Herald Sun - Motoring - - First Drive -

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.

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