Celebrating 20 years of a performance icon: The Renault Clio V6

Groupe Renault
4 min read
The Renault Clio V6
The Renault Clio V6 © Groupe Renault
Dec. 16. 2020
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Boulogne-Billancourt - Renault is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Clio Renault Sport V6, one of the most iconic and revered models to ever be produced by its specialised Renault Sport division.

From the reveal of the original concept at the 1998 Paris Motor Show through to the current day, the Clio V6 has captivated car enthusiasts with its absolute commitment to performance and extreme mid-engine design, the latter ensuring it has more in common with supercars and formidable 1980s Group B rally cars than the compact front-wheel drive hatchback upon which it is based.

At launch, the Clio V6 was simply unrivalled. It was the world’s only mid-engine hatchback, offering superior performance to more expensive prestige sports cars, and such was its fiery nature that customers were invited to take part in the ‘V6 Experience’ where they could test drive the car in a controlled proving ground environment and enjoy training from qualified instructors.

The exclusivity of the Clio V6 was further heightened through its limited production run. Manufacturing of right-hand drive versions was restricted to 400 cars per annum and on its announcement in 2000, 500 orders for RHD cars had already been placed. Those who heard the news and were inspired to join the queue had to wait for an expected delivery date of 2002. Each car’s individual build number was shown on a plaque positioned in the centre console.

From the oft, the race-bred Clio V6 also hit a chord with the motoring press, with Jeremy Clarkson notably commenting at the time: “In my perfect ten car garage I would definitely have one of these – no question”. evo magazine was another fan, Richard Meaden including in his launch review: “Flooring the throttle unleashes a memorable soundtrack that builds from a low-rev rumble, through rich, resonant waves of mid-range muscularity to a bellowing, almost operatic crescendo at peak revs. It’s a combination quite unlike anything I’ve heard before.”

Twenty years after its official announcement and the Clio V6 is more sought-after than ever, with surviving examples now selling for more than double the original cost, its specialised design and rarity ensuring it’s recognised as a highly collectable modern classic.

A highlight in the history of Renault, the Clio V6 epitomises the company’s passion for innovation and highly focused road cars. Its commitment to an uncompromised performance driving experience continues to have an influence on every performance Renault model.

In true Renault Sport tradition, the Clio V6’s origins are planted firmly in motorsport.

Its existence was a direct result of the Clio V6 Trophy series, which was introduced to promote the newly launched second generation Renault Clio. Replacing the Renault Sport Spider Trophy, the series toured some of Europe’s most famous circuits with the performance of the heavily reworked Clios and the premise of closely matched racing attracting several top drivers.

With a 3.0-litre V6 engine producing 285 bhp, rear-wheel drive and a short wheelbase, the specialised race Clios were thrilling to both drive and watch. The competition models had relatively little in common with roadgoing versions of the best-selling front-wheel drive hatchback, but all that changed with the 1998 Paris Motor Show.

Already a highlight in Renault’s calendar, the Paris Motor Show was even more significant for the manufacturer in 1998, the year marking its 100th anniversary and providing an unrepeatable opportunity to showcase the brand’s innovation and passion. It didn’t disappoint, marking the occasion with the unveiling of the Twingo II, the Vel Satis concept and, most notably, the Clio Renault Sport V6 24V.

The influence of the Clio V6 Trophy competition cars was obvious, but the special project also paid homage to the iconic Renault 5 Turbo, sharing the same mid-engine, rear-wheel drive layout and aggressive styling, which encompassed enlarged wheelarches and huge air intakes to cool and feed the V6 engine.

To the delight of motoring enthusiasts, the original ‘Phase 1’ Clio V6 was reported to be 98 per cent faithful to the Paris Motor Show concept.

At the heart of its mid-engine architecture and sitting where you would find the rear seats of a normal front-wheel drive Clio, was the same naturally aspirated 3.0-litre V6 engine that was derived from that used in the Renault Laguna. For its application in the Clio, the V6 was modified with the likes of new pistons, an increased compression ratio, enlarged inlet ports and a higher rev limit of 7,100rpm. Slightly detuned from that of the Trophy competition cars, the V6 developed 230 bhp and maximum torque of 300 Nm at 3,750 rpm. It enabled the Clio V6 to sprint from 0-62mph in only 6.4 seconds and reach a top speed of 147 mph.

The V6’s power was channelled through the PK6 six-speed manual gearbox, which was developed from an existing five-speed unit but equipped with a completely new internal control mechanism. A limited slip differential helped to effectively put the power down and there was no sudden turbocharger rush to catch out the unwary, but the short wheelbase and a lack of traction control ensured that the Clio V6 delivered an incredibly exciting and highly involved drive.

There was certainly no mistaking its performance potential. Although the body shell, bonnet, roof and rear tailgate were all borrowed from the Clio Renault Sport 172, the bumpers as well as the front and rear wings, sill panels and body sides were specific to the Clio V6.

The popularity of the original paved the way for the ‘Phase 2’ model, which was introduced at the same time as the facelifted second-generation Clio.

As with the rest of the range, the newly named Clio V6 255 received updated front and rear styling, plus it also benefitted from revised air intakes and larger 18-inch alloy wheels. If the revised flagship Clio wasn’t individual enough for some owners, then they could also take advantage of the new optional Renault i.d personalisation scheme, which included the availability of the now iconic Liquid Yellow (J37) paint that is synonymous with high-performance Renault Sport models. Just 18 RHD models would be specified with the eye-popping shade, ensuring that these distinctively finished examples would become some of the most highly sought-after versions of the Clio V6.

However, the changes were far from skin deep and Renault Sport took the opportunity to complement the Clio V6’s revised appearance with significant alterations to its running gear.

Notably, and as its name suggested, the Clio V6 255 now boasted 255 bhp. Peak power was delivered at a heady 7,150 rpm with the 25 bhp increase courtesy of reworked cylinder heads and a more efficient, freer-flowing induction system. The extra power, plus a shorter final drive and closer ratio gears, saw the Clio cover the 0-62mph sprint in 5.8 seconds and reach a top speed of 153mph.

Better still, changes to the suspension meant it was now easier to explore the enhanced performance potential. To add extra control and make the Clio V6 255 more predictable under hard driving, the chassis was extensively revised. Modifications included a 33mm longer wheelbase, 23mm wider front track, firmer suspension and the addition of stiffer subframes, new bump stops and longer trailing arms.