The Renault brand was born in 1898 and from the first moments of its life, the company understood that motorsport sells cars. More than a century later, the company still relies on this principle, playing in the Formula One garden.
Fortunately, this is not just marketing - while most vehicles wearing the Renault badge fail to offer the slightest emotion to any helmet bearer, the creations handled by the Renaultsport are nothing short of four-wheeled controlled explosions.
Let’s take the Megane RS, for example. This is a hot hatch that can make fun of rivals with a much stiffer attitude (read Germans) at any time. But what if you want an interesting Renault that’s not necessarily aimed at being thrown at any corner that can be found on a certain route?
Well, let’s see! A quick dive into the French carmaker’s range brings one, and only one, answer: the Laguna... Coupe. But is this car capable of generating more than a few synapses in your brain? Before we move on to check for that, let’s take a look at it from the market placement point of view.
The Laguna Coupe is almost the only fish swimming in the non-premium European mid-size coupe segment. The BMW 3 Series and the Audi A5 come with a totally different approach, so only the Peugeot 407 Coupe or the new Hyundai Genesis Coupe could be called “competitors”. However, the first seems to be a bit outdated, while the latter is too fresh to be able to really have something to say.
Even Renault itself has neglected this segment for a long time. Pressing the “rewind” button, we have to go back to the eighties to find the vehicle’s spiritual ancestor: the Fuego. However, over the years the company prepared the public for the introduction of the model, with the appetizers taking the form of the 2004 Fluence Concept and the 2007 Laguna Coupe Concept.
So, has Renault packed enough heat in the Laguna Coupe? We chose to answer this question by inviting an example of the vehicle powered by the 180 hp 2.0-liter diesel (you’ll see why we chose to place the oil-burning part of the designation at the end) and fitted with the 4Control four-wheel-steering to become our test bride. Like any entity that is aware of its charms, she chose to bring her caprices along, dressing herself in black and wearing winter tires at the beginning of the summer...
Before we move on, we have to mention that, during our experience, we also got to play a little bit with a Laguna Coupe Monaco GP limited edition.
The French brought the word “coupe” to the world, so it’s only fair that they’re offering us such a bewildering creation. You can approach the Laguna Coupe from any angle and the elegant and dynamic styling cues will invade your retina.
Designers must’ve spent many nights in the effort to differentiate the vehicle’s front fascia from that of the sedan and estate. Just take a look at any fashion-related commercial and you’ll see a beautiful woman with a generously-sized mouth that captures all the attention in the world. The vehicle’s front end uses the same principle, at the same time offering one of the most elegant, and yet original, approaches on the market, with the entire front bumper being a large air scoop (however, a certain amount of it is faux).
The profile manages to escape the image of a forced coupe-ization, partly thanks to the wide hips, which remind us of a proper Grand Tourer. As a driver, you’ll notice them every time you take a look in one of the door mirrors. Open the doors and you'll enjoy a frameless design, as well as a bit of tech play: in order for the windows to fit behind the chassis's farme, they are automatically lowered and brought by up everytime you open/close the door.
It is now time to reach the most appealing part of the car, it’s sexy back. Many automotive enthusiasts consider the “bang for buck” factor when they acquire a vehicle, but what about the “eye-candy for the buck” ? Before we even move into this area, we have to mention that the shapes and curves make it obvious that some of the aforementioned designers might have been surfing the Aston Martin website when they penned this part of the vehicle.
However, you have to agree that an Aston owner will never even notice that there’s a Laguna which looks like his car, while customers will be more than thrilled to pay EUR30,000 for an Aston Martin. Renault probably though that if this technique woks for beautiful girls who cheat at exams it will probably work for the Laguna Coupe...
Anyway, the car might be forgiven not only thanks to its charm, but also because its design literally hides an intelligent structure. Let us explain: That gorgeous rear tail, which manages to harmoniously bring together a multitude of lines and be more than just the sum of its parts was made out of alloy in order for its complex shape to be translated into reality. Some of us didn’t know that but Lou Cheeka knocked on the panel and we instantly realized it.
You can’t but admire the integration of the rear parking sensors in the faux diffuser element - this is a detail that many automotive producers overlook and it can ruin the finesse of the design. And the attention to detail goes even further. The lines are so carefully drawn that the vehicle doesn’t need to have the ground clearance of a skateboard in order to look good, which means that you can take the beauty in so many places. But we’ll talk about that in the “Open Road” chapter.
The Coupe part of the vehicle’s designation cuts 62 mm (2.4 inches) off the Laguna’s wheelbase, but this doesn’t mean that the interior isn’t spacious. Of course, aside from this and the rear area, which has obviously been modified, the rest of the cabin has remain untouched. So, what does this blend of old and new bring?
Well, you open the door, notice the metallic door sill and climb in the leather-finished, heated (optional features) driver’s seat and find one of the best compromises in the world. Yes, the seat is comfortable enough for Grand Trips and at the same time manage to deal with the forces that appear when you scream “Go Throttle!”.
The pedals are surprisingly well positioned for the heel-and-toe maneuver and they hide pretty nice things. You see, the things hidden “underneath” each one of them manage to make you feel good in so many ways. But we have no time for that now, as we must move to the back.
This was easy, as our test car was fitted with electric power for sliding the front seats in order to allow access to the rear ones. Yes, seats - even though there is no driveshaft under the floor, the rear has two separated areas that can accommodate two adults even for longer trips. The only area that could use a bit of extra space is the one for the rear passengers' heads. The headroom in the back is excellent, but only if you’re not much taller than 1,80m and if the driver doesn’t get too up close and personal with hefty bumps.
