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New 2018 Renault Sport Megane uncovered at Frankfurt motor show

James Disdale
14 Sep 2017

The iconic Renault Megane RS is back in its third generation - will it uphold the Renault Sport legacy?

It’s felt like an age since the new Renault Sport Megane RS was announced. Finally, at this year’s Frankfurt motor it broke cover. As Renault Sport fans we have high hopes for the new Megane RS, but it will face stiff competition from the likes of the Honda Civic Type R, SEAT Leon Cupra R and new Hyundai i30 N. The Megane RS’s arsenal is packed deep with segment firsts: four-wheel steering, hydraulic bump stops for the suspension and the Renault Sport Monitor system allowing owners to download telemetry and videos for personal review.   

The Renault Sport tradition of offering two versions is continued: standard and Trophy, the latter as expected sports more power, a stiffer Cup chassis and a limited slip differential. A first for though is the choice between a manual or twin-clutch gearbox. 

> Click here for our video track battle of the Megane RS 275 Trophy and Volkswagen Golf GTi Clubsport S

After numerous teasing parades under disguise, we finally glimpsed the hot hatch in the flesh at Frankfurt. Based on the five-door bodystyle (there’s no three-door option) it sits square, wearing blistered wheel arches protruding 60mm and 45mm further from the body than the standard car at the front and rear respectively, making for an altogether aggressive appearance. From behind, the centre exit exhaust and motorsport aping diffuser support the angrier aesthetic, the latter contributing to aero gains – both lift and drag have been reduced over the old car.

 

Despite the Volcanic Orange paint, the Megane RS’s exterior is tame compared to Honda Civic Type R. Don’t be fooled, underneath the recipe is all Renault Sport boasting advanced chassis technology including the brand’s 4CONTROL four-wheel steering system which appeared on the GT model. The system has been reconfigured here, making it faster and more precise, and paired to the substantially upgraded and stiffer PerfoHub front axle (used on the old car) to best harness the benefits of the all-wheel steering and efficiently transmit power to the road.

 > Click here for our full rundown and live twitter feed of the Frankfurt motor show

As with the normal 4CONTROL set-up, the rear wheels turn in the opposite direction to the fronts and lower speeds to increase agility, before pointing the same way as the fronts to boost high-speed agility and stability. Chassis engineer Antoine Frey claims that heavily revised system results in a steering response that’s 20 percent faster than the old RS and 10 percent quicker than the similarly equipped GT. Yet the team has strived to make the set-up as natural as possible, with Frey revealing that, ‘with this new system you shouldn’t be able to tell that the car has four-wheel steering.’

The 4CONTROL set-up has also allowed Frey and his team to increase the anti-roll stiffness at the rear without any compromise in ride comfort.

All versions of the Megane get the hydraulic bump stops as standard. ‘These aren’t the same as those on the Clio 200’, explained Frey. ‘With the Megane’s system we can tune the stroke and maximum load.’

More importantly, the combination of the new bump stops and four-wheel steering means the Megane does without the adaptive dampers that many rival models use. This more straightforward, analogue approach has been taken with the limited slip differential, which is a wholly mechanical Torsen type (the old car had a simpler GKN item), which can send up to 45 percent of the engine’s torque to a slipping wheel. As Frey points out: ‘We didn’t use and electronically controlled unit because we were happy with the set-up off the front axle. Also, with the 4CONTROL already included we didn’t want too much tech.’

> Hyundai i30 N pre-production drive

The limited slip diff is an option that can be specified with the Cup chassis, which also brings 10 percent stiffer springs and larger 19-inch alloys that are wrapped in 245/35 19 Bridgestone tyres – the standard versions get 235/40 18 Continentals. Another option for the Cup are the new cast iron and aluminium composite front discs, which result in a total saving of 3.6kg in unsprung mass. As with the standard set-up, these discs feature 355mm diameter and are clamped by Brembo calipers.

So much for making the Megane steer and stop, what about making it go? Under the bonnet is a new turbocharged 1.8-litre four-cylinder unit that made its debut sitting in the middle of the recently announced Alpine A110. In the Megane it produces 276bhp and 288lb ft, while the Trophy version due at the end of 2018 ups these figures to 296bhp and 295lb ft respectively. Both figure lag behind that of the Honda Civic Type R, but the Renault promises to be lighter, which means there should be little in it when it comes to the power to weight ratio.

Machinerynical highlights include a cylinder head that’s been designed in cooperation with Renault’s Formula One squad, plus the adoption of a new, faster acting twin scroll turbo. The engine also gets the same mirror bore coating that’s used in the Nissan GT-R, while there’s also a higher capacity, dual intake air filter.

At the other end of the car is a neat exhaust system that aims to blend refinement with a sporty soundtrack without resorting to complicated electrically actuated flaps. Instead there’s cleverly designed back box that delivers a muted burble at idle, yet as engine speeds rise the change in pressure causes the gases to bypass the longer silencer tube and head straight for the exit pipe, essentially creating a louder straight-through set-up.

As before the Megane gets a six-speed manual gearbox as standard. In fact, it’s exactly the same transmission as the old car’s, with the same gear set.

However, there’s now the option of a six-speed EDC twin-clutch set-up for the first time. This set-up is different to that used in the Clio, as it features a double wet clutches and hydraulic actuators, which combine to deliver shifts that are claimed to be faster and smoother. And while its heavier than the manual transmission, engineers claim the weight penalty is offset by greater efficiency and fractionally quicker acceleration off the line – the launch control equipped EDC should crack 0-62mph in under six seconds.

With the two pedal models, drivers get a choice of four shift strategies – Comfort, Natural, Sport and Race. Each ramps up the speed of shifts, while in race the transmission will hold ratios, only changing up or down when instructed by the steering column-mounted paddles. The same driver modes (plus Perso, which allows you to mix and match your favourite settings) alter the steering weight and throttle response while also loosening the stability controls grip on proceedings.

Another area of the car that’s benefitted from a thorough overhaul is the RS Monitor, which allows drivers to access data from their driving. As with the Clio you can see real-time performance data on the large 8.7-inch R-Link 2 infotainment screen, but the Megane takes the system a stage further with a number if new features. For starters, you can hook a dashcam or smartphone up to the RS Monitor and film laps on a track, which you can download and watch later. There’s also the RS Replay function, which allows drivers to share their video and data on social media with other RS owners.

The new Megane RS is likely to hit UK showrooms early next year, and while prices haven’t yet been announced expect to pay around £30,000 when it does go on sale.

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