RENAULT CLIO V6
252bhp of mid engined V6 in a hatchback. A recipe for madness or immense fun?
What sort of girlfriend would you really like? A very pretty, high maintenance woman that spends ages getting ready and loves make up, besides being a label shopacholic. Or perhaps a plainer girl that is keen on unusual sports, foreign films and not fussed by “label” clothes and overpriced winebars. Sounds much more fun to be with and hey the conversation will be erudite too!
Cars are a bit like this, even performance models. Imprezas and EVos may have be fast and very capable but their oriental efficiency often results in a lack of depth or soul.
As exciting but with more character is the mid–engined Clio V6. Is it right to seriously consider such a wild rear-drive oddball in the same company as the uber Japanese kings though?
For a start that 3 litre V6 sings the minute you stroke the throttle. Well, muted it may be, but what a soundtrack to enjoy if the mood takes you. Find a sports exhaust and hark back to Metro 6R4 days...
Look at Me
Then there are the cane toad looks! Hardly handsome but unique. The new pointy nose is definitely an acquired taste. Within that new look are Xenon lights as standard and fogs lamps in the spoiler. Renault may have slipped up by not fitting a flexible lip to the base of that spoiler. Cracked fibreglass could be the result of overeager meetings with speed bumps.
Quite a lot of revamping has gone on in an attempt to tame the wayward Mark One model. The salient points are that the engine is more powerful (252bhp) thanks to a number of modifications including new camshafts and valves, air filter, intake plenium and injectors to name but a few.
More pertinent are the 23mm wheelbase increase and 33mm wider track along with a revised rear subframe and altered, strengthened damper mounts to contain the manic beast.
I well remember driving an original Renault 5 Turbo2 in pouring rain. Boy was that a pepperami in corners! This model by comparison is a pussycat. However, it will still try and swap ends on wet roundabouts if you apply the power too soon and too suddenly. All the more appropriate to remember - slow in fast out.
Understeer is present in the dry, countered by progressive oversteer with right foot tickling. There is no traction control to reign in that rear. 66% of the weight of the car is at the rear which certainly helps traction, but the dark side is there if you want to venture beyond the limits of grip.
You drive this car very much by the seat of your pants and the firm suspension bobbles over bumps. The ride is firm as you would expect, but good on our poor roads, coping well with potholes and cats eyes. It’s refreshingly involving, marred by an average steering rack giving you 2.8 turns lock to lock. It could certainly do with a quicker rack.
The brakes lack feel from cold but certainly do the trick when they've got some heat in them.
The Clio V6 looks like its on steroids but 252bhp isn't quite in the mental league. The power delivery isn't explosive, requiring a bit of work with the six speed 'box to deliver the necessary urge when required.
That 'box is a find piece of kit. It feels as if it would happily take another 50bhp. Stir it correctly and the Clio V6 will hurtle as requested. Many of the Japanese motors would run rings round the Clio V6 on twisty ‘B’ roads, but will struggle to deliver as involving and enjoyable drive as the Clio offers.
As you'd expect from a car with a V6 in the boot, luggage space is at a bit of a premium. There is a little space behind that sonorous V6 when you lift tailgate - you might get two slim carrier bags in but that’s really it! Up front things are a bit better. One overnight bag will fit but make sure that you've packed light! Any coats just fit happily behind the seats in a netted area.
There are tiny door pockets and a slim glove box. The Alcantara and leather seats are comfy with good adjustment and the driving position is not bad. Only rake adjustment is available though.
Some magazines have critized the interior for not being special enough.
I’m not so sure it matters really. The car is unique and the driving experience is what dominates.
Exclusivity costs though, with the Clio V6 weighing in at £27,000. There's still scope for some further honing might to really bring the best out of this car and fully justify that price.
The spec sheet is generous though, giving you air – con and a Thatcham alarm to name but a few items. And I am glad to say that you don’t have to have Impreza metallic petrol blue. There is a very discreet gunmetal grey or met maroon, which will suit the car admirably.
Whilst we're on the subject of costs, drive one with verve everywhere and you may get around 18 mpg. Restraint will see 23 or so, which is partially down to the 60 kg of extra weight, pushing it to a hefty 1400 kg.
Despite my gripes I loved the Clio V6. In this world of grey sameness, it's a refreshing injection of madness!
Richard Fiennes © 2004
Thanks to Westward Renault for the loan of the car