Hot stuff!

Hot stuff!

Renault appears to have on its hands a hot hatch which will meet performance expectations of motoring consumers looking for alternatives to rivals from Volkswagen, Ford and Honda. Wynter Murdoch reports





Renault’s Mégane RS has long been a favourite among people who enjoy the demands of driving a hot hatch – and from this perspective the French compact has invariably proved rewarding.




The latest version to be launched in South Africa incorporates a number of new technologies aimed at promoting the driving experience, among them a four-wheel steering system, hydraulic bump stops borrowed from the world of rallying and a downsized, 1,8-litre engine that’s every bit as powerful as the previous model’s 2,0-litre mill.





Two versions are on offer, the Lux and the Cup, significant differences between them being the choice of gearbox – an automatic, twin clutch, EDC version in the former, a manual shifter in the latter – as well as different suspension settings and wheel sizes.


In essence, the Lux is perceived to be more forgiving for everyday use than its sibling, the Cup having been fine-tuned for track use thanks to suspension that is about 20% firmer; the incorporation of a Torsen-type limited slip differential in its drivetrain; and a wheel size that, at 19 inches, is one inch bigger.



Oh yes, it also gets red-painted brake calipers, so evenif you upgrade the Lux’s wheels to match those of the Cup – a R8 070 option – even casual observers should be able to tell the derivatives apart.



Engines, however, are similar, the units developing 205kW and 390Nm. And that, according to Renault, gives each of the cars an identical 0 to 100km/h time – 5,8 seconds. Incidentally, the powerplant’s cylinder head has been designed in cooperation with the brand’s Formula 1 team and includes a recently developed, faster acting twin-scroll turbo. The unit also gets the same mirror bore coating that’s used in sister brand’s Nissan GT-R.



The engine pulls hard from low revs – there’s no turbo lag to speak of – and spins enthusiastically and with an addictively throaty rasp to the 7 000 revs/min cut out. Drive modes include launch control and various levels of traction control, including no holds barred race.





With bodywork about 60mm wider at the front and 45mm broader at the rear compared with that of a standard Mégane – and track width increased by 41mm and 26mm respectively – there’s a lot more muscle in the looks of the Lux and Cup than there is the standard car.






Road presence can be heightened even more though, through choice of special exterior paint colours such as Tonic Orange or Sirius Yellow – again an option. And, like the recently introduced Clio RS, the Mégane features the brand’s distinctive chequered flag pattern in its fog light clusters.


Inside, fixtures include sporty, high-backed and well-bolstered front seats, aluminium pedals and carbon-look as well as chromed trim inserts. A centrally mounted RS Monitor allows drivers to display performance data on a 12,3-inch infotainment screen and download it for sharing on social media.


During the launch of the Lux at the Aldo Scribante race track at Port Elizabeth, I found needed a number of laps to get used to the four-wheel steering system – which is a revised version of that used by the Mégane GT. 



Ostensibly designed to boost agility at low speeds – while also increasing stability and grip when going fast – the speed dependent electronically controlled set-up turns the rear wheels in the opposite direction to the fronts up to 60km/h and, thereafter, in the same direction. In race mode, the switchover occurs at the 100km/h mark. 


Other points to note: The EDC gearbox feels smooth and seamless, reacting crisply to column mounted paddles. In race mode, gear changes are delivered with a slight jolt that emulates race car-like characteristics.



Dynamic composure is generally good, the hydraulic bump stops delivering impressive control on the track as well as helping to alleviate pitch on bumpy surfaces on public roads. Suspension is best described as firm but supple, while the Brembo brakes do an excellent job of shedding speed. The pedal action is progressive and easy to modulate. 


With Cup derivatives already on sale and Lux versions due in showrooms in November, Renault appears to have on its hands a hot hatch which will meet performance expectations of motoring consumers looking for alternatives to rivals from Volkswagen, Ford and Honda. 






Mégane RS CUP    205kW Manual     R549 900

Mégane RS    LUX    205kW EDC    R 549 900

Renault’s Mégane models are sold with a five-year/150 000km mechanical warranty, a three-year/45 000km service plan (10 000km intervals) and a six-year anti-corrosion warranty.