Renault Laguna Coupe GT dci

French giant takes aim at VW Scirocco with stylish, refined new grand tourer. we try range-topping V6 diesel version

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The Laguna is a real looker and the exquisite interior is a delight. What’s more, the refined V6 diesel is not only perfectly suited to the kind of upmarket GT the Renault aspires to be, it returns nearly 40mpg on the combined cycle. But the ride lets the Coupé down – while it handles like a sports car, the newcomer is simply too firm for a big tourer. Add some softer dampers to the mix, and it could be brilliant.

It's the stunning sports car that proves style is still top of the agenda at Renault. This is the firm’s all-new flagship – the Laguna Coupé. The shapely machine caused a real stir when it debuted as a concept at the 2007 Frankfurt Motor Show.

It’s easy to see why, as this is the sleekest, curviest thing to come out of France since the  Sixties Alpine Renault A110. Bosses have set their sights on affordable but stylish coupé rivals such as the Volkswagen Scirocco. They want to prove looks and entertainment don’t have to come with a hefty price tag. That’s why the new Laguna Coupé range is expected to start at less than £20,000.

Although it hasn’t kept the concept’s exotic gullwing-style scissor doors, the Coupé has plenty of visual appeal. The wide grille, swept-back roofline and deep-set badge mark it out as something special.

Under the skin there will be a choice of three petrol engines and two diesels – a pair of 2.0-litre turbos and a 3.5 V6, plus a 2.0 dCi and a range-topping 3.0 V6 dCi. Of those, it’s likely that the oil-burners will be the strongest sellers. Climb inside, and the interior is much the same as that of the regular Laguna hatchback.

There’s all the comfort you would expect to find in an upmarket French coupé, too – the soft-touch dashboard and leather-trimmed steering wheel bring welcome luxury, and the Bose stereo is first-rate. While rear legroom is generous, the raked roofline compromises headroom, so anyone approaching six foot tall is likely to feel cramped.

To find out what the latest model is like on the road, we drove the top-of-the-range V6 dCi. Fire it up and it’s so quiet, you could struggle to identify it as a diesel. The smooth and refined unit thrums quietly, and even as the revs approach the red line there’s little noise. Squeeze the throttle and the engine’s 450Nm of torque propel the Coupé along with amazing mid-range gusto, so overtaking is a breeze. The oil-burning V6 is a great motor, ideal for long journeys.

Adding to the appeal, the Coupé is satisfying to drive. The low-down seating position, supportive chairs and small glass areas combine to create a cocoon-like environment. As for handling, the newcomer is agile when the pace picks up. Thanks to its sporty suspension and clever four-wheel-steering, you can take corners quickly with complete confidence. Feedback from all the wheels is strong, so understeer is easily identified and corrected.

Although the newcomer is precise, the steering itself doesn’t provide sufficient feel. And that’s the only thing to take the edge off the Laguna’s otherwise excellent responses. The sharp driving experience comes at a price, as the ride is harsh over bumps and renders the Coupé a bit too rigid to be a true grand tourer. Over long distances, that roughness soon proves wearing.

Still, this is outweighed by the excellent handling and that cabin, which has all the credentials of a GT. They are what make the latest Renault an ideal companion for long trips on smooth motorways.

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