25 March 2008

Laguna gets the all-steer

Renault's big GT set to revive the gentle art of four-wheel steering

Renault Laguna GT

Like flares, fringes or foot and mouth disease, four-wheel steering is one of those fads that seems to dip in and out of fashion. Attempting to revive the gentle art of rear-wheel steering comes the Laguna GT - the high(er)-performance version of Renault's Mondeo rival.

Renault says that the GT's 'Active Drive chassis' with four-wheel steering makes the Laguna both more driveable and safer. Below 38mph, the front wheels can turn in the opposite direction to the rear wheels, meaning a tighter turning circle (10 per cent tighter, in fact) and easier manoeuvring into tight spots.

Above 38mph, the front and rear wheels can turn in the same direction, which helps to keep the tail from drifting wide on corners. Renault says the four-wheel steering improves the Laguna's road-handling without the need to stiffen the suspension, which would undermine the relaxed character of the car.

The GT isn't just about the trick steering, though. It's the hottest Laguna yet, with the choice of a turbocharged version of Renault's two-litre petrol unit developing 202bhp, or a 178bhp two-litre diesel. That's warm rather than genuinely hot, but we're still holding out for a Laguna Renaultsport. Maybe.

There are a few visual tweaks to demonstrate the GT's aggressive (OK, if not aggressive then at least mildly peeved): that front grille is deeper, with a pair of lateral air intakes, and if you look really closely you'll notice the smoked rear lights and twin tailpipes.

Inside the cabin, there's the usual array of performance jewellery: alcantara, aluminium and bolstered seats, as well as a liberal sprinkling of GT badges. All very nice, but still not quite the grrr-factor we were hoping for.

Still, it's a start. We'll see the Laguna GT in Geneva next week before it goes on sale in the UK this April.

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