Re­nault Mégane RS 280 Lux EDC

As the “Lux” in its name im­plies, this new Mégane RS could fi­nally of­fer some real-world us­abil­ity. Or not

Car (South Africa) - - CONTENTS -

HAS there re­ally been only three gen­er­a­tions of the Mégane RS? First brought to mar­ket in 2004, the most-fo­cused ver­sion of the sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion Mégane not only in­tro­duced the hot hatch fra­ter­nity to the Dieppe-based Re­nault­sport de­part­ment’s black-magic han­dling wizardry, but also placed im­me­di­ate pres­sure on every other fast front-wheel-drive ri­val to up their game.

That pres­sure would prove re­lent­less as Re­nault made the most of both its links with For­mula One and a de­sire for con­tin­ued seg­ment suc­cess by launch­ing myr­iad spe­cial edi­tions and lim­ited-run Mégane RS mod­els, each boast­ing stepped-up per­for­mance and fur­ther-evolved han­dling char­ac­ter­is­tics. It cul­mi­nated in the sharpest of all with the sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion Mégane RS line-up and the RS 275 Tro­phy that claimed the Nür­bur­gring Nord­schleife lap record for a front-wheel-drive car.

While track-based suc­cesses and lap records cer­tainly do won­ders for rep­u­ta­tion, they don’t al­ways trans­late into sales vol­ume. As much as there may be an oc­ca­sional boy racer in every driver of a warm hatch, the needs of ev­ery­day motoring life, in­clud­ing oc­ca­sion­ally tak­ing your mom to the shops, in­evitably dic­tates just how fo­cused your hatch­back can be. It’s within this care­ful com­pro­mise where Volk­swa­gen has

en­joyed so much suc­cess with its Golf GTI.

At the heart of each Mégane Re­nault­sport line-up has been both care­fully con­sid­ered per­for­mance out­puts as well as honed sus­pen­sion con­fig­u­ra­tions, dis­tin­guish­able via Sport, Cup or Tro­phy des­ig­na­tions. While the hard­core Tro­phy ver­sion of the new­est, fourth-gen­er­a­tion Mégane was re­cently an­nounced (see page 66), until that vari­ant ar­rives, Re­nault South Africa will of­fer both this Sport (dubbed Lux in our mar­ket) and its Cup sib­ling.

Topping a re­cently re­pro­filed lo­cal Mégane line-up, the new RS mod­els are in­stantly recog­nis­able from the three re­main­ing, lesspow­er­ful de­riv­a­tives via a suita- bly wider stance (60 mm up front and 45 mm at the rear) com­plete with vent-rid­dled whee­larches, be­spoke front bumper (in­clud­ing an “F1-in­spired” blade dif­fuser and slightly gim­micky RS Vi­sion fog lamps) and a cen­trally mounted ex­haust tail­piece hous­ing. In­deed, even without the op­tional Tango Or­ange paint­work ap­plied to our test unit, there’s no es­cap­ing the sense of pur­pose handed to even this, the “soft­est” Lux model. While 18-inch al­loy wheels are stan­dard fit­ment to this de­riv­a­tive, an upgrade to the Cup’s 19-inch items (as seen here) is also avail­able. The Cup re­mains dis­tin­guish­able via its slightly lower stance (7 mm) and red brake cal­lipers.

Re­nault­sport in­te­rior up­grades in­clude deep bucket seats, chrome and car­bon-look trim bits, be­spoke in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem dis­plays and a gen­er­ously moulded steer­ing wheel.

Priced iden­ti­cally, both RS mod­els fea­ture Re­nault’s new tur­bocharged 1,8-litre en­gine mated with a six-speed EDC (dual-clutch) trans­mis­sion in the Lux and a six-speed man­ual ‘box in the Cup de­riv­a­tive. Boast­ing 205 kw and 390 N.m of torque, the preva­lence of wheel spin off the line – even when ac­ti­vat­ing the EDC’S launch-con­trol func­tion – is per­haps why Re­nault claims an iden­ti­cal 0-100 km/h sprint time (5,8 sec­onds) for both trans­mis­sion types. De­spite chirp­ing its wheels and dis­play- ing mild torque steer, the best time of 6,11 sec­onds we recorded was slightly quicker than the im­pres­sive GTI Club­sport S (with its man­ual ‘box) tested in June 2017.

