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Frankfurt show: Renault Megane RS muscles up

Time shift: The first two months of Megane RS production will be exclusively dual-clutch transmission variants, providing an opportunity for the French hyper-hatch to arrive in auto-addicted Australia before the middle of 2018.

Fourth-gen Renault Megane RS hatch packs wide-track stance, torque-tastic engine

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Renault logo12 Sep 2017

By HAITHAM RAZAGUI

ENDING months of teasing, leaks and speculation, Renault’s fourth-generation Megane RS hot hatch has broken cover at the Frankfurt motor show sporting flared guards to house its fattened footprint and a grunty new 1.8-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine.

Producing 205kW of power at 6000rpm and a meaty 390Nm of torque all the way from 2400 to 5000rpm, the new direct-injection Megane RS engine outguns its larger 2.0-litre predecessor, which in top RS275 Cup Premium tune churned out 201kW at 5500rpm and 360Nm at 3000rpm.

No 0-100km/h acceleration time has yet been claimed, but an improvement over the RS275’s 6.0-second sprint is likely, particularly when the new six-speed dual-wet-clutch transmission is specified. Purists are catered for by the standard six-speed manual.

And despite its more family-friendly five-door body and availability of an automatic dual-clutch transmission, Renault promises its new RS will continue to deliver as a driver’s car.

In addition to inheriting four-wheel steering from the Megane GT warm hatch and wagon, the new RS features a unique suspension set-up with front and rear tracks respectively widened 60mm and 45mm over the standard Megane, hydraulic compression stops at all four corners – a rally-bred feature that debuted on the smaller Clio RS – and a choice of 18- or 19-inch alloy wheels.

Drive is still sent exclusively to the front wheels, with the broad spread of peak torque also suggesting the new engine will be flexible and tractable during everyday use, with a healthy dose of mid-range punch for when this performance-oriented Megane is driven as Renault Sport intended.

GoAuto understands the 205kW/390Nm Megane RS engine is a development of the 188kW/320Nm 1.8-litre mill fitted to the Alpine A110 sports coupe, which in turn is a bigger-bore version of the 147kW/260Nm 1.6-litre turbo-petrol used in a Clio RS.

For comparison, the Volkswagen Golf GTI develops 169kW/350Nm from a 2.0-litre turbo-four and a Peugeot 308 GTI 270 extracts 200kW/330Nm from its force-fed 1.6-litre unit. These respectively result in 0-100km/h times of 6.4s and 6.0s.

Hyundai’s i30 N, which was revealed to media in July but will also be making its public debut at Frankfurt, is powered by a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol producing 184kW in standard guise and 202kW/353Nm in the i30 N Performance. Both will be manual-only from launch, with respective 0-100km/h claims of 6.4s and 6.2s until an eight-speed dual-clutch auto comes on stream in 2019.

Styling-wise, the Megane RS’s bulging wheelarches accommodate the broader stance and feature extractor vents behind the front wheels, with another pair bookending a fatter rear bumper that incorporates the hallmark Megane RS trapezoidal central exhaust outlet within its functional diffuser.

Up front, chequered-flag-style LED driving lights have migrated from the facelifted Clio RS and join Renault Sport’s familiar F1-style aerodynamic blade running across the bumper’s width, which has also been extended to meet the bulkier front guards.

Finishing off the effect, which is overall more purposeful than aggressive, are slim ‘flat floor’ side skirts that serve as another nod to Renault Sport’s F1 racing heritage, and a new RS-specific paint finish called Orange Tonic to join the iconic Liquid Yellow that has been a Renault Sport calling card for some time.

Inside, the already sporty cabins of the Megane GT-Line and GT left Renault Sport little room for tweaks, but the new RS manages to provide an even more scene-setting ambience with red contrast stitching, carbon-look trim, a unique steering wheel and enhanced driving mode selection that includes a Race option in addition to the standard Megane’s Eco, Normal and Sport settings.

Inevitably, even sportier Megane RS variants will be in the pipeline, with sights firmly set on swiping Honda’s front-drive Nurburgring lap record currently held by the Civic Type R (235kW/400Nm and $50,990 plus on-roads) with a 7:43.8m time that trounced the former ’Ring-leading Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport S by almost 5.5s.

As reported, Renault will fast-track the new Megane RS to Australia as soon as right-hand-drive production begins. It was initially not expected to arrive until this time next year, but a Renault insider in Frankfurt told GoAuto this week that “you might be pleasantly surprised” with the still-to-be-confirmed launch date.

Renault is unable to provide even indicative pricing until closer to launch, but the transition from coupe-like, manual-only three-door to a more useable five-door shape with automatic transmission availability should broaden the model’s appeal enough to achieve economies of scale that lead to a competitive price.

If Renault Australia can replicate final pricing of the third-generation Megane RS with this latest model ($44,990 driveaway for the RS265 Cup and $48,990 driveaway for the RS275 Cup Premium), it will run closely against the less powerful Volkswagen Golf GTI (from $41,490 plus on-road costs) and make Peugeot’s 308 GTI 270 ($49,990 plus on-roads) look expensive.

Regardless, Australia’s appetite for fast Renaults, combined with the latest Megane’s more mainstream positioning, is certain to result in record RS sales Down Under.

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