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Renault's hot hatch king returns

2010-10-25 08:29

NOT MELLOW: It may be yellow, but the new Megane RS Cup is one resolutely focussed hot hatch.

Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer Renault
Engine 2l turbo
Power 184kW @ 5 500r/min
Torque 340Nm @ 3 000r/min
Transmission SIx-speed manual
Zero To Hundred 6.1 sec
Top Speed 250km/h
Fuel Consumption 8.4l/100km
Tyres 235/40 R18 (235/35 R19)
Service Plan five-year/100 000km
Warranty five-year/150 000 km
Renault’s RS-derived three-door family cars have carved an enviable reputation.

Plainly, the company boasts the world’s most comprehensive range of hot hatchbacks.

Think Twingo- and Clio RS. Add some Cup and Gordini derivatives for good measure and the depth of Renault’s hot hatch heritage is undeniable.

These Dieppe finessed cars encapsulate everything that is good about front-wheel drive performance.

Now, (finally) the company’s headline hot hatchback range is again available locally.

As part of the weekend's Knysna hillclimb event, Renault introduced its latest Megane RS derivatives - Sport and Cup.

Sporty yet stylish

Whereas the previous Megane R26s looked simply mad, the new Megane’s contemporary styling details are neatly tweaked in RS guise.

Distinguishing the Megane RS models from their siblings are small, yet noticeable styling changes.

There’s a more generous front air intake (framed by a characteristic RS gloss finish) with outer edge LEDs and extended wheel arches fleshing out the series Megane proportions.

Around the rear a centre-mounted exhaust and air-flow management friendly diffuser/lip-spoiler combination round off the RS styling package.

An inch difference in wheel size (18- versus 19-inch) and some indicative badging differentiate the Sport and Cup models.

More powerful

Powering the new Megane RS range is a twin-scroll turbocharged 2l in-line four producing 184kW and 340Nm, improvements of 15kW and 30Nm over the previous R26.

Driving the front-wheels via a six-speed manual transmission, Renault claims the 0-100km/h benchmark in only 6.1 sec with a top speed limited to 250km/h.

Perhaps the new most impressive performance statistic is the 1km sprint time of 25.7 sec, indicating the Megane RS has an impeccable geared drivetrain perfectly set-up for optimal performance.

Even better handling?

Beyond the greater straight-line performance, Renault claims to have improved upon the Megane RS’s directional stability and agility.

The Megane R26 was the class standard for nearly its entire life-cycle in terms of dynamic purity and as such this lofty claim with regards to the new car is backed by some rather clever engineering.

In order to quell potential torque-steer Renault’s fitted an updated version of its ingenious independent steering axis front suspension system.

The fully independent front-suspension is attached to a specially formed subframe boasting a transverse rigidity three times greater than the R26. With larger diameter dampers (increasing rebound resistance) the new Megane RS’s wheel geometry stays true even under extreme load.

There are fundamental differences between the Sport and Cup chassis set-ups. The Sport version is geared at enthusiasts whilst the Cup will appeal to frustrated racers.

Boasting a 10mm ride height reduction, new dampers and springs (tallying 12.5% greater roll resistance) the Megane RS Sport is set-up to provide a golden mean between rewarding dynamics and day-to-day usability in terms of ride quality.

Megane RS customers keen on exploring the full potential of Renault’s largest hot hatch can option for the Cup model. The more hardcore Cup features specially calibrated dampers, greater roll-stiffness all round and increased traction courtesy of a limited-slip front differential.

Renault claims the latest Megane RS range has managed to retain all the steering purity of its predecessor despite the switch to electric power steering. Algorithms for the RS steering package have been specially calibrated to ensure a linear steering resistance when negotiating corners at speed.

Digital dynamics

The new Megane RS models feature the full safety net of electronic intervention systems, yet their presence is not meant to spoil the fun.

A three-stage ESP system is buoyed by five selectable levels throttle response mapped as linear, normal, snow, sport and extreme.

For those RS customers who compete regularly at track day events, the Cup’s sport monitor feature will be particularly useful. This system captures and displays a collection of circuit-fetish data such as acceleration benchmarks, cornering forces and lap times.

Finally, the new Megane RS range boasts the largest front brakes in the hot hatch class, with 340mm Brembo rotors up front, trailed by 290mm discs at the rear. In keeping with its designation as the range kingpin, the RS Cup’s brakes are grooved and actuated by red callipers.

Both Sport and Cup Megane RS models feature climate control, daytime running lights, and keyless entry.

TomTom’s Carminat navigation system and a high level of device convergence is part of the Megane RS Sport’s cabin. The Cup features Recaro seats and the sport monitor system.

Although they arrived a lot later than expected, now that the new Megane RS models are finally here the issue of finding an answer to the question of who holds sway as the hottest hatch of the batch can finally commence...

Mégane RS Sport      R349 900
Mégane RS CUP        R399 900

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