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Frankfurt show: Renault Sport studying hot SUV, EV

Captur RS kicked: Renault Sport Cars managing director Patrice Ratti is not averse to producing a hot SUV.

Renault Sport considering SUV, electrification but won’t compromise on performance

Renault logo14 Sep 2017

By HAITHAM RAZAGUI in FRANKFURT

UPDATE: 15/09/2017

RENAULT Sport remains open to the idea of creating a hot Captur or Kadjar SUV, provided it can do so without compromising on performance and dynamics while keeping the price affordable.

A breathed-on electric car is also up for discussion, potentially drawing on the French hot-shop’s experience from creating the wild 340kW/640Nm Zoe e-Sport concept that caused a stir at the Geneva show in March.

But there will be no RS version of the current rear-engined Twingo micro-hatch, and there is scant possibility of a bespoke standalone model in the vein of the late-1990s Spider that was the first road car to bear the Renault Sport brand.

Speaking with Australian media at the Frankfurt motor show, Renault Sport Cars managing director Patrice Ratti acknowledged the success of Porsche’s SUV program but said it was difficult to replicate at “Renault Sport prices”.

“Now the market is very upscale, you see Porsche, Lamborghini, Maserati but if we find the way to do it at Renault Sport prices there’s probably a market for that,” he said.

“But it’s not an easy thing to do because if we do it, it has to be Renault Sport so we need to have good handling and enough power so I think that is why no generalist has really done it today, because I think everybody is looking at it.”

In addition to their raised centre of gravity and compromised aerodynamics, the enemy of SUV dynamics and performance is weight.

For example, Renault Captur variants sold in Australia are pretty light, all weighing less than the 1218kg Clio RS. But the hot Clio is a hefty 199kg more than the manual entry-level Life variant due to its larger engine, dual-clutch automatic transmission, beefed-up suspension, bigger wheels and stronger brakes.

“If we’re not able to a good product at the right price we don’t want to know,” said Mr Ratti. “So nothing is decided but we’re looking at many things.”

However, Mr Ratti was not concerned that an SUV would damage Renault Sport’s enthusiast image.

“Look at what happened with Porsche,” he said. “Most of their sales now are the Cayenne and Macan, with no damage there because they did a good product.”

Interestingly, Mr Ratti was not hung up on the requirement of all-wheel drive, pointing to the fact Volkswagen used a front-drive Golf GTI rather than an AWD Golf R to set a Nurburgring lap record.

Asked about the possibility of a future electrified RS, Mr Ratti referred to Renault’s European market leadership in electric vehicles and honed in on the idea of cars that are “full-electric or hybrid with two engines”.

“I don’t know when, but electrification is coming. Renault has been at the forefront of that,” he said.

“If we find we can make a car that is good to drive, really gives pleasure and gives a good economic equation then we will probably make it.”

As with any Renault Sport product, Mr Ratti’s priorities for an electrified model were handling and acceleration.

“The good thing about electric is the acceleration is extremely good. The bad thing is the weight, so it’s something we are studying,” he said.

“But nothing is decided – it is of course something that we are looking at.”

This echoed comments made by Renault’s global electric car sales and marketing director Guillame Berthier at a media event in Paris that preceded the Frankfurt show.

“We want to explain that electric cars are not a pain to save the planet, they are fun,” he told GoAuto.

“Maybe more and more sporty electrical cars will come in the future … Electric and sporty cars are not opposed at all and I think there is even good currency between each other, it is just a matter of cost and range.”

Mr Ratti gave short shrift to the notion of a fully-fledged Renault Sport Twingo to join the existing GT and follow up the RS 133 pocket rocket that was sold in Europe between 2008 and 2013.

“Twingo RS is a no for two reasons,” he said. “We’ve brought the engine to 110hp and that is the limit of the packaging so it is not an RS and also it is a very small segment.”

He also said a standalone sportscar follow-up to the 1996 Spider was unlikely now that sister brand Alpine was underway with the A110 coupe, adding that there would be no RS versions of Alpine cars and no Alpine versions of Renault cars.

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