ROAD TEST

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ROAD TEST

The Renault 16TX

DURING the whole of last year road-test Renaults eluded me. Seeking to rectify this omission I rang the young lady who looks after the modem Renault Press-fleet and she consented willingly to put cars at our disposal.

First, she said, you had better try the 16TX. This is the uprated version of the comfortable Renault TS which I had sampled previously in various guises. It has a four-cylinder, light-alloy push-rod hemi-head engine enlarged to 1,647 c.c. with the cr. increased from 8.6 to 1 to 9.25 to 1, to raise an extra ten b.h.p., for a peak-revs increase of only 250 r.p.m., 99 DIN horses being released at 6,000 r.p.m. This engine drives the front wheels and is coupled to Renault’s own 3-speed, computor-shift, automatic transmission. Suspension, giving the renowned Renault ride, is independent front and back, using torsion bars.

When the test car arrived at the office, many telephone calls and some five hours behind schedule, I was naturally thinking blasphemous thoughts about Renault’s Press service, as by this time my tight journeyschedule had gone overboard. Then,adding insult to injury, I found I had forgotten how to drive the car!

This came about because manual-gearbox Renaults of this type still use a steeringcolumn gear lever, and this is retained to operate the automatic box. So there I was in the dark, confronted with a two-pedal car, seemingly with no means of engaging “Drive”. In fact, there are the usual “PRN 2 and 1” indications but they are set in the base of the tachometer dial, where one hardly expects to find them, especially with the instrument lighting off. It was all my fault, of course, for rather summarily telling the car collection lady who was anxiousoto show me the mysteries of the 16TX that she need not bother, as I knew all about motor-cars . . . However, eventually all was sorted out and we got away into a I.ondon now gummed-up almost beyond belief with crawling traffic.

That sets the picture of this Renault as an unusual car and I am glad to see that other writers have criticised the gear-selector, which is not only unconventionally located but has to be moved round a series of gates. Actually, once accustomed to it, the action is perfectly easy and the box gives reasonably smooth shifts, with the usual kick-down assistance if one requires it and can spare the extra fuel. There is the disadvantage inherent with automatic transmission, that if the engine has just been started from cold, it will stall unless allowed a few moments to get v..arrn before being asked to pull in gear—irritating to a generation that is the essence of impatience. And a pity, because the engine starts so promptly under automatic choke. In the past I have remarked that there are some cars which deserve to he called “garagecars”, by which I mean those of such interest

ing design or layout that they repay time spent in thoroughly examining them even before they are driven. Friends enjoy this when I have interesting new cars to try and the more advanced examples, such as Mini Minor, Triumph Herald, Citroen DS and Lotus Elan, etc. were the subject of a long scrutiny of this kind, confirming them as good examples of “garage-cars”, before they were taken up the road. Today, with petrol so expensive, there is much to be said for a car that can be enjoyed while it is static!

The Renault 16TX, apart from its odd gear-change arrangements, is in this category. Indeed, it is one of life’s mon! complicated cars. There is a good heating system but recourse to the instruction book is advisable to obtain the best results from it—you commence by setting a knob hidden under the scuttle on the driver’s right to one of ten positions, to control the volume of heat and perhaps mix cold air with it. What looks like a shallow cage, along the base of the screen to retain small animals, is, in fact, a vent, adjustable in sections.

The r.h. stalk controls confront the driver, below a large and thick-rimmed steering wheel. The short one is just for the turnindicators. The longer one puts on the lamps when twisted and sounds. the horn if its knob is pressed. It has to be pushed up to show sidelights, which results in a beginner to the Renault mystique driving about inadvertently at first on bright dipped dual Cibie QI headlamps. Moving it further up flashes the lamps on dipped beams and the beams can be adjusted to suit the car’s load, on the TX by a knob by the (acia. A facia rocker-switch has to be used to select the long-range headlamps. Before driving off, of course, you have to find the handbrake. It is eventually discovered way down on the right, a twist/fly-off umbrella-handle affair, “upholstered” to match the leathery rim of the steering wheel. The facia has small Jaeger speedometer and tachometer, grouped warning lights, as on a Triumph but neater, matching dial for battery, fuel and engine-heat readings, and matching batteries a press-switches at opposite ends, flanked respectively by a clock and one of the fresh-air vents. The switches are for the electric windows which the TX has in its front doors and the sun-roof, the latter inoperative on the test car. The other

