This time there was no race track involved. Renault launched its new Megane R.S 265 hatchback with a one-day road drive from Brisbane and that’s all you need to crown the new Megane – again - the king of the hot hatchbacks.
And for that we can thanks the cops back home in France. The ‘Gendarmerie Nationale’ specified a vehicle with 265horsepower (195kW) for its high-speed pursuit vehicles…so Renault responded with the new Megane R.S. 265.
And Aussies certainly appreciate hot hatchbacks. In fact we punch ridiculously above our weight in terms of Megane R.S. sales - currently the world’s third-largest market behind France and Germany and Renault Australia chief Justin Hocevar reckons we might soon move up to second place.
Renault Megane R.S. 265 Overview
Renault’s three-door red-hot-hot-hatch comes in three model grades – entry-level ‘Cup’, mid-range ‘Trophy’ and range-topping ‘Trophy +’. At launch there is also a limited edition (only 100 coming our way) version called ‘Trophy 8:08’ (to signify the front-wheel-drive record lap time of 8 mins 08 seconds for Germany’s Nurburgring race circuit set by a Renault Megane R.S in June last year).
Renault fans will note this model adopts the English spelling of ‘Trophy’ in place of the previous model’s French ‘Trophee’.
Over the already highly-equipped Renault Megane R.S. 265, the Trophy adds front Recaro sports seats in cloth and leatherette, 19-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry and a tyre pressure monitoring system. For the Trophy + you can add heated and height-adjustable front seats in charcoal leather (electronic adjustment and lumbar support for the driver), satellite navigation and reversing camera (seven-inch screen), Bi-Xenon headlights, front and rear parking sensors and a fixed glass roof.
If you’re lucky enough to snare a Renault Megane R.S. 265 Trophy 8:08 (only in ‘liquid yellow’ and ‘pearl white’ paint) you score 19-inch black alloy wheels with red trim and leather-trimmed Recaro front seats. In addition, the Michelin tyres get the ‘heave-ho’, replaced by the same Bridgestone Potenza RE050A rubber as used when setting that Nurburgring benchmark time.
The full range is:
Megane R.S. 265 Cup $42,640
Megane R.S. 265 Trophy $47,140
Megane R.S. 265 Trophy+ $51,640
Megane R.S. Trophy 8:08 $49,990
Renault Megane R.S. 265 Engine
To get the required 265hp (195kW) from its F4Rt) 2.0-litre petrol engine, Renault bumped-up the turbocharger boost pressure by 0.2 bar to 2.5 bar and accordingly changed the air intake.
Renault says peak torque of 360Nm is delivered at 3000rpm but on our day north of Brisbane we felt the best surge when nearing 4000rpm. The twin-scroll turbocharger enables 80 per cent of that torque to be delivered from as low as 1900rpm.
Naturally it’s Euro5 compliant for emissions (rated at 190g/km) and the combined cycle fuel consumption of 8.2l/100kms is more than five per cent better than the previous Renault Megane R.S. 250.
The Renault Megane R.S. 265 runs a tuned exhaust system with a massive central tailpipe. Changes in the engine management in ‘Sport’ mode deliver a race car-like crackle on overrun.
Drive is a via a six-speed manual transmission.
Renault Megane R.S. 265 The Interior
We tip our hats to Renault’s designers for the Megane R.S. 265’s interior. Even better than the outgoing R.S.250, they have successfully brought together the ‘business-like’ qualities of a race car with luxury and style one associates with European vehicles.
Specifications vary across the model range but our favourite was the Trophy version with its leather Recaro seats. By the same token the Trophy+ with a new two-tone light grey and charcoal look sounds enticing.
Of course the driving position is sporty, the leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear lever finished with visible red or leather stitching and the seatbelts are also red or yellow.
Other changes over the R.S. 250 include the new instruments – analogue this time with a stylish white colour for the rev counter.
Renault Megane R.S. 265 Exterior & Styling
Not substantial changes to the exterior for the Renault Megane R.S. 265 - it’s a running change not a full model change – but they’re noticeable.
Most apparent are revisions to the F1-style ‘blade’ front spoiler which gets a more prominent look, two rows of six LED DRLs and some chrome trim. Headlight masks have changed to black and there are new tail-lights.
