GRAN TURISMO CAR REVIEWS

1980 Renault 5 Turbo
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white_renault5.jpg

Year: 1980
Host: GT4 (testing only) & GT5

Class: Hot Hatch
Type: 2-door hatchback
Country: France

Price as Tested: 63,324 (GT4 '80s used car lot)
                         52,291 (GT5 online car lot)

Construction: unit steel with aluminum body panels

Length: 144.3" // Width: 68.9" // Height: 52.16"
Wheelbase: 95.7"
Overhang: 4 feet 1 inch
Track: 53.0" [F] 58.1" [R]
Ground Clearance: 5.7" 
Weight: 2,180 pounds
Wgt. Dist: 40/60

Steering: unassisted rack & pinion
Turn Radius: 34.1 feet
Lock to lock: 3.300

Layout: Mid Engine/Rear-drive
Tires: 190/55VR-13.4 [F] 220/55VR-14.4 [R]
F. Suspension: wishbones, torsion bars, shox, anti-roll bar
R. Suspension: wishbones, torsion bars, shox, anti-roll bar
Brakes: vented discs

Not sure if GT4 car received an oil change
Car in GT5 was given oil change but no engine rebuild


Engine: 1.4 liter OHV inline 4
Aspiration: air to air intercooled turbo
Fuel System: EFi
Valves / Cyl: 2
Bore x Stroke: 2.99" x  3.03"
Compression: 7.0:1

Transmission: 5-speed manual
Differential: ?

                            GT4                      GT5
Horsepower: 160 @ 6,000          157 @ 6,000
Torque:         154.71 @ 3,250      152 @ 3,000

Credits per HP: 395.77                    311.18
Pounds per HP: 13.36                       13.61
Pounds per Trq: 13.79                      14.06
HP per Liter:      nil                           112.3

GT4 Idle: 550 // Redline: 6,500 // RPM Limit: 7,000
GT5 Idle: 625 // Redline: 6,500 // RPM Limit: 7,000

                     GT4                            GT5
0-60 mph:  7.550 secnds             7.662 seconds             
0-100 mph: n/a                           19.643

400 Meters: 15.520 @ 91 mph    15.939 @ 90 mph
1,000 Mtrs: 28.352 @ 116          28.762 @ 115

 
1 Mile:       no test                    39.983 @ 126 mph

Test Track Lap: n/a                       1:07.524 (Daytona)

100-zero mph: 4.31 seconds            5.467 seconds 

Top Gear RPM @ 60 mph: 2,900

GT4 Top Speed at Redline:
1st: 33 mph
2nd: 5x mph
3rd: 83 mph
4th: 109 mph
5th: 137.65 mph @ 6,750 rpm

GT5 Top Speed at Redline
1st: 32.8 mph
2nd: 53.4
34d: 80.2
4th: 106.7
5th: 135.6 mph @ 6,750 rpm
 

-------EXTERIOR / HISTORY---------

Anybody remember the Renault 5? The Le Car?

We're all familiar with the Renault Clio and Clio Sport models. If it weren't for Gran Turismo, many of us would not be familiar with the car which spawned this lineage, especially younger folks. The Clio is actually a derivative of an earlier Renault model: the Renault 5.

I am not sure what happened in the rest of the world, but in America the 5 lived a short life (1977-1983) as the "French Rabbit", aka the Le Car. Its doors actually said "Le Car" towards their bottom panels. Back in the day, the Le Car was amongst the trendiest of fads, right alongside Izod shirts, preppies, and permed hair. And it was these sorts (Izod-wearing preps who had recently been to the salon) who probably bought the Le Car most. The Renault 5 sold massively in Europe, but was ultimately doomed in the states, despite its try at appeasement to the masses here.           

But the 5 wasn't all about gimmicks. Just like the Clio nowadays, in its day the Renault 5 had many different versions for all levels of drivers. Most Renault 5s were simply compact economy cars with a catchy twist, but there was one version which managed to break this mold to some extent. The Renault 5 Turbo was the very top model one could buy, and happened to be of the same status as a Clio Sport V6 is today. In its day, the 5 Turbo priced between $22,350 and $28,000, which was a lot of money back then. Amazingly, we actually got the 5 Turbo here in America.

Renault raced the 5 (turbo and non-turbo) successfully in ralliles, winning at Monte Carlo in 1977 and 1982, which means it has some rep to back up its silly looks. This one has some very unique features, for a car sold to the public that is. Its fenders bulge outwards , accentuating the individual wheels they cover. This Renault may look funny, but there are an assortment of grilles and scoops found on the front, and on its rear fenders. These force air straight to the engine's intercooler and onto its rear brakes, I'm assuming. And in case the message has not gotten across yet, the car also features an assortment of badges, letterings, and a large decal in its rear window which says TURBO. Hmm... 

