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Frankfurt show: Renault Megane RS fast-tracked to Oz

Show and go: The new Renault Megane RS is now confirmed to be revealed at the Frankfurt motor show in September, exactly two years after the hatch on which it is based stepped out.

Australians ‘will not have to wait’ for next-gen Renault Megane RS hyper-hatch


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4 Jul 2017

AUSTRALIA’S appetite for fast Renaults has secured us a space at the front of the queue when right-hand-drive versions of the fourth-generation Megane RS hot hatch go into production.

It remains too early for indicative on-sale or even production timing, but Renault Australia managing director Justin Hocevar officially confirmed at a media event in Albury this week that the new Megane RS will be revealed at the Frankfurt motor show in September, ending months of speculation.

At the peak of their popularity, RS variants of the third-generation D95 Megane accounted for a third of Australian sales, making this market the largest recipient of hotted-up Renaults outside their native France.

This was achieved despite Australia being far less populous than other big RS markets such as Britain and Germany – and Renault having significantly less mainstream brand awareness here than in Europe.

Mr Hocevar said the significance of Australia to Renault Sport was highlighted by the fast-tracking of right-hand-drive cars Down Under.

“A proof point of the importance of the Australian market in the scheme of Renault Sport’s global focus is that the benefit of Australian customers will be they will not have to wait for the new Megane RS,” he said.

“As soon as right-hand-drive production begins, the only difference in time between Australian customers (and those in other RHD markets) receiving those vehicles is the time it takes to put them on a ship and get them here – they will be built at the same time.”

Mainstream Megane models went on sale in October last year, 13 months after the original Frankfurt reveal in 2015.

So far, confirmed technical details of the forthcoming performance variant comprise the availability of both manual and dual-clutch automatic transmissions, a choice of Sport and more hardcore Cup suspension tunes, and four-wheel steering that already features on the current GT range-topper.

The rumour mill has it that the new Megane RS will be powered by a version of the all-new 1.8-litre turbo-petrol engine used in the Alpine 110 sports coupe, with the wick turned up from that car’s 188kW peak power output to more than 220kW in order to keep pace with rivals such as the Honda Civic Type R (229kW), Hyundai i30 N (up to 202kW) and Peugeot 308 GTi 270 (200kW). The Alpine’s seven-speed dual-clutch transmission could also be deployed for automatic variants.

Pressed for more information, Mr Hocevar declined to comment. “I’m keeping my powder dry,” he said. “And there’s a lot of powder.”

He did hint, however, that Australia’s status as one of Renault Sport’s largest export markets had influenced product decisions at its Les Ulis headquarters on the southwestern fringe of Paris.

“We’ve got a very strong relationship with the team Renault Sport,” he said.

“We always get good attention from them, they listen to what we say and they work with us on helping us bring products to this market that are well-suited to and liked by Australians.”

Mr Hocevar confirmed that local anticipation for the RS had been building for some time among customers and dealerships alike.

“I’d like to think that by the time we actually start selling the RS in Australia we’ll have a reasonable order bank,” he said.

“We know there are a lot of customers excited and we’ve got a lot of expressions of interest. Our dealers are really getting revved-up as well, they’re really looking forward to it.”

Mr Hocevar added that Australian Megane sales were already “skewed toward the sportier models even without the pure RS,” illustrated by the fact that GT-Line and GT variants make up a combined 60 per cent of the Megane volume in Australia, evenly split on around 30 per cent each.

Although he recognised the disappointment of some purists that the new Megane RS will be offered as a five-door only and the passing of the coupe-styled three-door design of the model it replaces, Mr Hocevar suggested that the broader appeal and subsequent economies of scale brought by a more practical bodystyle would enable Renault Sport to invest more in ensuring the next Megane RS remains a benchmark-setting hot hatch in an increasingly competitive segment.

“By focussing on a body type that will achieve greater volume, you can do more with the car. A lot of its competitors are (five-door) and the great learning we’ve had is Clio,” he said.

“We’ve been criticised for not having a manual on the Clio RS and we know there are enthusiasts who are disappointed by that, but we’ve sold 10 times as many because we made it accessible to more people in a five-door with automatic transmission.

“Renault Sport is about the democratisation of a sporty vehicle in an everyday car, that’s what a five-door hatch can offer.”

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