Do you remember your first bicycle, the one that you rode till your mother pulled you off the street because it was turning into the dark of night? Yeah, that’s pretty much what this Renault Megane RS is like. It’s such an enormous amount of fun I’d find any excuse to have to drive somewhere, right in the midst of the petrol crisis. A little bit of education, the RS, or Renault Sport, is their racing incarnation of many of their vehicles, and my God those little French baguette eating engineers at Renault Sport division have got it right
There are two reasons why I love this car.
- The RS is seriously quick. I’ve driven many seriously fast cars, but the RS, in manual guise, with 184kW and 340NM of torque means business. There’s something about that 2litre turbocharged engine, the perfect short gear-throws and easy to modulate clutch that makes this one of the ‘easiest to drive fast cars’ I’ve driven. It’s point, and blast, much like those massive waterguns you used to have as a kid, eradicating your little brother in the garden. The rev band is short, but there is an immense amount of torque through every gear that means 0-100km/h is taken in a quick 6.1seconds. It feels SO much faster than that though, as you’re flying through the gears the engine seems to ask for more, faster, quicker gear changes… it’s talkative like that. So many performance hatchbacks miss one key thing, because they usually have turbocharged engines, there is no real meaty growl to scare innocent bystanders with. The Renault, also falls prey to that, but the sound from that trapezoid exhaust in the rear makes it sound like the car is physically eating the road. Burst past 4000RPM full bore and there’s a snarl and a growl like a scoop has opened in the front of the car and it is eating tar right off the road. It’s one of the most exhilarating sounds I’ve heard short of the C63AMG, and makes it that much faster (not really) and that much more fun (really).
- Somehow, those little French cooking-smoking-wine-drinking-engineers have managed to give the RS the most sublime handling characteristics of any FWD car with this much power on tap. You’d usually expect heaps of torque steer with that many horses galloping on the front wheels, but it’s minimal, less so than the Mini Cooper S (miracle). You’d expect it (especially with those beautiful 18inch alloys) to ride like the suspension is made of human skulls, but it’s perfectly, and I means PERFECTLY balanced between comfort and incredibly sporty. No electronic damping or any gizmos, just a great balance so when you want to chill out (few and far between) you don’t lose a kidney from the jolts, yet when you’re letting all the horses out of the gate, it’s stiff with heaps of grip. You’d expect it to wash wide through the corners, send the electronic stability control on at every point and turn and scuttle and shake, but it doesn’t. It nearly feels like (dare I say) there is 4 wheel drive assistance (there isn’t) when you’re pushing hard through the corners. Smart little French men they are.
- Nifty little things they thought of, such as keyless entry, that even locks the car when you walk away with the key. A yellow rev-counter with a very eager “beep” that sounds when it’s the engine’s ideal time to change gears, as well as proper drilled aluminum pedals. Even thought it’s a coupe, the back seats can be inhabited by actual humans. RS styling (choose it in yellow) is aggressive and looks shit-hot. There’s lot of standard kit in the car, which is so welcoming in this day and age of the option list.
There are reasons why I hate this car
- Why, for the love of everything French, must Renault make it so hard to operate their cars. The heated seats scroller is on the side of the seat, meaning you have to open the door to see what setting it’s on. To switch cruise control on you have to dislocate your shoulder (the same operation is required to retrieve your seatbelt) to find the button under the armrest. The controls for the sat-nav are so far down you’re literally staring at the handbrake fiddling with the controls while the screen is WAY up on the dash. (Thankfully the sat-nav is fairly easy to operate, and it’s standard B.T.W) The worst bit, by a French mile, is the “steering wheel” controls for audio and a many other things. It’s located in a weird Borg-type controller behind the steering wheel. It is so unintuitive with over 7 buttons on it that F15 fighter pilots would struggle to change the track on a CD.
- It’s French, and sadly, as much as the French can try to convince me to buy French “So you wouldn’t buy a Renault”…well … no, I wouldn’t. I’ve heard a Renault horror story from every person that I know drives a French car, and that drives me to drink. Sure they’re trying very hard to change that image, but I’m still skeptical, and judging by the squeaky brakes and warning bells that came on in this review car whilst I had it, I wouldn’t trust it further than I could throw it.
All this said, for R354 000 there is nothing in that range that comes close to the amount of fun and performance that the Renault has. Track day, I’d chose this above a Mini Cooper S or Golf R with my eyes shut. I love it so much, I want to marry it and have little road eating babies with it.