So this can be said: In its day, the Renault 5 (Turbo or non-turbo) was about as gaudy as some of ours here in America. This car may not have been the fastest, but its message was just as cheesy as that of the Pontiac Firebird, which could be bought during the same era with a giant hawk decal on its hood. But the 5 Turbo wasn't all about cheese. It was sold as a 2-seater for instance, the rear seats deleted so that Renault could fit its miniscule engine back there. That shows some dedication to the cause, eh? Also, let's notice those wheels, which are of unequal size. The rears are wider than the fronts. We are about to drive a performance car folks, rather than another Clio 16v (as in GT2) which can barely be modified.    

The 5 Turbo can be bought in GT4's and 5's used car lots. At 2,138 pounds, it is a little bit lighter than the real-life version was pegged at (2,180 pounds), but this is okay. Could be just the difference between a dry (no fluids in car) and fully-weighted automobile. In GT4, a fully-lightened car falls to a Kei van-like 1944 pounds. I have yet to fully lighten my GT5 car. I'm afraid to, actually. We'll find out why in a moment.  

Now, let's drive for God's sake. I never got to drive a Le Car back when I was in high school, and  by the time I dropped out of college (1988) most of these Frenchmobiles were already off to the junkyards: rust, unreliability with repair options, and Renault's out-of-business American contact (American Motors) having doomed the Le Car to an early extinction here.     

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-------ENGINE / DRIVETRAIN--------

This car is a hot hatch by class, and things do start off with a bang to some extent, more so in GT5 than in GT4. A Garret turbocharger helps bring its baby engine to life. 1.4 liters. That's what we've got to work with here, folks. Not much, eh? It should be noted that most real-life Renault 5s often made nowhere near the power of the Turbo; some rated as low as 46 horses!  

150-ish horsepower may not seem like much, but Alpine (Renault's tuner) seems to have done the best they could. This is what some also say about many others with 150-ish horsepower, many others which happen to be hot hatches, that is. Meganes, Pugs, Civics, etc. Many of these others are front-drive, but this Renault is rear-drive, and with a mid-engine, which is what makes a lot of the difference. Let's see what happens when we put a Le Car on steroids. 

Although I never drove this one in GT4 (not that I can remember, anyways) the Renault 5 Tubo will simply walk over much of GT5 early on. Sunday Cup and World Compact Car Cup can both be had far too easily if one is using stock parts and power. But then, we hit a wall. This French fry can't be entered into any other Beginner's League races, not even the European Classic Car Cup. The 5 Turbo happens to be to new to qualify, by just one year. Bummer.   

So we move on to the Clubman. First race is at Tsukuba, so this is where I began my driving. Once again, the car's power must be solidly hacked during that first race and at Cape Ring, especially if sport tires are being used. Moral of the story: the Renault 5 Turbo somehow starts GT5 with too much going for it, and it's sad that there aren't more races it can compete in early on like there are (I'm assuming) in GT4. I know for a fact that GT4's MR Challenge (a Beginner League event) actually is a challenge, unlike most of GT5's early races. GT4 also has all those Special Condition events; prime territory for this automobile. The 5 Turbo becomes more useful later on during GT5: Tous France Championnat, Turbo Challenge, Polyphony Digital Cup, and the European Championship all can be notched under our belt.    

At first, the 5 Turbo doesn't feel as if it's got much under its hood. Yes it is turbocharged, but at first it's hard to notice this. Can't hear a turbo's typical whoosh at all while driving; instead, all we hear at first is the actual 4-cylinder engine as it churns and sometimes struggles. Power seems sluggish, and for this reason, the 5 doesn't seem like it'll be a very demanding car to drive -- but hold that thought: once we start cornering, this illusion gets dispeled rather quickly! But that's for the Handling section, of course.     

According to a website I visited, the real-life 5 Turbo makes it to 60 mph in 7.7 seconds, and 100 mph in 22.0. The virtual car makes 60 mph in 7.662 (very close to real-life), but gets to 100 mph 2 and a half seconds faster. Interesting. The real-life car also ran a sixteen second quarter-mile, and once again, PD is very close: 15.996.    

