The new Renault Megane Renault Sport will be powered by a 1.8-litre engine producing 276bhp and 288lb ft – but its maker says any performance deficit to rivals is more than compensated for by the car’s four-wheel steering system. The 4Control technology is claimed to boost the agility and stability of the car, whose competitors include the Honda Civic Type R, Ford Focus RS and new Seat Leon Cupra R, all of which have more than 300bhp.
“Fitting four-wheel steering was the biggest decision we had to make,” said Renault Sport chief Patrice Ratti. “We did a lot of studies and computer simulations and then put [the system] on the previous-generation [Megane RS] to create a mule and assess what was possible. “What became clear was that we had two choices: to make a car without it and to make incremental improvements in every area over what had gone before, or to make the car with it and to make a step change in terms of improvements. The benefits go across every area of the car’s dynamics –we have been able to rework the dampers, diffs, steering and more.”
The four-wheel steering system, which allows the rear wheels to turn up to 2.7 degrees, improves the Megane RS’s turning radius at low speeds, delivers greater all-round agility and improves stability at higher speeds. The added stability, in turn, allows for the use of a smaller and therefore more responsive steering ratio. It also mimics some of the role of the anti-roll bars, allowing for a different, more rear-biased chassis set-up. The system is already on sale with the Megane GT, although it has been retuned for the Megane RS.
Renault has confirmed that the RS will hit 0-62mph in less than six seconds but has not revealed any other performance or pricing figures, beyond stressing the engine’s flexibility, with peak torque available from 2400 to 5000rpm. Peak power arrives at 6000rpm. That suggests its acceleration will be on a par with its rivals’ but not eclipse them. Ratti said: “At no point has the team sacrificed fun – which means agility – for top speed. That is never our goal.” The engine is derived from the1798cc, aluminium-block unit used in the new Alpine sports car, but the increased power has been achieved primarily through the use of a head, the latter of which was developed in conjunction with the Renault Formula 1 team.
Ratti said: “The F1 team’s expertise in developing high-performance parts quickly is amazing – it achieved in one week what would have taken us five or six weeks because of its simulation know-how.” The unit’s rev limit is 7000rpm. The new Megane RS will also be offered with a choice of a Sport or Cup chassis and an automatic EDC gearbox or a six-speed manual. Most buyers are expected to specify either the most focused Cup and manual gearbox combination or the broader abilities of the Sport/EDC pairing. As such, the car has been optimised to those choices. The manual gearbox will use the same, proven gear set from the previous-generation car, while the EDC unit has been completely overhauled.
Additionally, the Sport chassis will be sold with 18-inch 235 profile wheels and the Cup with 19-inch 245 wheels as standard, with lightweight alloys available as a further option on the larger wheel, saving 1.8kg each and improving cooling. Buyers can choose either wheel size but the car’s set-up has been optimised on the standard one. The Cup car will feature a full, mechanical limited-slip differential set-up to transfer power between wheels, while the Sport chassis will use an electronic system to employ the brakes to slow a spinning wheel. An electronic LSD system was considered for the Cup car but deemed “too complex”. A manual handbrake will be standard for all cars.
Ratti said: “The sales split globally will be 50/50 Sport and Cup, but that will vary hugely between regions.” He highlighted that European buyers favour the more performance-focused set-up, while buyers in Asia – including Japan, Renault Sport’s fifth-biggest market, just behind the UK – favour a softer set-up and automatic gearbox. Renault is able to offer the options because its alliance with Nissan gives it access to the relevant technology -something that is not possible on the EDC-only Clio.
All Megane RSs will have four driving modes: Comfort, Normal, Sport and Race. In the latter setting on the Cup car, the stability control system will be completely switched off, although the electronic braking system will remain on with the Sport chassis. Ratti also confirmed a Trophy version of the Megane RS will be developed with 296bhp and 295lb ft, in the vein of the Trophy and R26R models launched with the previous-generation car.
As such, an assault on the Nurburgring record for front-wheel-drive cars is expected to happen, possibly in late 2018. “As long as we can make the car faster and still comply with the regulations, then we will try to break some records,” confirmed Ratti. “However, as I keep saying, I would never swap pleasure for speed – we have targets we must achieve. But an RS Trophy car is already looking very interesting.” Sales of the Megane RS will begin in spring next year, with pricing expected to begin around £30,000.