New wheels (18-inch or 19-inch) come in black or black-with-red-stripes.
Trophy models are also identified by stylish Trophy decals.
Renault Megane R.S. 265 On The Road
Beyond a shadow of doubt this was one of the ‘Drives Of 2012’. The one day route from Brisbane, north-west to Mapleton in the Sunshine Coast hinterland and back was just perfect for the Renault Megane R.S. 265 – lots of curves, hairpins, climbs and descents of varying speeds.
There was a time when the terms ‘195kW/360Nm turbocharged front-wheel-drive’ and ‘torque-steer’ were as inseparable as ‘public holiday’ and ‘petrol price rise’. But not anymore – Renault has nailed that problem thanks to smart ESP/ASR calibration and its independent steering axis front suspension system.
A conventional McPherson strut front suspension has the steering axis attached to both the ball joint of the lower arm and the upper damper mounting. But the Megane R.S. 265’s system, first developed by Renault Sport Technologies in 2004, separates the steering axis of the front suspension from the damper – so the geometry is less sensitive to torque.
We tossed our Renault Megane R.S. 265 Cup and Trophy test cars into tight corners at high speed and gave them full acceleration in first and second gears with staggeringly little (aka virtually none!) torque steer. At the very limit there was just a little ‘squirming’ from the front while the mechanical limited slip did its work as the Megane R.S. 265s snatched at the bitumen under maximum acceleration.
Equally impressive was turn-in and mid-corner response. In ‘Sport’ mode on the R.S. Dynamic Management system, the Renault Megane R.S. 265s delivered that initial turn-in and throttle-responsive oversteer-tendency from the rear end which performance drivers look for in front-wheel-drive cars.
Renault’s turbo 2.0-litre again proved to be a punchy pal. With its best coming north of 4000rpm, the exhaust noise was superb and we especially loved the crackling from the centre rear exhaust on over-run.
But don’t think driving the Renault Megane R.S. 265 is akin to the World Touring Car Championship. Nope – refinement levels are impressive with only the right sorts of engine sounds in the cabin and very minimal tyre and wind-noise.
Renault Megane R.S 265 Challenges
Before we climbed into our Renault Megane R.S. 265 Cup car, someone from a rival publication has managed ‘curb’ the left-front alloy wheel. Good work boofhead – the raw alloy stood out from the black-finished wheel and will be more difficult to disguise than a conventional alloy wheel.
Renault Megane R.S. 265 Verdict
Without doubt the hottest of the hot hatches, the Renault Megane R.S 265 eclipses its highly-praised predecessor and raises the bar even further. We love the Volkswagen Scirocco R but the latest Megane road-rocket takes everything to a higher level…you bet, the curvy French star has 2012 ‘Performance Car Of The Year’ potential.
Casting aside for one second the piping-hot looks and raucous turbocharged engine, we were just staggered by the competency of the Renault Megane R.S 265’s chassis. The wonderful steering response, superb traction (aka no torque steer), marvelous balance and stunning feedback…one of the drives of 2012.
Apart from the driving dynamics, where the Renault Megane R.S 265 steals a further edge on its rivals is inside. Those wonderful seats, superb materials and finishes plus the smart ‘R.S. Dynamic Management System’ stands the French hot hatch ahead of the rest.
Renault Megane R.S. 265 The Competition
Renault Megane R.S. 265’s rivalry with the Volkswagen Scirocco R could rival Ayrton Senna/Alain Prost or Australia V New Zealand in netball, rugby union or cricket. Stickered at $47,490 (manual), the beautifully-styled and built Scirocco is Germany’s Volkswagen at its brilliant best, powered by a 188kW/330Nm 2.0-litre turbocharged engine (195kW/360Nm from Renault’s 2.0-litre turbo).
We score the Renault Megane R.S. 265 ahead for on-road dynamics (ride, handling and steering a bit sportier) and also for its interior style (the Scirocco a bit too much Golf).
Volkswagen Golf GTI 3-door may buy into this league. At $38,990 (manual), the racy Golf (155kW/280Nm 2.0-litre turbo) saves some coin but pulls-up short in the looks, equipment and driving dynamics departments behind its Scirocco stablemate and the Renault Megane R.S. 265.