battery of switches looks after wipers for windscreen and rear window, the aforesaid long-range lamps, and rear-window demisting. To wash the screen you use a footcontrol, which also wipes the glass. There was supposed to be rear-window washing, but it didn’t work. If you are getting the message that this is a complicated car of character. I haven’t finished yet. The bonnet has to be unlocked with a key before it can be opened and propped up, presumably to safeguard the spare wheel, which lives horizontally therein. Then there are all those seat permutations, which enable Renault 16s to carry many different loads, from child-in-cot to petdog, as efficiently as possible, up to full “estate-car” trim. The lockable lift-up tailgate enhances the latter facility. I wonder,

though, how any owner has used every seat position, and if so, when and why? A further Renault individuality is that they still recommend Renault engine oil—and Elf petrol, and fit their own radio/stereo cassette. The cloth-covered seats are very comfortable, with baCk rests for the front ones precision-set by large, somewhat inaccessible knobs. Now we come to another Renault speciality—all four doors, but not the tail gate, can be locked from one door, by key externally, or by turning a knob internally, through electro-magnets—Renault thereby being the equal of the top Mercedes-Benz models and the Rolls-Royce Camargue, M this respect! A further Renault refinement is a battery master-switch on one terminal of the Voltor 180E2 36 a.h. battery. Reverting to the ele.ctro-magnetic door locking, red pips within the sill-locks indicate that it is functioning—very neat! It is annoying, however, that the ignition-key goes into the door

locks without operating them. Another irritation is the amount of light reflected from the plated instrument surrounds and controlstalks. I was just beginning to enjoy this Renault 16TX when I noticed black looks from other drivers and realised that the turn-indicators were no longer showing my changes of direction. Renault used to have, almost alone among those selling cars in this country, an agent in my distant part of Welsh rurality. To this little garage I now drove, to find that it still services Renaults but is no longer officially a Renault depot, and that, the electrical fuses being in order, the fault could not be cured. Incidentally, Renault, unlike BMW and others, place the fuse-box beneath the bonnet because that is a convenient place for it, not as an aid to accessibility! Tiring of giving hand-signals in a freezing wind, although the electric window-lifts facilitated this, I reverted to the dependable Fiat 126 for local journeys, steeling myself for the final drive back, to, and into, the Metropolis. ‘The lack of an outside mirror was now suddenly noticed!) This explains why I did not get to know this highly individualistic, comfortable, fully equipped “drawing-room” of a car as fully

as I would have wished. But I drove it far enough to learn that it was giving 29.5 m.p.g.

of 4-star petrol, and had used no oil in 485 miles. Both engine and gearbox dip-sticks are fully accessible. To some extent the 16 has dated. But it remains a fascinating car, nevertheless. The

RENAULT 16 TX—contd. from opposite page steering is heavy, there is rather too much engineboom at 70 m.p.h., although it is otherwise quiet and ride comfort is gained at the expense of excessive cornering roll, not noticed all that much by the car’s occupants. The servo disc./drum brakes are effective.

Having conducted the 16T( so as to conserve fuel; I was interested to find that it is actually (mite a flier, with a top speed of around 106 m.p.h. and such good pick-up that it Will go from rest to 60 m.p.h. in under 111 NM. That applies to the manual gearbox model, the automatic being some three m.p.h. slOwer. The tachometer has an initial warning from 5,400 r.p.m, to 6,000. r.Pm: and “the red” is from there to 7,00.0 r.p.m. Stowages consist of a padded-cover well between the front scats, a lockable cubby down by the front passenger’s knees and a tiny well :Adjacent to the facia tray.

The TX version of the long-lived and deservedly popular 16 possesses grab handles, centre arm-rests, a steering lock, cigarettelighter, a very clever interior-cum-map light, lights for cubby hole and boot, anti-dazzle mirror, underbody anti-corrocsion treaunent, laminated windscreen, tinted windows, a rear roof-spoiler (a joke, surely?), and 14 in. Michelin ZX tyres on special sports-type wheels. It is geared 18.5 m.p.h. per 1,000 r.p.m. in top-gear. The fuel tank, the cap of which has to be opened with a key, holds 11 gallons.

You cannot, I suppose, condemn a car for an electrical fault f.after 5,000 miles) and I regard this Renault as a car which still has a future. It costs £2,428.99, as tested, at the time of writing, which seems fair for a ver,atile saloon of such character and performance, which normally has a good reliability rep u t a non .—W .B.

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