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Renault Laguna Coupe 2008 Road Test

Thu, 23 Oct 2008

The new Renault Laguna hatchback left some reviewers underwhelmed. Yet the Laguna Coupe has completely the opposite effect.

The shark’s mouth front that doesn’t quite work with the hatchback looks made for the coupe. It looks good from every angle: full on front, side, even the rear end has a sexy new interpretation of the Renault ‘bum’.

The car comes as a straight coupe with 150PS 2.0 litre diesel pr 205PS 2.0 petrol turbo engines and 6-speed manual boxes. The diesel can be ordered with a 6-speed autobox. In Europe there’s also an ultra low emission, low tax 150g/km CO2 175PS 2.0 diesel in non-GT coupe versions only.

But the more interesting version is the GT that incorporates Renault’s much lauded 4Control four-wheel steering chassis. The engine range for that is 180PS 2.0 litre diesel, 205PS 2.0 petrol turbo, both with manual 6-speeders; or a new chain-cam 235PS 3.0 litre V6 diesel, or a new belt-cam 240PS 3.5 litre V6 petrol, both with 6-speed autoboxes. When I tell you the V6 diesel develops 450Nm torque from just 1,500rpm compared to the 300Nm of the petrol, and that it comes in under 200g/km CO2, then you’d have to be a real petrolhead to plump for the 5PS more of the petrol.

As well as being beautiful to behold, the car can hold a lot of luggage. 423 litres with the back seats up, and a lot more with them down. Usefully they fold flat in one simple movement, leaving a load length of 1,800mm, putting some small stationwagons to shame. And there are indentations behind the rear wheelarches to give golfers the full width of the boot for their clubs.

In the press pack, Renault compares it to the BMW 3-Series coupe, making a point of the obvious price advantage. But it more directly competes against the often forgotten Peugeot 407 coupe, one of the quietest cars I have driven. However, the Laguna has stronger engines, especially the new, all conquering 235PS 3.0V6 diesel.

Though we briefly drove the 240PS petrol V6, the 235PS V6 diesel was the one we concentrated on.

Oddly, with the 6-speed autobox, it doesn’t feel at all diesel-like and, left to change gear itself (no paddleshifters), the 6-speed box masks the mammoth torque, while taking full advantage of it. You’re never left up the creek without a paddle as with some diesel automatics. The grunt is always there.

The sharp steering takes a bit of getting used to because it’s very light in town. But on the move, on serpentine Portuguese roads, initial understeer translates into klingon grip as the rear tyres steer and bite. This can actually lead you into bad habits because braking half way round a corner, or lifting off, tightens the car’s line very effectively, making the car both quick and safe. It’s actually at its slowest and least satisfying if you drive it conventionally: slow in, quick out of the corners. Then it can feel a bit stodgy and understeery.

It says a lot for Renault that a car based on a Laguna can hold its head up in the presence of a 3-Series Coupe or an Audi A5. I couldn’t feel or detect any difference in quality of fit, finish, ambiance, trim or paint. I could forgive a seemingly pointless piece of design where the centre console just vanishes under the dash without blending into it. But that’s the only hole I could pick.

While not ‘touch screen’, the high-grade optional satnav fitted to our car was quick, clear, accurate and didn’t miss a single turn, which is saying something because we really mucked it about doing drivepasts. Yet it still took us on our circular route through about eight waypoints without sending us up any dead ends or back alleys.

So, a great looking and thoroughly likeable car that does what a coupe should do: look stunning and perform satisfyingly.

Great new V6 diesel engine, too. Though I look forward to trying a 2.0 petrol turbo 205 with a 6 speed manual box on one of my favourite English roads.

For prices, specifications, engines, transmissions, dimensions and performance figures, please click the tabs

Manufacturer’s website: www.renault.co.uk

Special Dedicated micro-site www.laguna-coupe.com

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