French Triptych : 2.Gallic Quandary

Over the past twelve months or so I have become a regular visitor to, and an occasional contributor at Driven to Write. One of their founding editors has a theory that all modern Renaults have a built in life expectancy of a mere seven years. Just before they reach their 100th month they just become so much hassle to keep on the road you just give up and buy a new one on the hamster wheel they call PCP. Unquestionably there is more than a grain of truth to what I have christened “Herriott’s law”. I also have to admit that with a mere glimpse of a modern Renault on the road (an increasingly common and worrying sight) my heart sinks a little. When I see a Captur or Kadjar (what ridiculous names) it drops like a stone. Is this really what French cars have come to? That said at least they’ll be gone soon enough.

Twice recently I have had the pleasure of seeing the Renault Laguna coupe. In the flesh. Flippin hell, it still looks good. Especially the rear three quarter view. On the second occasion (after duly picking my jaw up from the pavement) a thought crossed my mind. Why does no-one else like it? At least that’s what it seems like to me. A quick consultation with Professor Google seems to back up my original thoughts. There are a few owners on a couple of forums and most of the reviews said it was very nice but….. It’s very very feckin nice, full stop.

Grey Renault Laguna coupe
It’s best angle.

Many factors have led the medium sized saloon from in it’s heyday being the most important car in a manufacturer’s portfolio to now in 2016 being little more than an also ran. For nigh on 20 years Renault have sold the Laguna (over 3 increasingly disappointing generations) in this cut-throat D segment. You could hardly blame Renault for this industry wide change in direction but this vehicle was certainly no standard bearer for the family saloon. However, something very surprising happened in the Summer of 2008.

Photos emerged. Photos of a coupe based on this soggy saloon that were surely just a glint of fool’s gold. Could it really look that good in the flesh? They will definitely tone it down for production, won’t they? It did and they didn’t and boy am I glad. I thought the biscuit had been well and truly taken ten years earlier when their compatriots in Peugeot (with more than a little help from Pininfarina) turned the 406 saloon into the svelte thing of beauty that was it’s coupe kin. Renault were surely going to give it a run for it’s money. Except they didn’t. The bosses at Boulogne-Billancourt did everything possible to make this car unappealing. Reliability continued in the vein you would expect from a car with the Laguna moniker. The interior does not inspire the same awe as it’s beautiful shell (I think it came straight from the saloon). For the last two years of it’s life it was only available with a steam  diesel engine. Can you f***ing believe it? Apologies for the strong language but a diesel in this sleek beauty? Despite these extremely effective efforts at disincentivising sales I hope against hope that this car is the exception to Herriott’s law. It would be great to occasionally have your day brightened by crossing paths with this French gem. Not that I ever want to buy one you understand.

Silver Peugeot 406 Coupe
Discreet, understated, Beautiful.

It got me thinking though. The Laguna probably turns more heads despite the 406 being the better looking car. There’s not much in it though. The 406 is also renowned for being expensive to keep on the road, yet it retains a much more loyal following. People don’t look at you strangely when you express how much you like how it looks either. If I had to choose of course I’d pick the 406 with the creamy V6. Wouldn’t I? The Laguna would be a constant little nagging thought though…. Would I be crazy to pick it?

 

Renault Laguna Coupe
Not too shabby from this angle either.

11 thoughts on “French Triptych : 2.Gallic Quandary”

  1. The Laguna coupe had 4ws. The reviewers noted the terrible ride. Renault never addressed this. Given the investment sunk in the car, this is baffling. I may have seen one in my entire life, making it rarer than an Avantime. Yet the role of the car was as an image builder – so why dis they abandon it? Apparently changing the wheels to 16s improved the ride hugely. Renault sold it for 3 years – that is not much commitment to a model strategy.

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    1. Yes, they did everything they could to make it less appealing. The 4ws escaped me, often these systems are praised but obviously it didn’t work here. I found one for sale in Dublin-a 150hp 2 litre diesel from 2009 asking just under 9k. I will look it up but I’m sure sales were just as poor as the avantimes. Real shame on both fronts.

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  2. Honda and Citroen also had some models with active and passive rear steering. Mitsubishi had all-wheel drive and 4ws on a Galant in the late 80s. It´s an idea that customers don´t take to and motoring writers never describe in very favourable terms. The contrarian in me would like to have 4ws on my car. I suppose another thing is that you can´t detect 4ws in anything except a back to back test of otherwise identical cars. It´s like tyres. Critical but nobody tests or cross-shops them because doing so is a massive, massive chore. “Okay, Stan those were the Michelins and Yokahamas…can I now try the All Weather Pirellis but I want to increase the sidewall and reduce the wheel size…. oh, it´s raining. I´ll have to wait until tomorrow.”
    Turning back to the Renault: Renault didn´t even spend any money after launch marketing the car. They invested gazillions in setting up the production and then skimped on, say, a few million to run a television campaign or saturate the news papers for a while. Or even the car magazines. There was some form of corporate deathwish cast over that car.

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    1. I remember reading about that Galant Richard and being intrigued. I’m pretty sure that I’ve never been in never mind driven a car with 4ws. Every now and again it seems to crop up somewhere unexpected and I seem to remember some testers being warily complimentary of it. It is a real pity they didn’t sort out the ride, put some decent engines in it and really push it. Bullets and feet spring to mind.

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      1. I think they only sold that for 12 months. Then it was a choice of 2, 4 pot diesels. Surely they should have had a v6 petrol alongside the turbo for the duration. There must have been people who baulked at the thought of an agricultural diesel in such a good looking car.

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