That Time Renault Stuffed The Megane 275 Trophy-R's Guts Into The Clio
Renault is known for making one of the best hot hatches on the market, having come out with such hits as the 5 GT Turbo from the ‘80s, the Clio Williams from the ‘90s, and the Clio 182 in the ‘00s. But some of their more rare creations were also downright crazy and ridiculous.
Take for instance the mid-engined R5 Turbo (not to be confused with the aforementioned 5 GT Turbo), which had a 158 bhp 1.4-litre turbocharged inline-4 engine placed where the back seats used to be and it was rear-wheel drive, so it was pretty crazy.
And then in 2001, there was the even crazier mid-engined Clio V6, which packed a 3.0-litre naturally aspirated V6 nicked from the Laguna saloon, also placed where the back seats used to be and with rear-wheel drive as well, albeit tuned to produce 227 bhp in the Phase 1, but in 2003 when the Phase 2 came out, it got upgraded further to 247 bhp… which made this shopping car with an engine where the shopping usually goes even crazier than it was before.
However, in 2016, Renault was planning another addition to this legacy of automotive hot hatch craziness, but before we start talking about it, we need to wind the clocks back a few years before then…
You see, when Renault unveiled the fourth-generation Clio RS 200 at the 2012 Paris Motor Show, complete with a 197 bhp 1.6-litre turbocharged engine replacing the old car’s naturally aspirated 2.0-litre unit, there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth from hot hatch fans all across the world. Why? Well, Renault had decided that the new RS should have no manual option like the old hot Clios did in the past and instead they fitted every single one with a 6-speed EDC dual-clutch gearbox - a paddle-shift auto.
As you could imagine, driving enthusiasts were aghast. No manual gearbox, even as an option, was seen as an insult to the spirit of driving. To make matters worse, Renault had no plans to offer it with a manual in the future, and the 220 Trophy launched in 2015 with its extra 20 bhp wasn’t able to remedy this shocking omission, still only offering the same EDC gearbox as the normal, non-Trophy Clio RS.
Of course, Renault said the move to a turbocharged engine and that EDC auto ‘box would help the car appeal to a wider audience than the previous generation Clio RS, but still, some owners weren’t satisfied.
But in May 2016, it looked like our prayers would be answered when, to celebrate 40 years of Renault Sport, they unveiled the Clio R.S. 16 concept at the 2016 Monaco Grand Prix, and it was named after the then-current Renault F1 car, and it shared its livery as well. You can watch the reveal of the car in the video uploaded by Reno Sportives below…
The reveal of the car had hot hatch fans worldwide salivating, and even more so when they read the specs. For the R.S. 16, Renault said au revoir to the standard car’s 1.6-litre turbocharged engine and EDC auto ‘box, in favour of the Megane 275 Trophy-R’s 2.0-litre turbocharged inline-4 engine - with 271 bhp and 360 Nm of torque - and, wait for it, its 6-speed manual gearbox as well. That car’s brakes, 19-inch wheels, tyres and adjustable dampers were also carried over as well.
And it wasn’t just the mechanics where the R.S. 16 was different from the standard car. To save weight, the air conditioning was binned, the rear wiper was gone and the back seats had been replaced with air. OK, so the 2.0-litre turbo engine was heavier than the standard car’s 1.6-litre turbo unit, but the lighter weight of the 6-speed manual saved enough weight to help offset this.
This, combined with other weight-saving measures like the use of an ultra-compact lithium-ion battery, helped the car achieve its target weight figure of less than 1,200kg, and a power to weight ratio of 221 bhp/tonne - the highest of any Renault Sport road car.
In order to accommodate the new parts from the Megane, the R.S. 16 was also 60mm wider than the standard Clio RS, and it had wider arches and redesigned bumpers as well because of the extra width.
According to Evo, the managing director of Renault Sport, Patrice Ratti, said that one of many major hurdles they faced during the project was trying to get the drivetrain electronics of the Megane to work with the chassis electronics of the Clio. The solution to this? Incorporating the software from the ECU of the humble Dacia Sandero. And Renault’s own Kangoo van would donate part of its subframe to the R.S. 16 too, since it happened to be the best fit for it.
Incidentally, in July 2016, Renault revealed a facelift for the standard Clio RS and the Trophy version, which brought some new light clusters, some new 18-inch alloys, and a new “multi-faceted LED lighting” setup by Renault, dubbed RS Vision. But it still didn’t have a manual gearbox…
Anyway, back to the R.S. 16. The car was also revealed at the 2016 Goodwood Festival of Speed from 23-26 June 2016, and as the months and the days passed, we were getting more and more excited at the thought of Renault putting such a crazy little ball of automotive craziness into production…
…only for our hopes and dreams to be well and truly shattered when in November 2016, Renault announced that they wouldn’t be putting the Clio R.S. 16 into production, scrapping all production plans to focus on the revival of the iconic Alpine brand, in the form of the new Alpine A110 sports car to rival the likes of the Porsche 718 Cayman and Alfa Romeo 4C. The A110 would later make its debut at the 2017 Geneva Motor Show.
According to Autocar, this decision was said to have been a strategic one, as the Alpine Dieppe plant where the Clio R.S. 16 would have been built was already gearing up for production of the new A110, and lack of factory capacity meant they couldn’t make Clio R.S. 16s and Alpine A110s at the same time. It was also said that the Alpine project had taken priority because Renault had planned to use the sports car to kick-start a line-up of potentially profitable Alpine models.
This decision not to put the R.S. 16 into production wasn’t just a blow for hot hatch fans worldwide. According to Autocar, it was also a blow for Renault Sport, as internally, they saw it as a car which could save its reputation for building very desirable hot Clios. Not only that but if the R.S. 16 had made production, there would have been a very real possibility that it would have come very close to beating the front-wheel-drive lap record at the Nürburgring, which at the time was held by the VW Golf GTI Clubsport S.
Heck, Renault had even gone to the hugely expensive trouble of crash testing one as well.
I was quite sad myself when I first heard on Autocar that they wouldn’t be putting the R.S. 16 into production in November 2016, but at the same time, I was happy that they could now concentrate on their new Alpine sports car. I also made a video about it on YouTube discussing the cancellation of the R.S. 16, and you can watch it here below…
Only two Clio R.S. 16’s are known to exist. One is finished in Deep Black and was being used as the development test mule, and the other one, a much more eye-catching show car, was finished in Liquid Yellow and was used as the show car, and it was demonstrated to the crowds at the Monaco reveal by racing driver Kevin Magnussen.
For me, the Clio R.S. 16 is just another example of one of Renault’s craziest hot hatch creations, even if it never reached production, and I think it will become one of those cars that people will read about in 10, 20 or 30 years’ time and ask, “Why was it never built?”