The March 1998 Left Lane

March 1998

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First Drive

It’s just my first day in Germany, and I’m already driving European automobile exotica that I can’t drive in the United States. I keep thinking to myself, “boy, won’t my friends back in Michigan be envious of me when I tell them what I’m driving.” But I won’t rub it in that I had a chance to drive a 1997 Renault Laguna station wagon -- in red, of course.

Now, I understand this isn’t in the same league as the new Porsche 996, or even the older 993. Okay, it’s probably not in the same league as a 914, either. Give me a break -- it’s the car the rental agency gave me, and I’m going to write about it.

I can’t tell you the car’s wheelbase, because I don’t have a tape measure with me. Those measurements don’t really mean much to me anyway. I just know it’s not very long. I can’t tell you the exact volume of the luggage area either, but I know if you shove hard enough, it’ll hold two very full Samsonite suitcases with a little bit of room left over in the back.

The U.S. still leads the world in cup holder technology. This car didn’t even have a spot for my imported 20 oz (sorry -- 0.6 liter) bottle of Mountain Dew (my last one for quite a while). As for convenience controls, there’s actually an ON switch for the radio, but you can’t really tell which one it is by looking at it. Just keep pressing buttons until you hear music.

What’s really cool is that you don’t have to worry about setting the presets for radio stations. As far as I can tell, there are only five radio stations in Germany, and they’re all the same regardless of where you go in the country. (Now, this may not be entirely true, but being a male engineer, I’m never going to ask anybody how that actually works. I’m just going to figure this out on my own. That’s simply called The Engineer’s Way.)

Out on the autobahn, the car handles pretty well. The suspension is firm, so it doesn’t feel floaty at autobahn speed. The steering is geared about right so it’s not overly sensitive at high speeds. The brakes are a little touchy at city driving, but they work just fine when you’re doing some heavy bahn storming.

There were a couple of little things that had me thinking as I was driving this car from Munich to Regensburg. I wondered what was the speed rating of the tires (note to myself: check the tires for its rating before any more high-speed driving); and I wondered what was the redline of the engine (note to myself: check the owner’s manual for this information). (Note to myself: learn German so I can read the owner’s manual.)

The tachometer went to 7000 RPMs, but I didn’t really think that was redline. However, there was nothing there to indicate what it should be. I figured I’d just keep my foot to the floor, and when the engine couldn’t spin any faster, that would be redline. Anybody with a better idea can e-mail it to me.

I was able to do some 0-60 MPH runs with the car. The results weren’t the best because of the cold weather (which contributed to wheel spin), but I did get results of 0-60 MPH @ 12.76 sec and a quarter mile time of 19.41 sec @ 72.9 MPH. The 0-60 time is just a little slower than the 0-62 MPH results from Auto Motor und Sport (AMuS -- like a German Car and Driver). With more practice (and a slightly better road surface), I’m sure that I could’ve brought these times down, but the local polizei tends to frown on travel one fast quarter mile at a time. This isn’t breathtaking performance, especially by Porsche standards, but it still beats walking.

As for its top speed, it had a hard time going above an indicated 180 km/h (112 MPH) at about 5000 RPMs (AmuS said it could do 190 km/h). I could get a couple more km/h going down hill, so I would have to call it drag-limited. However, it didn’t seem to have a problem doing that speed for extended periods of time. (Note to myself: I checked the tires, right?)

There you have it -- my first ever car review. I’m sure after Porsche reads this, they’ll be knocking at my apartment door to test drive their new models (unless the polizei beats them to me). So, until next time -- tschüß!


(The BahnStormer is the official newsletter of the Rally Sport Region (Detroit area) of the Porsche Club of America. You can contact the editor at .)


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