Sighting and Seeing

A Laguna Coupé ought to be both a rare and welcome sighting. But it doesn’t do to look too closely. 

Image: the author

The Renault Laguna, especially in its third and final iteration was a popular car in Ireland. Not popular in Passat or Avensis terms, but sold in quite respectable numbers nonetheless, notwithstanding Irish motorists’ long-standing distrust of the larger offerings from our esteemed French neighbours.

This was all the more surprising really, given the frightful reputation its immediate predecessor earned over its lifespan – riddled as it was by electronic gremlins which cost the carmaker dear, both in market share and in warranty costs. But then, Renault’s Irish importers were (perhaps through grim necessity) somewhat generous when it came to sales incentives.

Unlike the handsome second generation model however, the third iteration Laguna was no ravishing beauty, although in its defence, and with the benefit of more than a decade’s reflection, it wasn’t really all that bad. At the time however, it did appear as though both ends of the car were styled by competing teams – in separate isolation chambers.

Longer and wider than the outgoing car, yet the Laguna III looked smaller, less substantial and perhaps, a little wilfully ‘Gallic‘. One struggles to discern the hand of Patrick le Quément in its creation, although he was still nominally in overall charge when it was created.

(c) AUTO-IAA

Whatever the background to the Laguna III’s gestation however, there was one relatively bright spot amidst the visual discord – the 2008 Laguna Coupé, Renault’s first large (ish) saloon-based GT since the cancellation of the Fuego in 1984. And it is this to which I would direct your attention today.

Firstly, I should apologise for both the quality and setting of the single photograph, taken back in April amidst the height of the pandemic-related restrictions (our tourist-town locale was eerily quiet at the time), but with two dogs in tow, both with wildly differing views as to where their noses ought to be pressed, getting even this singular image (in focus) proved something of an achievement.

The Laguna Coupé was a rare car in any context, but in the Irish one, it really does fall into the unicorn category. Certainly, by the tail end of the noughties, coupé man, and in this case, Irish coupé-man was a dying breed – certainly amongst those who were not purchasing something with a three pointed star, four rings of Ingolstadt or Munich roundel on its nose instead.

It takes a certain commitment, a devil-may-care nonchalance to take the sort of fiscal hit a car like this would entail, but I applaud its owner, not only for his taste (for it is broadly speaking, a handsome looking machine), but also for the (anti?)statement he is undoubtedly making.

The author.

However, there is one fly in the ointment, well two if you include the frontal aspect, which not only aped that of the saloon, but shared its visual gawkiness. What I allude to, (and for those of you who are horrified by shutline crimes, I would suggest you look away now), is the awkward confluence of bootlid, rear three quarter light and the rather poorly finished bright strip which surrounds it. The obvious join between the upper and lower brightwork may have been necessary (although it screams beancounters), but the positioning of the boot shutlines in relation really does jump out at one.

I’m certain there is a plausible production engineering rationale as why this had to be as is, but once seen, it’s terribly difficult to ignore. Of course I realise every car that enters large scale production is a series of workarounds and cost-related expediencies – this particular instance being just one of the more obvious examples. Sometimes, it’s best not to look too closely.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

15 thoughts on “Sighting and Seeing”

  1. Good morning Eóin. My goodness, your little corner of the world does contain some interesting cars to spot, certainly more so than mine. Despite my well documented shut-line zealotry, I think you might be judging the Laguna coupé a little harshly. Other photos online show the shut-lines in a rather better light (if somewhat reminiscent of the X351 XJ, weirdly!) I wonder if the boot lid on your example is sitting a bit low and needs adjustment?

    What is absolutely unforgivable on the Laguna, however, is the wilful misalignment of the front and rear door handles on the five-door model. Even today, it still looks mad!

    Imgur is playing up at present, but I’ll add some photos to this comment later, to illustrate both points.

    Speaking of car spotting, the decrepit Porsche 928 I featured as a Photo for Sunday a few months ago hasn’t moved since and might now be at risk: this morning, I saw a notice on its windscreen asking for it to be moved, as it’s occupying a parking space belonging to shop behind which it’s parked.

  2. I’ve always harboured a soft spot for this particular coupé; though he hastens to add usually from afar. I don’t believe to ever having scrutinised one but on the whole, the car is pleasing to me. Devil in the details (perhaps a Mack applied pinstripe could help?) and all that and I begin to see your point, Eóin.

