They may not have captured our hearts when new but the unpleasantries of depreciation are now behind them. In this new series, we’ll highlight those undeserved underdogs warranting a closer look..

In 2010, Renault’s decision to introduce a V6-engined GT into a marketplace that was leaning towards SUVs and crossovers was an odd one. In Europe, the Laguna Coupé was conceived as an attention-getting shot in the arm for la Régie’s competent but somewhat bland midsize sedan. It met with mixed success. Being a heavy front-wheel-drive GT with a quirky steering system and a watered-down version of Nissan’s brawny 3,5-litre V6, its driving manners weren’t in line with its rakish looks.

Given the Laguna’s inability to register so much as a blip on buyers’ radars, not to mention the legacy of poor customer service and parts availability that stymied Renault’s ambitions of competitive market share in South Africa back then, it comes as little surprise the Coupé was similarly overlooked. If you’re wanting to break from the German crowd and are operating on a limited budget, that loss can be your gain...

Stunning shell

It’s fair to assume the ripple of excitement at the unveiling of the stunning Laguna Coupé Concept at the 2007 Frankfurt Motor Show was likely tempered with concern as to just how much of the svelte design would survive the wrath of the bean counters’ red pen.
 Thankfully, the production version remained largely true to the showcar’s shapely form, complete with an unashamedly Aston Martin-flavoured rear-end.

Beneath that curvaceous shell, the Coupé shares its Renault-Nissan Alliance-developed D-platform with its sedan relative; it’s a fairly spacious car with reasonable rear legroom and a usable boot. It copies the sedan’s rather sober interior fixtures but at least the build quality is of a good standard.

V6 va va voom

Unlike its German rivals – and likely an upshot of cost and platform restraints – the Coupé features a front-wheel drivetrain. In Europe, a choice of petrol and diesel units in four- and six-cylinder configurations were offered, but the SA market received only the 3,5-litre V6 petrol engine; a detuned version of the VQ35DE unit in the Nissan 350Z. 
Coupled with a smooth and somewhat languid six-speed torque-converter auto ‘box and with 175 kW and 330 N.m on tap, performance is brisk (0-100 km/h takes just 8,42 seconds).

What to watch out for

Reliability reports for the Coupé are uniformly good. The Nissan VQ35DE engine is a durable unit. It can be sensitive to quality of fuel, though. Lower-grade petrol will cause a build-up of ceramic dust, which can damage cylinders and piston rings. High fuel and oil consumption, along with low compression, are telltale signs. A good 5W-30 synthetic oil is recommended.

Electrical gremlins can affect the electronic parking brake and keyless-entry system, so be sure to check the starter and undertake a hill-parking manoeuvre on the test drive to ensure all is well, but these reports are few and far between. Also, keep an ear open for knocking from the rear; it could be worn rear axle bushes, both of which would have to be replaced. Otherwise, there’s little to worry about.

Availability

The Coupé was a short-lived member of Renault’s SA line-up, with a sales run spanning just two years. Consequently, the classifieds aren’t exactly brimming with examples. Given its niche appeal and likely second-car station among its well-heeled original owners (remember it cost nearly R500 000 when new), mileages are often quite low and overall condition of the cars on sale is pretty good across the board. Prices lie between the R100 000 and R190 000 mark, depending on model year and mileage.

Interesting fact

The Coupé was the first Renault on the SA market to ship as standard with the company’s 4Control four-wheel-steering system; the latest version of which does service in the Mégane RS and RS Cup. 4Control was co-developed by Renault Engineering and the company’s Renault Sport high-performance arm, and uses electronic actuators to synchronize rear-wheel orientation with the front. The setup features low- and high-speed presets determining the steering input from the rear axle. At speeds below 60 km/h, the rear wheels turn in the opposite direction to the fronts by up to 2,7 degrees. The manner in which 4Control amplifies steering output during low-speed manoeuvres takes a bit of getting used to but it handily tightens the Coupé’s turning circle. Above 
60 km/h, rear-wheel steering is 
limited to one degree, turning the rear wheels in the same direction as the fronts, improving stability at speed and going some way to address the understeer that sometimes afflicts powerful front-wheel-drive cars.  

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