When the `Supercinq’ (`Superfive’) launched the second generation of the Renault 5 supermini in 1985, it brought with it a GT Turbo version which urban fashionistas dubbed not only ‘cute’ but ‘Le Car, on Steroids’. Boy racers had their noses put out of joint.
The Renault 5 GT Turbo was a proper (`serieux’) sports car, designed for the World Rally Championship, the Monte Carlo Rally, and the most difficult road events like the Tour de Corse. It was also Renault’s irritated response to the kudos of Peugeot’s 205 GTi. On both counts, it was a worthy challenger — and a legion of admirers sprang up to refute any similarity with ‘Le Car’ at all, pointing out that the two cars had only a roof, glass and the doors in common.
Renault had to look backwards to go forwards: the 5 GT Turbo’s engine was a 1.4 litre pushrod unit developed with racing specialists Alpine years earlier, and used in the spectacularly quick, and bigger, Renault 9 and 11 Turbos. With an air-to-air intercooler and Garrett T2 turbocharger, the power unit made the featherweight 5 GT Turbo a scorchingly hot hatch. Of course, you needed to control it, and learn to anticipate the turbo lag.
It only took a few minutes to realize that the 5 GT Turbo’s key characteristic wasn’t acceleration or even top line speed, but its leech-like grip and one-touch sensitive response on the road, at speed. In the right hands, and on a suitable road, it could generate sustained G-forces normally unobtainable outside a jet fighter.
It was fun while it lasted. The specially developed sport suspension, dropped ride height and re-engineered chassis lost their point when emission controls deprived the engine of its competitive edge. Thank heaven there are still boy racers to be keepers of the 5 GT Turbo’s flame.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
1985 (until 1991)
1,397 cc OHV Straight Four Turbo
Top speed of 115 mph (185 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 7.1 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
Affection for the Renault 5 GT Turbo’s wild, youthful joys runs deep and contrary. The car plays a big role in the film Ali G In Da House – but perhaps a better memorial is its elegiac appearance in Les Randonneurs or, tearfully, in Nuovo Cinema Paradiso.