In Comfort or Normal mode you’d be hard pressed to tell the different between a standard Renault Megane and the R.S in terms of refinement. The hot hatch is quiet, smooth and incredibly compliant, even over rutted surfaces.
As the road tightens and becomes faster toggling through Sport and Race modes sees everything become a little more aggressive. The engine note is synthetically enhanced by the cabin’s speakers, which sounds sub-optimal but is executed well and proves convincing, while crackles and bangs erupt from the exhaust when shifting down through the gears. For a four-cylinder turbo the Renault Megane R.S. sounds fantastic.
The six-speed dual-clutch auto reacts immediately to your every command; the box is able to jump gears on the way down through the ratios if you pull and hold the left paddle in Sport or Race mode. It’s a shame the paddles don’t operate with a satisfying thud; instead the action feels a bit soft and mushy.
The steering isn’t brimming with feel but its accurate and combined with the Megane’s four-wheel steering means this hot hatch has gymnast levels of agility. Below 62mph in Race mode the rear wheels turn in the opposite direction the fronts to boost precision on the entry to corners; you can feel the rear end begin to swing round and the nose tuck tighter into a bend as you apply more lock.
Initially you find yourself recalibrating the amount of steering angle you need to apply because the Megane R.S. turns in so quickly it almost catches you off guard. Then, when you get on the throttle, because the Sport chassis only gets torque vectoring rather than a proper mechanical limited slip differential, you can feel the R.S. begin to scrabble away at the tarmac, hunting for grip. It’s a sign you’re being over enthusiastic with the right pedal.
Where the hot Megane really excels is its ability to cover bumpy and rutted ground at speed with real composure. The hydraulic compression stops fitted to all shock absorbers are the kind you’ll find on rally cars; it means the R.S. is able to absorb big compressions and road undulations without any fuss. The superb body control gives you huge confidence to hustle the car over poor roads at higher speeds.
Like before there are two chassis setups available on the Renault Megane R.S. – Sport and Cup. You can spec either with a manual or automatic gearbox. The Sport chassis is the standard setup and kits the R.S. out with redesigned hydraulic compression stop shock absorbers and torque vectoring on the front axle to tame understeer. Opt for the Cup chassis, which will set you back around £1,500 to £2,000, and Renault throws in a mechanical limited slip differential and 10 per cent stiffer dampers.
The Renault Megane R.S. uses a 1.8-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that generates its 276bhp at 6,000rpm. Maximum torque of 390Nm is delivered to the front wheels at 4,800rpm and that’s enough to get the car from 0-62mph in 5.28s before it advances on to a 158mph top speed.
At the end of the year Renault will launch a more potent Trophy version of the Megane R.S., which promises 296bhp and 400Nm of torque from the same 1.8-litre turbo powerplant.