There are upgrades, of course, ...and

For the gearbox, we've got a 5-speed which is just tall enough to keep stock power from meeting its RPM limit, should this car wind up in a situation that demands lots of time down a straightaway. Since this is a mid-engine car with great straight-line traction, it is possible that the entire range of gears (even 1st out of super-tight areas) can be used. So the stock box is useful, but during my Top Speed test that tach got deep into its red-zone, which obviously means stock gears do have their limits. I did find the stock gearbox useful at a good list of tracks, though. Close gearing also becomes useful here and there, too. 

When gearing the 5 Turbo, remember it's got a real lack of torque; not surprising since we're discusing a car with a 1.4 pushing it around. When I drove this car at Sarthe during the Tous France Championnat for instance, I realized I had to use 2nd gear out of this track's Mulsanne chicane areas. It doesn't matter that the 5 was equipped with a full-custom box, these chicanes are typically 3rd-gear areas, with or without my tuning. But in the Renault 5, 3rd bogged down noticeably, so that in the replay it was funny to watch a bit of indecision about what gear I should have been in. Not true turbo lag, but definitely a lack of torque.

As was mentioned before, the Renault 5 did have some success in real-life rally racing, let's try and see if we can decipher how this came about, by attacking some turns.

------CHASSIS / HANDLING------

Now, for our driving impressions. To some, the 5 Turbo might have go-kart handling. To others, it's more like shopping cart handling!  The Renault 5 Turbo happens to be one of those which possesses many assets, but also poses many challenges and demons. It works with us at times, slyly gliding past the competition during some turns without a sweat. At other times, this car is more like a disaster on 4 wheels, just as spin-happy as a Subaru 360. Let us discuss.   

 I tested and apparently raced a 5 Turbo in GT4, but have no memory of this. I plan to correct this at some point, this one seems like a car worth going back to for sure. For now, let's discuss what happens in GT5, a game with no ABS brakes, and even wilder oversteer possibilities than 4 must have.

PD has given this car soft radials (rather than mediums), which seems fair since the 5 Turbo was supposed to be a performance model. Since I started driving this car in the Clubman, my very first racing happened at Tsukuba. So I did some practice runs here, first. Early into the first turn (before the clock even starts) my red Le Car already gets into a slide! As I carry a little too much speed (74 mph) into this first curve, the car's rear starts to step out, rather harshly! I let the slide go for a moment, and then the car steers more firmly into a proper orbit.

Phew! .... Didn't expect that!

You have to be careful with this one, despite its lowish power, whether its on comforts or sport tires. This car can fool us at times, sometimes during the mildest of turns. Predictability and stability are two things a Renault 5 Turbo can seem to possess for a few moments, then all a sudden everything changes, the rear is losing traction while the front struggles to keep the line it was maintaining flawlessly only a moment ago. It happens in the wink of an eye.  

This is exactly what occured during that first curve at Tsukuba, before I even officially started Lap 1. Since it seemed there was no danger of any traction-loss, I initially tamed the throttle for entry-corner accuracy. The 5 turned in neutrally, with a slight tendency for front-end grabbing, rather than understeer. Hmm...guess I'm not going fast enough. So I add more throttle, and at first everything is okay. And then suddenly, it's all over! The 5 Turbo has tricked me, its rear wanting to trade places with the front!  Granted, it does not do so; quick reflexes save the day in this case. But I imagine if I were a new driver I would have easily wound up in the grass, or on a wall.

I also drove this car in the Tous France Championnat. Things got interesting at high-speed Sarthe, as I figured they would. I'm not even talking about the turns, I am talking about the Mulsanne Straight. Even while trying to go 'straight', this portion of the track had my 5 Turbo dancing all over the road!  Here I am, trying to simply drive in a single line, yet I'm also having to make constant little steering corrections to faithfully achieve this. And curbs? That's a whole other issue. A curb which merely lifts another car's fenders up and down can become something to truely fear in a 5 Turbo. As the 5 slips and jack-knifes over such curbing, it's hard not to think of macaroni, as it slips and slides right out of a pot and into your dish. Macaroni can be fun to eat, but driving on it? ....or any other sort of pasta? Well, that's not so fun.   

Bottom line: not a car for beginners, despite its low power. And if you're not a beginner, yet you're dealing with sliding, spins, and even some wrecks, don't give up on the Renault 5 in desperation!  No, be persistent. Mid-engine Clio Sport V6s happen to be very mercurical cars to drive too, and by this I mean they often offer plenty of options for on-the-spot cornering, not just one or two. Once we start the tuning, the Renault 5 Turbo can become a Clio Sport Junior, much lighter and perhaps more fun as well.

