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RWD for Renault?

Renaultsport boss hints at future rear-drive models

Renaultsport really knows how to push the boundaries – just look at its decision to adopt incredibly expensive remote-reservoir Sachs dampers for the Clio Trophy, or its ongoing development of the Mégane, right up to the uncompromising, limited slip diff-equipped R26. But there’s plenty more to come, possibly even rear-wheel drive…

Rémi Deconinck (image), directeur général of Renault Sport Technologies, is in good spirits. And having walked past the bubble-arched little Renaultsport Twingo 133 before my interview slot I can see why. It’s a great advert for Renaultsport and, we hope, a new hero in the making – light, agile and powered by a zingy normally aspirated engine.

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The first Twingo 133s will be pinging around the UK countryside from September, priced at around £12,000. Renaultsport has worked hard on the 131bhp 1.6-litre engine’s sound, with an impressive-looking 4-into-1 exhaust manifold, and, of course, the chassis has been thoroughly overhauled too, now being 10mm lower and 30 per cent stiffer, with harder bushes and a thicker rear anti-roll bar to reduce understeer.

A ‘Cup’ chassis option goes even further, changing the 16in alloys for 17s and adding springs and dampers that firm up the ride by another 10 per cent and drop the car a further 4mm. A typically thorough Renaultsport job, then.

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‘It’s simple,’ says Deconinck when describing the Renaultsport formula. ‘We just respond to customers. And every time we go more extreme in terms of chassis set-up and performance, the market responds positively.’

Despite Renaultsport’s tight focus on chassis dynamics, it’s also responsible for a broad spread of engines – 1.6- and 2-litre normally aspirated units in the Twingo and Clio and 2-litre turbocharged petrol and diesel engines in the Mégane. Deconinck sees the benefits of diesel, but I sense he’s more of a petrol-head. ‘The torque potential, that feeling of power at low engine revs is great with a turbodiesel,’ he says, ‘but for high-revving and for the noise, petrol is still ideal.’

He continues. ‘Perhaps the best compromise is a small turbocharger that works at low revs but still has that reach into higher rpm like a good naturally aspirated engine. Power outputs may not rise too much now – although with tyre technology advancing as it is, 350bhp may be possible with front-wheel drive – but we will concentrate on lower weight and on chassis development. This is what will distinguish Renaultsport products.’With Renaultsport having worked on the Nissan-supplied four-wheel steer system on the Laguna GT, it seems obvious to ask about the possibility of rear drive.

‘Yes, we look at rear drive a lot,’ he says. ‘And with Nissan in the group it is easier, but we haven’t decided for sure.’ I reckon he’s being coy.

So what would be his perfect Renaultsport product? ‘Good question,’ he replies, ‘Maybe a two-seater coupe with 250-300bhp – petrol, of course – rear-wheel drive and less than 1200kg.’He must have thought about his answer for all of two seconds, but I suspect he’s been thinking about it a lot over the last 18 months or so. I think I’ll have mine with the Cup chassis, please…

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