A French tradition
Since the last Renault Megane RS bowed out in 2016, Honda has released an epic new Civic Type R, Hyundai has landed its first hot hatch in the i30 N and Ford’s best ever Focus RS has come and gone.
And since the first two-door, manual-only Megane RS arrived 15 years ago, the number of hot hatch models available has doubled, as have sales in the segment over the past five years.
Luckily Renault has returned with its A-game, bringing a brilliant new RS hot hatch that ups the ante considerably over the polished garden-variety hatchback on which it’s based – the latest Megane five-door released here in September 2016.
In terms of design and appeal, it might not be as unique or focussed as the two generations of manual-only Megane RS coupes that preceded it, but the practicality of four doors, five seats and an automatic transmission will put the MkIII on the shopping lists of more Aussies than ever.
In fact, given it’s the only hot hatch available with both manual and automatic transmissions, Renault Australia’s initial 12-month allocation of 600 units (more than the RS Megane’s previous annual sales record of 545, in 2012) won’t satisfy demand.
More importantly, the 2018 Renault Megane 280 packs enough additional design and tech features to make it as special as any RS before it, and a standout in any hot hatch company.
Even more critically, what Renault claims is the world’s most powerful 1.8-litre production engine propels it to 100km/h in 5.8 seconds, which is as quick at the old Megane RS Trophy and almost anything else that drives its front wheels.
For the record, the Megane RS 280’s 205kW of power (280hp) at 6000rpm and 390Nm of torque over 2400-4800rpm trumps the 2.0-litre turbo Hyundai i30 N, Peugeot 308 GTi and Volkswagen Golf GTI, but requires 98 RON premium unleaded to produce.
There’s no doubt the new 2018 Renault Megane RS 280 is a good-looker, especially in optional signature Tonic Orange metallic paint ($880).
It brings to the already-stylish Megane table 60mm and 45mm wider composite front and rear quarter panels, front wheel-arch extractor vents, an angry front bumper with F1-style aero blades and 3D honeycomb grille, chequered-flag fog and cornering lights, a chunky rear spoiler, 19-inch Interlagos alloys and a flat under-floor that channels air to a racy rear diffuser.
Other unique features include Renault’s 4Control rear-wheel steering, torque steer-reducing PerfoHub front suspension with 20 per cent less steering axis offset, hydraulic bump stops from the current Clio RS, 45mm and 30mm wider front and rear wheel tracks, and firmer suspension with a ride height that’s also 5mm lower than the Megane GT.
Inside, as we reported when Renault Australia announced full specs in July, the hot Megane also adds RS door sills, RS sports front seats with built-in head restraints, RS roof lining, an RS gear shifter and an RS Nappa perforated leather steering wheel with red centre strip.
There’s also Renault’s Multi-sense driving mode system, which controls engine response, accelerator mapping, gearshift pattern, steering effort and ambient lighting across five parameters: Comfort, Normal, Sport, Race and Personal.
And don’t forget the RS Monitor, which allows you to view a plethora of vehicle functions sourced from 40 sensors measuring everything from vehicle acceleration, yaw, steering angle and boost pressure.
Standard equipment includes autonomous emergency braking (AEB), adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, hill-start assist, reversing camera, 8.7-inch portrait touch-screen with sat-nav, dual-zone climate control, heated folding electric door mirrors and front/rear parking sensors.
On the options list is 10-speaker Bose sound ($500), metallic paint ($600), RS Alcantara leather trim ($1190) and a panoramic sunroof ($1990).
Once again there’s also a Cup Pack option, which for $1490 on manual variants only brings 25 per cent stiffer shock absorbers, 30 per cent firmer springs and 10 per cent stiffer anti-roll bars, plus a Torsen mechanical limited-slip differential, black alloy wheels, red Brembo brake callipers and aluminium/iron rotors measuring 355mm up front (up 15mm).
Renault Australia will also release the hard-core Megane RS Trophy in the second half of 2019, bringing the Cup chassis, higher 220kW/400Nm outputs (420Nm for the EDC auto version), a 5.7-second 0-100km/h time, 260km/h top speed, lighter Jerez alloys and Recaro hard shell seats, but a price hike to more than $50,000.
For now, the Renault Megane RS 280 six-speed manual costs about $1000 more than the model it belatedly replaces, at $44,990 plus on-road costs, and the first six-speed dual-clutch automatic version adds $2500 to the price at $47,490 plus ORCs.
Service intervals are claimed to be class-leading at 12 months or 20,000km, with the first three each priced at just $399.
However, since May, Renault Australia’s five-year/unlimited-km warranty for all passenger cars no longer applies to the Clio RS and Megane RS, which revert to a three-year/unlimited-km warranty.
On the road
As we found during our first drive at the international launch earlier this year, there’s punchy performance in any gear on the road, where we sampled the Spanish-built Megane RS 280 in standard (Sport) guise with EDC auto.
It’s no featherweight at 1427kg kerb, plus 23kg for the six-speed dual-clutch transmission, whose paddle shifters are not mounted on the steering wheel but the column, making them hard to reach in tighter corners.
