Track Test: Renault Clio RS 18 driven hard
Renault is a strange company. They make one of the most economical 4×4’s on the market, boast about market share and how Clio is the best selling hatch in all of Europe. Why then is it even necessary to make the Clio RS? Yes, it’s a halo model and it would make sense to make just one, such as the Trophy for example, or even just the Lux. But no, somewhere in Renault R&D sits a mad man, or mad team and he, or they commissioned this: The RS 18. The most hardcore Clio since the Clio V6 and the Clio Williams.
Overall it isn’t much different from the RS Trophy but when you hit the Race button and head out to the track, that my friends, is where this car shines.
My first lap out was a sighting lap as I’d never driven Zwartkops before, well, a few times sideways in a drift car, but never timed laps. I managed a sedate 1:42, learning which way the corners went and left the traction control on. The nose of the Clio tracked true and straight at these speeds and I could feel the car wanted more. Not only was the car willing me on but the team from Renault SA were so confident in their car that they too were egging me on to go faster. Fine then.
Our sessions were spit into short three lap bursts plus an out lap and in lap. This gave me plenty time to ponder the Clio’s abilities. By lap six I was lapping in the low 1:20s and the tracks simple layout was perfectly suited to the Clios abilities. First corner, coast through the sweeping left hander, sacrifice the exit to get HARD on the brakes for the tight right hander. Watch the wheelspin as the electornic differential tries to sort out the traction. The fast sweeper I felt the car wanted to run wide so I kept it tucked in and by the time I came to the right hander I got hard on the brakes again. Here for the first time, I felt the Renault coming unstuck and not in a bad way. The rear moved around predictably and I could see myself making exaggerated movements simply because it just felt so fun. Even for novices, the rear movements are intuitive and predictable. For more seasoned drivers, the yaw can be used to get the car to rotate and aim towards the apex.
By lap 12 I found that the I was getting close to my personal limit and I’m sure in more seasoned hands the RS 18 could go faster. I would have liked to drop the front tire pressures a little as the nose was running wide through the 90” right hander by the stands. I crossed the line with a best of 1:18.6 and was happy with that.
My teammate, who had never even been on a track before managed a 1:26.9. The Renault Clio RS18 is the car no one asked for but someone at Renault decided to build it anyhow. It is an incredibly capable track car and comes with built-in lap timer and telemetry. The Paddle shifts gearbox shifts incredibly fast and the pedals feel fantastic. The seats are supportive and firm. Clio RS18 lives up to its predecessors’ promise of fun driving and accessible performance. Thank goodness manufacturers still make cars like these. Thank goodness for the Renault Clio RS 18.