Car reviews - Renault - Latitude - sedan range
12 Apr 2011
RENAULT has a new flagship in Australia courtesy of its South Korean partner Samsung, in the form the all-new Latitude.
Now on sale at $36,990 (or an introductory driveaway price of $40,990) for both automatic-equipped diesel and petrol versions, the large Latitude sedan range is topped by a Luxe variant priced at $42,490 plus on-road costs.
As such, the replacement for the fledgling French brand’s slow-selling Laguna will be a direct rival for Skoda’s large Superb sedan and Volkswagen’s mid-size Passat sedan, both of which open at $38,990, as well as popular Japanese mid-sizers like the Mazda6 and Honda Accord Euro.
However, the Latitude should also draw buyers from premium Japanese large cars like the Honda Accord (from $32,490) and Nissan Maxima (from $33,990), locally built family car stalwarts including the Holden Commodore, Ford Falcon and Toyota Aurion, and entry-level Europeans such as Citroen’s C5 (from $46,000 driveaway) and Volvo’s new S60 (from $51,950).
Renault says the Latitude is around $1000 better-specified than the Maxima at base level, by including standard features like satellite-navigation, parking sensors and heated front seats.
Despite keener pricing, all-new styling, a long standard equipment list and generous passenger and cargo space, the Latitude is not expected to be more significantly more popular than the third-generation X91 Laguna hatch.
Launched here with a mid-$40,000s starting price in June 2008 before it disappeared from showrooms last year with a base price $2000 higher than the Latitude's at 38,990, the MkIII Laguna (which was joined by the Laguna Estate in May 2009) attracted just 95 customers in 2009 and 180 last year – well short of Renault’s original forecast of 500 Lagunas a year.
Renault Australia expects the majority of the 200 or so annual sales it forecasts for the Latitude to go to the flagship Luxe, with an early dealer enquiry rate indicating a take-up of between 60 and 70 per cent, while the lack of a price premium for diesel models is expected to see oil-burners account for around 40 per cent of sales.
The Laguna’s 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines are replaced in the Latitude by a 133kW/235Nm 2.5-litre petrol V6, which returns combined fuel consumption of 9.7 litres per 100km, and a lusty 127kW/380Nm 2.0-litre turbo-diesel four that returns just 6.5L/100km.
Both engines will come with a six-speed automatic transmission as standard, but there will be no replacement for the discontinued Laguna Estate, which commanded a $3000 price premium over the five-door Laguna.
All Latitude models come with a host of standard safety features, including six airbags, electronic stability/traction control, ABS brakes, electronic brake-force distribution, emergency brake assist, automatic hazard light activation, five three-point seatbelts with pre-tensioners and load-limiters, anti-pinch power windows and cruise control with speed limiter.
The Latitude’s standard equipment list comprises black leather seats, steering wheel and gearshifter trim, a fully integrated satellite-navigation system, ‘3D Sound by Arkamys’ sound system, Bluetooth phone connectivity with audio streaming, a multimedia connection box and keyless entry with starting via a Renault Smart Card Key.
Also standard are front and rear parking sensors, automatic wipers and headlights, foglights, dual-zone climate-control with rear outlets, an automatic parking brake, body-coloured heated/power-folding door mirrors with integrated repeater lamps, chrome exterior trim and 17-inch wheels including a full-size spare.
Standard convenience features also extend to an electric height-adjustable driver’s seat with manual lumbar support, heated front seats, rear and rear-side window blinds, tinted windows, a height and reach-adjustable steering wheel, front and rear centre consoles with armrest and cup-holders, height and tilt-adjustable front head restraints, a 60/40-split folding rear seatback and an illuminated 9.6-litre glovebox.
In addition, buyers of the top-shelf Latitude Luxe also gain a reversing camera with integrated display, a premium Bose sound system, electric front passenger seat height adjustment, two-mode massage function and electric lumbar adjustment for the driver’s seat, driver’s seat memory, three-zone climate-control with toxicity sensor and active carbon filter, an air ioniser with fragrance diffuser, tyre-pressure monitoring, an electro-chromatic rearview mirror and a reversing function for the driver’s side mirror.
Claimed to add $7000 of extra value for a price premium of $5500 over the entry-level Latitude – and to offer a level of luxury that “would shame luxury vehicles more than twice its price” – the Luxe flagship is visually differentiated by 18-inch alloy wheels (again including a full-sized spare), a panoramic glass sunroof and bootlid spoiler.
First revealed at the Moscow motor show last August prior to its Australian debut at the Sydney motor show two months later, the Latitude is now being produced in South Korea by Renault Samsung Motors alongside the Koleos SUV and smaller Fluence.
The BMW 5 Series-sized sedan, which went on sale in Europe late last year, is based on the same platform as the Renault Espace people-mover and is sold as the third-generation Samsung SM5 in Korea. The previous SM5, which was based on the Nissan Maxima and continues on sale in Korea alongside the Latitude, is powered by Nissan’s 2.5-litre V6.
The Nissan-Renault Alliance says it undertook an “exhaustive and intensive endurance-testing program” for the all-new model, which rides on a 2762mm wheelbase and is precisely the same overall length as the Commodore at 4897mm.
While it also offers a voluminous 477-litre boot, the Latitude – which rides on MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension – is narrower and taller than Australia’s top-selling model at 1832mm wide and 1483mm high.
Renault makes much of the Latitude cabin’s spacious proportions, which are significantly larger than the 4801mm-long Laguna’s. There is also 2.4 litres of storage in the centre console.
“The new Renault Latitude brings to Australian family and executive car buyers a very well equipped, spacious, refined and luxurious sedan that is offered at a very appealing price point,” said Renault Australia managing director Justin Hocevar.
“We have studied the market and are confident that when shoppers consider what is on offer in the Renault Latitude they will quickly conclude that this is a car they will enjoy driving and enjoy being driven in.
“The reality of the driving environment in Australia is that cars such as the Latitude need to cosset, protect, entertain and connect their occupants. The vast array of features on offer in the Renault Latitude means that it is able to do all of these things.
“We are also continuing our theme of providing attainable cars with a pricing structure that does not solicit a premium for diesel, and offers a fully featured specification for both variants as standard.
“Furthermore, the Renault Latitude is an excellent example of the successful globalised integration of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, leveraging the strengths of all areas of the business for the best outcome for customers.
“The Renault Latitude is another facet of the resurgence of the brand in Australia, which continues to gather momentum driven by new product and new services for customers.”
Mr Hocevar said he did not expect the Latitude, which is built exclusively at Samsung's award-winning Busan plant, to raise concerns from customers because it is built Korea rather than France.
"I don't think so because we're no different to any other brand that manufactures cars all over the world," he said.
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