Fun with compactness and comfort
The Renault 5TS is to the Renault 5L what the 1275 Cooper S was to the 850 Mini. Like BMC did with the Mini, Renault have taken advantage of the 5’s splendid roadholding qualities to convert it into a rapid sports saloon of great character and driver appeal by the simple expedient of replacing the L’s 36 b.h.p. 845 c.c. engine (or the 5TL’s 956 c.c. and 44 .b.h.p.) with a beefy 64 b.h.p. of uprated, 1,289 c.c. 12TS engine. The result is a three-figure maximum speed, in the right conditions, a 0-60 m.p.h. time of around 13 sec. and an agility which allows it to out-perform many more ostentatiously sporting cars round corners, in town traffic and even in the traffic-light grand prix.
Such performance virtues parallel those of the old Mini-Cooper S. But there the comparison ends. Improvements in small car design and more sophisticated customer demands have led to remarkable advances in small car comfort since the day of the rorty, boneshaker S. The 5TS, in common with its Supply-suspended, less powerful sisters, has a ride which simply soaks up humps and potholes and seats which cosset its occupants With the some soft subtlety of the expensive, luxurious 30TS.
The 3-door bodywork’s simple, clear lines, lack of brightwork and wrap-around polyester bumpers are unchanged from those of the L. and STL. Pressed-steel sports wheels add tubbier 4 1/2J distinction, but otherwise only the standard rear window/wiper/wash system and 5TS badge on the tail shout “one-upmanship” to run-of-the-mill Renault 5 drivers.
So good are the characteristics inherited from the other 5s that Renault have found a rear anti-roll bar to be the only addition necessary to the standard all-independent suspension specification. At the front the TS retains the other models’ wishbones, longitudinal torsion bars, telescopic shock-absorbers and anti-roll bar, matched by transverse torsion bars, trailing arms and telescopic shock-absorbers, plus the new anti-roll bar, at the rear. As ever, the right-hand rear wheel is slightly ahead of the left-hand wheel to allow the transverse torsion bars us be accommodated. The brakes are unmodified, being 9 in, discs at the front and 7.1 in drums at the rear and the usual rack-and-pinion steering is retained.
Renault seem to have had no problem installing the big capacity engine in the same layout as the other 5s, in-line, behind the front axle line, driving the front wheels through a four-speed, all-synchromesh gearbox operated by a short, central, floor-mounted lever rather than the eccentric old push-pull facia type. This long-stroke four-cylinder unit has a 5-hearing crankshaft running in a cast-iron block and an aluminium cylinder head incorporating overhead valves operated by pushrods from a single chain-driven camshaft. The 1,289 cc. capacity comes from a bore of 73 mm. and stroke of 77 mm., the compression ratio is 9.5 to 1, though three-star fuel is drawn happily from the nine-gallon tank and fed through the single Weber 32 DIR twin-choke carburetter. Maximum power of 64 b.h.p. DIN is delivered at an easily achieved 6,000 r.p.m., coinciding with the square tachometer’s red line and healthy maximum torque of 69 lb./ft. DIN occurs at 3,500 r.p.m. This extra “oomph” is matched by a higher final drive ratio of 3.625 to 1 against the TL’s 4.125 to 1 and slightly closer, all-indirect gear ratios are used.
Inside, the 5TS is instantly recognisable by its bucket seats with inbuilt head restraints, of open design to give vision to back-seat drivers. Our test car had the optional cloth upholstery. Those front seats are exceptionally comfortable by any standards, shaped and padded in the right places and with accurate, knurled-knob reclining backrest adjustment. The clever engineer who designed the tip-forward mechanism for these seats deserves special congratulations: the whole seat lifts and tips forwards on a parallelogram linkage allowing very easy access for rear-seat passengers. Carpets are boasted and an attractive basket-weave roof lining. The matching square 8,000 r.p.m. tachometer and 120 m.p.h. speedometer are housed in a rectangular cowl in front of the driver. Their markings are too fussy, confused by too-broad needles (narrower on the latest models) and a quite useless big cross on the glass on each instrument. Curiously and regrettably in such a sporting little car, other instrumentation is restricted to fuel gauge and voltmeter; perhaps this engine is so strong it will run without water and oil? However, there are plenty of warning lights scattered around. Switches are stacked one above the other on the right of the facia, with the usual Renault stubby and handy steering column stalks for the main functions. If the facia is plain and plasticky it is at least of an ‘appealing quality. There are oddments trays beneath the facia and in the centre console. Ventilation proved adequate in weather which made a trial of the heater unthinkable.
