- R5 TURBO 3E
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Renault 5, an iconic economy hatchback built from 1972-84. Over the summer we saw the Renault R5 Diamant, a design-infused take on the original car. On Sunday at the Chantilly Arts & Elegance 2022 contest in France, Renault unveiled its follow-up, and electric drift car called the R5 Turbo 3E.
For those who don’t remember the Renault 5, perhaps the name “Le Car” will ring more of a bell. Marketed in the U.S. as such from 1976-83, it unfortunately didn’t meet with the same success it had in Europe. We say unfortunately because it meant we were denied one of the craziest hot hatches ever built, the Renault 5 Turbo and Turbo 2.
Whereas the standard Renault 5 was a front-engined, front-wheel-drive compact hatchback, the Turbo models had their 158-horsepower forced induction four-bangers placed in the back where the rear seats should have gone. Mounted on the rear suspension of an Alpine A310, it transformed the car into a mid-engined, rear-wheel-drive layout. This necessitated a dramatic widening of the the rear wheel flares and intakes to cool the engine, and Renault commissioned Bertone to create the bodywork.
Renault built the Turbo models to compete in Group 3 and Group 4 classes of the World Rally Championship. According to Octane, Renault made 1,820 of the original Turbo and 3,167 Turbo 2 models. The latter featured fewer exclusive parts but are nonetheless coveted by collectors today. Author Dominique Pascal says 1,000 5 Turbos were originally slated for the U.S. market, but the deal fell through.
The Renault R5 Turbo 3E carries on the spirit of the original Turbos as a rear-wheel-drive two-seater built for performance. The 3E nomenclature is a nod to this being the third “Turbo” and the E stands for electric. Obviously, with a battery powertrain there’s no turbo per se. The 42 kWh cells are mounted behind the front seats where the original’s engine was, and power is fed to a pair of electric motors making 280 kilowatts (380 horsepower) and 516 pound-feet of torque. 0-62 miles per hour comes in just 3.5 seconds and top speed comes at 124 mph.
Renault says built the R5 Turbo 3E with the express purpose of drifting. Perhaps they were inspired by corporate partner Nissan’s many chassis popular with drifters, but more likely they’re just trying to grab the fleeting attention of gamers and social media hounds. As such, there are 10 built-in mounting spots for action cameras to capture the car’s sliding antics. LED lights mounted front and rear flash in pink, yellow and blue when the car starts drifting for that maximum 80s vibe so popular with the youths today. Even the Plexiglass window are tinted pink. The predecessor’s 10-gauge dash has given way to a 10-screen dash with icons seemingly inspired by Super Mario Bros.
Unlike the original, the 3E is built on a tube frame chassis with a carbon fiber body draped over the skeleton. Other mainstays of drift machines can be found throughout the build. An extreme steering angle turns the wheels over 50 degrees in each direction. An upright quick-grab handbrake locks up the rear wheels. A giant wing, tow hooks and vaguely 80s-inspired aero disc wheels round out the package. Oh, and of course there’s an NFT component to it.
It’s the exact opposite of the Renault R5 Diamant, which was packed with traditional French crafts and design that have been around for centuries. However, it seems Renault’s bet to appeal to modern tastes paid off, as the car won the Public Award at the Chantilly Arts & Elegance festival.