RE­NAULT CLIO RS18 F1

Re­nault’s proud rac­ing her­itage has spawned sev­eral pocket rock­ets, and lim­ited edi­tion hot hatches over the years. The lat­est, a lim­ited run Clio R.S. 220 EDC Tro­phy-based and F1-in­spired track ma­chine de­buted at Zwartkops Race­way re­cently, as BERNIE HEL

Driven - - Contents - Re­port by BERNIE HELLBERG JR | Im­ages © RE­NAULT SOUTH AFRICA

A fast(er) ver­sion of Re­nault’s

al­ready fast hatch­back

Re­nault is by far the most suc­cess­ful French au­tomaker in South Africa – more than 68,000 units of the Clio model range alone, have made their way to lo­cal shores since the line-up was in­tro­duced here back in 2000.

There are sev­eral rea­sons why the Clio, in par­tic­u­lar, is Re­nault’s best-sell­ing model range, both glob­ally and lo­cally; de­cent value for many, great looks, and fru­gal con­sump­tion counting among the many. An­other rea­son is Re­nault’s im­pres­sive mo­tor­sport her­itage, es­pe­cially in the For­mula 1 arena.

Pro­moted un­der the Re­naultS­port (RS) ban­ner, sev­eral lim­ited edi­tion sporty Clios have been in­tro­duced here as high­per­for­mance ‘halo’ mod­els aimed at keep­ing the de­sir­abil­ity fac­tor of the over­all Clio range top-of-mind for buy­ers in that seg­ment.

MORE EX­CLU­SIVE, LESS ANGST

Gen­er­ally speak­ing, the fourth-gen Clio has con­sol­i­dated the gains of its pre­de­ces­sors and like them, spawned RS mod­els with the pur­pose of get­ting per­for­mance purists hot un­der the col­lar.

The nat­u­rally-as­pi­rated 2.0-litre en­gine which pow­ered al­most all Re­naultS­port Clios – from the orig­i­nal Clio Wil­liams through the var­i­ous phases of the Clio II RS, right up to the Clio III RS Red Bull edi­tion – was re­placed with a Nis­san-sourced 1.6-litre turbo en­gine.

Some blame this change, and the re­place­ment of the com­pany’s slick five- and later six-speed man­ual trans­mis­sions on Re­nault’s first elec­tronic dual clutch (EDC) for dumb­ing down the sturm und drang of ear­lier gen­er­a­tions of what EVO mag­a­zine once awarded 6th place in their ‘Car Of The Decade’ fea­ture in 2004.

What was once a fo­cussed in­stru­ment of speed, slowly evolved into an­other pre­mium fast hatch with more lux­ury ap­peal than pure track in­tent.

But de­vel­op­ment at Re­naultS­port never stands still for too long, and along with the mid-life up­grade of the Clio IV range, the per­for­mance di­vi­sion also up­graded the Clio RS mod­els, adding lim­ited RS Cup and Tro­phy mod­els to the line-up. RS was back with a bang and a crackle of a spe­cially-de­vel­oped Akrapovič ex­haust.

EN­TER THE RS18 F1

There’s no tro­phy for guess­ing the im­me­di­ate her­itage of the RS18 F1. It’s me­chan­i­cally iden­ti­cal to the RS 220 Tro­phy

that Re­nault un­veiled here in 2017, with the afore­men­tioned Akrapovič ex­haust and all.

Cre­ated to cel­e­brate the brand’s achieve­ments in For­mula 1, only 65 of the al­ready heav­ily re­stricted run of RS18 F1 cars will make their way here, sig­nif­i­cantly in­creas­ing their de­sir­abil­ity fac­tor, and mak­ing it a lot eas­ier to jus­tify the R449,900 ask­ing price.

