Fleet News

Renault Vel Satis 3.0 V6 dCi Initiale - 15,223 miles

Renault

Review

MY old friends Kai and Corinna from Hamburg were coming to stay over the Easter break and I wanted to put the icing on their holiday cake by picking them up from the airport in something really special.

There was only one car on our test fleet which fitted the bill – the elegant Renault Vel Satis, the most expensive car we have on test at present.

This was my second drive in Renault's finest – I had heaped praise upon it some time ago after being stuck in a traffic jam on the M25 for five hours. It was a journey during which I had plenty of time to appreciate its superb cosseted luxury.

Our German friends were immediately impressed with the car. They hadn't seen one in the metal before and both said it was a damned sight better looking than it appeared in the adverts they had seen.

They were also amazed at the car's spaciousness. It doesn't look that big from the outside but open the boot – the handle is concealed in the large Renault diamond on the back – and its vast interior is revealed.

Kai was particularly impressed with the way the bootlid shuts – you just push your finger down on the top of it and an electric motor clicks the whole thing into place. With four people and luggage aboard, there was plenty of room to ensure a comfortable journey. There was none of this: 'Would you mind putting your seat forward?' business from the rear passengers.

As my partner and Corinna clacked away in German in the back, Kai and I discussed the finer points of the Vel Satis.

He, not surprisingly, is committed to BMW, Mercedes-Benz and the like but he had to grudgingly admit that this car leaves the German contenders standing when it comes to style and sheer panache.

And as we pushed on along the M11 back towards home, he was amazed to learn that the car had a diesel engine under its bonnet. It was so quiet and smooth that he assumed it was a petrol model.

I floored the throttle a couple of times just to show him that this car also accelerates quicker than some petrol cars – it's amazing how much power three litres will produce in diesel format.

And so for the next five days, the four of us cruised to various locations across Britain in sheer comfort, wafted along effortlessly and with a quality stereo to fill in the gaps in conversation (not many with the two girls aboard!)

As I handed the keys over to another tester I reflected that if I needed a car for this type of use all the time, the Vel Satis would have to be the choice.

However, it does have its downsides. The driving experience cannot compare with a BMW 5-series or Mercedes-Benz E-class. The power steering is far too light for starters, allowing no feedback whatsoever.

And if you want to drive fast round corners, you'll find the Vel Satis wallows around like a beached whale. Try anything fancy on the bends and you'll end up needing a change of underwear.

Renault would, of course, argue that most people don't drive like that – and I'd have to agree. After all, what this car does well, it does supremely well.

On the maintenance front, the bill for the first service mentioned in the last report came in at £135, pretty reasonable bearing in mind a technician picked the car up and left us with a replacement while the work was being done.

Also the windscreen was replaced after it was chipped by a flying stone. Autoglass carried out the work while the car was parked at the Fleet News offices with the cost of the replacement at £374.74.

Company car tax bill 2003/04 (40% taxpayer): £300 per month

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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