This Phase 1 model (2001-2002), seen here nested between a bland quintet of newer Porsches with stickers up to 5x higher but with cool-factors barely 1/5th that of the silver Gaul, is one of the very few in the country. Currently only two are listed on Autotrader, a Phase 1 listed for about CDN$ 40k and a Phase 2 for about CDN$ 80k, and there are unlikely to be more than a dozen in the country all-told.2 It’s a very niche concern! But also one that’s so achingly cool and so exquisitely rare on our half-thawed roads that I jumped off my treadmill to take a closer look as I watched it pulling up to the health club.3
After seeing as much as I could see from 100m away, I finished my lift, showered off, and headed to the parking lot, fingers crossed that the Clio V6 (which looked to be a Phase 2 from a distance) would still be there. It was!
For those of you unfamiliar with the process of turning a front-engined front-wheel-drive hatchback into a mid-engined rear-wheel-drive sports car within the same diminutive wheelbase, the rear seats are guaranteed casualties in the name of Fun. And what Fun it must be! With 230hp driving with 245-section rear tires. Particularly when you factor in the additional 660 lbs of weight added somewhat unevenly to this economy-minded chassis. If you thought “Dreidel” was prone to spinning…
Of course, now that Phase 24 models can be legally imported under Canada’s comparatively civilised laws (Canada permits 15-year-old cars to be imported, USA is 25-years), the Phase 1 models will be a bit of a bargain, but of course this also isn’t the only previously forbidden fruit to look forward to!
2019 : Bristol Fighter – 8.0L Hemi V10 from a Dodge SRT10 pick-up in a svelte British coupé body from a company whose owner you had to personally meet (and ingratiate yourself to) before he’d sell you one of his cars. This was also the company’s swan song.
2020 : Final year Audi A2 – Designed by Luc Donckerwolke (of Lamborghini Murcielago fame) and manufactured using a lightweight aluminum space frame that lost Audi shedloads of money on every unit. Also from the year 2005, the waftable Citroen C6 is a winner.
2021 : Alfa Romeo Brera – Too heavy, too complex, too unreliable, and too beautiful for this world. It’s everything right and everything wrong with Alfa of the 2000s!
2022 : E61 BMW M5 Touring – With an F1-derived V10 engine, and also a wagon ? Yes!
2023 : Ariel Atom 500 – With a 500hp V8 in a 550 kg car, it does 0-100 kph in under 2.3 seconds. That’s Tesla Model S P100D speeds with no doors, no roof, and no holds barred!5
2024 : Renault Megane R26.R – Former FWD ‘Ring lap time record-holder and another sexy French weapon.
2028 : Volkswagen XL1 – The most stunningly gorgeous way to “save the planet.” With gullwing doors and cameras for side mirrors, this sporting miser is the apotheosis of massive resources applied single-mindedly towards a seemingly simple goal – in this case, fuel conservation (<1L/100km). The XL1 is in the same league as the Phaeton and Veyron as legacy projects from dear Herr Piëch, perhaps the single greatest visionary of the automotive industry in the last 50 years.
Feel free to add your picks in the comments section!
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- The pics from that old CarEnvy article were just updated earlier this week. After the last archival dig back in December 2018 (GT3 and SLR), this Clio V6 piece as well as a smattering of other diamonds in the rough were also dusted off and polished up (LFA, SLR Stirling Moss, 5GT, Phantom, Weismann, and DS). Oh baby!
Regardless of all that blissful fun (really, it was), to understand the importance of the Clio V6, we have to understand where the (seemingly eternal) Horsepower Wars were like back in the early 2000’s. At the time, over 200hp to the front wheels was considered “way too much to handle!”, which is why the Clio V6 was RWD. The class benchmark at the time, the VW GTI, only had 150hp sent to the front wheels.
Today, thanks to advances in suspension geometry (and presumably engine power management software), we have 295hp at the front wheels in the Civic Type R, not to mention AWD hot hatches like the upcoming A45S with 416hp at the crank (an output figure that was seriously competitive in the B7 RS4 in 2007). To be sure, the engineering required to keep so much power on the road despite a short wheelbase has improved dramatically in the last decade-and-a-half, mostly thanks to the GT-R-aping “AWD+DCT” formula, but of course there are still outliers like the bonkers Honda that don’t “cheat” thusly. [↩]
- There were only 1`500 units in the Phase 1 manufacturing run, of which surely half ended up wrapped around trees or buried in hedges ass-backwards. This one here was in remarkably clean condition, surely putting it in the top 10% of examples extant. [↩]
- Nothing makes the dreariness of running on a hamster wheel tolerable like a south view towards the North Saskatchewan River and a steady stream of higher-end cars and trucks to oggle. Thankfully, that’s exactly what my health club offers with the beautiful location of its fitness room. Extensive renovations of the facility are set to begin this year with completion in 2021, which will bring the whole place into the 21st century but in doing so will move the gym closer to the pool and away from the river/street view. So such serendipitous moments are fleeting! [↩]
- There were approx. 1`300 Phase 2 units produced. [↩]
- That being said, just because a vehicle is 15-years-old, it doesn’t mean that you can get a license plate for it. The Ariel Atom falls into the “definitely maybe” camp here but at least it would be the world’s best track toy! [↩]