First step ... try installing a limited-slip differential. There ya go. At Tsukuba, this bit slashed those lap time by nearly an entire second, in my case. I also recently used one at Eiger Norwand with a setting of 11/19/15 before taking on the Amateur Series European Hot Hatch races. LSD helped a lot with out-of-corner traction, especially. I could now give lots of gas out of Eiger's 4 deadly hairpins in 2nd gear with minimal chances for a spin. Good.

But the thing is, this car never seems to feel quite right. If you're looking for perfection with this one, you might as well keep looking. LSD tuning can often add problems which weren't there before. The Turbo felt improved out of those hairpins at this track, but turn-in felt noticably slower into them, even with that weak initial torque rating. I could compensate for this by flicking the steering hard at the right moment (non-ABS brakes helped me get the Turbo into some tighter angles), but notice with a Clio Sport V6, a limited-slip would probably not be needed at all, not at this level of racing, anyways.  

During the longer right curve before the tunnel, the car still felt a little squeamish, but it wasn't nearly as bad as before LSD tuning was applied. I still couldn't apply full throttle during certain longer curves, at either Eiger or Rome. But anyways, if you're having problems with the 5 Turbo, a limited-slip is where you should start your quest for better handling.       

One of the major differences bewteen GT4 and GT5 happens to be with braking, of course, and I'm not talking about using ABS or not using it. Lighter mid-engine cars like the 5 Turbo often suffered from longer brake distances in GT4 than lighter front-drives. Check out the testing results near the top of this page: the GT4 test car went from 100 to zero mph in 4.31 seconds. This sounds great (compared to GT5) but it's actually pretty bad. ALL mid-engine cars (lighter ones especially) posted miserable results in comparison to FFs in GT4. This includes cars which should exhibit phenomenol braking, like the Lotus Elise. 

PD seems to have fixed this because at about 5.5 seconds from 100 to zero mph, the 5 Turbo is a little below average. "Average" in this game is closer to 6 seconds for lighter cars with small tires. I'm noticing this discrephancy during races, too. I'm able to brake this car a little later than some other older models would tolerate. Most braking must be applied in a straight line, of course, but trail-braking can also be tried here and there.   

But don't trail-brake too late!  With no ABS to assist, this automobile can't help but get a little too sideways on entry. But I'm also noticing there is a bit of leeway before the actual emergency-mode starts. Sometimes while braking in, the 5 almost seems to give a little warning (in the form of edgy movements and a little too much tire squeal), before it starts to finally jack-knife sideways. In other words, if the car is starting to lose it a little, there's still a chance we can still catch it before it falls.

Overall, the Le Car may have failed here in America, but in the rest of the world (and in Gran Turismo), we can make this one a shining star, the way it ultimately became for awhile in its heyday.
 

PROS----------------------------------------

1). We have ourselves a relic here; an almost forgotten piece of history. Does Forza get the Renault 5 Turbo?  Probably not.

2). Mid-engine/rear-drive layout in a world of mostly FFs. The Clio Sport V6 aint the only Hot Hatch which gets to play by different rules.

3). Flashy and gaudy (although some may see this as a con). The WRX and Evo both come to mind since both of these were also raced in the WRC, and also have flashy/gaudy looks. The 5 Turbo trumps both of these autos, however.      

4). Turbo upgrades available in both games the 5 Turbo makes an appearance in.

5). The stock 5-speed gearbox is useful for awhile.

6). The Renault 5 Turbo was raced successfully in real-life, so it actually has some heritage.

7). Lots of straight-line traction.

8). Lightweight (although see Con #5 below).  

9). With just 1.4 liters under its trunk, fuel is gonna last a long time.

10). Minimal understeer, and I imagine this is one of the 30 or so cars that actually oversteers-on-demand in GT4, although I'm just guessing.

CONS----------------------------------------

1). Just about as silly as a car can be. I don't mind, but lots of people (gamers) probably do.

2). Low-powered. Acceleration is lacking, and so is our top speed. Racing upgrades might not push this one ultimately to where we'd like to go.

3). Tricky handling, mostly oversteer. In GT4, this may be a plus, but the car in GT5 must be seriously tamed to be effective. If you don't know much about tuning, and what countersteer is (and how to employ it), the Renault 5 Turbo is not for you.

4). GT5: no passenger-side mirror.

5). Yes the 5 Turbo is light at just 2,138 pounds to start, but there's a lack of stability here that hurts more often than it helps.

6). Stock transmission must be swapped for custom gearing as power gets upgraded for larger tracks.  

7). Rather pricey for something that hasn't got much power, is difficult to drive, and difficult to tune.  

Published: December 23, 2012   

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