It’s a Renault Megane RS265, Jim – but not quite as we know it…
Here at CarAdvice, we’ve been mightily impressed by the Renault RS265 Cup in every accepted performance-measured way. Most recently, the $49,990 Renault Sport Megane 265 Red Bull F1 Edition, in a three-way comparo with the Volkswagen Golf GTI and Subaru WRX, provided a tangible reminder of its hot-hatch abilities. Perhaps it's a little too track focused for the road though…
In March 2014 there was the release of this 50-model limited edition special, the 2014 Renault Megane RS265 Sport (yep they seem to be into the idea of limited editions at Renault HQ), and now we’ve spent a full week behind the wheel. On face value, the starting price of $37,990 is enticing, despite the absence of the Cup’s mechanical LSD, which as you’d expect is directly responsible for some of the Cup’s mighty front-end performance. An undeniable part of the Cup’s allure and magical formula is this LSD, so the real question for this RS265 is how capable it can be when there isn’t an LSD in the equation.
Under the RS265 Sport’s shapely bonnet, there’s the Cup’s 195kW and 360Nm, turbocharged, 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine. That engine propels the Renault from 0-100km/h in a scant 6-seconds. The Limited Edition model does get auto stop/start technology, though, which has clipped the ADR fuel figure from 8.2L/100km down to 7.5L/100km. Stop/start isn’t to everyone’s tastes and personally I find stop/start so annoying (especially in traffic) I’d rather turn it off every time I start the car and just cop the increased fuel usage. That said the Renault stop/start system is quick to respond and nowhere near as tardy as some we’ve tested recently. If you’re more concerned with outright fuel efficiency and not quite as hard headed as me, you’ll leave stop/start to do its thing.
Crucially, the innovative Renault Perfohub steering system remains, and its ability to almost completely dial out torque-steer is genuinely noteworthy. The bane of powerful FWD cars since their inception, the Megane RS is as close to devoid of this nastiness as we’ve ever experienced. We did notice some torque steer under hard launches in a straight line strangely enough. Pulling out of corners under power though, there was never a tendency toward lairy, tyre squealing torque steer.
The 2014 Renault Megane RS 265 Limited Edition burbles with an intoxicating engine note as the revs rise, with a slight crackle and pop on the downshift at speed. There’s just a hint at the potent engine lurking under the bonnet without being too pervasive. It’s a hot-hatch engine in the grand tradition though. Ready and willing to deliver its best, it’s just waiting for you to allow it to sing to redline. The turbo kicks in strongly as the revs rise, but we never found any annoying flat spots even just off idle. Keep the engine fizzing through the sweet spot in the middle of the rev range and you could drive for days. You’ll take the long way home every time – preferably via a route that includes as many tight corners as possible.
Why would you take the long way home? Well, this is where the front-end grip comes into play. So prodigious is the grip on offer, the Megane RS265 is a car that attacks every corner with confidence, balance and surety. FWD powerhouses get no more capable than this. Charge into a corner, hard on the brakes and turn in, what, no understeer? Zero. The Megane heads for the line you’ve dialed in and stays there, rocketing through the corner smoothly. Power back on as you leave the apex behind and there’s no wheelspin or lairy chatter and tramping. The Michelin tyres simply bite viciously into the tarmac and the Megane starts piling on speed. You’ll find yourself looking for corners on every drive such is the enjoyment to be had from a spirited punt.
The whole time this is happening underneath you, you’re slicing through a precise six-speed gearbox to keep the engine spinning exactly where you want it. Close ratios are beautifully spaced and the shifter slots into each gate with no hesitation. The throw is short enough not to waste crucial time between gears.
Suddenly the clutch pedal, which felt too heavy in give and take traffic, starts to make perfect sense. The pick up point is right where you want it and the pedals are also perfectly spaced for heel and toe down shifts. The Megane RS265 is without question a driver’s car for those who still enjoy ‘driving’ their car. Your hands are working in perfect balance with your feet too, the beautifully weighted steering responding to inputs with direction and precision. There’s a real connection between your hands and the front tyres, something that is sadly lacking from many newer performance vehicles. It’s another nod to the great hot hatches of years gone by.
It remains to be seen whether the lack of the mechanical LSD would hinder the RS265 Sport Limited Edition on a racetrack – we suspect it would if it went head to head with it’s slightly tougher sibling – although there might not be much in it. Come to think of it, there’s an idea for a track comparo...
The Renault is not the most impressively endowed with standard equipment. That’s especially so when it’s compared to the Hyundai Veloster Turbo and Kia Pro_Ceed GT as we did recently in our three-way comparo. Cloth trim only - no leather, no reverse camera, no auto headlights or wipers, and manual air conditioning controls only. Parking sensors are standard, though.
It’s not all bad news, with the Renault’s standard Recaro seats a real highlight of the cabin. Comfortable enough for longer road drives, they will make an appreciable difference if you plan on attending track days with any regularity. Personally, I’d be willing to forgo a little comfort for the support they offer. Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity is standard (the good news is it works well too), along with six airbags – dual front, front-side and full-length curtain. The standard yellow seatbelts are a ‘love it or hate it’ proposition and while that kind of outlandish design feature isn’t typically my thing, I think it works well in such a sporty interior.
Some of the requisite French weirdness remains in the cabin with a few incongruous design quirks that I couldn’t quite work out. The handbrake is the big one, angled as it is pointing toward the passenger. The cruise control buttons are also positioned strangely and the stalk that houses the audio controls is largely hidden behind the steering wheel.
That partially hidden stalk controls the Renault Sport Monitor System, which is active once you press the traction control button. With Sport mode activated, the stability control is automatically less restrictive and you can also choose between a variety of throttle response settings. The very basic screen (which is where you look to control these modes) atop the dash is something of a let down. The modes available include: ‘Linear’, ‘Sport’, ‘Extreme’, ‘Snow’, and ‘Normal’. You’ll be going into battle with one of the first three if you really want to roll your sleeves up and have some fun.
We covered some of this ground in our three-car comparo, but the Renault’s back seat is tight and difficult to access. If you have more than one passenger often, this Megane RS265 isn’t the car for you. If you enjoy torturing your back seat passengers though… The luggage space is large enough to accommodate the requirements of the daily grind, but the RS265 isn’t really about that.
Externally, we universally (CarAdvice’s male road testers that is) didn’t like the Limited Edition’s exclusive Pacific Blue paintwork. Every female passenger who saw the car loved it though, so perhaps that’s just a matter of taste? Ours being bad of course. Either way, it’s the only colour you can get so you’re going to have to live with it if you love everything else the RS265 brings to the table. The silver alloys measure 18-inches in diameter - the same as the Cup - the only difference being the colour.
There’s no doubt the 2014 Renault Megane RS265 Sport Limited Edition (even without the LSD) is a heavily focused performance hatch. You’ll be making some concessions to comfort and equipment if you choose to live with the performance that is available. That said, the performance is appreciable when you do choose to access it. For the money, it’s a brilliant hatch that can definitely live with day to day. And it means you don’t have to buy a Golf like everyone else either.