Gotcha: French se­crets ex­posed

New French cars are do­ing it tough Down Un­der, writes PAULGOVER

Herald Sun - Motoring - - News -

THE hot weather and tough roads of North Queens­land are be­ing used to tor­ture test two fu­ture mem­bers of the Re­nault range. The top-se­cret pro­to­types were seen in Townsville this week as they com­pleted a Down Un­der dura­bil­ity trial, part of a reg­u­lar test pro­gram in Aus­tralia for all the French car­maker’s new mod­els.

The cars were heav­ily dis­guised. All badges had been re­moved and false pan­els cov­ered noses and tails, but they were the La­guna Coupe and the suc­ces­sor to the cur­rent Me­gane hatch­back.

The two-door La­guna is ex­pected to break cover next month at the Monaco For­mula One Grand Prix but the Me­gane will not be ready for show­rooms un­til late next year.

The de­lay on lo­cal de­liv­er­ies will prob­a­bly be 12 to 18 months for both cars.

Re­nault Aus­tralia re­fused to con­firm the iden­tity of the cars, or even any in­volve­ment in a pro­gram with the Me­gane and La­guna Coupe, but their es­cort was a give­away.

They were pic­tured leav­ing a Townsville mo­tel af­ter an overnight stop with the latest Re­nault Koleos four-wheel drive, undis­guised, car­ry­ing the sup­port crew for the French en­gi­neer­ing team.

‘‘We do not dis­cuss fu­ture prod­ucts,’’ Re­nault Aus­tralia spokesman Craig Smith says.

But he ad­mits Re­nault is us­ing Aus­tralia to

test its fu­ture mod­els, for fi­nal cer­ti­fi­ca­tion and ad­vanced en­gi­neer­ing on hand-built pro­to­types.

‘‘Ev­ery prod­uct we bring out in Aus­tralia from now on will have an el­e­ment of lo­cal test­ing,’’ he says. ‘‘The new La­guna did about 30,000km of test­ing in Aus­tralia be­fore it was launched in Europe.’’

The five-door La­guna hatch will be in show­rooms here in June, first with a diesel en­gine as the com­pany’s lo­cal flag­ship.

It will be fol­lowed sev­eral months later by a petrol-en­gined model. The La­guna Es­tate wagon will go on sale in Septem­ber.

Test­ing of the La­guna Coupe is part of the car’s dura­bil­ity cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, which in­cludes hot-weather run­ning and tri­als on rough-road con­di­tions with cars built on the reg­u­lar pro­duc­tion line in the build-up to full ca­pac­ity.

The Me­gane will prob­a­bly be an en­gi­neer­ing pro­to­type, hand-built and un­der­go­ing much more fun­da­men­tal test work.

The car is at least 12 months from its Euro­pean de­but, though it could break cover at the Paris Mo­tor Show in Oc­to­ber.

Smith was more open about the Koleos, which Re­nault Aus­tralia will in­tro­duce to the Aus­tralian mo­tor­ing press in Morocco next month.

‘‘The Koleos will be on sale here in Septem­ber,’’ he says. ‘‘It will be avail­able in petrol and diesel, start­ing at just over $30,000.’’

The great cover-up:

(from left) the heav­ily dis­guised new Re­nault Me­gane hatch, the La­guna coupe, and the Koleos four-wheel drive.

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