The space in between can also be used by an adult, but only for short trips. It’s time to return to the front, as we’ve got plenty of things to analyze. First of all, the other connections between the driver and the machine: the steering wheel uses a sporty flat bottom design, but without any ergonomic disadvantages.
And speaking of ergonomics, the buttons, from the ones that control the optional Bose sound system our test car was fitted with, to the ones for the electric parking brake and climate control system, are well-placed and nice to play with. However, you don’t get the feeling of perfection that German automotive creations have accustomed us with.
Renault used a large amount of trimming for the dashboard, with the same metal-like plastic being chosen for the decorative elements of the steering wheel. As for the interior plastics, these are soft and don’t remind you of the fact that you’re in an entry-level coupe (financially speaking). One element that we didn’t like was the rather rectangular shape of the gearshifter’s knob, which would’ve made sense if the car had been fitted with an automatic transmission.
Once you’re on the move, you realize that the three rearwiew mirrors and the intelligent shape of the rear window bring the rear visibility to a level higher than expected, while the front one is really good, with the A-pillars doing everything they can to stay out of your sight.
The Monaco GP edition comes with a few touches that would brings extra points, such as the white contrasting stitching, which is used on multiple surfaces. One interesting example is the dashboard, which uses “sewn plastic” - this might be a bit forced, but it doesn’t feel bad when you touch it.
All in all, the Laguna Coupe’s cabin manages to blend a dynamic attitude with a fair amount of space (the impression is further accentuated by the lack of a beefy center console), thus pleasing both the wild and the casual sides of the occupants.
You’re driving a coupe with stunning design, so this means that around town you’ll regret taking the decision to get behind this car’s wheel, right? Wrong. The Laguna Coupe 4Control manages to play the urban game rather well, surprising its driver.
First of all, the engine offers all the grunt you need within the borders of a city. You’ll usually find yourself in third gear, which offers a good balance between acceleration and flexibility - second makes you feel that you’re really fast, but it comes to an end rather quickly, while fourth allows you to stretch things, but doesn’t quite give you the muscle you need to take advantage of a traffic gap that suddenly appears.
The four-wheel steering, which gives you a turning radius that’s about the same as a Clio’s, means that you can turn without the usual silliness that sports cars usually come with for this type of maneuvers.
As for the parking side of the deal, things are good as long as you order the optional front and rear parking sensors. Do that and you won’t feel that you’re trying to squeeze a cow inside a milk bottle. Don’t and you’ll experience the aforementioned feeling - the design of the rear end does leave a little room for visibility and the rear view mirrors are generously-sized, but without the sensors, you’ll have no idea where your rear bumper actually is.
Considering the fact that the car feels fast, the fuel consumption is pretty impressive: during our urban adventure, we were treated with a figure of around 23.5 mpg (10 liters per 100 km). Of course, if you treat the pedal on the right like a floor mat, you will convince the diesel unit to add a frightening value to that.
The spacious boot gives you the possibility to use the car for shopping trips. However, a tribute for that stunning rear end design has to be payed: the opening of the luggage compartment won’t allow you to move too fast when loading and unloading stuff.
As for the usual road flaws of the urban environment, these will be handed just fine thanks to the decent ground clearance and balanced suspension.
The Laguna Coupe isn’t intimidated at all by the urban environment, but if you really want to take advantage of the diesel powerplant’s resources and use the integral active steering’ potential, you have to let the car stretch its wheels on the open road.
Usually, a car offers either understeer or oversteer. Even four-wheel-drive vehicles manage to create a balance by oscillating between the two. However,the four-wheel-steering makes you feel like you’re experiencing both at the same time. Unfortunately, our test vehicle talked to the road using a set of winter tires, but even so, we managed to tackle bends at frightening speeds. It’s such a shame that the ESP
, which kept crawling back from the dead, preventing us from seeing how the car handles weight transfer in poor grip conditions
Where the system really excels it at explosive direction changes, where the car feels more nimble than certain vehicles fitted with intelligent AWD
systems. In fact, we recon that in terms of emergency lane changes, the Laguna Coupe plays at top sports car levels. We chose to use the "it rides like it's on rails" cliche in the image gallery rather than here in the text.
Now that we’re done throwing the car at corners, let’s see how it performs in a straighter line. Overtaking in fourth gear is a real pleasure, but you don’t necessarily have to downshift o perform such moves, as the 295 lb-ft (400 Nm) of torque and the gears themselves allow you to also do this in fifth gear. Of course, you could use a beefier engine, but you really can’t have one, as the both the diesel and the petrol V6 only come with a sluggish automatic gearbox.
The official figures show that the car can hit 62 mph (100 km/h) from a standing start in 8.5 seconds and can keep accelerating until 138 mph (222 km/h). In the real world, the vehicle feels a bit faster than that. This is because you don’t expect to be.
Start driving the Laguna Coupe really hard and, from the standing starts to the milisecondic gearshifts and Scandinavian flick attempts, you’ll feel that you don’t have a sports car under you, but rather an exquisite “normal” one. The same goes for the deceleration part, as the brakes offer you a lot of trust, but won’t be able to avoid fading forever.
And there’s one more thing. The 120 mm official ground clearance fueled our trust and thus we served the car several miles of gravel. We were thrilled by the way in which the suspension, which managed to keep things together during high speed bends, even though it didn’t impress, was able to cope with the rather rough road at speeds of up to 50 mph (80 km/h).
Take this car outside the city and you’ll be able to enjoy many things, from decent overtakes to amazing corners, Just don drive it all that hard, because you'll be disappointed.