The Regie nationale des Usines Renault of Billancourt is in a strong position as one of Europe’s leading car manufacturers, nationalised but not much controlled by the French Government. It has a fine line of economy-cars, with the Renault 4 taking on a new lease of life, the range of Renault 5s well proven, an excellent selection of mid-range cars, and with fame coming its way in the highest echelon of motor racing.
The Type-R1298 30TX is the flagship of this diverse and respected Renault Company. When I first tested the TS version of the Renault 30 in 1977, I was both impressed and disappointed. Impressed by its comfort and spaciousness, disappointed by some unworthy, faulty details. The latest TX model, with the fuel-injection version of the 2.7-litre V6 engine, the development of which Renault has shared with Peugeot and Volvo, and on those wonderful Michelin TRX tyres, is an even better executive car. It is one of the top-power front-wheel-drive cars but the furious wheelspin at step-off of the earlier car has been somewhat eliminated, thanks largely perhaps so those TRX tyres, but that shocking judder when making a quick getaway remains, together with a little steering-wheel drag on loose surfaces under these conditions, and the clutch engages rather too fiercely and is heavy. While the gear-change is not outstanding, second gear no longer jumped out of mesh of its own accord, as on the former TX I tried.
Externally, this Renault 30TX is a pleasantly unobtrusive car, looking unexpectedly compact considering the welcome spaciousness within. I did not like the blatant “hot-cross-bun” trim of the light-alloy wheels, but that may be a personal dislike. Otherwise, the black saloon was quietly neat to the extent of disguising its over £9,000 price-category, except to the initiated who could read? of its quality from the “Injection” and “V6” badges, and note the presence of the useful fifth-door and the washers on that and the four Cibie headlamps, etc.
In the back window of the V-registration test car a sticker recalled that Renault-Elf had won Le Mans in 1978. Since then they have transferred to Formula One and had won the last 1980 Grand Prix prior to the date of the road-test. So it was nice to be motoring in the top-model from this race-winning Company. Not that the 30TX is exactly a sporting proposition. It provides plenty of performance, with a top speed of 116 m.p.h. and to 60 m.p.h. acceleration in 10.2 seconds, and there are such race-bred items of its specification as disc brakes all round, independent rear suspension and the fuel-injection, while transistorised-ignition is used. However, the suspension, by coil springs using wishbones and transverse links at the front, with independence from wishbones and struts at the rear, is of the comfortable, long-travel, supple kind, allowing some lateral float, but not over much roll, so that the 30TX’s road-holding is less precise than it would be from a harshly-suspended GT-Saloon.
This big spacious Renault corners securely but in a rather soggy manner. Driving it home after I had done my 180-mile run to the office the same day in the Rover 3500 V8, I realised that British Leyland has the edge over Renault in respect of fast cornering “feel”, while the Rover’s V8 engine, quiet as the V6 30TX is, has better smooth-running and “hush” qualities.
Against that, the Renault, looking more boxy, is a more roomy proposition, with a notably wide back seat, cavernous boot, and generous sized armchair front seats. Neither car has outstanding power-steering but the servo-assisted rack-and-pinion mechanism (3¼ turns lock to lock) of the Renault is certainly devoid of the over-sensitiveness that sometimes spoils such assistance and it now emits only a faint hiss, but is still slightly over-servoed. The 30TX emitted some rattles one would not wish for in a top-luxury car but made up for this by the fine carpeting and the very handsome cloth upholstery, not only for the high-set seats but also for the doors etc. The facia has a highly-polished wood-veneer panel bolted on but I am not sure its veneers match, as on Jaguar/Daimler and Rolls-Royce/Bentley cars! It has been criticised for the reflections it causes but I did not find these troublesome, and this wood addition, if rather obvious, does not extend to the door-sills. The thick slatted cloth upholstery is used on the insides of the doors; the rubber seal over the near-side rear door came adrift during the test.
There are some excellent “luxury” aspects of the 30TX. It has effective central door-locking, embracing the tailgate and fuel-filler flap, with red “pips” on the door-sills which show when the doors are locked. There are two external rear-view mirrors, adjusted from plated swivelling knobs on the front doors. The very comfortable front seats, like the back seat, have a central arm-rest. An electric sunroof, opening and closing when a button on the central console is pressed, is a much appreciated standard item of equipment, as are the aforesaid lamps’ washers and Philips stereo-radio.
Mud-flaps are fitted behind the back wheels but not at the front. There is stainless-steel trim between the doors and loose rubber mats on the front floor.
