Friday, 29 July 2011

Forbidden Fruit: Renault Laguna coupé

In terms of automotive design, the Renault Laguna coupé has to be one of my favourite current designs this side of AU$100K. At the front you have an imposing grille, dressed in delicate slashes of chrome, hinting a powerful engine lurks beneath. The long rakish bonnet flows back elegantly in typical GT car fashion, the roofline continuing seamlessly to the boot lid spoiler, which happens to echo that of a certain British sports car. The Laguna coupé is genuinely sexy in comparison to its dowdy looking siblings, and potentially one of the sexiest vehicles Renault has ever had on offer.

While majority of the production model mirrors the beautiful concept first displayed at Frankfurt in 2007, there have been a few typical concept-to-production changes. Gone are the LED headlights. Gone are the scissor doors. Sadly, the glamorous 21-inch alloys have departed as well, and we’re left with a rather average looking set of 18-inch wheels that leave those arches looking a little hungry for more. Also, there is now a gap between the headlights that makes the car look as if the bonnet is not properly shut. While these minor differences are a little disappointing, the large GT coupe still has an amazing presence.

One of the best features in the Laguna coupe is ‘4Control’ steering. The four-wheel steering system allows the large coupé to change direction quickly and easily at speed, while tightening its turning circle at lower speeds. Four-wheel steering has been around before, being incredibly popular among mid-size Japanese coupés in the early 90’s, but the Renault’s system is more high-tech.

The engine line-up includes the usual array of four-cylinder turbo petrol and diesel power plants. But the engines I’m more interested in are the two big sixes - a Nissan-sourced 3.5-litre V6 we remember from the 350Z, and a 3.0-litre turbo diesel. The petrol unit has been detuned for the front-wheel drive chassis, producing 177kW and 330Nm, while the diesel puts out 175kW and a mighty 450Nm of torque. The power is sent to the ground via a six-speed auto and both manage 0-100km/h in about 7 seconds. While those figures are by no means sluggish, you can’t help but want more from the svelte coupé. Perhaps the original 228kW/363Nm output from the 350Z V6, channeled to the rear wheels via a slick shifting six-speed manual. Tuned by Renault Sport, of course. Pretty please?

Unfortunately, to the disappointment of all Renault fans in Australia, the Laguna coupé is not coming our way. The failure of the hatch and estate variants and the repositioning of the brand in the local market have caused Renault Australia to axe any plans on bringing the coupé here (for now, let’s hope). If it wants to survive in Australia, Renault has to build sales numbers and improve its image here. The only way that seems to be possible is by marketing cheap and bland, if competitively priced vehicles like the Latitude. If that will someday allow for cars like the Laguna coupé to make their way here, I’m all for it.


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