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Travel Torque: Dare to go live with Renault’s digital dealership

2017-02-14 18:03

Renault South Africa has just launched a Live Showroom, along with the impressive Kadjar XP Limited Edition. Travel Torque’s Melinda Ferguson takes the tour.

I land at Lanseria airport at 7.43am, red-eyed from a 4am wake up. It’s the third time I’ve flown from Cape Town to Joburg in seven days. The insipid coffee on board has done nothing to alleviate my air mile-induced catatonia. I’m up in Jozi to test the new Renault Kadjar XP Limited Edition, the French manufacturer’s latest filly in the hotly contested SUV and sportswagon segment, but I’m yawning as I stumble into the boardroom for the media briefing. The coffee on offer’s much perkier but nothing seems to be counteracting my narcoleptic meltdown.

However an announcement by Renault of the first interactive digital dealership in South Africa, a local automotive industry first, soon shakes me up. Currently there are 28.5 million internet users in South Africa, a mind-boggling figure that grows daily. Worldwide more than 40 000 Google searches are clicked each second, with bricks and mortar car dealerships increasingly gaining white elephant status. The internet is clearly the place to do business.

According to Renault, these days a prospective buyer spends about 13 hours on the net, searching for info when buying a new car, and about 70% of people say they are influenced by videos.

Seizing the opportunity to join the virtual bandwagon, Renault has recently launched an innovative Live Showroom with live audio and video feed, streamed from their Bruma showroom, at Renault’s head office. Prospective buyers will no longer be limited by dealership hours, and will now enjoy a live walk around the vehicle, mimicking a real life experience. Although current bandwidth limitations prevent a one-on-one conversation, buyers’ questions can be directed to the product expert, via a text box. To date there’ve already been more than 30 000 unique visits to the Live Showroom, which clearly shows that South Africans are ready to join this fast-growing world automotive trend.

By the time we stream live from Lanseria into the Renault showroom, for a virtual look at the new sexy Kadjar XP, like Katy Perry, I’m wide awake. It immediately feels like we are right there. The Kadjar XP (XP stands for Experience Points in gaming), is the sixth model in the impressive range, since its launch in April last year. Based on the entry level Expression six-speed manual, the XP’s been souped up to an all new adventurous level. The adventure pack has some impressive kit by way of 17-inch alloys, cornering fog lifts, side steps for practical in and out easy access and a set of sexy, easy-to-attach roof racks, to give the Kadjar XP an overall meaner and sportier vibe. The swan neck tow bar completes the look. The news that keeps me buzzing for the day is that all this kit, valued at R40 grand, comes totally free.

Along the route through Joburg and surrounds, I am reminded what a dream this vehicle is to drive. It’s no wonder the Kadjar has been shortlisted as a finalist in the hotly contested the South African Guild of Motoring Journalists’ Car of the Year, to be announced in March.

It’s French design in and out at its finest. The XP’s lively responsive 1:2 turbo engine feels much more powerful than the figures on paper, with 96 kW of power and 205 Nm torque. Press the eco button to minimize fuel usage, which comes in at a frugal 5.7 litres per 100kms.

Safety is supreme with ABS and emergency brake assist, plus it’s packed with hi-tech offerings like a nifty seven-inch screen and trendy LED colour choices. For the audio fundis, the multimedia system offers MP3 and USB, while Bluetooth comes standard.

The centre console is well organised and highly functional with a handy electronic brake. For both drivers and passengers, comfort reigns with plenty of seating and storage space.

Renault South Africa has had an excellent past year, one of its busiest yet, with the Duster Explorer and Clio selling great guns and the entry level Kwid, launched in November, totally selling out, far beyond expectation. I’ll be keen to see how the very worthy Kadjar performs in Car of The Year.

» The Kadjar XP Limited Edition is priced at R364 900 (Plus R40 000 free adventure pack. Stock is limited).

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May 21 2017