First seen when a handful of photos were leaked earlier in the week, Renault Sport’s fat-fendered Clio special has now been officially revealed - and it’s a red-hot 201kW concept created by Renault Sport as a 40th birthday present to itself.
The online rumour-mill said this car would be powered either by a high-tune version of the standard Clio RS’ 1.6 litre turbo or a 2.0 litre turbo borrowed from its big bro the Megane RS, and it’s the latter that’s the case.
Power goes to the front wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox and limited-slip differential, and to accommodate the extra track width of the Megane’s drivetrain - as well as permit the fitment of wider wheels and tyres - the fenders have been fattened at front and rear to give the Clio an extra 60mm of overall width.
Lightweight 19-inch alloys sit at each corner, wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport SP2 tyres.
There’s some interesting parts-sharing going on beneath the Clio RS 16’s inflated bodywork. In order to fit the RS 275 Trophy-R’s engine and driveline into the Clio’s compact snout, Renault Sport engineers borrowed bits from the Kangoo light commercial van and the Espace people mover with the Megane’s subframe.
"In theory, a Clio RS fitted with our most powerful engine – the 275bhp, 2.0-litre turbo engine – was an attractive proposition, but we had to conduct more serious checks as regards its feasibility,” said Patrice Ratti, Managing Director of Renault Sport.
“In less than a month, a small team had completed a preliminary study that confirmed it was possible to house this engine under the bonnet.”
The exhaust routing also changed with the adoption of the 2.0 litre motor, with a custom Akrapovic exhaust used to take gasses to the twin tailpipes.
The unique front bumper design doesn’t just look more aggressive than the standard Clio RS, it’s been designed to funnel more air to the radiator and intercooler. Like the wider fender flares, the Clio RS 16’s entire bodykit has been designed around function rather than just aesthetics.
The front suspension is a clever combination of Trophy-R parts and bespoke bits, with a one-off billet aluminium front knuckle merged with the Trophy-R’s one-way adjustable dampers and 350mm two-piece front brake rotors.
The rear axle remains a torsion beam design, but is essentially the same as that used by the Clio R3T rally car. Beefed up with additional reinforcing plates, the rally-spec axle boasts over 50 percent more roll rigidity. The rear brakes are 260mm discs gripped by sliding calipers.
Designed and built in just five months, the Clio RS 16 is, for now, billed as being a “concept” only. A road-going version has not been announced, however there are plenty of hints that it could be produced in showroom-ready form should the demand be there.
For all of its bespokery, the engine is entirely production-spec and equipped with a catalytic converter to make it emissions-compliant. Though there are some unique parts there are also plenty of other components that are shared with other models, which would lower production costs.
According to Ratti, this was deliberate.
"We all recalled the impact made by Clio V6,” he said, referencing the mid-engined, rear-drive, V6-powered Clio special that launched in 2001 as a road car.
“We wanted to create a technical concept car with extraordinary performance levels but which was more realistically priced.
“We therefore had to keep our feet on the ground and use simple, ingenious solutions to achieve a vehicle that could be type-approved. Furthermore, we wanted this project to be entirely developed by Renault Sport.”