This latest model faces stiff competition from the industry stalwart Volkswagen Golf GTI and the latest Honda Civic Type R.
New RS design
When confronted with the vehicle in a real-world scenario recently, I found it even more appealing than in the obligatory internet photos.
Up front, there’s the signature Renault grille, which houses the massive diamond badge and extends into the C-shaped headlamps. On the lower part of the now larger lower air intake, we see the R.S. Vision LED lighting shaped like the Renault Sport logo, while the now signature front blade is finished in grey.
The side profile reveals a wider front and rear track to improve stability and handling, while also showing off the fact that the new car is a five-door only model. At the rear, we see the L-shaped taillights, a more streamline spoiler, a diffuser finished in grey and the now trademark centre single-exit exhaust.
The RS also takes it up a notch inside with red stitching, carbon-look materials on the door cards, an oddly trimmed suede and leather steering wheel and suede covered seats which provide good support.
Dominating the centre console, there’s the same portrait-mounted 8.7-inch touchscreen infotainment system, which is still not class-leading in terms of speed and functionality. The system does have the RS Monitor as standard now, which, like the Clio, provides key information such as boost pressure, oil temperature, G-forces and a lap timer to name but a few.
Under the skin
The latest car gets a slightly modified version of the Renault-Nissan Alliance’s 1.8-litre turbo petrol engine. This smaller mill boosts a hefty 1.7-bar and produces 206kW/390Nm. The engine is mated to either a six-speed manual or a six-speed EDC gearbox.
The six-speed manual version is the same ‘box as used on the outgoing Megane RS, only with an improved gate and shorter shifter. It will however only go on sale later this year. The EDC gearbox differs from the unit used in the Clio RS, in that it makes use of a dual-wet clutch setup. I must admit, having tried-out both transmissions, I’d always go for the Cup version with a manual gearbox for track work, but the EDC simply makes more sense on a day-to-day basis.
Cup vs Sport
The two specifications set to be offered with the new RS, until a 223kW/400Nm Trophy arrives, will be the more road-bias Sport and the 10% stiffer Cup.
Both variants are front-wheel drive but feature 4Control all-wheel steering which helps with lower speed cornering. The various driving modes such as Comfort, Sport and Race adjust the 4Control, which can operate at speeds of up to 60km/h inComfort and up to 100km/h in Race mode.
The cars also get Hydraulic Bump Stops which are shock absorbers that soften the last few centimetres of suspension travel with the use of a smaller shock absorber within the primary unit.
The manual Cup gets a Torsen limited-slip differential (LSD), which strangely isn’t available in the EDC Cup. The Cup also gets larger, 19-inch alloy wheels finished in black as well as red brake calipers. Both models benefit from the fitment of Brembo brakes, which get the job done in dynamic situations.
In terms of claimed performance figures, both the manual and EDC have the same claimed 0-100km/h time of 5.8 seconds, although top speed for the former is slightly higher at 255km/h versus 250km/h.
Driving both cars was markedly different from both the previous Megane RS and current Clio RS. In manual, Cup guise, the Megane feels very eager to take on track driving situations, with good front-end grip, great traction from the LSD, as well as respectable steering feel and feedback.
It also feels quick on turn-in; in fact, it almost feels as if it’s hell-bent on oversteering, which in Race mode with all of the electronic aids off, made for quite a fun experience around the Jerez racetrack.
The regular Sport EDC is certainly an all-out road car with its softer suspension, lack of LSD and that EDC ‘box. The EDC is a massive leap in the right direction in terms of its performance. One area where the Sport derivative does lack the traditional RS appeal is in the way that it torque steers when exiting corners spiritedly.
Having driven both the Cup and Sport derivatives and indeed, the EDC and manual versions of the latest Megane RS, I am happy to report that Renault’s iconic hot hatch strikes a good balance between daily usability and all-out performance.
This should make the Megane worthy of consideration for those looking for something that fits somewhere between the Golf GTI and Civic Type R. As always though, pricing will be key when the cars arrive locally.
RS local launch
Expect the latest performance Megane to arrive in July 2018. The exact pricing and specification is yet to be confirmed, however, the regular Sport equipped with the EDC gearbox is definitely on its way. The availability of the Cup derivative as well as the six-speed manual gearbox is still under consideration for South Arica.