Any car that comes with a ‘Race’ mode button will get my serious attention. This invitation to adrenalin comes as a welcome diversion for those of us who road test cars on a regular basis across the full spectrum from intensely boring to mildly entertaining.
So, with the Mégane RS parked in my driveway hot on the heels of the smaller Clio RS – that, itself, was an impressive adrenalin-builder – it became a good opportunity to stock up on the rush.
The Mégane provides plenty of that from its 205 kW (390 Nm) turbo-charged 1,8-litre engine built into a package that bristles with technology and race-engineered know-how.
New Mégane RS was first unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September 2017 and it was the chassis development that grabbed the headlines – the 4CONTROL four-wheel steering system and four hydraulic bump stop shock absorbers.
Since the first generation of Mégane RS was released in 2003, greater performance and more technology has been a constant, offering improved driving pleasure without sacrificing the car’s versatility for everyday use.
With expressive and sporty styling, New Mégane RS has been designed to deliver performance, right down to the very last detail. The specific body sides mean the wings have been widened by 60 mm at the front and 45 mm at the back (in comparison to the Mégane GT). With the ride height lowered by 5 mm compared with Mégane GT and new 18-inch or 19-inch wheels, the new proportions make the car naturally more aggressive.
This design is boosted by a number of features taken from the world of motor sport, including wing-mounted air extractors, which optimise air flow through the wheel arches and improved efficiency of the diffuser compared with the previous generation.
The 4CONTROL system delivers outstanding agility through tight turns and impressive cornering stability at higher speeds.
At low speeds, the rear wheels turn in the opposite direction to the front wheels, up to a maximum angle of 2,7 degrees. At high speeds, the front and rear wheels turn in the same direction, limited to a one-degree angle for the rear wheels.
The switchover point is set at 60 km/h. This is increased to 100 km/h in Race mode. The 4CONTROL system then helps drivers in positioning the car on the right line through corners, enabling them to get back on the accelerator as soon as possible.
The front axle of New Mégane RS has been entirely redesigned in order to adapt the negative offset geometry to the width of the 19-inch wheels and increase rigidity.
There are two options available being the Sport and the Cup. My test car was the former where specific suspension settings are aimed at road use, taking into account different surfaces, bumps, ripples and the usual array of everyday driving.
The Cup is better suited to more intense action on the track and has a 10% stiffer damper system and a mechanical limited slip differential.
The RS’s Sport chassis comes with new shock absorbers and an electronically-controlled torque distribution system. By acting independently on the drive-wheel brakes, this technology limits understeer and improves traction when exiting corners.
With the entire test kept to normal public roads, this balance on the car became particularly evident when pressing hard at the exit of a turn where ripples in the tarmac would have severely unsettled other cars, the Mégane kept the twitching to a minimum, launching smoothly (and rapidly) towards the next corner.
Importantly, the braking system has been improved and the diameter of the front brake discs has been increased to 355 mm (+15 bmm compared with the previous generation).
The second brand new feature on the chassis of the RS is hidden in its suspension – hydraulic compression stops fitted to all four shock absorbers.
This rallying-inspired technology involves integrating a ‘shock absorber within the shock absorber’. As the end of travel is approached, a secondary piston dampens the movement of the wheel before the bump stop. By dissipating the energy without transferring it to the wheel – as a traditional bump stop would – the compression hydraulic stops help avoid any rebound and pendulum effects, enabling optimum control of tyre-ground contact.
Simply this means the car is less likely to ‘hop’ when put under pressure into a tight corner – and it works, giving the Mégane a confidence-inspiring level of cornering stability.
The 1,8-litre direct injection turbo engine, has also been tweaked and the latest version develops a power output of 205 kW at 6 000 r/min and a peak torque of 390 Nm available from 2 400 r/min to 4 000 r/min.
In order to achieve the required performances, Renault Sport’s engine specialists designed a completely new cylinder head, with a reinforced structure and more efficient cooling that dissipates heat right next to the combustion chamber.
Despite the increases in power and torque this engine, equipped with a chain-driven timing system, also boasts reduced CO2 emissions and fuel consumption (-11% and -8% respectively compared with Mégane III RS).
In a car so patently designed for hard and fast driving, conserving fuel seems somewhat incongruous but testing in ‘normal’ driving on a mix of highway, urban and rural roads returned a figure of 7,8 l/100 km – a tad more than the claimed 7,0 l/100 by Renault.
Spirited driving changed this and consumption went up to 9,2 l/100 km on my usual test route.
The test unit came fitted with the revised version of the six-speed EDC dual-clutch gearbox and this unit impressed with it intuitive changes and smooth transition through the gears – up or down. With paddle shifters and the option to go manual, the driver has the choice of just how hard to work the willing Renault.
In Sport and Race modes Multi Change Down is possible where, under braking in manual mode, this feature lets you drop several gears simultaneously by pressing and holding down the left-hand paddle. The best gear is then selected in order to exit the corner as efficiently as possible.
Driver convenience for those time when Sport or Race are not an option include include USB and Bluetooth connectivity as standard to support both telephony and multimedia mobile devices are standard along with. four speakers, 3-line 4,2-inch display, wireless telephony and push-to-talk (Smartphone voice recognition).
Intelligent driving aids are configured using the R-LINK 2 interface and these comprise Parking Distance Control, Hill Start Assist and Cruise Control with Speed Limiter
As with Renault’s entire product range, the Renault Mégane models come standard with a 5-year/150 000 km mechanical warranty, a 5-year/90 000 km service plan (with service intervals at 10 000 km on RS models) and a 6-year anti-corrosion warranty.