You’d like Renaultsport’s chassis and dynamics engineer, Terry Baillon, for he speaks with a candid honesty that’s as rare as it is refreshing. This much is clear when he opens his presentation with ‘We totally agree with the criticism that came from our sporty, purist European customers.’ This is not normal, believe me.
Baillon follows his opening bombshell with what is effectively his ‘To do’ list. As you’ll see, it’s a good one:
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Improve corner balance
Gain corner speed
Improve steering feel and response
Maintain suspension comfort
In order to achieve those objectives, Baillon and his team have honed, uprated and sharpened every area of the Clio’s chassis. The ride height has been dropped by 20mm at the front and 10mm at the rear. The front springs are no stiffer, but the rears are, by some 40 per cent. The dampers have been carefully retuned and the polyurethane bump-stops have been made bigger and firmer, and now work in closer harmony with the secondary hydraulic bump-stops.
Together these changes equate to a 15 per cent increase in perceived ride firmness, so the Trophy should have a more connected feel, but not to the detriment of comfort. Body roll has been reduced by ten per cent compared to the standard RS Clio Sport chassis and five per cent to the Cup. With a new, quicker steering rack – its ratio has been reduced from 14.5:1 to 13.2:1 – the Trophy should feel much more eager and agile from the moment you turn in. Finally, the Trophy wears 205/40 R18 Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres in place of Dunlop Sport Maxx rubber.
The Clio 220 Trophy can accelerate from 0-62mph in a claimed 6.6sec and will keep on accelerating all the way on to 146mph. Ease off and the Clio will return an impressive claimed 47.9mpg combined.
We've also teased a couple more juicy morsels from the Renaultsport engineers. The first reveals the Trophy completes a 0-1000m sprint in 26.5sec versus 27.5 for the Clio 200. They concede that’s a modest gain, but impress upon us how this figure does not paint a picture of the uplift in response and general sense of immediacy and muscle.
The second – and more immediately impressive piece of information – is that around Renault’s test track, the Trophy completes a lap in 1min 44sec, compared to 1min 47sec for the Clio 200. That seems more indicative of the Trophy’s promised A- and B-road ability, not to mention its trackday potential. Renaultsport says that half of the 3 second reduction in lap time was attributable to the powertrain improvements, with the other half coming from the chassis changes.
Styling and equipment
The 220 Trophy is distinguished by ‘Trophy’ decals on the front ‘blade’ splitter, the door mouldings and the door sills. Frost White, a new matt finish body colour, with a gloss black roof and rear spoiler has been added to the range. Distinctive new ‘Radical’ design 18-inch alloy wheels featuring black spokes with diamond-finish facings complete the external makeover.
Inside, things are subtly different to the regular RS Clio. The steering wheel now has a new, more tactile embossed leather rim, while the Trophy interior pack offers new sports seats with integral headrests, embroidered ‘Trophy’ script and a blade motif to mimic that of the F1-inspired front splitter. Air vent surrounds, door handles and a gearlever base plate with a carbon-look are a little dubious, but the satin chrome air-vent inserts are an improvement.
Each car is individually numbered (on the door sills), but Renaultsport is at pains to say this is a special edition, and not a limited-edition car, so production numbers will be solely dictated by orders. Predictions are somewhere between 30 to 40 per cent of present RS Clio 200 sales, which are currently around 7000 cars per annum (10,000 have been built in the 18 months since production began).
Renaultsport has confirmed that the 220 Trophy will sell from £21,780 in the UK, with first deliveries expected in August. For reference, the non-Trophy 200 retails for £18,200. If buyers want their Trophy painted in exclusive matt Frost White (pictured), they'll need to fork out an extra £1300, and if they want a pair of heated leather Trophy seats included, they'll have to add £1600 to the bill.
Though it's £3,580 more than the non-Trophy Clio (before the aforementioned options are included), if the 220's half as good as it sounds, it should at last mark a welcome return to form for the RS Clio.