Renault Sport Mègane RS LUX EDC

2019 Renault Sport Mègane RS LUX EDC

There are two of them. The other one’s called Renault Sport Mègane RS CUP and has slightly different specs.

Those include larger wheels, wider and lower-profiled tyres, a mechanical handbrake, manual transmission, a Torsen limited slip differential and stiffer springs and shocks. To identify it from the outside, its front brake calipers are painted red.

Both are priced at R549 900.

Newton-metres

The engine is 200cc smaller than in the previous version, but adds four kilowatt and 30 Newton-metres. That means two-tenths of a second less from standstill to 100km/h and zero-point-three seconds quicker over the standing kilometre.

Appearance deceives. It looks much the same as before, although practically every detail has changed; grille, headlamps, bonnet, wheels, side mirrors, tail lamps, roof spoiler, tail gate, rear diffuser, two more doors and air scoops in the widened fenders. Big ones.

A snapper and snarler this may be, but the interior has not been neglected.

That’s just the outside. The interior is different, too, with an 8.5-inch touch-screen control centre and redone vents, instruments, steering wheel, switchgear, gauges and dashboard.

What you can’t see is 4Control four-wheel steering. At speeds below 60km/h it nudges the rear wheels as much as 2.7 degrees left when you’re aiming right and vice versa. It quickens steering response and adds a feeling of playfulness to winding and twisty roads.

Go faster and the back wheels point very slightly in the same direction as those in front. This improves handling stability for a “relaxed yet sporty experience”, they say.

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Race, one of four selectable driving modes (five if you include PersonalSettings), raises the change-over point to 100km/h.

Also unseen are hydraulic compression stops. Put simply, the shocks incorporate internal dampers near the ends of each stroke. These soften the blow so you don’t feel the usual thump against conventional rubber bump stops. It works well, eliminating harshness from the naturally firm ride.

Also unseen are bigger front brake discs – 355mm in diameter compared with 340mm previously.

This car can be tame, if driven by Grand-mère, perhaps, unless she applies heavy right foot to the pedal in the bottom corner. Then it snarls, whips down a cog or two (more on the dual clutch transmission later) and rips the horizon rapidly closer.

That’s in Comfort, the mode identified by a snowflake symbol suggesting soft responses.

Practically every detail has changed; grille, headlamps, bonnet, wheels, side mirrors, tail lamps, roof spoiler, tail gate, rear diffuser, two more doors and air scoops in the widened fenders. Big ones.

Then there’s Neutral, supposedly standard or normal mode, that’s about as neutral as a knee to the ’nads. The engine sound when foot is applied is much the same as in Comfort, but the steering tightens noticeably and its self-centring action is more intense.

Sport and Race add even more dramatic responses and the sound effects are harsher – like somebody swopped the standard muffler for straight pipes.

Note: This is not one of those “fancy” cars with a synthesised sound box. Step outside and listen.

Its factory settings and those tunable in Race mode aren’t quite as entertaining as what’s offered with the Cup version unfortunately, but this is the street car, not the track machine, remember.

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Just remain aware that this thing is for driving with intent to do grievous fiscal harm should Officer Aggro catch up with you.

Which brings us, eventually, to the Efficient Dual Clutch (EDC) transmission that Renault seems intent on bolting to every engine in its fleet. We wish the firm would just fit “family” automatics to its family cars, because this EDC only works properly when there’s a decent motor attached – like an 1800 turbo making 209 kilowatt and 390 Newton-metres.

Nest of demons

Driven gently, the car whispers along quietly and efficiently, but when provoked, it kicks down, howls like a nest of demons and holds the selected ratio until you release pressure. It will hang on until Red Line if you let it, whereas lesser cars wimp out and gear up, simply because their computers choose to, arbitrarily, without your permission.

Details like this differentiate characterful drivers’ cars from “that” GTI and other wannabes that are really no more interesting than your father’s car in a different body.

Mègane RS, in either form, is more powerful, develops more torque and accelerates faster. It costs less, too.

Get one and enjoy the secret.

● Test unit from Renault SA press fleet.

The numbers

Engine: 1798cc, 16-valve, four-cylinder, direct injection turbo petrol
Power: 205kW at 6000rpm
Torque: 390Nm between 2400 and 4500rpm
Zero to 100km/h: 5.8 seconds
Maximum speed: 250km/h
Real-life fuel consumption: About 9.8l/100km
Tank: 50 litres
Luggage: 434 to 1247 litres
Warranty: Five years or 150 000km
Service plan: Five years or 90 000km at 10 000km intervals