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Renault Bows with New Laguna


 

 

It’s a measure of how important French manufacturer Renault is viewing the launch of third-generation Laguna mid-sized hatchback and wagon that CEO Carlos Ghosn was there to oversee the event.

 

In recent months he’s repeatedly said he wants it to be in the top three models in its class, as ranked by J.D. Power and the like. Renault has certainly made every effort, spending a billion Euros on research, development, and production infrastructure. Ghosn is confident, but the European D-segment where the Laguna competes is shrinking as buyers move to more versatile SUVs and minivans. It’s also the home of some very good cars, notably the Ford Mondeo and Vauxhall Vectra. And with a new Mazda6 debuting at this week’s Frankfurt Motor Show, the competition is only going to get tougher.

 

In terms of quality, the investment appears to have paid off. Sitting behind the wheel of the new Laguna, it seems well put together. The interior is smart and modern, and the materials used feel solid. One letdown is the infotainment controller, a mini-joystick knob between the front seats on higher trim levels that feels pretty flimsy.

 

The car is also very roomy in the front, but it’s not as big in the back as some rivals. Taller passengers will be fine for knee room, but the sloping roofline means head space is tight. Given that both the hatchback and Sport Tourer wagon are 3.5 inches longer that their predecessors, that’s a disappointment.

 

The Laguna is also impressive on the road. It rides very well, the steering is sharp and direct, and the body roll through the corners is well controlled. Given the new car is 80 percent and 50 percent stiffer at the front and back respectively, again it would seem Ghosn’s money has been well spent. The car is particularly refined at highway speeds, where tire and wind noise are kept to a minimum.

 

Dull looks

 

From launch in October there’s a range of 2.0-liter gas and diesel engines. The 150-hp dCi oil-burner is expected to be the big seller. Larger V-6 units will appear next year.

 

So as a cruiser for fleet drivers – one of the largest groups of customers for this and any other D-segment vehicle in Europe – the Laguna is a great proposition and has much to recommend it.

 

So to the bad news – it’s really dull to look at. This isn’t a vehicle that’s going to make a statement in the company car park. Arguably the outgoing model was actually more stylish, and with the new Mondeo winning praise for its looks and a Vectra replacement just around the corner – said to be visually stunning by those who’ve seen it – the Laguna already seems rather anonymous.

 

Mr Ghosn described the look as “classic and modern,” adding: “You will see avantgarde design from Renault again, but only in segments where people are asking for it. In the D-segment they are not asking for it. They want a reliable and robust car that will last, with competitive cost of ownership.” That’s fair enough and he’s right up to a point, but the Laguna’s key competitors seem to be finding rather more innovative and appealing ways of interpreting “classic and modern.”

 

Active steering on the way

 

A Coupe version of the Laguna is coming, and for it, Renault is promising a form of four-wheel steering system that will appear on production cars from next year. Patrice Ratti, program director for Renault’s larger cars, gave some early clues.

 

“It has two benefits,” he explained. “At high speed it increases stability and means you can perform extreme maneuvers like the elk test much faster and safer. It gives a very exhilarating drive. but only very good drivers will be able to notice it. Secondly, at low speed in the city, it gives extra maneuverability and it’s something every driver will be able to experience.”

 

The technology will debut on the eagerly anticipated Laguna Coupé, due late next year, before transferring to other models. But Active Drive could also pave the way to the first ever version of the Laguna to wear the performance flagship Renaultsport badge. So far, it’s been restricted to the Clio supermini and Mégane compact hatchback.

 

Commented on the chances of a Renaultsport Laguna, Ratti said: “We are thinking about it but we have not decided yet. The Active Drive chassis with four-wheel steering could be used as the base for the car. The question is which engine would we use, and do we have enough customers who would want the car. We will see with the launch of the standard Laguna and the Coupe at the end of next year. But I would like it.”

 


Related Articles

 

2007 Frankfurt Auto Show Coverage by TCC Team (9/4/2007)

 

Renault Wagons Up the Clio by Richard Yarrow (8/10/2007)
New estate coming to Frankfurt show.

 

Renault Wagons Up the Clio by Richard Yarrow (8/10/2007)
New estate coming to Frankfurt show.

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