Straight-line per­for­mance aside, Re­nault­sport mod­els are known for their han­dling prow­ess and, with its lat­est of­fer­ing, Re­nault in­tro­duces a new, er, dy­namic to the hot-hatch melee. Able to ad­just the an­gle of the rear wheels by up to 2,7 de­grees, the new Mégane RS’ 4 Con­trol steer­ing sys­tem tilts the aft rub­ber in the op­po­site direc­tion to that of the front at speeds be­low 60 km/h (this thresh­old rising to 100 km/h in race mode), where­after they mimic the direc­tion of the front wheels (ef­fec­tively length­en­ing the car’s wheel­base) for sta­bil­ity in high-speed bends.

While the most ob­vi­ous char­ac­ter­is­tic of this sys­tem is a height­ened ini­tial bite on lower-speed turn-in, there’s no deny­ing the new­est Mégane RS builds on the legacy of its fore­bears by of­fer­ing not only a prodi­gious amount of front-end grip, but also a new­found level of rear play­ful­ness.

Given the in­her­ent dy­namic abil­i­ties of the sus­pen­sion tun­ing, the jury may be out as to whether the car ac­tu­ally needs four-wheel steer­ing. And it’s a jury that may be even more in­clined to re­turn a guilty ver­dict when it con­sid­ers the Cup ver­sion and its 25% firmer shock ab­sorbers, 30% tighter springs, 10% stiffer an­tiroll bars and Torsen me­chan­i­cal lim­ited-slip dif­fer­en­tial.

TEST SUM­MARY

Re­turn­ing to the suc­cess the Volk­swa­gen Golf GTI has en­joyed in our mar­ket com­pared with the more fo­cused likes of pre­vi­ous Mégane RS mod­els, per­haps the new Lux ver­sion is, in­deed, the one to have. Fit­ted, as both de­riv­a­tives are, with Re­nault’s bump-stop dampers buffer­ing harsher road im­per­fec­tions, there’s al­ready a con­sid­ered bal­ance be­tween rm­ness and ev­ery­day com­fort (even on op­tional 19” al­loys) in the RS 280 Lux that the Cup could prove su­per uous for most buy­ers. With both ver­sions fea­tur­ing ve driv­ing modes, from com­fort to sport and the afore­men­tioned race (switch­ing off sta­bil­ity con­trol), as well as a con gurable perso in­di­vid­ual mode, you also lose lit­tle in the way of drama or height­ened ex­haust note by opt­ing for the slightly less fo­cused setup in the Lux.

Still, the new Mégane RS 280 Lux is not a di­rect Golf GTI ri­val. For the French hot hatch to chal­lenge the German stal­wart head to head would re­quire it to be softer still in com­fort mode, have a slightly bet­ter- nished in­te­rior and its heav­ily up­dated (the best we’ve ex­pe­ri­enced to date) EDC trans­mis­sion just that bit sharper.

And, yet, that’s also why we’re so fond of the new­est Mégane RS. In con­ced­ing it needed a softer, more us­able op­tion to com­ple­ment what will in­evitably be a long line of sharper de­riv­a­tives to come, Re­nault­sport has also not quite bowed to the needs of com­fort. When it comes to han­dling, the French brand’s most com­fort­able RS to date has enough at­ti­tude and abil­ity (both in a straight line and around bends) to live up to the erce rep­u­ta­tion of its name.

from above Heav­ily bol­stered seats are nonethe­less com­fort­able; RSspe­cific in­fo­tain­ment screen can be slow to re­spond; the logo that’s high­lighted some of the finest hot hatches of our time; EDC pad­dles are fixed to the steer­ing col­umn; con­fig­urable dig­i­tal in­stru­ment clus­ter.

A com­pelling plat­form on which to build fu­ture Re­nault­Sport greats Ian Mclaren

Looks fan­tas­tic and is great fun to drive. Will it im­pact GTI sales? Ter­ence Steenkamp

Softer than its fore­bear, with more main­stream ap­peal Ryan Bubear

clock­wise from top Track widths are up 41 mm fore and 26 mm aft; four-wheel steer­ing helps to mit­i­gate un­der­steer; 19-inch al­loy wheels are op­tional on Lux spec.

clock­wise from top New 1,8-litre en­gine fea­tures twin-scroll tur­bocharg­ing; RS Vi­sion foglamps dou­ble as cor­ner­ing lights and high-beam as­sist; Tango Or­ange paint is a cost op­tion on the new RS 280.

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