Motoring News 6.11.2013 08:00 am

RB8 Megane is a special Renault

French car manufacturers have it rough in South Africa and my professional dealings with them would suggest that some of it is justified – and some of it not.

The same can be said of their products. Some are not so good and others are really good – and this brings me to Renault. Their products of late have been right at the top of most shopping lists.

The new Clio has really shaken up the compact hatch market with its high spec level and value for money proposition in an all new car. And now we have another red hot Megane hatch in the form of the Renault Sport Red Bull Racing RB8 Special Edition doing battle with all the other exclusive hot hatches out there.

Locally, the Megane RS cars have been the most underrated throughout their life cycle. Those who own them swear by their performance abilities, and so do I.

And by that I don’t only mean in a straight line. A factory Megane with the right kit can get around a track quicker than any other standard hot hatch.

To back this up Google says the Megane RS 265 Trophy still holds the record for a front wheel drive car around the world famous Nurburgring. This time is well ahead of many a more powerful and fancied car, but is soon to be under threat as Honda has reportedly said they want to set a new mark with their still to be launched 210 kW Civic Type R.

So with that knowledge under my belt and a week in the hot seat of the car that marks the milestone celebration by Renault Sport and Red Bull Racing (RBR) of their third Formula One Constructor Championship world title (and RBR have since won a fourth title) we knew what was quickest in the twisties.

The Megane RS RB8 runs the RS Cup chassis and suspension configuration which comes with a proper track ready mechanical limited slip differential, a high performance Brembo brake system with grooved discs and 19 inch Bridgestone Potenza 235/35 sticky rubber wrapped around Steev alloy wheels.

You also get the exclusive in-dash RS Monitor and R-Link system that combines the performance tracking function with that of navigation and displays real time torque, power, boost, throttle, brake, steering angle, G lateral force and engine RPM.

It also computes front wheel slippage and lap times. Modification of accelerator pedal mapping is at the touch of a button and, new to the system, is the RS Maintenance function which displays wear and tear of tyres, brake pads and discs. This data is also now easily transferable via USB.

And if you are not quite track ready, although I am not sure you would then enjoy this firm car, you can go for the Renault Advanced Driver Training programme that is a courtesy to all RS customers. But what would happen when the RB8 got to the Gerotek test facility to prove its straight line street smarts? The car uses the tried and tested four-cylinder, 2.0 litre, 16-valve turbo that produces 195 kW of power at 5 500 rpm and maximum torque of 360 Nm at 3 000 rpm.

This was good enough to get the Megane to 100 km/h in 6.66 seconds, the quarter mile in 14.79 seconds, reach the one kilometre mark at 201.39 km/h while stopping at a very decent 251.23 km/h.

Where does this put the Megane? The other new kid on the block in the above R400 000 very sporty bracket is Opel’s recently launched Astra OPC that comes in at a hefty R453 500 versus R429 900 for the Megane. The OPC produces 206 kW and 400 Nm and on paper should show the Renault a clean pair of heels – but it doesn’t.

 

GHGHGHGH. Megane Renaultsport Red Bull Racing RB8 Limited Edition

GHGHGHGH. Megane Renaultsport Red Bull Racing RB8 Limited Edition

 

Ironically the 0-100 km/h times are exactly the same. But from there the Megane is fractionally quicker than the OPC all the way until you reach top end speed where the OPC is faster and has a top speed of 252.93 km/h.

Viewed like that the Megane is the better performance option around a track, and in a straight line, while also costing a lot less. But there is one huge problem all these hot hatches face and that problem is called Golf GTI.

The substantially cheaper on paper GTI 7 DSG comes in at R388 300. Okay, this is without about half the R40 000 spec the other two have, and makes only 162 kW and 350 Nm but is quicker than both of them from the word go.

The Golf has a 0-100 km/h sprint time of 6.36 seconds but while falling just short at top with a speed of 249.61 km/h it comes with loads of the all important street cred.

 

OPCAstra_579476505

 

There are only 50 of these Megane RS Red Bull Racing RB8 Special Editions being made available to South Africa, and the car comes with the industry leading five-year/150 000 kilometre mechanical warranty and five-year/100 000 kilometre service plan to back up your purchase.

So where does this leave me in making a choice? Not an easy one.

If I was a hardcore weekend track day person who wanted a car that is special and different from the masses, then I would opt for the Renault. But if I used my car mostly for commuting – and maybe the odd track day – I would join the herd and get a GTI.

Unfortunately the OPC doesn’t quite do it for me either for commuting or attacking the track.

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