So often when older cars gather together for a drive like this, parting company at the end of the day is tinged with sadness. Not just because a good day driving borrowed cars has come to an end but also because the cars you’ve left behind have been replaced by a gnawing feeling that won’t go away.
The truth is that for all their technical excellence, modern cars are often just not as much fun to drive as their forebears.
How could they be? Customers have spoken and they’ve come down so hard on the side of the mass augmentation of safety systems and bottom-softening comfort features that a generational shift towards cars that happily trade driving pleasure for ease of use has emerged.
Yet through it all, two small voices have begged to differ. Two voices have said that whatever kind of car everyone else produces, even if that includes the same company whose badges we bear, we will be different. We will never lose our edge, never betray the values that made us great in the first place. We will defy convention, and while others are content to weigh anchor and go with the flow, we will remain chained to the core mission of making cars for those who simply love to drive. One of those voices belongs to Porsche, or, more specifically, the motorsport department that makes the 911 GT3s and Cayman GT4. The other voice is that of Renault Sport.
They may occupy very different slots in the market, but the philosophy is the same. So as hot Porsches of all eras make frequent appearances in the motoring press, we thought the unveiling of the extreme Clio RS16 made this a good time to celebrate the best – or at least, what we hoped to be the greatest – cars from Renault Sport.
The question is where to start. As an entity, Renault Sport has been around since the mid-1970s and sporting Renaults for even longer. It has mastered motor racing all the way from rallying and hillclimbing to touring cars and Formula 1, winning Le Mans along the way. But we’re going to start with the Spider, not just because it went into production a nice, neat 20 years ago, but also because it was the first road car to bear Renault Sport badging. At the other end of the time frame comes last year’s Mégane 275 Trophy-R. And in the middle? We find the Clio 182 Trophy, chosen because, well, we could.