The way the plastic steering column shroud flexes when you pull hard on them looks cheap too, but at least the long metal paddles feel classy.
The auto also scores a launch control mode, which is a bit of gimmick, as well as an electric parking brake to replace the manual version’s old-fashioned lever.
It’s not there for cost-cutting, but to allow hand-brake turns on the circuit, such is Renault Sport’s attention to detail and track focus with this car.
It’s worth noting though that the Megane RS manual doesn’t get a rev-matching function like the i30 N, so you’re forced to heel/toe if you want to throttle-blip on downshifts.
Luckily that’s a cinch thanks to the three perfectly-placed alloy-faced pedals, although the Trafic van-sourced six-speed manual’s gate is tight, notchy and just a bit video-gamey.
And although the hip-hugging sports seats provide the ideal perch from which to take in the action, tall drivers might want them to slide back further, or make the footwell deeper.
But on rough Queensland backroads the Sport chassis and low-profile 19-inch rubber was firm but never harsh, and refinement levels up there with the class-leading Golf GTI.
Steering is quick, precise and devoid of any unwanted interference like bump steer, rack rattle and even torque steer – despite the acres of mid-range torque on offer anywhere above 2500rpm.
In-gear acceleration is prodigious and lightning-quick upshifts accompanied by racy exhaust pops and crackles especially in Sport mode during throttle lift-off.
The Megane RS is rarely flustered, even when pushed deep into corners, offering plenty of mid-turn grip and begging you to change direction ever more quickly, just like a bona-fide hot hatch should.
Also like most powerful front-drive cars, however, there is plenty of front-end push when you get on the power too early out of corners – certainly more than in the brilliant Civic Type R and all-wheel drive Focus RS -- forcing you to wait or deal with the resulting understeer.
We tried our best to master the complex Multi-Sense drive mode system that offers a clear difference in engine, transmission and steering performance (and exhaust noise) between the various settings.
But strangely there’s no tacho in Comfort mode and the colour instrument display switches to a large central red tacho that arcs around an equally crisp and clear digital speedo.
And we gave up when we discovered too many options to choose from, too little time to sample them all, and too many presses required to drill down into each menu. All this was exacerbated by a bumpy road and nowhere to rest your hand to take accurate aim – a problem many modern touch-screens suffer from.
Suffice to say the multitude of vehicle parameter options will keep owners occupied for a long time. For example the steering weight and 4Control rear-steering can be varied across three modes via the Dynamic Drive System (Neutral, Sport and Race), the ESC offers Neutral, Sport and Off settings, there are Eco, Neutral, Sport and Race powertrain modes, plus Snow/Eco, Sport and Race throttle pedal models, Soft, Sport and Race exhaust modes, two climate-control modes and even more display modes.
On the track
If ever there was a car that needed a single, steering wheel button to engage maximum attack for all drive modes – such as the Hyundai’s N button – this is it.
Similarly, we never really came to terms with the 4Control four-wheel steering system, which Renault says is a world-first in the small-car segment.
Yes, its effects can be minimised via the Multi-Sense system, and it offers clear advantages in low-speed turning response (up to 20 per cent, claims Renault), by turning the rear wheels in the opposite direction to the front wheels by up to 2.7 degrees at speeds up to 60km/h (100km/h in Race mode).
Above those speeds the rear wheels turn the same direction as the fronts but only by up to one degree, in an attempt to improve stability.
We never noticed the latter, even at the race track in the Megane RS manual with Cup Pack, but we certainly felt the rear-end come around in slower corners, which definitely improved agility once we learned to trust and exploit the higher corner speed.
Indeed, in Cup-spec, the Megane’s polished chassis performance is noticeably magnified in every respect, sitting flatter in corners and achieving better power-down during corner exits.
It doesn’t defy cornering physics like Honda’s hot hatch does, but that job will fall to the Megane RS Trophy when it arrives in 12 months at a similar $50K-plus price to the Civic Type R.
Renault’s hottest Megane has never been the cheapest in its class and that’s still true. It’s $5000 pricier than the excellent i30 N and comes with a shorter warranty, but its French flair, depth of engineering and technology overload are harder to quantify.
Whichever way you cut it, the Renault Megane RS 280 has been worth the wait and is accomplished enough to return to the pointy end of the hot hatch game.
How much does the 2018 Renault Megane RS 280 cost?Price: From $44,990 (plus on-road costs)Engine: 1.8-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinderOutput: 205kW/390NmTransmission: Six-speed manual and automaticFuel: 7.5L/100km (EDC, ADR Combined)CO2: 169g/km (EDC, ADR Combined)Safety rating: Five-star (Euro NCAP 2015)
Authors: Republished with permission from Bing News
Read more http://www.bing.com/news/apiclick.aspx?ref=FexRss&aid=&tid=DFD8767FB54D4099875841835FF8CA60&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.carsales.com.au%2Feditorial%2Fdetails%2Frenault-megane-rs-2018-review-australia-114636%2F&c=2576094576006944234&mkt=en-au