If the standard Clio RS is a kitten that doesn’t give you enough attention when you come home late in the evening, the Trophy is the same kitten jumping all over you five minutes later, realizing it had made a mistake by not playing with its human.
However, in order to understand this, I had to play with a baby lion, namely the Clio Cup one-make series racecar. And I enjoyed getting bitten here and there.
It all happened during a recent Renaultsport track day the company organized to introduce the Clio RS Trophy 220 EDC. Sure, the Trophy treatment turned the Megane RS from an insane hot hatch into a highly addictive machine. But I won’t hide the fact that I went to the experience believing there was a 50 percent chance the Clio's Trophy badge was more of a marketing scheme than the sharpening up process I was looking for.
The track day saw us sampling the hot Clio range, from the standard Clio RS and the Trophy, to the Clio Cup racecar.
The playgroundAt 1.2 kilometers (0.74 miles) in length, the track we used could just as well be a karting circuit. Nevertheless, the Academia Titi Aur autodrome proved to be just the right playground for these spicy Renaults. That’s because its tight, overly technical setup constantly keeps you on your toes, just like a drive through a European capital would.
The track allowed us to play up to fourth gear, so we got to put the transmissions of the three cars to decent work.
The toysYou’ve met the base Clio RS 200 EDC in our review, so I’ll skip straight to the Clio RS 220 Trophy EDC.
While the name of the car reveals the obvious 20 hp upgrade, accompanied by a 20 Nm (15 lb-ft) boost to 260 Nm (192 lb-ft), this is just the tip of the iceberg - there’s also a Torque Boost feature in fourth and fifth gear that brings the torque to 280 Nm (207 lb-ft).
The most important part of the equation has to do with the paddles. Their travel is now 30 percent shorter. You need that when the gearbox software has been recalibrated and allows shifts to be up to 50 percent faster.
The Trophy chassis is lower (20 mm up front and 10 mm at the rear), while the shocks are firmer and the rear springs are 40 percent stiffer. The steering is also quicker, with the ratio going from 14.5:1 to 12.2:1.
As for the all-important rubber, the RS220 EDC rides on Michelin Pilot Super Sport 205/40 R18 rubber.
These tires were an important asset throughout the day, as they were also used on the Clio Cup racecar.
The track-confined car is like a Jack Russell Terrier (you’ve seen one in the Wishbone TV series) on cat nip.
The greatest change compared to the road car is the absence of the EDC dual-clutch. This was replaced with a lighter Sadev sequential unit, which, in our case, kept the paddle setup (certain European markets use a gear shifter). The clutch is still in place, but you only use it to set off and when you want to make downshifts milder during the cooldown laps.
The list of tech goodies is completed by ZF-supplied motorsport shocks, 320mm front brake discs, as well as the mandatory rollcage and bucket seats.
The turbocharged 1.6-liter engine delivers 220 hp and 270 Nm (199 lb-ft) after receiving a new intake, exhaust, as well as a Cosworth ECU.
Game On!A 1.2 km track is not exactly difficult to learn, but having a team of Renaultsport-approved racing drivers and co-drivers assisting us meant we could push the car to ten out of ten without the slightest worry.
Doing this quickly exposed the highs and lows of the Clio RS 220 Trophy EDC and I have to admit I was rather impressed. Driving this back to back with the standard model easily shows the sharpening up process has worked.
It’s not just the gearbox, but all the changes listed above work together in an organic way. In a nutshell, the faster Clio RS now feels just right. If you ask me, the Trophy setup would work brilliantly in the standard car - without the lower, stiffer chassis, of course, since that would defeat the purpose of making the new Clio RS more usable.
In fact, as a Renaultsport official told me in an interview we’ll publish soon, the Clio facelift, which should come out next year, will bring the Trophy gearbox software to the standard car.
Is it worth it?The quicker steering, the livelier engine: there’s nothing here to compromise the usability. So the EUR1,800 premium is clearly worth it. The Trophy costs EUR 23,950, with 24 percent VAT included. And don't worry about not remembering the full name of the car. Given its memory-twisting ways, nobody will blame you for that.
And I don’t just say this because I’ve driven the thing on the track - when you’re stepping on the vibrators hard and you have a co-pilot shouting “there’s a Cup coming, move out of the way!” the stress conditions of road driving are pretty well simulated.
As you can imagine, the rather intense moment described above made me lust for some seat time in the racecar, which I got some fifteen minutes later.
It’s funny to wrestle your way past the rollcage and inside a motorsport machine to find interior bits from the Renault parts bin. But there’s no time to be amused by a clutch pedal that’s probably shared with a 90 hp Clio.
That’s because there’s a 99 percent chance you’ll stall during your first launch attempt. In order to make the most out of the remaining 1 percent, you’ll have to feed the racecar some revs (3,000 rpm is OK) and remember the active travel of the clutch is really short.
I didn’t mention the mechanical limited-slip differential on the Cup in the description above on purpose. This tech bit deserves at least a paragraph of its own. That’s because while it can’t kill the initial understeer, it will pull you into the corner just when you thought you were going to miss the apex.
The thing is intense, so I’m not sure who is abusing who on certain occasions.
The road-going Megane RS has such hardware, but the setup found here is more aggressive. Basically, you enter a corner while still slightly on the brakes (to slide the rear just a bit) and when you feel the understeer, you can just mash the throttle, with the diff helping you overcome the panic that ensues when the street car goes through such a phase.
The Clio Cup is precise, and despite missing electronic aids (ABS included), this is one forgiving machine. Since these cars were prepared for the press days, a safe setup was chosen. However, as with any racecar, a bit of suspension and rubber play can completely change the handling, but we didn’t get to sample that.
The brakes are impressive and the gearbox feels just as aggressive as you want it to be.
The only gripe I’ve had with the Clio Cup was linked to the turbocharged nature of its engine - as you hit the apex and try to modulate the throttle on the corner exit, the non-linear power delivery will stand in your way.
Then again, I only did a few laps in the Cup and I suspect some serious training would easily dismiss this issue.
So is the Clio Cup worth its pre-tax EUR48,000 starting price? The answer depends on where you stand. If you regard the price as more than twice the value of a road-going Clio Trophy, things don’t look good.
However, if you try to take the road car to a track and subject it to the kind of abuse the racer can easily take, you might end up spending more than planned. And without that limited slip diff, you won’t be too competitive.
If, however, you regard this as an alternative to the more expensive one-make racing series, it all starts making sense. We’re not here to mention stratospheric stuff like McLaren’s recent P1 GTR program or Ferrari’s Corse Clienti, but the just as front-wheel-driven Audi TT Cup, for instance, which starts at EUR60,000.
Then again, if you’re racing one of these Renaults, you can tell your friends that around 60 percent of F1 drivers have once passed through the Formula Renault Academy. Sure, Renault’s single-seaters are an entirely different matter, but you get the picture.
The point is that both the Renault Clio RS Trophy 220 EDC and the Clio Cup racecar make perfect tools for rookies. And while we all dream about becoming awesome racing drivers, knowing your place in the beginning is the first step towards that.