A two-pronged approach from Renault to the launch of its Laguna Coupe over the weekend. First, boss Carlos Ghosn turned up to the Cannes Film Festival driving one of the neatly styled two-door cars. Then at the nearby Monaco GP circuit, Renault lined up F1 test drivers Romain Grosjean and Lucas di Grassi to give selected hacks a lap in the new machine.
I hitched a lift with di Grassi, whom I last met in 2005, when I was reporting on Formula Three for Autosport. “God, that was a shit year,” he opined (subject closed, clearly), before gunning the Laguna away from the line in a spirited but pointless pursuit of Grosjean.
First impressions on the Laguna are much the same as those expressed by some of you after our online news story on Saturday – which is to say that its looks have remained admirably close to the concept's, and that it is a neater crack at a big coupe than the elongated Peugeot 407.
Behind the wheel, di Grassi showed the car little mercy. The 2.0-litre, turbocharged petrol model – the new diesel was deemed ‘too prototype’ to be given to a racing driver, apparently – felt rapid enough, roomy enough (although rear headroom does suffer from a bizarre step in the roof lining) and, in general, pretty composed. It’s definitely a little on the soft side, though, requiring a wobble or two to settle down after rapid direction changes. Is that a bad thing, though?
Even with the Laguna’s improved interior (which gets a machined aluminium flourish in the coupe) and reasonable practicality (the rear seats fold flat easily, opening up a long, if narrow load bay), this car’s dynamics were never going to produce a serious on-road rival for a BMW 3-series.
Instead, Renault appears to have gone for the archetypal big, relaxed, French coupe. And particularly with the new V6 diesel, I can see it making a pretty good fist of it.