Launched - Renault Latitude

Renault has officially launched its new Latitude mid-sized sedan. Built in Korea in conjunction with Renault-owned Samsung, the Latitude is roomier, more powerful, better-specced and cheaper than the slow-selling, French-built Laguna which it replaces in Oz.

Available with a 133kW/235Nm 2.5-litre petrol V6 (made in Japan by Nissan, and shared with Maxima) or 127kW/380Nm 2.0-litre turbo-diesel four (Renault's own unit, made in France), both donks are hooked to a six-speed auto and retail for an identical $36,990.

After years of poor sales in the Australian market, Renault is taking an aggressive value-based approach to improving its performance, with the Latitude offering more standard kit than its similarly-priced Japanese competitors.

The base Latitude comes loaded with 17inch alloys, fog lights, six airbags, ESC, leather interior with heated electrically-adjustable front seats, dual-zone climate control, cruise control, satellite navigation, reversing camera and premium Arkamys audio system with Bluetooth music streaming.

Buyers can also upgrade to the $42,490 Latitude Luxe (same price - petrol or diesel) which adds 18in alloys, three-zone climate control, panoramic sunroof, and even a massage function for the driver's seat.

Large, comfort-oriented front-drive sedans have never sold well in Oz, and while Renault doesn't expect the Latitude to be a big-volume seller, it argues that the car's cheaper pricetags, extensive equipment level and extra space will make it a significantly more competitive product than the outgoing Laguna.

Although the Latitude sells in its native Korean market as the Samsung SM5, the car is based on Nissan’s Maxima platform, and Renault says the car was developed with extensive input from its engineering HQ in Paris.

First impressions suggest that the sweet, smooth-spinning petrol V6 and torquier, but noisier four-pot diesel are difficult to split. On the sweeping country roads of the Renault’s northern-NSW launch, the Latitude’s ride comfort wasn’t compliant enough for this class of car, yet its docile steering and understeery chassis won’t win over enthusiasts – rivals like the Falcon G6 and Commodore Berlina prove that comfort and driver-appeal can co-exist, but the Latitude seems lacking in both respects.

We’ll have a full first drive of the Renault Latitude in Wheels, June issue, out May 18.

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