One thing not to he neglected about the chic little 5 range is that this saloon adapts into an estate. The top-hinged rear door is of full depth, the rear parcel shelf can be removed to provide a “tall boot” or the rear seat folded forwards to give full 32 Cu. ft. estate car facilities, alas, with a bumpy floor.
This manually-choked car has no starting vices and quick though it may he, is easy enough to drive in docile fashion, there being none of the tuned-car hang-ups from its “cooking” 12TS engine. Indeed, bags of torque make it even easier to command at modest speeds than the smaller-engined models, despite the higher final drive. The “easier” bit applies to reduced gearchanging and better throttle response, but unfortunately not to steering effort, which suffers from the albeit only fractionally wider wheels, which perhaps provoke a larger footprint from the same-sized 145-13 Michelin ZXs, and from the increased torque “pulling” those front wheels when under power. We wondered whether there might have been a change of steering geometry, too. It becomes light enough round faster bends, but this is not a car for the very weak of bicep around town. We were glad of the thick-rimmed, leather-rimmed wheel which had been added to our test car by its usual “owner”, Renault’s Alan Dakers. We have driven a standard-wheeled TS, and found that the advantage of the grip of Alan’s wheel’s thicker rim more than offset the slightly higher gearing of its smaller diameter.
A heavy foot-on take-off can provoke a deal of screaming wheelspin front the Michelins, particularly in the wet, of course, when the wheel tugs from side to side like a powerful Cooper S. Yet once on the move, the sheer grip of those same tyres is remarkable, hanging on grimly whilst the body adopts an acute roll angle and the front wheels understeer their way safely round bends. Turn on the throttle, twist the wheel and the TS scrabbles limpet-like round any curve, though the inside front wheel can be heard to have less mollusc-like traction as it claws vainly for grip. Lifting off in mid-corner at speed can provoke a pretty hasty response from the tail, when the front tucks in, easily caught with throttle and wheel and a characteristic which can be used to advantage in terms of both fun and cornering speeds. In fact only the higher speeds make this more noticeable than in the smaller-engined cars, for the extra control front the rear anti-roll bar makes the actual reaction relatively less violent. The reduced roll also serves to make more normal progress less wearying for passengers, though roll angles are still pretty dramatic.
It is rapid performance allied to such compact dimensions which makes the TS such a charmer. It will hustle up to 30 m.p.h. in first, 45 in second and 70 in third, through its quick little gearbox, can slot its 11 ft. 6 in. length and 5 ft. width into the smallest of traffic gaps and has superb brakes which allow one to consistently take advantage of such situations. Yet on the other hand this TS has quietness and comfort better than many bigger cars. The long suspension travel soaks up bumps, the seats are superb, wind and engine noise is far front offensive even at 80-90 m.p.h. motorway cruising speeds and in those conditions there are few cars of any sort which feel more stable. Its personality is such that it encourages the driver to thrash it hard all the time, resulting in fuel consumption of not much over 30 m.p.g. Driven more discreetly it is an easy 40 m.p.g. machine.
Such characteristics seem to give the TS a schizophrenic personality—on the one hand it is an accelerative, agile small car, on the other it gives the impression of being extremely comfortable, well finished, well appointed and commodious. It feels chic and smart, designed with typical Gallic flair and feels to cut across all car “class” harriers, a car one could happily take anywhere. It ought to feel so too, for it will owe its master or mistress a lot to compensate for the £2,287 it will have cost. As an alternative A new 1300 50 m.p.g. economy model, the 5GTI., is now available. The engine has the same dimensions, but produces only 44 hh.p. It costs a slightly more modest £2,081.—C.R.