The Renault 5 Turbo 3E Concept Is A Rally-Inspired Electric Hatchback That’s Born To Drift

Renault 5 Turbo 3e Topshot

Ever since I saw the reborn Renault 5 EV concept, I wondered if Renault would make a Turbo tribute. Well, my wishes have been granted, because the Renault 5 Turbo 3E concept mates old-school rally-cool looks with a brand new electric architecture while bringing serious performance into the mix.

Let’s start with the powertrain. Renault has essentially taken the Renault 5 concept and widened the rear track by a lot to stuff two electric motors where your shopping would normally go. The zero-to-62 mph (0-100 km/h) dash is dispatched within just 3.5 seconds, seriously impressive stuff for a rear-wheel-drive EV. However, sheer acceleration isn’t the Renault 5 Turbo 3E concept’s main party piece. That would be drifting.

Renault 5 Turbo 3E

See, Renault thinks drifting is cool and is absolutely right in that assumption. Whether Pluspy or Matt Field’s astonishing Formula Drift Long Beach drone run, I could watch cars slide about all day. Hell, I could slide cars about all day given the chance and facilities without ever getting bored. Since Renault has given each rear wheel on the Renault 5 Turbo 3E concept its own electric motor, current can be sent equally to each rear motor, mimicking a locked differential. Add in a lack of an electric motor up front, and Renault has dialed in a staggering 50-plus degrees of steering angle for throwing backies. Not only does this allow for some sick entries, it also fixes the bus-like turning radius of the last mid-engined Renault hatchback, the Clio V6. Brilliant.

Renault 5 Turbo 3E

On the outside, the Renault 5 Turbo 3E concept isn’t painted as such, but instead cloaked in an eyeball-spinning digital camouflage pattern that looks a bit like TV static. While definitely a retro-inspired concept, this livery does hide a lot of the car’s surfacing. Thankfully, it’s impossible to hide the boulder-sized box flares that jut out in a properly aggro manner. How else would you shove huge tires underneath a small hatchback? Those tires come wrapped around an amazing set of turbofan wheels that feature incredibly wide lips on the rear pair. Also, can we talk about the purple glazing for a second? I bet it’s awful for visibility but it has an unmistakable vibe, part Omnique and part Kustom.

R5 Turbo 3e Show Car (3)

So, Renault’s cooked up an electric drift-spec concept inspired by rally ancestors. Pretty cool, albeit not without controversy. No, I’m not talking about the turbo name on electric cars. Most engine displacement badges are meaningless these days, so what’s the difference? See, electric motors don’t really give you a clutch to kick, so unless you can throw sick feint entries just about everywhere, most electric drift cars will heavily rely on dragging the handbrake to enter a drift.

While not exactly a traditionally-preferred technique, handbrake initiations have found favor in Formula Drift, making electric drift cars best suited to American-style drifting. The Hot Version and Haraguchi fans aren’t going to be happy about that. However, it’s still dope as hell to see an electric car designed to keep both rear tires spinning. I’m glad that automakers are finding ways to have fun within the upcoming regulatory constraints of electric cars, and hot smoky drifts are absolutely fun.

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12 Responses

  1. The whole Le Car thing always confuses me. I remember from school French lessons that ‘le car’ means ‘the bus’ or ‘the coach’.

    Is this a joke that Renault and all of America is in on?

  2. It’s a shame for Renault that drifting wasn’t really ‘a thing’ when the original R5 Turbo came out, because they could have pretended it’s tail-happy nature was intentional.

  3. I’ve wondered for a long time how you would drift an electric car. I don’t think manufacturers are keen to add a mechanical clutch any time soon. But given that the torque of an electric motor is almost instantaneous, couldn’t you just make a small but rapid increase of the current provided to the motor? It would have the same effect as clutch-kicking, in that the rotational force applied to the rear wheels would exceed the force of the friction between the road and the tire.

    Maybe you’d do a little left-foot brake to get the weight onto the front wheels and then quickly nudge the “gas” ?

    Manufacturers: I will be happy to test this for you.

    1. Or a big-ass capacitor to kick the motors? I already spend a fair portion of my days checking start/run capacitors, so I’d be quite willing to test-drift this concept. You’d need some pretty beefy relays, but it’s not rocket science.

  4. I was watching one of the first drives of the Hyundai RN22e last night (the N-spec Ioniq 6) – I hadn’t paid much attention to it compared to the Project 74, but given that it has paddle shifters to simulate gear changes, I’m taking that to assume that you could just as easily force the electric engine to do something close to a clutch kick, and overwhelm the rear tires, right?

  5. I’ve never drifted but don’t you want the option of clutch kicking or hand braking? If you’re coming in too hot you scrub some speed by pulling the brake. If you need to maintain speed you kick the clutch.

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