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If its predecessor is anything to go by then the new Renault Megane RS265 should be the best hot hatch in the world – bar none.
It’s got hero status already with a new lap record around the infamous Nurburgring Nordschleife for a front-wheel-drive production car in a time of just 8 minutes .08 seconds.
The Renault Megane RS265 cut a full nine seconds off the previous record set by another Renault - the legendary Megane R26.R, three years earlier.
Renault has done well with the niche selling Renault Megane RS250, especially in Australia, which currently ranks as the third largest market for Renault Sport product in the world, behind Germany and France.
Over 700 Renault Megane RS250s have been sold here since deliveries commenced in November 2010, or double the company’s original projections for the car. If you still fancy one, you’d need to act quickly, as there are as few as 10 examples only remaining in dealer showrooms.
The latest and greatest front-wheel-drive hot hatch to roll off the assembly line at Palencia, in Spain, wearing the renowned Renault sport badge is the Megane RS265 – that’s 265 horsepower or 195 kilowatts of power in the new school.
Oddly enough, we have the Gendarmerie Nationale (French National Police) to thank for the Megane RS265 and its availability to enthusiasts around the world.
If it hadn’t been for Renault winning a tender from the Gendarmerie for a new high-speed pursuit vehicle with the specific requirement for 265hp, then its highly doubtful that we would have seen a replacement for the Renault sport Megane RS250 so soon, or indeed, at all.
Renault Sport engineers simply re-tuned the turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine to produce an extra 15kw and 20Nm of torque along with a few other minor tweaks and additions to clinch the police tender.
It was only then that someone at Renault tweaked that perhaps this more powerful version of the Renault Sport Megane would also find favour with the enthusiast public – and so the Renault Megane RS265 was born.
Visually, you’ll struggle to tell the RS250 and RS265 apart, as the changes between the two cars are subtle, at best.
Externally, it comes down to the two rows of LEDs either side of the F1 blade, chrome highlights and the black masking inside the headlamp assemblies. There’s nothing new for the rear of the Megane RS265.
Inside, there’s a range of new trims and depending on the specification level (Cup, Trophy, Trophy+) either red or yellow stitching adorn the seats, steering wheel (with centre marker), gear lever knob and the signature Renault Sport seatbelts in red or yellow.
However, the switchgear layout in the new Megane RS265 is pretty much the same as the outgoing RS250, but for a few functionality tweaks with the audio system. What does lift this interior though, are the various black lacquer accents throughout the car and carbon-look soft-touch material on the door panel inserts.
Overall, it’s certainly an improvement, but it doesn’t feel or look premium and isn’t up to Volkswagen Scirocco R standards.
But that’s not what will sell the Renault Megane RS265 – it’s the fact that this car does corners better than any other hot hatch on the planet, and it does so with extraordinary ease and precision.
Our test car for most of the perfectly curvy Queensland drive route was the limited edition Megane RS Trophy 8:08 ($49,990 - before on-road costs are added), which from a price perspective, sits between the mid-spec Trophy ($47,140) and the range-topping Trophy+ ($51,640).
Standard features on the Megane RS Trophy 8:08 include 19-inch black Steev alloy wheels with red rim that are shod with the same series Bridgestone Potenza RE050A tyres used during the lap-record run at the Nurburgring.
Other 8:08 kit includes Recaro leather seats up front, bi-xenon directional headlights and Trophy decals.
Firing up the Megane RS265 reveals perhaps a tad more depth to the engine note at idle, but there’s no real sign of what this thing is capable of with its extra dose of power and torque.
We’ve played around with the Megane’s Dynamic management system and selected ‘Sport’ mode, which allows more slip through later intervention by the ESP system, as well as an ‘Extreme’ throttle setting.
Five minutes in, and the extra poke under the bonnet is abundantly evident. The Megane RS265 accelerates with loads more ferocity than the RS250 and there’s more noise from the 2.0-litre turbo engine, too, – a deeper, more pronounced burble.
Only occasionally are you aware of the boost, as most of the time the power delivery is so linear and the engine so free spinning that you’re simply not aware of the forced induction taking place.
Punching the RS265 on a clean stretch and only swapping cogs as the rev limiter warning bell pings, and the car feels quicker than it’s claimed 0-100km/h time of six seconds flat.
The only transmission available with the Megane RS265 is a six-speed manual and while it’s a short throw shift requiring minimal effort, we’d still like to see a dual-clutch unit at least as an option on the next iteration of the Megane RS for even quicker track day times.
There’s loads of torque mid-range, too, and the gear ratios are ideally spaced for this type of undulating, curvy, terrain.
The sheer pace that this thing can carry through the more twisty sections is beyond prodigious. It’s just point and forget; the Megane RS265 held its line with remarkable dedication, despite arriving at some wickedly tight bends under what felt like too much speed.
There’s no loss of grip, either, the Megane RS265 hurtles through a series of left-right corners at ludicrous pace without missing a beat. It all feels too easy for this car.
You also can’t fault the Megane’s steering. It’s an electric power steering unit that’s been honed to perfection (like the rest of the Megane RS265) by the Renault Sport people over the years and offers quick response and natural weighting and detailed feedback through the steering wheel.
Despite the additional power output going to the front wheels of the Renault Megane RS265, torque steer simply doesn’t exist. That’s almost entirely the result of the Megane RS’s independent steering axis, which separates the front suspension from the damper.
It’s a remarkable chassis, too. Even when laying down the power during mid-corner on an uneven road surface, the Megane RS265 refuses to unsettle. There’s no body roll whatsoever. This is go-kart handling without the go-kart ride quality.
We’d label the Megane 265’s ride as comfortably firm, but able to cushion the more severe bumps without any harsh reaction.
All the pedals are both progressive and nicely weighted, too, and the four-pot Brembo brakes up front offer fade-free stopping power after repeated heavy applications on the downhill.
Enthusiasts and the motoring media around the world showered critical acclaim on the Renault Megane RS250 and labeled it the best hot hatch in the world.
The Renault Megane RS265 is an astonishingly capable driver’s car that eclipses the RS250’s outstanding performance in every way.