ON THE ROAD
AFULLY laden Laguna Privilege, at $50,690 without an optional sunroof — was a good way to see what Renault has done with its new flagship.
The interior has French flair — a far cry from plain, functional Japanese cabins — and a tall glasshouse provides an open feeling.
The standard features list includes dual front and rear side airbags and curtain airbags, automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers, front and rear fog lamps, cruise control, speed limiter, automatic handbrake, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshift, rear door sunblinds, dualzone filtered climate control, cloth upholstery and a single-CD MP3compatible CD sound system.
The sunroof didn’t deplete head- room too badly and, apart from the odd increments on the speedo (50 and 70, not 60 and 80), the instruments — including the informative centre screen between the dials — were easy to read.
Slicing through the remains of morning peak traffic, the diesel and the six-speed auto proved a smooth, quiet and well-teamed duo. Though not overloaded with torque, the 2-litre has a good mid-range and does its job without intruding on the cabin — launch drive figures were between 7-8 litres/100km despite some harder-driven stretches.
The suspension tune is the same as the European specification and is on the firm side, but feels nicely tied down and has less of the vagueness that plagued some of its forebears.
Perhaps the base-model 16-inch wheel/tyre package might soften the impact of smaller road imperfections that creep through the 17-inch wheels and tyres, but inconsistent tyre pressure on the launch vehicles might have affected this as well.
The new Laguna is noticeably improved but in the medium class— where the latest Mazda6 now sets the pace ahead of top-quality, goodlooking and capable machines from Europe— the competent and elegant French contender will get no free kicks.
Elegant solution: the Laguna dCi has plenty of
French flair and is a great improvement on former models.