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.
“We don’t have any figures yet on how well it has gone down as it’s still too early,” he said. “But certainly we’ve had a lot of discussion about it internally and have had very different opinions on it.
“Some people say it is not radical enough to be a Renaultsport Clio, with the DCT and the front suspension. Yes, it’s changed from the classic application but it remains in the sports environment.
“Some, not all, have changed their minds after extensively driving it. Some still find it too easy. It’s a matter of tastes. Our objective is not to forget the people who like the radical approach, but we want to please more customers.”
Here’s the important bit. “We will review it and can review it in the future,” said Klein. Don’t expect the manual to return, but it sounds like there’s a desire somewhere within Renault to give the RS Clio its hard edge back, be it through chassis changes or tweaking the ratios, logic etc of the gearbox, or even the feel of the paddles themselves.
I don’t think I’m banging a lone drum here in saying this can only be a good thing for what is (or should that be 'was' or 'could be'?) one of the most alluring performance cars out there at any price point.