Swapping Winter For Summer In The New Megane RS
There is a long history of awesome little pocket rockets that rolled out of Renaults RS division over the years - my favourite being the Megane R26.R, an uncompromising driver-focused hot hatch with just 2 front fixed carbon bucket seats, a rear full of roll cage scaffolding and sticky tyres. So when I was invited to fly to Jerez (on a chartered jet) to drive the all new Renault Megane RS in Southern Spain during a bleak British week in February - I was on the plane like a shot!
Jerez is home to a stunning race circuit appropriately titled (and loosely translated) ‘Jerez - Circuit Of Velocity!” How cool is that?
The undulating circuit is nestled amongst the orange groves of the local countryside making for one of the most picturesque race circuits I have had the pleasure of driving.
The format of the day with Renault was both a road and track drive in the new Renault Megane RS. On the road in the 6 speed Dual Clutch Automatic and on track in the 6 speed manual...It’s days like this that I question why I’m in the U.K. during Winter at all!
A mere 30 minute drive from the circuit is some of the best driving roads I’ve discovered lately. Despite being just 7 miles from the Atlantic Ocean you feel deep in the Andalucia countryside. The area is mostly agricultural meaning the roads are almost entirely empty save for a few sheep and the odd tractor and scenery that made me want to stop the car every few hundred yards to capture the Megane RS amongst this awesome environment.
The Megane RS on these roads is right at home, with just 280hp it’s not exactly the last word in unhinged power but the dynamics of the chassis and it’s trick new 4 Wheel steering allow it to carry its moment with such joyful rhythm and flow that I was compelled to voyage down random roads just to see what other brilliant asphalt and driving challenges I could uncover in this arable playground!
Back at the Jerez race circuit Renault swapped me out of the automatic car I had been enjoying in the countryside and into a 6 speed manual Megane RS with a stiffer cup chassis setup, limited slip diff and updated no-alloy disc brakes!
Circuit De Jerez is a track packed full of history and sun bleached patina. The track opened in 1985, hosting it's first Formula 1 Grand Prix in 1986. The circuit is 4.4km in length with 13 corners and delicate changes in elevation. Jerez also hosted the 1997 European Grand Prix - the championship decider between Michael Schumacher and Jacques Villeneuve, who collided during the race.
There is something about a Hot Hatch that I find lends itself so perfectly to a manual gearbox. I think it’s because they aren’t overly powerful that the joy is unlocked by grabbing it by the scruff of its neck and thrashing it for all it’s worth, the addition of a manual gearbox adds another level of demand from the driver thus furthering the engagement with the car.
On track this was thoroughly confirmed! That gear stick becomes a conductors baton as you orchestrate the gears for a symphony of torque and traction. Despite the pedal locations annoyingly ill placed for optimal heel and toe movement, executing the perfect blip-downshift is still the thing that made this car come alive.
Ultimately the Megane RS is a brilliant all round Hot Hatch, a car you would happily live with daily but a platform that would let you maximise your favourite driving road on the way home from work. But oddly enough this ultra broad ability to do everything makes it somewhat of a jack of all trades, it’s pretty good at everything but not particularly outstanding at anything and for me it is acceptable that a Renault RS product compromises practicality for a more driver focused experience.
The new Megane RS has almost but not quite nailed it for enthusiasts but for £30,000 it is an incredible achievement. The good news to conclude...there is still a more hardcore Cup R version to come! Perhaps that’s the car I’ve been waiting for?
Watch the complete road drive video here: