by Ben Selby
Few manufacturers have nailed the hot hatch concept in recent times like Renault. Their Megane RS265 was stunning to say the least, and moved the yardstick considerably further away from the competition in terms of driving thrills. Now though, we have a new Megane RS, with more power, more doors and more desirability than ever, enter the Megane RS 280.
While its predecessor made no bones about being a sporty devourer of bendy bitumen, the new RS280 is a lot more mainstream in appearance. However, rest assured that is not a bad thing. The RS has gone from being a two-door-coupe to a five-door hatchback. Now your mates can come along for the ride, and lots of luggage too.
Despite the hatchback proportions, the RS still sits low and those 19-inch alloys and 245/35 Bridgestone Potenza’s as fitted to my test car, really look the business. There are also plenty of scoops and spoilers which aid with aerodynamics, plus that single blasting exhaust and rear diffuser are nice touches too.
Under the bonnet lies a 1.8-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine, which thanks to the clever clogs at Renault, produces 205kW of grunt, or 280hp, hence the name. This also means 390Nm of torque, which kicks in at a very low 2,400 rpm. While you still get a six-speed manual, the RS280 is also the first Megane RS to be available with an automatic gearbox. For this you get six speed dual clutch set up with shift paddles mounted behind the wheel.
Add all this together and you still get fuel consumption figures of 7.5L/100km. Underneath if you opt for the Cup Chassis, you get a Limited Slip Diff, and custom springs. Sadly, my test car did not have this but even so, the standard chassis is more than up to the job.
Hopping inside and you fit snuggly into the alcantara semi sports seats, which are buttock-hugging to say the least. Everything is within easy reach and the steering wheel feels good clasped in your mitts. Lots of RS badging on the headrests, dash and centre console is a big reminder that you are in something special.
Entering the infotainment screen is a doddle. While you get all the interior fruit like Sat Nav, Bluetooth with Apple Car Play and Android Auto and a thumping Bose Sound System, its Renault Apps menu you would want to visit first.
Select the R.S Monitor App and voila, you are now able to select from a barrage of screens to measure your throttle response, how much G-Force you are pulling in the bends, your steering angle, boost pressure, torque curve, and it goes on and on. Track day fanboys would never need anything else.
You can even record your lap times and how fast it takes you to get from 0 to 100km/h. Renault claims 5.8 seconds but the best I managed was six seconds flat, clearly room for improvement is needed on my part.
On the move, it becomes apparent this Megane RS is lightyears ahead of its predecessor in one area, day to day driveability. The RS 265 was epic on a track and on one’s favourite twisty B-road, but its harsh ride and minimal rear three quarter vision left me feeling rather cold at the thought of commuting on a daily basis.
However, things couldn’t be any more different with the RS280. Select Comfort mode and the ride is significantly more comfortable than before. One wouldn’t call it wafting by any means, but for a hard-charging hot hatch, its sublime. Plus, this being a five-door rather than a coupe, all-round visibility is great.
Sitting at the lights attracts plenty of stares. Those in the know offer up a nod and smirk, and those who aren’t have that kind of “Damn that looks awesome” sort of expression. Plus, the fact Euromarque’s test car was bright yellow may have had something to do with it. Slicing through traffic in the RS280 is a doddle, in fact so addictive is the power on tap, you notice those numbers on the HUD increase a bit faster than first expected.
Steering is pin sharp, though it tends to lack in terms of feedback. Plus, when it comes to mentioning steering, Renault’s 4CONTROL four-wheel-steer system is pretty darn impressive. With the system engaged, it genuinely feels like you are driving a four-wheel-drive car, its that good.
When you leave the city limits and onto your favourite bit of twisty tarmac, the Megane RS280 is a revelation. Select the RS Drive button on the dash and the revs rise, the exhaust note gets louder, the steering weights up and each paddle shift on the dual clutch auto box becomes rapid to say the least, welcome to Sport mode.
Plant boot and you need to be awake. The RS280’s Jekkyl and Hyde personality becomes all too apparent as you are catapulted out of each corner, riding a wave of torque, induction and crackling exhaust noise. You can also chuck the RS into corners at considerable speed, and it hangs on like a cat on shag pile carpet.
Flick up a gear and you get an epic fart from the exhaust between changes. This also goes hand in hand when lifting off as it crackles and bangs on the overrun. The paddles themselves are nice but I do wish they were a tad bigger.
If you are feeling brave, you can then turn the dial up to 11 and select Track mode. This is best left to a controlled environment as it turns off the driver aids and makes everything as loud and as harsh as possible. However, Renault let you personalize your drivers setting by going into the RS Drive Menu. If you wanted the exhaust in race but the engine in comfort mode, then go for it.
At $62,990 the new Renault Megane RS 280 represents great buying when compared to the likes of Mercedes and BMW. However, what this gallic go-kart does better than just about anything in this segment, is provide the right mix of grunt, fun, grip, go and yes even day to day practicality. Little niggles aside, if you are after a daily driver which doubles as a bonafide petrolhead giggle factory, the Megane RS280 should be top of your list.