Vol. II No. 36 Saturday September 6 - September 12, 2003
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Automania

Renault Clio V6

Having just been overseas, some of the vehicles that impressed me were the Renault Clio range. Just before I had left for the trip, I spotted a special Renault Clio V6 item on the box. What a pocketful of dynamite that is, and if the AIM Motorsports people have managed it you will see one here! Absolutely ‘supercar’ performance and costs four times as much as the shopping trolley it was derived from, but one tenth of a supercar price.

Renault Clio V6

The rear-engine, V6-powered Renault Clio V6 certainly is a supercar among the hot-hatches. The V6 is where the rear seats used to be, reducing it to a two seater with a 3 litre V6 putting out 255 bhp mated to a six-speed transmission screwing the carbon black out of Michelin Pilot Sport tyres. The new Clio V6 becomes one of the first production cars to use these tyres, which draw upon F1-originated “Variable Contact Patch” concepts that provide a more controllable driving experience.

According to Monsieur Renault, the rear suspension has been fully rejigged to offer more precision and more stability, along with a longer wheelbase. This was necessary as the stumpy Clio could swap ends faster than a politician’s promise, and on the TV programme, it still was a high speed spinner if the entry speed and right welly were not adjusted to suit the corner.

The new ones cost 27,000 British pounds in the UK, top 153 mph (240 clicks) and do a 0-100 kays in five and a bit seconds. I want one of these!


Free wheeling and three wheeling

While in the UK I spotted this jazzy little number in a car park. I strolled over, thinking from the distance, that it was a Morgan 3 Wheeler, but as I got closer and saw the wishbone front suspension and Triumph Herald uprights, it was definitely not a Morgan front end.

The car is actually one of the many replicars that are available in the UK, this one called a JZR, and sported a Moto Guzzi 1000 cc V twin up front. The engine protrudes through the front bodywork, just as the Anzani twin did for the Moggie, and the driver and passenger sit almost on the floor, side by side in the cramped cockpit.

While looking at it, the owner came up and he turned out to be a motorcycle outfit racer. Helluva nice chap and the next I knew was we were flogging through the back streets of Elgin (northern Scotland) in the device. Quite a blast, let me tell you.

It appeared to have a turning circle something akin to the Queen Mary, and 3 point U turns were interesting, to say the least - the device, with motorcycle transmission, having no reverse gear! The owner said you picked streets that were downhill if you wanted to reverse.

The acceleration was quite brisk, as you would expect from a one litre engine dragging very little in the way of weight from the minimal space frame chassis and light body. It had all the vintage ‘feel’ with none of the problems of driving something made up of 70 year old bits and pieces. Great car, pity about the import duty you’d have to pay here to get it in.

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I asked what Japanese car manufacturer was founded in 1920 to make cork products? The answer was in the name of the Japanese Company founder, Jujiro Matsuda. He established the company in 1920 as Toyo Cork Kogyo Co., Ltd. which later became Mazda.

And so to this week. Let’s go back to three wheelers. If the car I had seen in the park in the UK had been a Morgan, what style of front suspension would it have had?

For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]

Good luck!


Toyota Prado V6 Grande. A Grand spend?

Perhaps the title should have been “How many grand to spend?” as it costs AUD 72,000 in Australia but some of the Prado range can be purchased in Thailand with the closest specification here being a cool 2.5 million baht.

Toyota Prado V6 Grande

Our Down-Under correspondent John Weinthal has been blasting around the boonies in the top of the line Prado and came up with the opinion that there are many less effective ways to spend $72,000. Here are the Words from Weinthal.

“The Toyota Prado has been a success story for Toyota Australia. It slots between the fun, soft-roading RAV 4 and the big-bruiser full-on LandCruiser range. Prado is an honest off-roader of considerable talent without some of the ultimate - and rarely required - ruggedness and go-anywhere capability of its big brother. A distinguishing feature from most other mid-fielders is its standard eight-seater capacity.

“We now have what might be called Prado Mk 11. This is a much more stylish vehicle than its predecessor both inside and out, but the base formula remains the same. That said, this is a comprehensively better vehicle in every facet - particularly the range-topping AUD 72,000 Prado Grande tested.

“Were Toyota to badge this vehicle a Lexus I would be the last to argue. For my money it deserves this accolade far more than the re-badged full-sized LandCruiser V8 which is passed on with a huge price premium, and not a lot more, as the Lexus LS470. I say this, I should add, at the same time as I have the keys to the delectable new five-seater Lexus RX330 wagon. This will be reviewed shortly. (Some people have all the luck - Dr. Iain.)

“New Prado is safer, stronger, more economical and a lot more refined. In Grande form it could be almost considered as an eight-seater alternative to a local limo like the Ford LTD or Holden Caprice, but with real off-roading ability and seating for eight. Its refined hush combines with an unexpectedly supple ride.

“The downside is that its height and over two-tonne weight also ensure that it has less than car-like reflexes when it comes to cornering and traffic light grand prix starts. But these will not necessarily be demerits for many drivers, and especially for their passengers. To ride in the rear-air-suspended, self-levelling Prado Grande is to endure no hardship.

“A host of valuable features - visible and otherwise - apply across the three-engine and three-spec new Prado range. Every Prado from the entry level 112kW 2.7 litre petrol GX model up has full-time four-wheel-drive, at least two air bags, three-point seat-belts to all eight seats, CD player, engine immobiliser, power windows and mirrors and remote locking. Safety and comfort features increase as one moves through GXL to the Grande.

“All Prados are available with a 96 kW diesel or a 4 litre 179kW V6. Four-speed auto is optional on all models. The 2.7 litre 112kW four-cylinder engine is confined to the entry level Prado GX, but it too can be had as a manual or auto. Toyota seems to have hit every button this time.

“Committed fishermen friends assure me a recent week on Fraser Island could not have seen them in a better vehicle. These guys gave the Grande the sort of treatment few owners will ever mete out. These guys are old hands. They are not easily impressed, especially by something which carries just about every comfort feature going, exudes refinement on road and is quiet enough to justify the Lexus badge it richly deserves in so many areas.

“There is a raft of safety aids. These start with ABS all-disc brakes and full-time four-wheel-drive. There are side curtain airbags, hill start and downhill assist controls for really rugged off-road mountaineering and more.

“Torque from the new 4 litre quad cam engine is 35% greater than before, and the Prado V6 is more powerful than either of the entry level, but more expensive, Mercedes or BMW all-wheel-drive wagons.

“Satellite Navigation is standard as are roof rails, an excellent sound system, dual air-con, security alarm, trip computer, compass altimeter and barometer! What more could one ask for? Comfortable, super-plush looking leather seat perhaps? That too is standard.

“This is a comprehensively equipped vehicle of exemplary build quality, that will carry eight virtually anywhere in considerable comfort. Of course, it will deliver just as well for any number short of eight, with luggage capacity rising with each body you leave back home.

“At AUD 72,000 many will not even consider it out of order to take it into the rough stuff - and the Prado Grande will reward them richly. There are many less effective ways to spend that sort of money.”

(Thank you John, and reading between the lines, it seems as if you liked this one! Dr. Iain.)


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