Dieppe is presently responsible for producing the Alpine A110 and RS Megane Trophy R, two of the world’s most interesting driver's cars. Through these two machines the factory has reinstated itself as an enthusiast Mecca - but those who remember its maddest products from years gone by might argue that its peak has been and gone. Think back to the eighties, when the bonkers 5 Turbo was born at the northern French site, or the nineties, when the Renault Spider rolled off the line. Dieppe was once better-known for flamboyance than seriousness.
More recently it was the Clio V6, originally built in conjunction with Tom Walkinshaw Racing. It first arrived in 2001, wearing a steroidal body kit to hide wider arches and bigger wheels, and was almost instantly labelled as a junior widowmaker thanks to its high speed instability. It was utterly silly, with a 3.0-litre V6 in place of the standard Clio’s rear bench, leaving a vacant space over its nose. That meant that corner entry understeer was almost a certainty, often followed by sudden and potentially-uncatchable oversteer. There was no special club for those who spun in a phase one V6 because pretty much everyone who attempted to go quickly in one did it. And don’t get us started on driving in the wet.
But it was a brilliant mark of Renaultsport’s madness. The Dieppe division didn’t need to create a mid-engined Clio, the standard car was selling very well indeed and the 172 provided an effective sporting injection to the line-up. Renault wasn’t required to build a homologation model as it had in the eighties with the Turbo 5, either, so the Clio V6 was born just because. It was sold through normal dealerships alongside normal Clios and could be bought for not much more than the similarly burly and more common Nissan 350Z. People from all walks of life could appreciate its uniqueness.
Admittedly, Renaultsport wound back some of the silliness in the phase two, which got the facelifted bits of the regular Clio alongside a raft of technical improvements. The engine’s power was upped from 230hp to 255hp, while the chassis was given a new rear subframe and trailing arms to extend the wheelbase by 23mm. The front track was also widened by 33mm and the springs and damping rates were adjusted to match, bringing the balance close to the middle of the car in order to dial out some of the first-gen V6’s murderous tendencies.
It worked, lending the phase two V6 Clio better performance and a more predictable chassis, all without hampering the car’s party piece: that gravelly V6 tone projected just over your left ear lobe. The car’s 1.3-tonne weight meant it was still nowhere near as chuckable as the new 182, nor was it as well-judged over bumpy surfaces. The steering remained a little too sluggish to encourage serious pedalling – probably deliberately to reduce the chances of going backwards again – but as an all-round driving experience, it was as muscular, effortless and as vocal as you like.
Some people would never be able to see past the car’s supermini origins, which were always in sight thanks to the Mk2 Clio’s dash and its oddly high seating position. But for those who could see the V6 for what it was, it looked to be a bit of a bargain at £26,995. Although just 354 were made (plus 258 phase ones), so the car remained a rare sight on the roads. These factors help explain the enormous prices attached to the V6 these days, with one 479-miler going on sale last year for £60k. Today’s Spotted is a comparable steal at £39,950 – roughly the same as what it cost new once inflation is taken into account. It has 4,307 miles on the clock and looks to be in fine condition inside and out. Given what’s happened in the last few years, might you even call this one a safe investment?
SPECIFICATION - RENAULTSPORT CLIO V6 255
Engine: 2,946cc V6
Transmission: Six-speed manual, rear-wheel-drive
Power (hp): 255@7,150rpm
Torque (lb ft): 221@4650rpm
First registered: 2005
Recorded mileage: 4,307
Price new: £26,995
Yours for: £39,950
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