As fast as a Bugatti Veyron, when it really matters
Compromise in space, compromise in economy, design, engineering, sustainability, performance. We make cars that are average in everything and good at nothing. We said that before many times. It’s like going back to the times of Henry Ford when One car was made and only of One color. Something suitable for everyone but doesn’t make anyone smile. SUVs and Sedans all look the same, perform the same and only a few, very few make the effort of showing some good old character, personality. They are loaded with gimmicks and arguable technologies to make the drivers “safer,” “in Total Control,” protected and… lobotomized. The interaction man-machine is digital, and it’s an illusion.
Then you have the Megane RS and a few other, very few. Do you remember when the Peugeot 205 GTi came out? First with the 1.6 Lt engine and then with the 1.9 Lt. Remember the Renault Clio 16v? They were pure excitement. It was the era of the Lancia Integrale, the BMW M3 4 cylinders, the Golf GT1 16 valves. They could transport four passengers, a fair amount of luggage, have a range of 400 km, but after you offload your family, you would have the best time of your life.
The Megane RS is special and utterly glorious to drive. And it’s not just a marvelous four doors hatch; it’s a car that elevates your driving experience every second you spend in it.
Let’s get rid of the flaws first:
The LCD panel is big enough, but the access to climate, media, phone, and the other amenities is complicated, distracting, and illogical. To adjust the air flow of the Air Con, you have to slide a finger from a very tiny space and up. Then you have to press the touch-sensitive command of the plus and minus carefully. Why not a classic toggle, instead of the dual adjustment ones for the driver and passenger? The radio volume can only be adjusted by some cheap commands behind the steering wheel. What about the passenger? He then has to go through the mental screen and find the same. Again, a nice toggle in the center would be appreciated.
The paddle shifts are fixed on the steering column and way too high. Furthermore, you cannot manually change gear from the gear lever.
The rest is plain perfect. The seats in our test cars are made in Alcantara, by far the best material you can ask in a sports car. You sit very low, as you should. The pedals are well aligned (we drove the auto version). The steering wheel is perfect in your hands. Level of finishing is good enough for her class. Space is good in the front seats and average in the rear. Two adults can sit, but the leg space is not its forte. Good, less weight in the car, take a taxi.
You literally find your self laughing out loud
The Megane RS simply is the best front wheel drive car I have ever driven. Her skills are immense, and the fun factor genuinely unique.
The four wheels steering system needs a bit of understanding, because the rotation of the rear wheels at a lower speed, opposite to the front, makes the car enter the corners at a pace we are not used to on road cars. A small input on the steering wheel and the front end is already pointing inside of the corner. She is so alive. At higher speed the back wheels turn the same direction of the front, increasing stability. It’s not the first time this concept is applied on road cars, but combined with the rigid chassis, and the excellent suspensions of the Megane make the experience hilarious. The steering is incredibly precise and direct and makes you feel every centimeter of the tarmac on the tips of your fingers. You literally find your self laughing out loud.
You enter the corner at a good speed, the rock-solid front sticks and when you come off the gas mid-corner, the back end comes out like a Mini Cooper of the 70s. You literally adjust the corner angle just by the throttle. The rear end follows the front at constant or positive gas application, but if you hesitate, and come off the gas and let some weight move to the front, the Megane starts a natural, controllable, epic oversteer. Is it dangerous? Not at all. Going back to the gas will bring the car straight again, as front wheel drives are “Dynamically Stable.”
All this brings us back to the original driving ecstasy. It’s a dance, a happy liaison between man and machine, where both the parties equally contribute to the dialogue and the harmony of the show.
The engine is quite strong too. The RS is pulled by a 1.8 Lt, 4 Cylinder, turbocharged, capable of 280 bhp at 6,000 rpm and 390 Nm of torque at 2,400 rpm only. Renault claims a top speed of 254 km/h and a 0-100km/h sprint of 5,9 seconds. I wonder if a 2.0 Lt with the same power would have added a little more torque at the low-mid range, which, in all fairness, is already generous. Power is transferred to the wheels via a six-speed manual or a six-speed dual clutch transmission (we tested the auto version). It works egregiously, and in “Race” mode, the shifting happens with a nice kick in your butt and at a faster pace. With this setting the noise from the exhaust becomes even more raucous and particularly pleasant during the downshifting. Furthermore the electronic controls (Traction Control and Stability Management) get switched off all at once. As if the car wasn’t already engaging enough. Love it.
On the braking front, Renault relies on 355mm rear and front disc brakes with Brembo calipers, which offer high strength, feel and fading resistance. The pedal is firm and lets you know precisely how much grip you have left, before the intervention of the ABS.
The Trophy on the Nordschleife
Renault also offers the “Trophy” version, a more aggressive and track day oriented sister, capable of 300 bhp, which could lap the Nordschleife in 7.40 minutes. To give you an idea of what it means, it is precisely the same lap time of a Bugatti Veyron (1000 Bhp), the equal of a Porsche 997 GT3. It is faster than a Porsche Cayman GT4 (7.41 its best), faster than a Lamborghini Gallardo LP570-4 Superleggera, of the Nissan GT-R (My 2010), of the Audi R8 5.2 Liter and of the Pagani Zonda. David beats Goliath with a fraction of his power, his technology, his price; but with more agility, without unnecessary features, with substantially less weight (1445 kg dry), with a reactive suspensions system and a super-sharp athletic frame.
Now, the Megane RS is available in the UAE at about 32,400 USD in the basic version and if you want the “fully loaded one,” you should be ready to spend in the area of 36,700 USD. In the latter version, the really worth it gadget are the splendid Recaro Alcantara seats. This car is grand in its dynamics, and the price is a pleasant surprise too. The Megane RS is the “Impetus Novus” in the hatchback segment.