It looks ab­so­lutely smash­ing in its be­spoke black and yel­low paint fin­ish, cho­sen to mimic Re­naultS­port’s ac­tual rac­ing cars. All RS de­cals, badges, rear dif­fuser, and other ex­te­rior ex­trem­i­ties are blacked out for dra­matic ef­fect, as are the four 18” al­loys. Vis­ually it is ev­ery bit as dis­tinc­tive as it should be in this cor­ner of the mar­ket.

As men­tioned, there’s pre­cious lit­tle dif­fer­ence between the RS18 F1 and its RS 220 Tro­phy brother – aside from an R11,000 price vari­ance that ac­counts for added fea­tures such as the new re­verse cam­era and be­spoke go-faster bits. The same 1.6-litre turbo four-pot­ter de­liv­ers its 162 kW and 280 Nm in ex­actly the same way, and chan­nels all the grunt to the front wheels via a six-speed dual clutch trans­mis­sion.

EVERY­DAY IS TRACK DAY

At the risk of be­ing ac­cused of want­ing to dial the RS’s re­cently re­dis­cov­ered ag­gres­sion too far back again, I’m go­ing to go out on a limb and say that the RS18 F1 be­longs in a world where ev­ery­one has ac­cess to a race­track, and ev­ery day is track day.

As if it was built for this par­tic­u­lar cir­cuit, the RS chewed up ev­ery inch of the Zwartkops Race­way tar­mac like lim­its just didn’t mat­ter, like physics didn’t mat­ter. Ef­fort­lessly con­vert­ing your skills and con­cen­tra­tion into an art­ful ne­go­ti­a­tion of the course’s most tech­ni­cal twisties.

At this level of per­for­mance, how good your car is de­pends on two fun­da­men­tal fac­tors; the amount of grip the tyres are able to gen­er­ate, and the level of con­trol that the car’s chas­sis al­lows. With all the Re­naultS­port F1 know-how baked into this car, it should come as no sur­prise that it has aus­pi­ciously high lev­els of both. And thanks to the pre­cise steer­ing and in­tel­li­gent elec­tronic diff, and the ex­cel­lent per­for­mance from its Miche­lin Pi­lot tyres, the RS18 F1 is a prodi­gious han­dler through the full spec­trum of low-gear cor­ners and sweep­ing bends alike.

The brakes are ex­cel­lent too, and in terms of ac­cel­er­a­tion, the RS18 F1 claims a 6.6-sec­ond sprint time to 100 km/h.

OR IS IT?

In this en­vi­ron­ment, it is our opin­ion that the Clio cur­rently has no ri­vals in its class – boast­ing just the right com­bi­na­tion of ev­ery­thing you need to make it an un­ri­valled track at­tacker. But de­spite our best wishes to the con­trary, ev­ery day just isn’t track day, and un­less you’re in­vest­ing in the RS18 F1 purely as a toy, it still has to make sense on some dis­tant prac­ti­cal level.

For­tu­nately, the RS doesn’t give up any of the real-world­ness of the stan­dard Clio, boast­ing class-lead­ing boot ca­pac­ity, heated seats, nav­i­ga­tion as stan­dard and an Al­can­tara leather in­te­rior as stan­dard. Where it does let the side down is the ex­tremely firm ride, and lim­ited rear leg- and head­room.

These as­pects won’t mat­ter much if the RS18 F1 is your week­end toy, but if it’s your only car, you may find these at­tributes be­come a bit of a pain af­ter a while.

LAST WORD

De­spite our opin­ion on the mat­ter, it’s highly likely that by the time you read this re­view, all 65 Clio RS18 F1 cars brought into the coun­try would have al­ready been sold. The rar­ity of the car it­self, com­bined with the rep­u­ta­tion and cult fol­low­ing that have been baked into the RS brand over decades will trans­late into a sales suc­cess for Re­nault South Africa.

Is it the best of its kind in all con­di­tions? For many it will be, and for some it won’t, but there is no deny­ing the fact that it is an enor­mously com­pelling car around a race­track and the 65 own­ers who have bought one will love them deeply.

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