Renault on Monday drew some of the veils from its eagerly-waited Laguna III model, a make-or-break car that needs to deliver a step-change in quality, reliability and profitability for the French car maker.
Significantly restyled, the new Laguna is part of Renault's Commitment 2009 plan, which aims to position the new model amongst the top three cars in its segment in terms of product service and quality.
Powering the new Laguna will be a range of petrol and diesel powerplants. A 2-litre 16-valve four cylinder petrol engine producing 103 kW ushers in the petrol range which is topped off with a 125 kW, 2-litre turbo motor. All engines in the Laguna are now mated to six-speed transmissions, either the manual or Proactive automatic versions.
With diesel cars making up more than 70% of new car sales in France, it is hardly surprising to find a range of cutting edge diesel powerplants in the new Laguna. The diesel range is made up of two swept capacities, a 1.5- and 2-litre, with four engine variants spread amongst them.
Both the 1.5- and 2-litre diesels are four cylinder turbocharged motors, offering highly competitive performance to economy coefficients. The 1.5 dCi engine produces 81 kW and consumes a miserly 5.1-litres per 100km's according to factory tested running cycles.
Three variants of the 2.0 dCi are available in outputs of 96-, 110- and 127 kW respectively. These range-topping powerplants all feature a low inertia, variable geometry turbo to combat lag, and ultra-fast glow plugs for effortless cold weather starting. Both the 2.0 dCi and 1.5 dCi diesels only need oil changes every 30 000 km's.
Continuing the more focused theme of the new Laguna is a host of chassis and suspension improvements. Specific focus was given to a design which would aid the general reduction of bodyroll while retaining a high level of ride comfort.
Both front and rear suspensions have been have been stiffened by 20- and 50% respectively, while the dampers have also been significantly retuned. Closer-ratio steering tops off the dynamic properties of the new Laguna chassis package.
Safety features have not been glossed over in the redesign either, with the latest generation ABS, ESP and EBA combining to ensure the Laguna has class leading braking performance.
Regarding passive safety, the double lateral airbags, which cover both thorax and pelvis areas, are a key new feature. Activated by a twin-chamber, dual pressure system, the airbags utilise a special algorithm to calculate their deployment in proportion to the force of the impact.
Comfort features on the new Laguna include park assist, a high capacity air-conditioning compressor and a one-touch control for folding the seats flat on the Estate version.
Aesthetically, the more assertive-looking Laguna rides on 16- or 18-inch alloy wheels, has chrome side windows and distinctive sills.