    Jolly well done on controlling two dogs whilst photographing this rare beast, by the way. Canines frequently refuse to understand that sometime we have to stop to attend to our needs, not theirs. A call of “obsessive human nature.”

  3. A more representative (flattering?) view of those shutlines:

    But these door handles, and the weird feature line that connects them:

    1. Those saloon rear lights somehow remind me of this man

      The coupe is ugly, but not half as ugly as the Peugeot 407 coupe.

    2. There’s an obvious alternative shut line smoothly linking the bottom of the side and rear windows; perhaps the hinges might use the space at the top corners?

      This generation may have well not been imported to Australia despite the previous one being quite successful. The coupe certainly wasn’t, so I’ve never seen one. The back end has some Aston influence to my eye.

  4. The Laguna III was signed off sporting a frontal aspect far closer to the Fluence concept car (which served as a more direct source of inspiration for the Coupé). This was changed when Carlos Ghosn took over from Louis Schweizer as Renault CEO.

  5. Any modern A-pillar post with a shutline making the pillar look broken. I can’t unsee this, because it actually weakens the design from a visual standpoint. Don’t they know that?

  6. Non, non, non, je vous assure qu’elle est moche !
    Son nez tout plat, ses coté fades, son cul de canard … berk
    Oubliez la, elle ne merite pas mieux

    Google translate :

    No, no, no, I assure you she is ugly!
    His flat nose, his bland sides, his duck ass … yuck
    Forget her, she don’t deserve better

  7. The unholy mess that is Laguna 3 has more genetic mess-ups than most.
    The Coupé front was foisted on the berline and the Estate. Courtesy of Carlos, or maybe Voldemort. We don’t mention either.
    The Fluence face was there for a while, but thanks to CG it didn’t stay. As far as I remember, the exterior of the berline was the work of Alejandro Mesonero who was promoted and the job fell to Nicolas Jardin, who had designed the Fluence to follow the project. The Coupé was the work of Thomas Bigwood. The Estate escapes me.. Some chap or other was reponsible for designing the interior before he fell foul of internal politics despite having had his project selected for production and the job was mistreated by others until Dominique Marzolf added it to his repertoire of saved projects.
    Laguna 3 was the career breaker par excellence, a project that was akin to the plague. PLQ was not entirely at fault here, despite having still been the boss.

    1. Thanks for the clarifications Rob. It’s good to know the names behind the designs.

  8. Well, I like it and always have. True, the details don’t do it any favours, but just as Richard nearly (but didn’t) put me off the Xantia because of that panel in front of the wing mirrors, this commentary, though fair, won’t put me off what I have always thought elegantly sporting – even with that grille. Car did not like the suspension set up, probably with good reason, but it’s pleasingly gallic, has nice surfacing, and always a pleasure to behold on the road. And the interior, with the marquetry wood infills, was lovely too.

    In a somewhat biased fashion, I would say similar things about the C6, the whole makes up for some of the parts.

  9. Purely by chance, I had a sighting of one of those rare Irish Laguna coupés just the day before this article appeared. White, and looked quite well in it. I more usually see them ( or maybe it, as it’s probably the one Éoin spotted in that tourist friendly small town which isn’t far from me) in grey.

  10. Hi Eoin,

    I’ve always liked that rear shutline ! I think it’s part of the charm of the car and it makes the rear area look less boring than it could’ve been. It was obviously influenced by the Fluence concept-car’s rear shutline but it was perhaps better executed on the concept-car.

    The front headlights of the Laguna III were possibly one of the mot decried design detail at the time. Along with its sad rear lights. Those front headlights received a lot of critisicism for looking awkward and just plain strange. It probably had a lot to do with the weird intrusion of the front wing’s sheet metal into the headlights themselves.

    The Laguna III was also the butt of the joke on many french car forums because a member of the Renault team said, a few months before the car was unveiled, that the upcoming car will be ‘breathtakingly beautiful’ or something along those lines. And then the car came out and people were not impressed. On car forums people often remarked sarcastically “ooh isn’t that the breathakingly beautiful Laguna III ? ”

    Although they’re very similar I still prefer the Coupé’s front headlights to that of the saloon.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.