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Renault Laguna Coupe GT 3.0D V6 - Navigation
The top of the range in-car technology package (£2,200 worth) also incorporates Renault's 3D satellite navigation system. The heart of the sat-nav system is a 7in 16:9 screen that's mounted quite deep in the dash. The recessed position of the screen means that it's easy to view no matter what the ambient lighting conditions - even with bright sunlight streaming through the windows I had no problem viewing the screen from the driver's seat.
In-car sat-nav systems are often criticised for being expensive and under featured compared to good after market devices, so let me get the bad news out of the way first. Unfortunately the sat-nav in the Laguna Coupe suffers from a couple of major issues that really shouldn't be there considering that this is a very new car. First up, there is no postcode support. Now, I'm used to finding limited, five digit postcode search facilities on in-car navigation systems, in fact one of my own cars suffers from this, but to have no postcode search at all is very disappointing.
The real downside of not having postcode support is that you need to know the full address of your destination, including house number in order to be taken there directly. This isn't always easy, especially when you're trying to navigate to a business address. The TrustedReviews office for example is on a very long road and has no house number associated with it, so you really need postcode location to find it.
The second disappointment is that in a car as new as the Laguna Coupe I would have liked to have seen a touch-screen system. That said, I'm willing to forgive Renault for this one, since the position of the screen doesn't make a touch-screen solution ideal, and moving the screen elsewhere would make it more difficult to view at a glance. There is however, no doubt that a touch-screen interface would make entering data far easier.
The controls for the satellite navigation, and most other things for that matter, are located in the centre console. Here you'll find a rotating dial surrounded by buttons. Obviously the dial can scroll through menus, but it's also a four-way joystick, so navigating through menus and screens is pretty simple. As you'd expect, pressing the dial inward selects the current option/letter/number. Entering a destination address isn't too difficult, since you can quickly breeze through the alphabet horizontally by twisting the dial, and jump between rows by pressing the joystick up or down.
Once you've got your destination configured, the sat-nav does a pretty good job of getting you were you need to go. Instructions are clear and reasonably concise, and you're given a decent amount of warning before turns. The 3D map display looks good, and will automatically switch to a night-time version once the sun has gone down to avoid unduly distracting you while you're driving.
The map display can get crowded if you've got points of interest turned on though. When I drove the car into the West End of London, the map was stuffed so full of bars, restaurants, petrol stations and coffee shops, that it was almost impossible to see what roads were being displayed.
While I'm on the subject of Points of Interest, I should mention that the database isn't particularly up to date. OK, I know that it's almost impossible for any sat-nav manufacturer to keep on top of which coffee shops or restaurants are still in business, especially in this climate, but there are certain Points of Interest that I would expect to be current. One of the things you can search for is Renault dealers close to you, and when I searched for dealers near me, two out of the four listed on the first page had closed down. To be fair, one of them had only closed a couple of weeks ago, but the other went out of business last summer!
You can customise your route once it has been calculated, adding waypoints along the way if you so choose. Routes can also be updated based on TMC data, in order to avoid traffic jams or accidents as they get reported. You can also interrogate the TMC database before setting off to see where the traffic black spots are in advance.
Renault has recently announced that it is continuing to work with TomTom to provide in-car sat-nav solutions in a number of models, so I can only hope that this collaboration will spawn some integrated systems with all the features that TomTom's high end after market devices sport. If that turns out to be the case, I'll be testing one as soon as they're available.