The luxury, high-performance sector of the car market was sadly neglected by manufacturers in the early eighties as they struggled to minimise their losses and keep their smaller cars fresh. The market is now buoyant again but competition is fiercer than ever, and some very exciting large cars are now making their presence felt. Big BMWs remain the yardstick, but the Audi 200 Turbo, the Saab 9000 and the Mercedes 2.3 16 have all come as challengers in the past year, while only one rung below on the price ladder the Ford Granada V6, the Volvo 760 Turbo, the Saab Turbo 16 and the Citroën CX25 GTi Turbo all offer a great deal of performance. Renault’s 25 V6 Turbo joins this exclusive club, offering 140 mph performance with a price tag only a little over £15,000.
Monsieur Guy Bergeaud, Renault UK’s personable managing director, has set a comparatively modest sales target for the V6 Turbo at 350-400 units in a full year, perhaps 10% of this luxury sector. Two or three years ago this might have been unthinkable, but Renault’s recovery in Britain is strong, the well-received 25 leading from the top and the new 5 pushing from below, and it’s the still rather anonymous mid-range cars that the French manufacturer will have to nurse in future.
From the outside it’s the new alloy wheels, equipped with Pirelli P6 tyres on the first 10 right-hand-drive cars off the line, that give the game away. The interior is as plush as we’ve come to expect, but the power unit is almost completely new which comes as a surprise. The alloy 90-degree V6 block is basically the same but the bore is increased from 88 to 91 mm, the stroke decreased from 73 to 63 mm (and the capacity reduced from 2,664 cc to 2,458 cc); it has a new crankshaft with the crankpins offset by 30 degrees to improve smoothness, new con-rods, new pistons, new exhaust valves in a much revised cylinder head design, plus of course a Garrett T3 turbo, intercooler, Renault’s own Renix electronic injection with a knock sensor for each cylinder, and some “tidy-up” features such as mounting the ignition distributor on the timing case, and using a toothed belt to drive the water pump and alternator. Another important feature on this model is the adoption of Bosch ABS braking, operating on higher-grade iron discs which are ventilated at the front.
Increases in power and torque are highly impressive, both on paper and in road terms. Power rises from 144 bhp to 182 bhp (in both cases at 5,500 rpm), while the torque peak is up by 27%, from 162 lb ft to 207 lb ft, at 3,000 rpm (over 195 lb ft is available between 1,800 rpm and 4,500 rpm). All this, in an aerodynamically sound saloon body that has risen in weight by only 100 lb (to 2,921 lb, at the kerb), helps to explain the nature of this rapid family express. It will accelerate from rest to 62 mph in 7.7 seconds and cover the standing kilometre in 27.9 seconds, but what is more impressive still is its ability to gather speed from 70 mph in fifth gear, a real mid-range punch in the back that the normally aspirated V6 fails to deliver.
The Renault 25 V6 Turbo is a car that needs handling with restraint, if you value your clean licence. All too often a cruising speed of 70 mph on the motorway gathers up to 100 mph quite unnoticed, the turbocharger compounding the smallest increase in throttle pressure. And that V6 is a beauty, revving freely to 6,500 rpm where a fuel supply cut-off operates. It was an expensive conversion, in the first instance for the Renault-Alpine in fact, but one that justifies every franc of the outlay.
The turbocharger application is marginally less praiseworthy. The turbo punch is rather sudden at around 2,500 rpm, especially in first gear, and needs watching on a rainy day. The throttle is rather sensitive to changes in pedal pressure, so this is not one of the “state of the art” applications, exemplified by the Porsche 944 Turbo, which could fool you into believing that the car simply had a larger-capacity engine installed.
That, and the somewhat sensitive power steering, might take a while to become accustomed to. Having said that, the Turbo model is one of the most dramatic cars ever to come from the State-owned manufacturer. As M. Bergeaud stated, the 25 V6 Turbo is Renault’s image-builder, a model that should be on every potential buyer’s shopping list. — MLC.