekend camping trips and ferrying kids than a dusty work site.
What do you think of the Alaskan? Do you like Renault’s design tweaks to the Navara? And would you consider a Renault ute over something more familiar? Tell us below.