Renault knows how to build a good hot hatch. Looking back there are several excellent examples of pocket rockets built by La Regie. From the 5 GT and 5 Turbo to the Clio Williams and Clio Gordini, not forgetting the track-focussed Megane R26 limited-edition models, they were all brilliant proponents of the genre. Now we have a new Renault Megane RS EDC Lux.
The new Megane range debuted locally some time ago. Since then performance enthusiasts have been waiting for the hot RS models to break cover. A few weeks ago Renault South Africa launched the latest generation Megane RS EDC. The EDC is an automatic (dual-clutch) version of the RS offerings. Soon it will be joined by a Cup version with a manual transmission.
The heart of the new Renault Megane RS is an all-new, direct injection 1,8-litre turbocharged engine. This new unit, designed in conjunction with the firm’s racing division, develops 205 kW and 390 N.m of torque produced between 2 400 and 4 500 r/min.
These figures place it above the likes of a VW Golf GTI but below a Honda Civic Type R in terms of power output. As mentioned, power is delivered to the front wheels via a twin-clutch transmission. Incidentally, this is the first time that an auto version of a Megane RS has been offered.
That new powerplant is fitted into a Megane body that features RS-specific design details. The fenders have been widened by a noticeable 60 mm at the front and 45 mm at the rear. A lower ride height and deeper side sills along with large alloys on wide rubber create a purposeful stance.
Other model-specific design cues include a wide air intake in the front bumper, a 3D honeycomb-pattern mesh, sculpted body sides, fender-mounted air extractors, a rear spoiler, a rear diffuser and a central exhaust exit. Our test unit was even more recognisable thanks to its optional metallic paintwork. The net result is a hatchback that turns heads wherever it goes.
The sporty theme continues inside. Deep Alcantara front seats, red stitching, dark charcoal trim and aluminium pedals create a racy looking cabin.
How does it go?
In a word: brilliant. The new engine offers a far more linear power delivery than the 2,0-litre turbopetrol in its predecessor. In a straight line, the RS pulls strong and doesn’t feel short of performance. Although one can sense that the slightly smaller capacity motor is working just that little bit harder to deliver the goods.
Earlier versions of Renault’s dual-clutch transmission were woeful. It was obvious that they were trying to emulate a similar item from Volkswagen, but were some way off the mark from VW’s class-leading DSG units. In the latest Megane RS the EDC system works a treat. Shifts are smooth in automatic mode (though I could do without the auto blip) and responsive when the shift paddles were used. There is even a multi-downshift option for when you are driving really hard. The ECU will work out the ideal gear for a corner based on your braking and speed and jump to the ideal ratio – pretty cool.
A hoot around corners
However, the Megane RS’s real party-trick is how it corners. Naturally, the RS variant has a stiffer suspension set-up with revised spring and damper rates when compared with other Megane derivatives. Added to that, Renault engineers have re-tuned the Megane’s active rear steering system for this sportier application.
At low speeds, the rear wheels turn in the opposite direction to the front wheels, up to 2,7 degrees. This virtually shortens the wheelbases making for very quick turn-in. It’s huge fun when tackling low-speed corners, and it makes the front-wheel-drive Megane RS feel like a rear-wheel-drive car. It can be disconcerting at first if you are not accustomed to the pivoting sensation, but once you learn to work with it you realise how effective it is.
The front and rear wheels turn in the same direction at higher speeds effectively increasing the wheelbase for added stability. In the Megane RS the switchover point is set at 60 km/h, increased to 100 km/h in Race mode, which Renault recommends for track use. You can see the system at work in this video.
Similar to many other cars the Renault Megane RS EDC Lux allows drivers to tailor drivetrain responses. Renault’s system is called Multi Sense and offers the following options: Comfort and Normal, Sport, Race and Perso. Each mode controls engine response, the mapping of the accelerator pedal, gearbox shift patterns and the weight of the steering. These modes can be accessed via the R-Link 2 touchscreen interface or a shortcut RS Drive button on the facia that allows quick access to Sport and Race modes.
In times gone by some quarters denounced Renault’s RS models for being too hard-core ie not user-friendly enough. It’s quite clear that Renault has decided to appeal to a wider market by offering an automatic version of its range leader in the Renault Megane RS EDC Lux. In effect what Renault has created is a Golf GTI competitor, and a darn credible one it is, too.
The more focused Cup version with a manual gearbox, stiffer suspension, and mechanical LSD will come at a later stage. Interestingly that version costs the same as this more ‘luxurious’ derivative. Potential owners need only decide whether they want to shift gears themselves or not.
Learn more about the current Renault Megane RS range by clicking on the company’s local website.
Price: R549 900
Engine: 1,8-litre inline four, turbopetrol
Transmission: six-speed automatic, FWD
Max power: 205 kW
Max torque: 390 N.m
Top speed: 250 km/h
0-100 km/h: 5,8 sec
Fuel consumption: 7,0 L/100 km