There's something about Renault that is not quite getting the Australian public's attention. Although that may slowly be changing.
The Clio and Megane side of the French brand's catalogue, as well as the Koleos SUV, are finding some favour but the larger vehicles have historically are yet to make a big impact. The Laguna was a low-key model in sales terms for the brand here but the car maker would be hoping the Latitude gives the sales figures more altitude.
We're in the top-spec petrol V6 model that has so far this year proven the most popular - the Luxe, priced at $42,490 (one of the few models that charges the same money for the turbodiesel), the Latitude has a features list that suggests a higher pricetag might be expected.
The Luxe flagship (which represents over 90 per cent of sales since April) has a 10-speaker Bose surround sound system, filtered tri-zone climate control with ioniser and a "fragrance diffuser," TomTom satellite navigation, Bluetooth phone and audio link, the obligatory (for Renault) key card with auto-locking doors and keyless go, power-adjustable front seats with heaters, the driver gets a massaging function as well, reach and rake adjustable leather-wrapped steering wheel, a switch-operated electric parking brake, power-adjustable folding heated exterior rearvision mirrors, leather trim, 18in alloy wheels (including a full-sized spare) and a two-pane glass sunroof.
The Latitude's petrol V6 has come from the Nissan Maxima - with the six-speed auto in place of the CVT - so not a cutting edge drivetrain, but perhaps proven might be an appropriate adjective. The Latitude does get some interesting features that are far from common - the air ioniser, fragrance diffuser and air filtering system within the tri-zone climate control.
The Luxe employs a Samsung air ioniser which Renault says produces active hydrogen atoms and negative oxygen ions to counter positive ions which can lead to stress and fatigue, according to the French car maker.
The system can also produce scents (from a choice of six and in varying degrees) via the climate control system. The Latitude also has the brand's auto-locking function, which comes into effect if the driver walks away from the vehicle and doesn't use the manual lock button on the keycard.
The car then locks itself and can be opened keylessly; lock it manually and it requires a button-push to unlock the car. The nicest (for the driver at least) feature is a massage function for the driver's seat, which uses five rollers within the driver's seat backrest to massage the driver - just the thing to reduce stress behind the wheel ... "cut me off, I don't care."
Something of a Renault staple, the Latitude seems to have had a bypass on the design styling front - given that it shares plenty with the Nissan Maxima perhaps that's no surprise. It's no monstrosity but it's not going to win any design awards either, but Renault calls it generously-proportioned and elegant.
The Latitude's cabin is not built for taller folk - seat adjustment range and headroom suggest occupants under 190cm would be well looked after, but above that the dimensions will start to struggle.
Four adults within normal height ranges would be easily accommodated in head and leg room, with a 477-litre boot also able to swallow a decent load as well.
This brand made a name for itself with active safety and the Korean-built Latitude follows that path - anti-lock brakes with brakeforce distribution and emergency brake assist (which kicks the hazard lights into action), stability and traction control (with an understeer control function), dual front, side and curtain airbags.
Also on the list are seatbelt pretensioners and load-limiters on the front seats, lap-sash seatbelts for all seating positions, parking radar front and rear, a cruise control with speed limiter function, automatic windscreen wipers, automatic headlights, anti-dazzle rearvision mirror, a reversing camera and a tyre pressure monitoring system.
A Maxima with a Korean dad and a French accent would be a cynic's view of the Latitude. The conservative exterior won't win any beauty contests and the interior takes the low-key line as well, but it's comfortable and well-equipped.
The Nissan-sourced V6 was last experienced with a CVT directing outputs to the front wheels - the V6 is a smooth, if not overly powerful unit that requires a solid amount of force on the right pedal to get things underway with purpose.
A relaxed gait is this car's forte - an attitude easily adopted with ionised air, soothing tunes on the excellent Bose sound system and the massager working nicely on the vertebrae.
The serenity is ruined to a small degree by the six-speed auto, which has a tendency to roughen up the mood with sharp shifts without provocation.
Nasty Australian bitumen - especially the oft-repaired roads with lots of little imperfections - don't always agree with the 18in wheel/tyre package, but aside from that the ride quality is good.
The Latitude can be hustled along a little to maintain a brisk pace on a country road, turning in with more intent than first expected and able to corner with reasonable dexterity, but it's no super-tourer road-racer. Seating front and rear looks inviting and are comfortable if a little small in area (in the front), but the rear half of the cabin is a little tighter than you'd expect from the generous exterior dimensions.
The highset rear bench and the falling roofline conspire to keep headroom at a premium for taller adults - children dwell easily and are fond of the door-mounted and rear window blinds.
Satellite navigation is controlled by an iDrive-like set-up, which is easier to use and much better than the remote-control system offered in the smaller Renaults.
This multi-cultural UN style Renault sedan should easily eclipse its Laguna predecessor for sales volumes, thanks to a sharp pricetag that belies an extensive features list and a smooth petrol V6 drivetrain that's only let down by the auto's sporadic clunks.
With German, Japanese and French product all wading into the mid-size battleground, the medium car buyer is becoming spoilt for choice. The Latitude falls more into the cruiser category.
Renault Latitude Luxe
Price: From $42,490
Warranty: 5 years, unlimited km
Resale: 43% Source: Glass's Guide
Service Interval: 15,000km or 12-months
Economy: 9.7 l/100km, on test 11.3; 230g/km CO2
Safety Equipment: six airbags, ABS, EBD, stability control.
Crash rating: N/A
Engine: 133kW/235Nm 2.5-litre 24-valve V6
Transmission: six-speed auto
Body: 4-door, 5 seats
Dimensions: 4897mm (L); 1832mm (W); 1483mm (H); 2762mm (WB)
Tyre: Size 225/45R18
Spare: Tyre full size
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Thirst: 7.8L/100km, 91RON, CO2 183g/km
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