Group tests

BMW M5 v TVR Chimaera v Audi RS2 v Renault Clio V6 v Mazda RX-7 v Subaru Impreza v Lotus Espirit - Renault Clio V6

Hideously impractical and hugely demanding of the driver, but delicate feedback and mesmerising involvement make it a serious driver's car

Jumping from the Audi RS2 to Clio V6 shows exactly what the Audi is missing: character and feel. From the moment you lean down and reach into the air intake to open the door and then perch on the driver’s seat (perch is the right word – you sit high above the steering wheel) the Clio V6 has you in its thrall. You have to concentrate 100 per cent, work the weight transfers, scour the road ahead for nasty tightening-radius corners, search with real care for the limits and try not to exceed them. This isn’t a car for hooligans, but it is an intoxicating challenge.

Having said that, this particular V6 feels much better than previous mk1s we’ve tried. There’s none of the nasty roll-oversteer we’ve encountered before, and the V6 feels freer-revving. It’s still a car you have to take great care with, but this one doesn’t feel like it’s trying to kill you. Yes, you always strive to make measured, precise inputs, and when you sense understeer you know that snap oversteer is just a lift of the throttle away, but this car keeps its weight in check brilliantly and even feels drivable just the other side of the tyres’ limits. According to owner Mark Garner, this car had some crash damage (surely not?) and was rebuilt using all original parts by Clio V6 experts Mark Fish Motorsport (who used to race V6s). Let’s just say it’s been optimised.

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Where in the Audi or even BMW you’d be ultra-committed, in the Clio you wind back your bravery a touch. Green explains: ‘You never want to make a correction in this car; you make sure your initial input is right and then let the grip and the torque see you through. And everything you touch you do so as smoothly as possible: the lovely short-throw ’box, the slow but tactile steering. Basically you slow down a bit but nail every element of a corner as accurately as you can.’ Sounds dull? It isn’t. It’s wonderfully rewarding. In effect you become the V6’s central nervous system; you’re hardwired in.

Specifications

EngineV6, 2946cc
Max power230bhp @ 6000rpm
Max torque221lb ft @ 3750rpm
Weight1335kg
Power/weight175bhp/ton
0-60mph5.8sec
Max speed147mph (claimed)
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