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First Drive: Megane RS cops a rise

Hot gets hotter: The Renaultsport Megane will get a facelift in Australia around October, gaining an extra 14kW of power.

Renaultsport ups the pressure against the Golf GTI – thanks to the French police

16 Apr 2012


MEGANE Renaultsport customers will literally cop a hot hatch upgrade from the end of the year, courtesy of requests from the French police for a more effective pursuit vehicle.

Fast-tracked for an October launch in Australia as part of the Megane “Collection 2012” Phase II facelift roll out, the RS265 replaces the RS250, with more performance and improved responses coming from fine-tuning the car.

Australia is now the third-biggest market for Megane RS in the world after France and Germany, with 407 sales last year.

Pricing has not yet been announced, but do not expect much of a change from the $41,990 (RS250) and $46,990 (RS250 Trophee) Renault currently charges.

The facelift also sees the Australian debut of a limited-edition Megane RS265 Trophy (as opposed to the existing ‘Trophee’ variant, which may be renamed to avoid confusion).

The 100 numbered Trophy examples will most probably include daytime-running lights, 19-inch alloy wheels, red Brembo brake callipers, pinstripe detailing, Recaro front seats, and a monitor showing lap times, G-force and performance telemetry.

35 center imageLeft: Renault Megane RS265. Below: RS Trophy.

Some of these items, along with high-performance Bridgestone 235/35ZR19 tyres, are currently offered on the 50 RS250 AGP special editions released in March to coincide with the Australian F1 Grand Prix.

Renault Australia has not revealed if the raciest Megane will continue to come only with the uprated Cup chassis – rather than the softer Euro-spec Sport version – which includes a mechanical limited slip differential, heavier anti-roll bars and firmer dampers for more responsive dynamics.

The 2.0-litre twin-cam four-cylinder turbocharged engine produces an extra 14kW of power (to 198kW at the same 5500rpm) and 20Nm of torque (to 360Nm at 2500rpm rather than 3000rpm) when the electronic stability control is turned off or set to the ‘ESP Sport’ mode, increasing turbo pressure from 2.3 bar to 2.5 bar.

Renault says the two-stage switch helps the RS265 meet the stringent EU-5a emissions requirements while cutting the annual CO2 tax charged in Europe.

Consequently, the RS265 in ESP Sport idles higher, sprints from 0-100km/h one-tenth of a second faster at 6.0 seconds and has a 4km/h higher top speed of 254km/h – yet returns an identical 8.2L/100km and 190g/km of carbon emissions (on the Euro combined cycle).

These performance changes may seem incremental, but the fastest-ever production Megane feels more muscular across the entire rev range as soon as you push the ESP Sport button.

Accompanied by a new, fruitier exhaust (complete with an off-throttle blip when down-changing), helped by a slick six-speed manual gearbox, the RS265’s demeanour takes on an even fiercer attitude, leaping forward with more force and accumulating speed at a greater rate than before.

The sweet balance and exquisite control of the 250 is still there in spades, thanks in no small part to the patented ‘Performance Hub’ independent steering axis front suspension system, combined with a very effective set of Brembo brakes, but the wick has been turned up a little, along with the volume.

The fact that the RS265 pummels the 6500rpm rev-limiter persistently without ripping the wheel from your grip is what continues to really set the Megane RS apart.

The Renault skims rather than pounds over poor surfaces with broken edges. Yes, the ride is firm – and does get a little busy over the rough stuff – but it is neither hard nor unyielding.

On the Circuit Espace Plus de Marcoussis that Renault Sport Technologies uses to hone its cars, the lightness and fluency of the chassis at track speeds astounded us. It remains a remarkable achievement.

Apparently this very confluence of performance and control – sealed by the extra power – is what persuaded the gendarmerie to switch to the RS265 after years of driving the Subaru Impreza WRX.

It is virtually impossible to distinguish an RS250 from the new RS265 externally, coming down to slightly different trim and colour choices inside. We only really noticed the grey rather than yellow tachometer, and a welcome secondary digital speed readout as part of the trip computer display.

Flaws we recall from the Megane RS250 – terrible rear vision, a claustrophobic (though spacious enough) rear seat and a jittery ride – remain, yet we did not care one iota.

As an exercise in improving what is already our favourite hot hatch in the world, Renaultsport – egged on by the French police – has succeeded brilliantly.

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