Created to celebrate 40 years of Renault Sport, the skunkworks Clio has been created by a 10-strong ‘commando’ team in just five months, following a brainstorming session one evening at Renault Sport HQ.
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And it was the idea of creating a modern-day successor to the mad 2001 3.0-litre Clio V6 that inspired the team. “We all recalled the impact made by the Clio V6,” said engineer Christophe Chapelain. “We wanted to create a technical concept car with extraordinary performance levels but which was more realistically priced.”
That’s right. From the start, Renault Sport created the Clio R.S.16 not as a crazy concept, but as a production-intent car. The 275hp hot hatch supermini really is likely to go on sale later this year.
A Megane R.S. engine in a Clio
Renault Sport MD Patrice Ratti said in one sense, the concept was simple. Renault’s most powerful engine is the 275hp 2.0-litre turbo from the Megane R.S. and fitting this to the Clio was “an attractive proposition”. We should say so. It took a month to investigate whether it was feasible: by November 2015, engineers confirmed it would indeed fit.
The entire engine, manual gearbox (rejoice!) and cooling system from the Megane R.S. 275 Trophy-R is thus fitted to the Clio R.S.16, complete with parts sourced from other Megane models plus the Kangoo and even the Espace. A genuine skunkworks project.
The exhaust is new too – Renault couldn’t change the routing or length, despite the Megane being a much bigger car. Enter experts from Akrapovic, who created a bespoke twin-exhaust silencer for it.
Renault has also fitted the lithium ion battery from the Megane R.S. 275 Trophy-R, which both saves space in the engine bay and a full 15kg over the front axle.
Racing suspension for the Clio R.S.16 – literally!
A short timeframe and the radical demands of stuffing such a big, powerful and torquey engine into a Clio created untold demands on the suspension engineers. Enter 35-year Renault Sport veteran Pascal Auffrere, who was given the project “because I’ve been here for such a long time”. He worked on rally cars until the 1990s before moving onto the first Clio Renault Sport model, the 172.
At the front, a new stub axle cut from a solid aluminium block is fitted to the PerfoHub independent steering axis suspension, but it’s even more exotic-sounding at the rear: the FIA-approved rear axle from the rallying Clio R3T is used, reinforced by joint-welded bulkheads.
This has 50% more roll stiffness: good enough to cope with the roughest of gravel rallies so “we are therefore certain it will provide Clio R.S.16 with good road-holding on public roads,” said Chapelain.
Renault’s also fitted the Megane R.S. 275 Trophy-R’s adjustable dampers, and the 350mm brakes as used in the optional Nürburgring pack offered on the car.
As for the wheels, they’re 19-inch rims with Michelin Pilot Sport SP2 tyres. The Clio, however, was originally only ever designed to take 18-inch wheels. So Renault cut away the wheelarches and fitted 60mm-wider composite wheelarch flares. Again, skunkworks!
The rear is as per the regular Clio 200 Turbo, save for the addition of a spoiler from the Clio Cup. This is functional, adding 40kg of downforce at 124mph. Up front, the front splitter has been redesigned, to better channel air into the Megane’s air-to-air exchanger.
Renault’s painted the Clio R.S16 in the same Liquid Yellow paint as the RS16 F1 racer, complete with gloss black detailing that mimics the Renault racing car. There are F1-style graphics too, with Renault Sport markings on the roof and a pixellated Renault diamond logo on the rear.
Following its debut at this weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix, Renault will bring the Clio R.S.16 to the Goodwood Festival of Speed on 23-26 June, where it will be keen to make the link to other mad-cap Renault creations from the past: the 5 Turbo, Clio V6, Renault Sport Spider, Megane R.S. R26.R and Megane R.S. 275 Trophy-R.
We can barely wait…