The just-revealed 2018 Renault Megane RS hot hatch concedes a horsepower advantage to rivals such as the Honda Civic Type-R, Ford Focus RS and Volkswagen Golf R, but having segment-leading power is not relevant to the company’s goals.
This is the line we received from Renault Sport managing director Patrice Ratti at the world premiere this week in Frankfurt, where he reiterated that the number one goal remained track-times, not straight-line speed.
The third-generation circa 1400kg (dry) Megane RS five-door has a brand new 1.8-litre turbocharged petrol shared with the new Alpine A110, making 205kW and 390Nm, matched to either six-speed manual or EDC dual-clutch automatic gearboxes, and a front-wheel drive system helped by a Torsen limited-slip differential and 4Control rear-wheel steering.
Within a year we will see a Megane RS Trophy model with 224kW (300hp), though even this falls short of the 2.0 FWD Civic Type-R (235kW/400Nm) and the 2.0 AWD Golf R (228kW/400Nm) - albeit both detuned for Australia - and the 2.3 AWD Focus RS (257kW/440Nm).
“In our history of Megane we have never been the most powerful of the segment, but have often been fastest on a circuit,” Ratti insisted, adding that the new model would just squeeze below six-seconds 0-100km/h once homologated - more than a second slower than the all-paw Golf R.
“Our objective is not to have the most powerful. That being said, the 2.0 turbo in the previous Megane started at 230hp and ended its life at 275hp, so our engineers step by step will see if they can increase the power [over the course of the life-cycle].
“Within one year we’ll be at 300… but it’s not our goal to be most powerful. Our goal is to give the most pleasure and be fastest on the track, and it’s always been like this. 10-12hp is not that much different on the track, you can over-compensate by efficiency in corners.”
Ratti said that all-wheel drive was never considered for the RS, stating that it was not always conducive to fast track times - a Nurburgring front-drive record is the stated goal - and that it’d add too much weight to a platform not really developed for it anyway.
Ratti also said that it was decided early in the development cycle to offer both manual and EDC ‘boxes, unlike the auto-only Clio RS, despite conjecture in the media.
The company expects a 50:50 split between the 'boxes worldwide, though says key markets like Australia and Japan (number three and four globally out of 43 markets total, behind France and Germany) will be majority EDC.
In Australia, Renault Sport’s proportion of the market’s total Renault sales is triple the European average.
The Renault Sport subsidiary started, dedicated to racing, in 1976, and included the Alpine and Giordini marques. Last year it sold 45,000 RS, GT and GT-Line models and will do 50k this year, based on projections.
You can read about more details on the new Megane RS here.
As far as the Australian launch goes, somewhat remarkably Renault’s local arm was unable to give us an answer - baffling, we know. Though based on the beginning of RHD UK deliveries, we’d imagine before the middle of 2018.