Let’s remember some cars, shall we? Since 2015, Renault’s been building the Talisman sedan. In the current crossover-heavy market climate, it’s something of an outlier. The Talisman is a regular four-door sedan without an available hybrid variant, and it’s offered with both gasoline and diesel engines as well as with a choice of a manual or automatic gearbox instead of only being available with the latter transmission option. It’s a handsome car, not something that really stands out parked next to a newish Audi or VW Arteon, but the styling isn’t overwrought and the front end is recognizable. There is also a cavernous wagon version, which is always nice.
The Talisman replaced the Laguna at its introduction. The Renault Laguna, if you remember, was a 5-door Mondeo competitor manufactured over three generations, each suffering a somewhat worse reputation than the earlier one due to various quality issues. It was also up to the Talisman to take the Safrane’s place as a large Renault executive car, even if there was a 15-year gap after the Safrane ceased production in 2000. In that time, Renault offered the funky Vel Satis and Avantime MPVs in place of large sedans, neither of which were very successful. Every one of these predecessors have been offered with a hatchback or liftback body, but the Talisman was a return to sedan configuration, which was last seen in a bigger Renault back in the days of the R18, which in turn bowed in 1989. However, the Talisman’s side profile wouldn’t probably be much different if it had a large tailgate instead of a small trunklid. We’re not talking about a formal roof now, exactly. It’s not a (Renault) Eagle Premier.
Regarding the engine palette, surely a big Renault must have a V6 in the range topping models? Nope, that’s not the case with the Talisman. It’s all downsized four-bangers in the portfolio, all with forced induction. You can get a Talisman with 200hp, which matches the power output of ‘90s and ‘00s French sedans with V6 engines, but the engine in question is a 1.6-liter turbo: the smallest Talisman engine is in fact a 1.33-liter four which you can also find in smallish Mercedes-Benz models. The power output of 160hp corresponds to what you used to get from a 2.0-liter turbo engine a decade or two ago. In the diesel’s case, the smallest engine is a 1.5-liter dCi with just 110 horsepower, good for claimed fuel economy figures between 3 and 4 liters per 100km, or over 63MPG. But the gasoline engines also promise frugality unreachable for those aforementioned V6 sedans of yesteryear.
The reason behind the Talisman’s existence as a regular sedan goes back to Renault’s partnership with Samsung of South Korea. The Talisman is also sold as the Renault Samsung SM6, and it’s a continuation of Samsung’s sedan model lines dating back to when it sold a rebadged Nissan Maxima. Currently, you can find plenty of Samsung joint venture Renaults on the South Korean market. With the relative failure of the Vel Satis and Avantime, it makes sense for Renault to synchronize its larger cars with Samsung instead of attempting it on its own.
And instead of those luxury MPVs, the true predecessor to the Talisman was the Renault Latitude. It was effectively also a Samsung built using Renault bones and Nissan engines (including V6 ones), but unlike the Talisman it barely existed in the European market. It wasn’t widely sold and after shifting 10k units in Europe in 2011, sales in later years were counted in hundreds if not tens. In comparison, the Talisman has reached yearly European sales of over 30,000 units immediately after it went on sale, but it’s dropping fast, with just 8000 cars sold in 2020. And the estate variant must be doing the heavy lifting here, as only 3900 Talisman sedans were sold globally last year. Coincidentally that figure matches the global sales of the Nissan Skyline sedan, but unlike the Talisman, its sales didn’t halve for 2020 but went up a couple percent. It’s likely that the lack of a hybrid option is excluding the Talisman from a lot of considerations, and on some markets it’s no longer available as new.
Renault has announced the Talisman’s upcoming demise from the European market already last year, and for example the Finnish market didn’t get the 2020-onwards facelift version at all. The SM6 is likely to continue in South Korea, but it only makes sense. The Talisman has always jammed more to the K-pop beat than Johnny & Mary, it seems. In the future, European buyers will be directed to the Clio/Mégane-derived Arkana, which is a five-door crossover hatchback not too dissimilar in size to an earlier Laguna – just riding higher – and there will again be a large sedan missing from the Renault portfolio. And yes, the Arkana is available in Korea, where it is called the Renault Samsung XM3.
What, then, will be the Talisman’s legacy? They’re already getting cheap, as you can buy a barely used example that’s a couple years old for less than half what it cost new. Because of the pragmatic powertrain options and lack of V6, there is a very small chance that it will ever find an enthusiast crowd – it’s FWD without available AWD and the only obscure thing about it is available 4-wheel steering. How many hardcore Eagle Premier fans are there today? There’s no time enough for the Talisman to become old enough to be cherished – they will be driven to the ground as the buyer base slowly pivots to something else, something electrified as it can become cheaper to run than something using solely diesel or gasoline. I guess the time to grasp the Talisman is now, or a little later, when they are still new enough to solidly serve a purpose, cheap enough to undercut other options but not yet completely obsolete when it comes to maintenance and upkeep. Even right now, as it stands, it’s a fluke, a glitch in the matrix, a big Renault sedan in this day when the non-German choices point towards a Camry or a crossover.