Car Confessional: MK1 Renault Laguna
We all have guilty secrets. A few skeletons in the cupboard. Some embarrassing facts that are best left in the head. Nothing too sinister of course, just the kind of information that can taint an otherwise blemish-free record.
But guilty secrets within petrolhead circles, surely not? Well if PetrolBlog is anything to go by, the automotive world is rife with naughty pleasures that are best left in the closest. But just occasionally they need to be let out into the open. Step forward the Car Confessional. A problem shared is a problem greeted with universal mocking and hilarity.
The latest car to register on my radar is the original Renault Laguna. It’s fair to say that aside from the mid ’90s BTCC Laguna and the third generation coupé, I’ve never really paid much attention to it. It’s always been there, but rather like magnolia painted walls, it has always kind of blended into the background.
But a couple of weeks ago, something changed. I heard the distant rumbling of a V6 motor at speed. As my brain trawled through the possible exotics that might be about to pass me, the noise grew louder and more appealing. Then, in a green blur, there it was. A first generation Renault Laguna. A LAGUNA! I’d almost forgotten it came fitted with a 3.0-litre V6 engine in the first place.
But then big French cars with suitably big French motors have not necessarily been particularly exciting. French ministres délégués always preferred their chariots with slushy automatic ’boxes, mushy suspension and plushy leather seats. Remember the Laguna Baccara, Renault’s rival to the Ford Scorpio? Or a little further back, the Renault 25 Monaco? But like just about any other big French car from the 1980s and ’90s, the MK1 Laguna and in particular the 2.0-litre and 3.0-litre RTi models are just beginning to become appealing. Or maybe it’s just me?
Here’s my case for the defence. Originally, the V6 Laguna was offered solely with an automatic ’box. This therefore meant that the keen driver would opt for the 2.0-litre 16v Laguna which was surprisingly rather good. The 140bhp engine, although miserly by today’s standards, would propel the Laguna along at a pretty decent rate. A 0-60 time of a smidgen under ten seconds was nothing to get excited about, but of all the cars in its sector, the Laguna offered the best compromise. The ride quality was superb, the level of refinement could match its German rivals and when fully exploited, the Laguna could be a huge amount of fun.
It was ultimately let down by three things. Firstly, the original Laguna sold in huge numbers, particularly to fleet buyers, so there were quite a few about. Most of which were driven by sales reps. Secondly, it looked totally and utterly anonymous. Even the alloy wheels were an option. Thirdly, it wasn’t particularly cheap to run. Exploit the Laguna on your favourite B-road and you’d soon see the fuel economy drop to the low 20s. Ouch.
Never mind, there’s always in the 3.0-litre model to consider. By the late ’90s it had gained a manual gearbox, so at last it could offer something to those who find driving enjoyable, rather than a chore. In 1998 it would cost just over £18,500, that’s a mere £1,600 more than the 2.0-litre. Admittedly, Renault would still want extra for the alloy wheels, but at least you’d gain an extra 60bhp. And of course, you’d get the soundtrack of the V6 engine as you hurtled towards your next sales meeting. In fact, as the 3.0-litre didn’t need working so hard to get the best from it, fuel economy could be on a par with the 2.0-litre.
Neither cars were particularly good sellers. At its peak, there were fewer than 6,000 2.0-litre RTis on the roads of Britain. Today there are just a few hundred left and even fewer V6s. This would quite easily be a candidate for Bangerwatch as it won’t be long before the numbers are down to double figures. A quick search through the classifieds shows that you can pick up a very tidy and original 2.0-litre for less than £500. I found a one-owner car with full service history for £495. Spend a couple of hundred more and you can have the 3.0-litre. That’s if you can find one.
Today, the ‘hot’ Laguna has been largely forgotten, remembered solely for its front splitter, which can now be seen fitted retrospectively to Cavaliers, Clios, Corsas and Civics up an down the country. It’s no coincidence that there are more splitters listed on eBay than there are Laguna RTis. Nobody loves them and British buyers have always been a bit wary ageing French motors. But prices are so low, they must be worth a gamble? However, before buying one, you should compare car insurance groups as the 3.0-litre is in group 30! The 2.0-litre is five groups lower.
With my senses awakened by a chance encounter with a Laguna V6 in Northamptonshire, I’ve now added a couple to my eBay watch list. A confession too far? A lone voice in a sea of sensibility? You tell me.
Remember, if you want to share your own car confession, get in touch with us. A problem shared is a problem laughed at by the readers of PetrolBlog.