Four-wheel steer adds appeal, but it's pricey next to equally dynamic competition
9 April 2008

What is it?

The flagship of the Laguna range – and the first Renault to feature four-wheel steering. The GT is available with either petrol or diesel engines, and as either a hatch or an estate.

Four wheel steering isn’t new, cars like the Honda Prelude and Nissan Skyline GT-R having used the technology in the past. Now it goes under the name of Active Drive, Renault claiming that 4WS brings safety benefits in difficult braking conditions and high-speed avoidance manoeuvres – and that it also makes the Laguna more agile and sharpens its reactions.

GT trim also features firmer spring and damper settings to the standard car, and it is visually distinguished by a more aggressively styled front bumper, black framed lights, new allows and twin exhausts. The interior gets sports seats and drilled pedals.

Buyers can choose between either a 178bhp 2.0-litre dci diesel or the 203bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine that was used in the previous Laguna GT, effectively a slightly downtuned version of the motor used in the RenaultSport Megane.

What’s it like?

At first, really quite strange. With now only 2.2 turns the steering is very quick, with most turns requiring no more than a quarter turn of lock. The steering response is dependent on both speed and load and the rear wheels, turned by electric actuators, turn in both the opposite and the same direction as the front wheels.

Up to 38mph the rear wheels counter-steer, decreasing the turning circle by 10 per cent and reducing steering effort. Above 38mph the rear wheels turn in the same direction as the front, counteracting the centrifugal forces that act on the rear of the car during high-speed cornering.

We don’t doubt the safety benefits, and around town Active Drive certainly makes the car more manoeuvrable. Similarly, once you’ve become accustomed to it, the GT’s keener turn-in is a real boon on faster roads and through sweeping corners, where the GT feels more stable and more planted than the slightly stodgy-feeling standard Laguna.

So it’s certainly more agile, but what about being more intuitive? In this respect, Active Drive is less convincing, while the steering is accurate it provides no extra feedback over the standard setup and yet, because it is quicker, the response speed dependent and the corner speeds higher, you actually require more feel.

The retuned chassis is better damped that the standard Laguna, although it feels a bit too firm for rougher British roads. The petrol engine is effective if a little joyless in its delivery, with none of the aural interest found in its more potent applications – it’s hard not to conclude that in a car like this the punchy, economical diesel is the better choice.

Should I buy one?

For those wanting a reasonably quick, subtle and yet practical tool the GT is worth a look, the Active Drive system is beneficial in many respects. But it still feels pricey for a car in this segment, especially considering how dynamically talented many of its rivals manage to be without the clever avionics.

Jamie Corstorphine

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