RENAULT MEGANE RS

Hardcore Cup chassis and manual ’box – yes, please

BY MATT SAUNDERS

Rating 4.0

ENGINE1798cc inline-4, DOHC, 16v, turbo

POWER205kW @ 6000rpm

TORQUE390Nm @ 2400-4800rpm

0-100KM/H5.8sec (claimed)

WEIGHT 1430kg

• PRICE $46,500 (est)

LIKE: Very fast; awesome handling from the Cup chassis; manual gearbox across range

DISLIKE: Prices are still not confirmed in Australia; have only driven it on track so far

AUSTRALIA HAS SPOKEN. Despite initially stating that we’d miss out on the stiffened Cup chassis Down Under, the French marque has rightly overturned that decision due to strong feedback from the media and punters.

And thank heavens, because this third-gen Renault Sport hot hatch has a chassis even more biddable, poised and absorbing than you’d dare hope for, either from Renault’s in-house performance department or from a front-drive five-door.

However, in EDC dual-clutch automatic transmission form at least, it’s also a car of one or two frustrations. So what of the ‘other’ Megane RS? The one with the stiffened Cup chassis, six-speed manual gearbox, standard-fit Torsen helical limited-slip differential and optional lightweight ‘bi-metal’ brake discs? This, you’d suggest, is the specification in which most Australian buyers would order their cars. From what was apparent on a circuit at least, they’re in for a much simpler, more consistent and more gratifying ownership experience if they do. Back-to-back comparisons between Sport and Cup-spec Meganes weren’t possible at the press launch, and neither was it possible to take Cup cars out on the road.

Over the ridged kerbs of the Jerez circuit, however, the Cup version didn’t want for suppleness, and at no point around the lap did its heightened damper or anti-roll settings create aggressive or restless body control.

The Megane RS 280 Cup handles with a touch more levelness and rotates underneath you with a smidgeon more zip than the Sport model, but it’s fair to say both are remarkable prospects for balance, adjustability and engagement thanks to Renault Sport’s brilliantly tuned four-wheel steering system.

With both cars there’s perhaps a little less perceptible contact patch feedback through the steering rim than the old Megane 275 had, but there’s still plenty to work with. And the Cup LSD is quite delicately deployed, helping to channel torque to the road without setting your wrists a physical test.

Renault confirmed that the Cup chassis will be available as a $1490 option as of Q4 this year. It’s too early to be sure, but we’d probably have it – unless you know that all your car will ever do is rattle along back roads, because the Sport-spec car is simply sublime at that. The manual versus auto debate, meanwhile, is over before it’s even begun. It seems you can get what you want if you make enough of a fuss about it.