New mid-engined sports car based on Dezir; bespoke Renaultsport models get the nod over Alpine

Renault is planning to turn its highly rated Renaultsport division into a stand-alone brand with its own unique models — starting with a roadster based on the stunning Dezir concept.

The French manufacturer has decided to build upon Renaultsport’s reputation for fine-handling hot hatches instead of reviving the classic Alpine badge.

Renault product manager Beatrice Foucher told Autocar, “Renaultsport is key to Renault’s strategy. It already has excellent loyalty and is perceived by some owners as a brand in its own right, and we can develop that further. “We will continue working on derivative versions of the Mégane, for example, because that’s a terrific car and excellent for us. But we also need specific models only for Renaultsport. We have started working on that; we’re thinking of small volumes, where there are good business models.”

See Autocar's exclusive rendering of the Renaultsport roadster

Foucher insisted that no decision has been taken — but admitted that Renaultsport could potentially support “two or three” unique models beyond its breathed-on hatchbacks.

That line-up is likely to start with a version of the Dezir, which previewed Renault’s new front-end styling. The concept will influence the firm’s entire next generation of models (including the Clio, due at the 2012 Paris show) — but one senior insider said it is now “highly probable” that a version of the sports car will make production.

The source also indicated that the car would be a convertible, that it would be produced as a limited-run Renaultsport model, and that it “won’t be cheap”. A figure of £30k has been mooted.

Read more on Renault's plans for a rethink on the Laguna

When asked if a production Dezir would still be an EV, Foucher said, “My dream is that we’ll be able to sell EV sports cars.” But Autocar understands that while the production car is likely to retain the concept’s spaceframe construction and rear-drive, mid-engined layout, elements such as the lithium ion battery pack and Kevlar panels could prove too expensive for even its elevated price point.

The most likely powerplant is a version of the Renaultsport Clio’s venerable 2.0-litre motor, producing around 200bhp — although Renault could also offer the car with a hot diesel motor.

The production Dezir won’t be the first bespoke Renaultsport two-seater to reach customers; the firm produced the ultra-hardcore, Clio Williams-engined Spider 15 years ago.

Read more on Renault's dramatic new Clio

Like that car, the new model is likely to be assembled at Renaultsport’s production facility in Dieppe. The plant — the former home of Alpine, ironically — has capacity because while previous Renaultsport hot hatchbacks have been assembled there, the current Mégane 250 is completed on the regular line in Spain.

Bespoke Renaultsport models are likely to mean the end of dreams for an Alpine revival. Foucher said, “Alpine is a brand we’d like to have. But we’d need to be able to fulfil Alpine’s values in the model, which means having a car that fits in with the Alpine DNA. Anything else would just damage the brand.”

The move is part of a push within Renault to expand its range into ‘niche’ areas that potentially offer greater profit margins. The strategy, an indirect reaction to the success enjoyed by Citroën with its DS3, has even prompted discussions within Renault about a revived, premium R5.

John McIlroy, Richard Bremner

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3 October 2012

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