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My Laguna Coupe test car came equipped with Renault's top of the range sat-nav and entertainment system. I'll cover the satellite navigation a bit later, but for now let's look at the entertainment side.
The in-car entertainment comes courtesy of Bose, which gave me cause to worry initially. Back in 2000 I bought an Audi TT and specified the Bose hi-fi, only to be woefully disappointed by it. Last year when I was speccing a new car and the salesman asked me if I wanted the Bose system I adamantly refused.
I was, however, somewhat surprised when I fired up the Bose system in the Laguna, because it doesn't sound bad at all. The sound stage is quite expansive, and the music fills the whole car in an omnidirectional manner that few in-car systems can manage. It's not quite in the same league as the Dolby Surround certified Alpine system that I tested a couple of years ago, but it's good nonetheless.
The Bose hi-fi produces good detail in the mid range, and although it's slightly lacking in the bass department, this isn't the type of car where the driver is likely to be rattling the windows with the volume turned up to max.
There's a six CD changer built into the dash, so there's no need to dig around in the boot every time you want to change your music. It's also good to see that as well as standard audio CDs, this system will happily read MP3 and WMA files. This potentially allows you to carry a huge library of music in the car with you at all times. And that's a good thing too, because if you were hoping to hook your iPod (or any other portable player for that matter) up to the Laguna, you'll be sorely disappointed.
Although Renault claims that this car has an "MP3 connection point", what that actually means is that there are a couple of analogue RCA jacks in the centre console storage box. So, not only will you need a 3.5mm mini-jack to stereo phono cable, you won't be able to control your player using the in-car controls, and something as simple as changing track will require you to physically pick up your player and use its controls. At least Renault has been thoughtful enough to put a 12V output in the box too, so you can charge your player while you're using it.
Considering that proper in-car iPod and USB connectivity is becoming pretty ubiquitous these days, it seems strange that Renault has equipped its most modern and stylish car with such an outdated interface. Thankfully the documentation that Renault supplied with the car states that the Laguna Coupe will be available with the TunePoint system soon, which adds USB connectivity and the ability to control your player via the in-car system. It's shame that I didn't get to test TunePoint, but if you're keen iPod user, it's an option that may well be worth waiting for.
All the controls for the stereo are well laid out in the central dash, making it easy to switch between tracks, folders or even CDs. You also get audio controls mounted on the right side of the steering column, which allow you to adjust volume, switch between CD and Radio sources, and of course change tracks. Rather than having buttons to skip forward or backwards between tracks, Renault has equipped its remote audio controls with a jog dial. I'm sure that this seemed like a good idea at inception, but I find the jog dial quite frustrating on my Clio 197 F1 and often end up jumping several tracks instead of one. However, the jog dial on the Laguna Coupe is smaller than the one on my Clio, making it far easier to skip one track at a time.