Businesses that have to venture off-road from time to time, occasionally need light commercials with real 4×4 capability. More often though, all they really require is something with a bit more ground clearance and grip.
In response Renault is offering X-Track, as an option on Kangoo, Trafic and Master van models. Developed in conjunction with France’s Poclain Véhicules, it swaps the transmission's original differential for a limited slip diff, increases the ground clearance by approximately 30mm on Kangoo and Trafic, or 40mm on Master and fits a steel sump guard and all-weather tyres.
X-Track's launch follows the company's decision to equip most of its light commercials with Grip Xtend as standard. Derived from the Electronic Stability Control system, it equips the transmission with advanced traction control so that the van does not struggle when being driven on sand for example. X-Track takes that further though, if one driven wheel loses traction, then the limited slip diff instantly transfers up to a quarter of the available torque to the one that has the most grip.
Some customers genuinely cannot do without full four-wheel-drive of course. To meet their requirements Renault has also developed a full-on 4×4 Master in co-operation with specialist converter Oberaigner.
Four-wheel-drive is selectable, all you do is press a button. If the conditions get really challenging then you can hit another button and engage a low-ratio set of gears. Four-wheel-drive can be chosen when you are at a standstill, or at speeds of up to 15mph. The low-range gears can only be engaged and disengaged when stationary.
Master's ground clearance has been boosted by 65mm at the front and 58mm at the back, falling to 45mm if you specify twin rear wheels. A lockable rear diff is optional. The steel under-body shield and sump guard are all present and correct and the Master rides on all-weather tyres.
Produced at both 3.5 and 4.5 tonnes and with either a 3,682mm or 4,332mm wheelbase, the 4×4 Master is marketed as a van, a chassis cab and as a chassis double-cab. Beneath the bonnet you will find the 2.3-litre dCi diesel at 125hp, 135hp or 165hp, married to a six-speed manual gearbox.
We drove the X-Track models on a 4×4 course in Spain, where they were all able to tackle the rough, modestly-rutted surfaces and could scuttle up some surprisingly acute inclines if the driver remained in low gear with their foot hard down on the accelerator pedal. Although the Kangoo X-Track in particular sometimes looked as though it was about to give up, perseverance kept the little van going until it finally wriggled over the crests of a number of steep slopes.
The course was however dry as the proverbial bone, our progress was accompanied by clouds of dust as a consequence and the vehicles were all un-laden. We would prefer to see them with some weight in the back and trying to plough through some good old British mud before we pass final judgement.
We sampled the off-roading Master too, again unladen but over a more-severe section of the course. In this case we suspect that precious little would stop what appears to be a highly-capable piece of kit.
With four-wheel-drive engaged and occasional use of the low-ratio gears, the 4×4 Master rumbled along deeply-rutted tracks and headed down some truly stomach-churning inclines without missing a beat. A healthy dose of engine braking ensured the rate of descent was kept in check.
We sampled the 165hp, model which produces enough torque to enable the vehicle to trickle slowly over obstacles without any need to resort to the accelerator pedal.
The X-Tracks and the 4×4 Master will be on sale through Renault dealers in the early autumn. Prices will be announced later this year.