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New models - Renault - Megane - Renaultsport F1 Team R26

First drive: Red-hot R26 is Renault's greatest RS

It's a Renault, sport: R26 adds power and agility to Megane's RS menu.

Renault winds up the wick of its wicked Megane RS to create the even wilder R26

13 Aug 2007

RENAULT is muscling in on the Ford Focus XR5 Turbo/Volkswagen Golf GTI/HSV Astra VXR/Honda Civic Type R market with its fastest, sharpest and most preposterously named production hot-hatch yet.

Dubbed the Renault Megane Renaultsport (RS) 230 F1 Team R26, it is on sale now, almost 12 months after its October 2006 European debut. Prices commence at $43,990.

The French-built three-door hatch-only R26 sits on top of the continuing, three-tiered petrol-turbo Megane range that kicks off with the three-door 225 from $37,990.

The $44,490 RS 225 Cup five-door model donates its Cup chassis base – which means sharper suspension, recalibrated stability controls, Brembo brakes and an 18-inch wheel and tyre package – but then a raft of upgrades designed to elevate the Megane to the top of the hot-hatch hierarchy have been implemented.

Chief among these is a mechanical limited-slip differential for the first time on a Megane, while the traction control system incorporates ‘launch control’ software that optimises torque delivery through to the front wheels to maximise progress.

35 center imageRevised dampers, stiffer springs, shorter suspension bump-stops for increased rough-road damping, a thicker rear anti-roll bar, stability control that is completely switchable and a sportier sounding exhaust system are also part of the R26 package.

The latter, along with some revised electronics, contributes to an extra 3kW of power and 10Nm of torque being offered by the 1998cc 2.0-litre twin-cam 16-valve turbocharged engine.

The outputs now register at 168kW at 5500rpm (or 230hp – hence the 230 moniker) and 310Nm at 3000rpm, with 90 per cent of torque accessible between 2000 and 6000rpm.

Weighing in at 30kg more than the equivalent RS 225, the R26 tips the scales at 1355kg. Expect fuel consumption to come in at around 9L/100km, while the carbon dioxide emissions figure is 200g/km.

Renault did not supply any Australian-specific sprint times, but European performance figures suggest that the R26 can hit 100km/h from standstill in just over six seconds, and exceed 235km/h.

As before, a six-speed manual gearbox sends drive through to the front wheels, while the front and rear suspension types are MacPherson struts and an H-style torsion beam axle respectively.

Although no changes were made to the Megane’s variable electric powered rack-and-pinion steering system, the Cup chassis pioneered the ‘tube-in-tube’ link device fitted to the whole range last year. To recap, the link slides between two steering column shafts for improved feedback and better filtering out of road vibrations.

Regarding braking, the R26 employs Brembo four-pot front callipers with 312mm in diameter drilled and vented discs up front and 300mm solid discs out back.

Different wheels and tyres round out the R26 exclusivities – amusingly named 18-inch “BeBop” alloys shod with Michelin Pilot Sport Two 235/40 R18 rubber – a change from the Dunlop SportMaxx tyres the other RS models wear.

You will be able to spot an R26 by its grey alloys that only partially hide the red Brembo callipers, along with a smattering of F1 Team decals on the bumpers, roof and doors.

These are a no-cost delete option, although Renaultsport’s Jean Calcet – who is in charge of international sales – says that R26s that have entered the used market in Europe sell faster with the stickers.

Xenon headlights are also part of the package, as is a numbered plaque for each vehicle.

As with the Megane RS’, buyers also score six airbags, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and emergency brake assist, anti-submarining front seats, automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers, cruise control with speed limiter, climate control air-conditioning and a trip computer.

Only 80 R26s will be imported, with the multi-coat Victory Yellow adding $1000 to the only other colour choice, Deep Black.

With 30 per cent of vehicles already accounted for, Renault Australia expects the rest to sell quickly. Last year’s limited run of Cup chassis-equipped RS 225 F1 Team three-door specials – with all 30 painted ‘Ultra Blue’ – flew out dealers’ doors, according to a company spokesman.

Australia is the ninth largest market worldwide for Renaultsport’s products, mostly due to the success of the Clio Sport range.

2007 Renault Megane RS pricing:
225 3-dr $37,990
225 5-dr $42,490
225 Cup 5-dr $44,490
230 F1 Team R26 3-dr $43,990

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