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A bull that charges at green - Renault Mégane RB8

06.06.2014

THE Renault Mégane RS 250 has received some of the highest praises from road testers the world over since its local introduction in 2010. Since then it’s received a mild makeover, which added 11kW, some light cosmetic work and enhanced infotainment making the current model the RS 265.

As is somewhat of a tradition with Renault Sport models we have seen two special editions of the third generation Mégane RS emerge. Both models have been created to celebrate Renault’s Formula 1 success with Sebastian Vettel taking several driver’s championships and Renault receiving the constructor’s championship for its engine contributions. 

The first Red Bull edition known as the RB7 came out nearly two years ago and sported black paint with yellow detailing. The latest special edition is known as the RB8 and its colours resemble that of the Austrian energy drink brand’s famous tin with blue paint and silver detailing

Let’s move away from the aesthetics because the RB8 has been with us for some time now meaning that many of the 50 units allocated for SA have been sold. Beneath its more exuberant exterior is a regular 265 Cup, which means you’re getting what I believe to be the sharpest driving tool in the front-wheel-drive hot hatch segment.

It has the Cup chassis with thicker springs and a mechanical limited slip differential to pull you out of the corners. Everything about the car feels right when pitching it in to a bend from the turn-in response to the mid-corner stability to the slightly naughty oversteer it exhibits with a bit of provocation on exit.

Then there’s the engine; the trusty F4Rt motor produces 195kW/360Nm, which is ample when pushing the car in track situations. However, the new powertrains in the likes of the Ford Focus ST and Opel Astra OPC feel more responsive in terms of torque availability and flexibility. There is no doubt though that the Mégane is one of the quickest cars in its segment off the line with a claimed 0-100km/h time of 6.0 seconds (I managed 5.9 with the brand’s RS Monitor) and a top speed of 255 km/h.

The Focus ST and Golf GTI are better all round cars suited to everyday use but they lack the precision of the RB8. The Opel Astra OPC is arguably just as sharp as the Mégane but its gearbox really lets it down.

During my time with the 265 I went to sample a pre-facelift 250 Cup and this is where I noticed a few key differences. For one, the 265 is more visceral as it snarls and pops more whereas the 250 is quite muted and while I commented on the RB8’s engine and how it lacks a certain flexibility, I have to say the mapping on the 265 has definitely made it a more practical car over the old 250.

Then there’s the improved infotainment system. The 250 has a tiny screen for your radio, Bluetooth and RS Monitor functions while the R-Link navigation system and RS Monitor V2 in the 265 gets a seven-inch screen controlled via the toggle switch next to the handbrake, adding convenience but not removing the cup holder. This takes the count to one which is only big enough for a small tin. I know of a drink manufacturer that makes its product in a small thin tin that might also match the livery on the car’s exterior, which could be a perfect fit.

Overall, the RB8 is a fantastic driver’s car. At R429 900 it’s R30 000 more than a standard Cup and while you may get the fancy paintwork, stickers, number plaques and a Renault Sport gearlever, it’s simply not worth the additional outlay. Purchase a Cup, find the right road or track and enjoy its razor-sharp dynamics or wait for the imminent facelift with which Renault and exhaust manufacturer, Akrapovi? have worked, along with suspension maker, Öhlins, in an attempt to make the fastest front-wheel-drive car around the Nürburgring.

 

Article written by Sean Nurse
06.06.2014
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