I’m somewhat late to this debate, but I’m always fascinated to hear the for and against arguments on the inclusion of the dual-clutch gearbox in the Renaultsport Clio, a move that when announced last September at the Paris motor show caused a stir among RS aficionados and wider enthusiasts alike.
Now I’m someone who had no problem with the move, so long as it was well executed and kept the character of previous RS Clios in the process. After all, it hasn’t seemed to dampen enthusiasm for the new Porsche 911 GT3.
I finally got a go in the new RS Clio last month, with extensive runs on road and track. On the road, I liked it. It’s a more relaxing car to drive and easier to live with for much of the time, but can still come alive when you really want it to as all good RS Clios do, and the new gearbox certainly didn’t get in the way.
But on track it was a different story. Even with the gearbox in Race mode, I just couldn’t get on with it. The paddles didn’t feel right, the ratios didn’t seem well spaced, and the software within the gearbox conspired to do things that blunted performance rather than aiding it.
Last night I had the chance to meet Philippe Klein, Renault’s chief product planner and a man who had a key say in the RS Clio’s change of direction. He smiled when I asked him the ‘why?’ question, no doubt it being one he’s fielded a lot these past 12 months.