It's a cool Saturday morning. Before setting off on a spirited drive, it is widely recommended to allow the machine to warm itself up before hitting the road. I climb into the driver's seat awkwardly as I try to limit contact with the immaculate right side bolsters. While my right foot is on the middle pedal, I trigger the engine start procedure from the centre console. The car fires into life, expelling exhaust gases through the two Akrapovic Evolution exits at the rear. The initial idle is rather lumpy. The tacho needle jumping between 500 and 1000. This is perfectly normal in my experience. It sounds raw and characterful at this stage, echoing off my double garage.
I leave the engine running for 6-7 minutes to allow the engine and transmission to warm up progressively. This certainly helps with engaging reverse gear to kickoff the journey. Pottering through my estate at a normal pace, the ride is noticeably firm and not for the faint-hearted. The Cup Chassis specified on my car is quite busy and unforgiving when you're not 'on it'. I would certainly not recommend the car as a daily driver, especially if traffic in your area is heavy.
Once the engine, exhaust, gearbox and tyres are completely warmed up, the car really comes alive. The combination of the Akrapovic Evolution exhaust system and this free-revving F4R 2.0-litre naturally aspirated engine (the same engine that is used in the open wheel racing series Formula Renault Eurocup) is the main event in my opinion. Throttle response is excellent even though an electronic throttle actuator is utilised. While on WOT and with 2nd gear selected, it's thrilling to build the revs all the way to the redline before swapping into 3rd, repeating all the way up to 5th. The sound is absolutely intoxicating and addictive. A top tip is to fold the rear seats down to enhance the aural experience.
Test out your heel and toe skills and blip the throttle as you downshift. But it's not just your ears that will be pleased. Find a nice set of corners with ideally smooth tarmac and prepare to be blown away by the exceptional handling. Despite having electric steering, feedback from the front wheels is astonishing. The car remains as planted through the corners as a 10,000 year old gumtree. The controls comprising the thick-but-not-too-thick steering wheel, gear selector knob and pedals are perfectly placed for maximum attack. While your bottom, hips and love handles are securely positioned in the stunning leather Recaro Sportster bucket seats, the harmonious placement of all the controls provides you as the driver with supreme confidence on the road.
As the final swansong of the manual transmission and naturally aspirated RenaultSport Clio's, the Mark III 200 is an extremely polished driving tool concocted from the brilliant engineers responsible for the stunning second generation Alpine A110.
One negative to note is the sound quality from the standard audio system. Which is why mine is always off. :)