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Renault builds 275bhp Clio

Spectacular concept car likely to become reality | By Andrew Frankel

Renault has revealed what is likely to be the fastest front-wheel-drive road car in history. By pitchforking the 275bhp 2-litre turbo engine from last year’s Mégane Trophy R into the engine bay of the diminutive Clio shopping car, it has created something likely to have a better power-to-weight ratio than even the VW Golf GTI ClubSport S reviewed on page 58. Called the RS16, it is Renault’s maddest car since the mid-engined Clio V6.

Although the RS16 is still technically a concept car, few doubt that it will be put into production soon, with a limited run of perhaps 500 cars to keep it exclusive and justify a price likely to eclipse even the £35,000 suggested for the aforementioned Golf.

Why now? Renault tends to like to have a fairly crazed car in its ranges and, with the demise of the hot Mégane, there is currently no clear candidate for the job, especially as the standard fast Clio, the RS200, is perceived to be a lot less thrilling to drive than all the hot normally aspirated Clios that preceded it. Blame its 1.6-litre turbo engine and paddle shift transmission. The RS16 is still turbocharged but, like Honda with the Civic Type-R and VW with the Golf ClubSport S, its power is fed through a six-speed manual gearbox. If, as expected, the car is approved this summer, deliveries are likely to start in about 12 months.

Meanwhile, there is another fast Renault that is definitely going to get built. The Twingo GT might not sound that exciting with just 108bhp from its 0.9-litre three cylinder engine, but with its rear-engine, rear-drive configuration the scope to make a modern-day Renault 8 Gordini is clearly available to its engineers. It remains to be seen exactly how brave they are prepared to be with its set-up, but it is confirmed that not only will it feature suspension that differs from regular Twingos, but also remapped steering and different gear ratios.

By the time you read this the car will have made its global dynamic debut at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, so hopefully we will also have been given its price. It should be little more than the £14,000 charged by Suzuki for the evergreen Swift Sport, the closest to a true rival the Twingo is likely to have. 

Porsche boosts Panamera

Porsche’s all-new Panamera comes with the potential to become the most capable four-door coupé seen to date. With a wheelbase extended by 30mm it should be a genuine and comfortable four-seater, yet the top-of- the-range Turbo model is said to be as fast around the Nürburging as a Carrera GT, a hypercar that many will remember arose from the ashes of a stillborn Le Mans project.

The Panamera got that way thanks to a brand-new hybrid steel and aluminium platform that is both lighter and 30 per cent stiffer than that used by the old Panamera. What’s more, its significance extends far beyond Stuttgart. It is this very same platform that will underpin an entire new generation of Bentley Continentals due to be seen next year. And if it is likely to improve the Panamera, it should totally transform the Bentley, which has had to rely since 2003 on the extremely heavy architecture designed for the Volkswagen Phaeton with its unenviable weight distribution.

Under the Panamera’s bonnet, and as before, there will be a choice of V6 and V8 engines. The entry-level car will be a V6 diesel borrowed from Audi, but the petrol motor is Porsche’s own, displaces just 2.9 litres and yet produces 440bhp, 40bhp more than the old engine managed on 3.6 litres. But the real interest lies in the V8s, not least because these will be used by Bentley, too. The petrol V8 in the Panamera Turbo is entirely new and Porsche’s own, developing 550bhp from 4.0 litres, compared with the current 520bhp from 4.8 litres, enough to hit 62mph from rest in 3.7sec, some 0.4sec more briskly than before.

The diesel V8 is more interesting still – and for two reasons: first the shape of the old Panamera engine bay precluded the use of the big diesel, despite the torque and response such a car might have making it potentially the optimal model in the range.

Secondly, the new V8 is the first production engine in the world to carry electric turbochargers that, if reports of its performance in the Audi SQ7 in which it makes its debut are to be believed, eliminates lag entirely. The 4-litre engine has 422bhp but an astounding 626lb ft of torque.

Regardless of which engine you choose, its power will find its way to the wheels via a brand-new eight-speed ZF double clutch gearbox. This not only has one more gear than the PDK transmission used in all two-pedal Porsches of late, but is also claimed to improve fuel consumption, provide faster gearchanges and quieter long- distance cruising.

On the chassis side, new electronic interfaces mean the dampers can now receive instructions at the rate of 100 per second, while the rear-wheel steering system pioneered on the 911 GT3 is now made available on the Panamera. In slow corners it turns the wheels in the opposite direction to those at the front to improve nimbleness, and in the same direction at high speed to promote stability.

Now that Porsche has proven the concept of the Panamera and has a sister brand with whom to spread the cost of platform development, more variants are expected. Naturally in time there will be a yet more powerful Turbo S model, a plug-in petrol electric hybrid and a sporting GTS, but this merely replicates the product pattern of the old Panamera. Far more interesting are rumours of a shooting brake version and, just possibly, a shorter-wheelbase two-door version similar in size to Bentley’s forthcoming smaller Speed Six sports car.

The 928 rides again. Hopefully.

In the meantime, the all-new Panamera is available to order now, with first UK deliveries scheduled for October.

Big numbers from Tesla

Tesla has announced UK pricing for its seven-seat Model X SUV. The all-electric car that features extraordinary ‘falcon-wing’ rear doors, has been priced at £74,480 for the base spec 75D model, a price that includes the £4500 Government discount for electric cars. 

This provides a range of 269 miles and a 0-60mph time of 6sec. Were you to upgrade to the range-topping £100,180 P90D with four-wheel drive, however, you’d find 464bhp under your right foot, a 0-60mph time of just 3.8sec and a 295-mile range. An additional £8700 buys you a power upgrade to 532bhp, which knocks the 0-60mph time back to a McLaren F1-equalling 3.2sec. A seven-seat SUV as quick off the line as one of the most fabled supercars of all time? Yes, you read that right.

The Model X is, in truth, an SUV-variant of the established and successful Model S saloon, sharing its platform, motors and battery. Whether Tesla can realise founder Elon Musk’s dream of selling 500,000 cars per year by the end of the decade depends far more on the compact Model 3. This BMW 3-series rival was shown earlier in the year and by May had attracted more than 373,000 firm orders. And no wonder: it looks great and promises a range of 250 miles and a 0-60mph time of less than 6sec for even the cheapest versions. When right-hand-drive sales begin over here towards the end of next year, prices are expected to start at about £35,000, less than half what Tesla is charging for a base spec Model X.

LaFerrari Spider looming

It seems that whatever McLaren can do, Ferrari can do too. When McLaren was caught out by the demand for its limited-edition 675LT coupé, it wondered how it could satisfy those customers who still wanted one without being accused of foul play by those who already did. The answer was the 675LT Spider. Next year Ferrari will also be chopping the top off a car where demand far outstripped supply and creating a LaFerrari Spider. Ferrari capped LaFerrari production at 499 units and I can remember being told by its then-boss Luca di Montezemolo that he had more than 200 difficult calls to make to those who didn’t make the cut.

Ferrari has not said how many Spiders it will build or what they will cost. Expect there to be far fewer than there are LaFerrari coupés and for demand not to be satisfied again, despite a likely £1.2million price, not least because Maranello will not be short of customers who will simply insist on having both…

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