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Car confidential: Renault’s five ‘luxury’ cars

The wait is over. Carlos Ghosn, ‘le cost killer’ who turned around Nissan, has unveiled the targets for his new charge, Renault. Ghosn has vowed that Renault will become Europe’s most profitable car company by 2009 – which requires a big injection of new cars.

The product offensive kicks off in 2007. Ghosn promised five new luxury models – defined by a sticker price in excess of €27,000 (£18,500) – and the first is Laguna III. Codenamed X91, the 2004 Fluence concept previewed the new hatchback and wagon’s front end, with its twin air intakes underlining big, vertical headlamps.

Underpinning the new Laguna is the Renault-Nissan alliance’s new D platform. It’s front-wheel drive, and casts a bigger footprint than today’s Laguna. Expect the car to measure around 4,700mm long, up 120mm, boosting cabin space.

Engines will include the new 2.0-litre dCi diesel with 140 and 180bhp, and a new 2.0-litre petrol. Ghosn vows that the Laguna III will be among the top three cars in its class for quality – and a coupé version continues this upmarket push in 2008. The two-door (project D91) uses the same platform, equipped with four-wheel steering to sharpen manoeuvrability. Expect a 2+2-seating layout, similar to the BMW 6-series.

The engines will include the fabulous 280bhp 3.5-litre V6 from the 350Z, and an all-new 250bhp V6 diesel, crucial for maximizing the sales potential of the new luxury cars.

Also due in 2008 is a new flagship car. “It’s not in line with today’s Vel Satis,” says product planning chief Patrick Pelata, “and I’m not sure we will put the same badge on it.” Whispers suggest that the Talisman concept, from 2001, could influence a sleeker design.

Pelata quashed speculation that the new car would use a rear-wheel drive platform from Nissan’s luxury brand Infiniti. The car would be based on Nissan’s FF platform, the Laguna’s D platform or a hybrid version mixing parts from both. Four-wheel drive should be available for high performance models.

The fifth-generation Espace (codenamed W93) is due in 2009. Another spin off from the D platform, engines will be shared with the Laguna. The MPV gets Renault’s new family face, and a huge glass roof.

And what of the fifth car in the luxury stable? The smart money is on a plush SUV. VW has shown that mainstream manufacturers can gatecrash this market more successfully than the luxury saloon segment. Watch this space.

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