The central handbrake of the 30TX is buried in a well of its own, to give good clearance to the hand that grips it, but the brake only held the car if the lever was pulled right up. By placing the 13 warning-lights in the dials of the petrol/heat/battery gauge and the quartz clock (with seconds hand) it has been possible to put four reasonably small dials within the single panel. The Jaeger speedometer reads to 140 m.p.h., the tachometer to 8,000 r.p.m., the latter red-lined from 5,800 r.p.m. In the centre of the facia six neat push-buttons control, front to rear, the hazard-warning, rear window demister, rear window wipe/wash, the rear fog-lamp, and the electric front window-lifts. There is a tiny flick switch for putting on the lamps, the beams of which, and the other services, are controlled by two rather short steering-column stalks. The headlamps’ beam can be adjusted to compensate for load (the Rover is self-levelling!) by means of a knob on the steering column surround but the effectiveness of the lighting was somewhat disappointing and the dipped-beams very poor indeed. The screen wipers function when this ignition is “off” and the turn-indicators’ stalk is correctly on the right, for a RHD car, but the ignition-key is still too close to the left hand stalk, causing the wipers to work when all one wants is to start the engine — it is an instant starter, hot or cold, and the Bosch K-Jetronic petrol-injection means no hesitation in opening up immediately, and when accelerating.
The instruments are not too easy to read, being low-mounted, although the digits are very clear; the speedometer is wildly “fast”, and there is no fuel-level warning-light. The fuel gauge needle is reasonably steady-reading but when it reached “almost empty” according to the driver’s manual four gallons brought it to “half-full”, yet the tank holds 14.7 gallons! The exterior and interior door handles are easy to use and the Renault’s trim and fittings are first-class. Stowages include an open shelf in the central console. This carries the heater controls, the stereo radio fitted as standard, and the central air vents, a rather low-set, lidded and lockable under-facia bin, a bin covered by the driver’s arm-rest, and pockets in the backs of the front-seat squabs. The boot is uncluttered but rather shallow and the tailgate door does not extend far enough to obviate a low sill. The screen pillars are substantial but otherwise vision is excellent. The thick-rimmed, laced-leather steering wheel is not too big, its double-spoke gives instrument vision in the straight-ahead position, and it carries the horn pushes. The ends of the wood facia are slightly angled and contain additional two-way-adjustable air vents. The sun visors are rather shallow.
This 30TX Renault is one of those excellent cars which will cruise effortlessly at almost any speed up to its maximum, in very reasonable quietness and smoothness, and which is usually going faster than one realises. At 3,000 r.p.m. in 5th gear the car runs well within itself at 67.8 m.p.h., and 100 m.p.h. equals only 4,425 r.p.m. The gear lever is inclined to be notchy and has long movements, both across and through the gate, but reverse, on the dog-leg to the left (with 5th gear on a dog-leg forward) is easy to engage. This 5-speed box gives ratios of 3.36, 2.06, 1.38, 1.06 and 0.82 to 1, with a final drive ratio of 3.889 to 1. The spaciousness of this big car is supplemented, if that is the word, by the usual Renault multiple-seating permutations, from double-bed to exceptional load carrying capacity.
The light-alloy 90° vee-six cylinder, Type 140-04 engine has a bore and stroke of 88 mm. x 73 mm., giving a capacity of 2,664 c.c. and it has a chain-driven camshaft and rocker gear above each alloy head. The TX version produces 142 (DIN) b.h.p. at 5,500 r.p.m. and 161 ft./lb. torque at 3,000 r.p.m. The compression-ratio is 9.2 to 1. The car is nose-heavy but disguises excessive understeer when cornering but, although sure-footed, the 30TX is not exciting to drive. It has adequate but not outstanding heating equipment, with a horizontal knurled-knob controlling the variable blower speed.
For those executives looking for a well-appointed, fully-equipped and notably comfortable car with versatile human/load-carrying facilities, which is fast, comfortable and generally impressive, the latest fuel-injection 30TX V6 will no doubt fill the intended bill. It gave 21.5 m.p.g. of 4-star petrol in general usage, which is about what one would expect, although this was by making perhaps abnormal employment of the new fifth-speed. The front-hinged bonnet opens easily and is self-propping, to expose some interesting machinery and an accessible dip-stick that showed no oil consumed in 600 miles. The test-car had a Renault Stecofe battery and a Bosch coil. The plugs are deeply buried and need special care in removal. The cylindrical door-locks make for easy entry of the door key.
An interesting car from a famous French Company, the startling thing is that today the TX costs £9,470.83, whereas the four-speed, carburetted model lent to me for test only three years ago could have been bought for £5,198 and last year the car cost £8,218. Which is a sign of the times, and the economic crisis this country is experiencing. Although I think the BL Rover 3500 V8 has the edge over the 30TX Renault unless load-carrying is the criterion, there will probably be Frenchmen who will not agree with me. — W.B.