The most spectacular Clio in the segment’s history

Renault unveiled their new Renault Clio R.S18 F1 Collector’s Edition – the French automaker’s halo B-segment sports car commemorates Renault’s forty meteoric years in Formula 1, and marks this year’s F1 Grand Prix season. Seething with Formula 1 technology – the Clio R.S18 F1 is the most bonkers Clio ever. Our host venue for the R.S18 F1 media launch was Zwartkops Raceway: both technical and elusive in its layout.

This is my tale of the tape:

Design:

The Renault Clio R.S18 F1 distinct R.S badging and decalcomania is identical to the Renault Sport F1 team car. With an alluring black hue, contrasted with liquid yellow F1 stripes that taper both the bottom of the air-dam and the bottom edges of the doors. Bespoke to the R.S range are R.S Vision LED signature checkered flag front fog light clusters, swept-back Pure Vision LED headlights with integrated c-shaped LED/DRL’s, 18” gloss-black alloy rims with Michelin Super Sport Cup 2 tyres and twin Akrapovic carbon finish exhaust pipes – standard to the R.S 18 F1 and hallmarks of its seductive track-image aesthetics and visually striking aerodynamics.

Performance and Handling:

The fire-breathing Clio R.S18 F1 is powered by a 162kw, 1.6L turbocharged engine, with F1 derived diamond-carbon coated components, mated to a 6-speed dual-clutch EDC auto-transmission, developing 280nm of torque – sent to the front wheels. Drive-train performance dynamics include three drive mode functions, Normal, Sport and Race, paddle-shift multiple sequential gear-down technology, e-diff torque vectoring and launch control. Weighing only 1172kg, it can sprint from 0-100km/h in 6.6s, I suspect 6.4s, and will accelerate to top speed of 235km/h. Riding on the Trophy Cup 2 chassis and the Renault Sport Suspension – the car is precisely pliant and stiff in all the right places. Dynamic balance and mesmerising cornering speed are highlight characteristics of its track prowess – albeit my exuberant and over-zealous driving antics served as the litmus test. I entered turn-8 blazingly fast, the induced understeer, braked weight transfer cocked the left rear wheel skyward, along with three screeching tyres for added dramatics. Just a slight unwind of the steering, some gentle throttle lift-off and the car briskly settled. For ninety percent of the time I kept the Clio in Sport Mode, but I was curious to engage the Race Mode – which over-rides the ESP, sharpens the throttle response and allows for manual gearshifts only, but at 120m/s of the shift-time in Sports mode. This presented a striking contrast between the two dynamics: in Sport Mode, the R.S 18 F1 is transcendental, but in Race Mode, it is an existential experience. For me personally, driving on a racetrack is a deeply, deeply spiritual experience. One of my fondest memories was at turn-5, a 90” right-hand bend. At 156km/h, the hard braking and weight transfer nervously unsettled the rear tyres. With a long squeeze of the left paddle-shift, I geared down from 5th to 2nd gear; eased my left foot off the brake-peddle, turned in, apexed and dashed out of the corner – trailed by the resonant baritones of angry snorts and popping exhaust notes. In my mind’s eye I imagined the grand stands filled with cheering spectators – it was the most electrifying experience of my life.

Interior:

The cabin smolders with anticipation, a mixture of leather, and soft-touch alcantara fabric, quality plastics and piano gloss accents lend to its executive ambiance. Because the R.S18 F1 is a production vehicle – it offers all the easy-to-live-with practicality and comfort of a small family car. Impressive rear leg-room, a 300L luggage area and heated front racing seats. Among its exhaustive complement of cutting-edge technology that includes a fully interfaced multimedia infotainment system, Sat-nav and an epic program of racing telemetry: accelerometre, torque and power vector graphs, G-force gauges, turbo boost pressure monitor, lap-time stopwatch and a host of other performance feedback information.

Overall driving experience and final comments:

Besides racing around Zwartkops Raceway, I also had the opportunity to sample the Clio R.S18 F1 on the open road. In Normal Mode, urban roads and highway asphalt reveal an uncompromisingly pliant and comfortable ride quality. However, there is a slight bit of suspension jolt when travelling severely scarified road surfaces – which is expected considering its stiff chassis and firm sport suspension. Primarily speaking, the Clio R.S18 F1 is tremendously versatile, its F1 enhanced innovation makes it fuel efficient (5.9L/100km), easy-to-live with and simple to drive as a day-to-day commuter. The new Renault Clio R.S18 F1 is more than just a weekend track toy – it offers a level of unsurpassed exclusivity, iconic status and is currently the fastest production Clio on the market. The Renault Clio R.S18 F1 will cost you R449 900, is standard with both a 3yr/150 000km warranty and a 3yr/45 000km service plan.

 

By Dean Joseph