Renault Latitude Preview

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2011 Renault Latitude 2.5 litre V6 Petrol six-speed automatic (133kW & 235Nm) - $36,990*

2011 Renault Latitude Luxe 2.5 litre V6 Petrol six-speed automatic (133kW & 235Nm) - $42,490*

2011 Renault Latitude 2.0 dCi six-speed automatic (127kW & 380Nm) - $36,990*

2011 Renault Latitude Luxe 2.0 dCi six-speed automatic (127kW & 380Nm) - $42,490*

Renault Australia is about to launch a premium mid-size sedan in this country, and it’s called the Latitude. It effectively supersedes the lacklustre Laguna, which failed to gain any real traction in this highly competitive market.

Renault is serious about wanting to re-establish the brand here in Australia and believes it is providing the right mix of product and incentives to attract new buyers to the French marque.

It certainly has the goods when it comes to hot hatches, with benchmark cars in the segment such as the Megane Renault Sport 250 and Renault Sport Clio.

But the Latitude is more a medium/large car offering, and you’ve got to ask yourself: is Australia ready for a car of this size from a carmaker that has made a name for itself in the small hatch market?

Although we don’t get to road test the car until tomorrow, I had the chance to go all over Latitude tonight, and first impressions are that it is indeed a quality offering, with high levels of luxury kit as standard fitment, even in the so-called base model Latitude variant.

Buyers will have the choice of just two trim levels, the Latitude and Latitude Luxe (pronounced 'lukes' – if you’re French) but there won’t be any additional charge if you want the 2.0-litre diesel powertrain over the 2.5-litre petrol engine. The six-speed auto is also standard fitment across all Latitude variants.

Renault Latitude's high-end appointments

•A 3D Sound by Arkamys® audio system which is manufactured with cinema sound know-how,
•A fully integrated satellite navigation system fitted as standard,
•Bluetooth® connectivity with audio streaming and multimedia connection box,
•Renault Smart Card Key providing hands-free entry and ignition, with automatically locking doors as the card-holder walks away from the vehicle,
•Electric height adjustable and heated driver’s seat with manual lumbar support,
•Heated, manually adjustable front passenger seat,
•Height and tilt adjustable front headrest,
•Height and reach adjustable steering wheel,
•Dual-zone climate control with rear air vents,
•17-inch alloy wheels with full-sized spare,
•Automatic parking brake, which is applied when the engine is switched off,
•Body coloured, electric, heated and foldable side mirrors with side turn signal light,
•Sun blinds for rear windscreen and side rear windows,
•Tinted windows and windscreen,
•Chrome exterior trim,
•Black leather-trimmed upholstery with leather wrapped steering wheel and gear knob,
•Front and rear centre consoles with armrest and cup holders and a conveniently illuminated glove box,
•60:40 split fold rear seats to enable bulky items to be transported with ease.

In addition, the Renault Latitude Luxe boasts:

•A state-of-the-art Bose® Sound System developed in conjunction with Renault,
•Three-zone climate control with toxicity sensor and combined active carbon filter,
•Samsung Super Plasma® air ioniser with fragrance diffuser,
•Memory, heated, electronically adjustable driver’s seat with electric lumbar support and two-mode massage function,
•Electronically height adjustable front passenger seat,
•18-inch alloy wheels with full-sized spare,
•Panoramic electric glass sunroof,
•Boot spoiler,
•Electric, body coloured side view mirrors with reverse synchronisation linked to memory seat.

The Renault Latitude comes standard with a host of active and passive safety equipment:

•Front and rear parking proximity sensors,
•Anti-pinch electric windows, front and rear,
•ABS with electronic brake force distribution,
•Emergency brake assist and automatic activation of hazard warning lights,
•ESP with ASR traction and understeer control,
•Six airbags, including adaptive driver and front passenger airbags, two dual-chamber thorax-groin lateral airbags combined with twin side-impact sensors and two curtain airbags,
•Three-point seat belts for all occupants,
•Pretensioners and load limiters for front occupants,
•Cruise control
•Speed limiter,
•Three child seat anchorage points for rear seats,
•Automatic windscreen wipers,
•Automatic headlights and fog lamps,
•Day and Night rear view mirrors.

In addition, customers who opt for the Renault Latitude Luxe, also get the following additions:

•Reversing camera integrated into the in-dash satellite navigation display,
•Tyre pressure monitoring system,
•Electrochrome rear view mirror.

It’s not just the extensive inventory of features that impress either. The quality of the materials inside the cabin is well and truly on par with some of the premium German brands such as Audi and BMW.

That said, some might find the exterior styling a little too bland, but that’s probably safer than a car like the previous Megane, which polarised opinions on the rather avant-garde approach to the rear end of that model.

That’s not going to happen with the Latitude, which uses the same platform as the South Korean designed and built Samsung SM5 sedan from Renault Samsung Motors.

Justin Hocevar, Managing Director of Renault Australia, is confident that the new Latitude, which goes on sale immediately, will provide a strong incentive for Australian families and mid-level executive buyers.

That confidence more than likely stems from the fact that between 2006-2010, Renault had a 56 percent reduction in warranty claims. And as a further incentive to consider the Latitude, Renault Australia is offering the vehicle with a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty - the longest warranty of any European brand in Australia - as well as 24/7 roadside assist for the first five years.

The car looks impressive, but the proof will be in how it performs on the road over several hundred kilometres during tomorrow's drive program.

CarAdvice will bring you a comprehensive review of the Latitude in the next 36 hours.

*Manufacturer's list prices, excluding on-road and dealer costs.