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[Behind the Wheel] Renault Samsung’s SM6 returns with more power

Renault Samsung’s face-lifted SM6 (Renault Samsung Motors)
Renault Samsung’s face-lifted SM6 (Renault Samsung Motors)

INJE, Gangwon Province -- There are no remarkable changes to the exterior, but the revamped version of the Renault Samsung Motors flagship midsized sedan SM6 does appear to have been “reborn with a new heart,” as the automaker describes it.

Ambitiously presenting the face-lifted model of the SM6 last week, Renault Samsung Motors invited reporters to the Inje Speedium, a 3.91-kilometer circuit in Gangwon Province, on July 16 to test-drive the car on the track and nearby winding roads in the mountainous province.

One would wonder why the automaker organized the test drive of its family sedan on a speed track, where it would likely be put to its limits. But driving the vehicle, the intention was well understood, as the reporter was able to feel the new powertrain and rear suspension the new SM6 has adopted.

The new SM6 comes in two new gasoline turbo engines: TCe 300 and TCe 260. The TCe260 with a 1.3-liter gasoline engine was jointly developed with Daimler, and is also used in the Mercedes-Benz A180, A200 and CLA models. This model exerts up to 26.5 kilogram-meters of torque and 156 horsepower.

Taking the wheel for 60.6 kilometers around the Inje Speedium, the reporter was able to experience the performance offering stable turns on the narrow, two-lane winding road. It was a little uneasy with the roaring sound of the engine on a steep hill. 

Renault Samsung’s face-lifted SM6 (Renault Samsung Motors)
Renault Samsung’s face-lifted SM6 (Renault Samsung Motors)

The improved driver-assistance system was not bad, featuring the adaptive cruise control and lane-centering assist. But driving down twisting roads, the ADAS system appeared to have a little more room for improvement, to become bolder in turning the steering wheel and alarm.

Reflecting customer demand, the carmaker explained it adopted a modular valve system in the front and rear dampers to reduce road vibration to offer a smoother riding experience.

On the speed track, the reporter drove the TCe300 model, with a 1.8-liter gasoline engine exerting a maximum torque of 30.6 kilogram-meters and 226 horsepower.

It may be unusual to think of the sedan as a circuit racer, but the automobile managed a good throttle response to offer thrilling laps around the circuit, fast enough to up the speed to around 190 kilometers per hour on the short straightaway.

There were many sharp curves to challenge the car, but it managed to withstand the speed and was quite stable.

The synthesized engine sound, which the automaker explained has been improved, added fun to the driving.

While the carmaker has considered introducing a four-wheel steering system to the model for Korean customers -- as available in models distributed in other countries -- the company said it has left that option out for this year’s face-lift. In a test survey, Koreans were seen not to be drawn to four-wheelers, citing less comfort.

The new SM6 has many new features that the previous model and rivals such as Hyundai Motor’s Sonata and Kia Motors’ K5 do not have. Renault Samsung introduced the LED Matrix vision, an intelligent adaptive lighting system with 18 LEDs on each side that shoot a high beam far out and automatically adjust the light to avoid dazzling on-coming drivers. 

Renault Samsung’s face-lifted SM6 (Renault Samsung Motors)
Renault Samsung’s face-lifted SM6 (Renault Samsung Motors)

For the revamp, Renault Samsung said it spent 230 billion won ($192 million), and 3 1/2 years for its development. The automaker said it conducted numerous surveys to receive opinions from customers and tried to reflect as many as they could.

Renault Technology Korea chief Kwon Sang-soon explained that the company has taken in hundreds of thousands of customer feedback in the past four years since the first model was launched in 2016.

“We had our hopes up for the original SM6, similar to the model in Europe, but the Korean market was different,” Kwon said during the test-drive event, describing the initial hype for the original model did not last long.

“In the past four years, we have really sought to develop a car that can meet the Korean costumer tastes.”

The first SM6 was introduced here in 2016, and is distributed under the name Talisman in other countries.

The price of the new SM6 TCe260 begins from 24.5 million won for the lowest SE trim up to the Premiere trim at 32.65 million won. For the SM6 TCe300, the price starts at 30.7 million won for the lowest LE trim, and goes up to 34.2 million won for the highest trim of Premiere.

By Jo He-rim (
Korea Herald Youtube