Barring the current Clio, Renault Sport has a brilliant record when it comes to front-wheel drive performance cars. The latest Megane R.S. has all the hallmarks of a good modern hot hatch, including a powerful turbocharged engine and manual gearbox, and mixes them with high-tech goodies like rear-wheel steering.
Power in the hottest Megane comes from a new turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, making 280 hp (205 kW) of power at 6,000 rpm, and 390 Nm (288 lb-ft) of torque between 2,400 and 5,000 rpm. The engine is shared with the Alpine A110, but it benefits from a new cylinder head, a revised dual-intake air filter and a twin-scroll turbocharger for stronger low-down response. Interestingly, the engine is significantly less powerful than the Honda Civic Type R (235 kW/315 hp) and Ford Focus RS (257 kW/350 hp).
A more powerful Trophy version of the car will be unveiled later this year, with 300 hp (224 kW) and 400 Nm (295 lb-ft) on tap, but even that car lags behind the competition. Like the outgoing car, it will be offered with a six-speed manual gearbox, but there will also be a dual-clutch option for buyers averse to using their left leg. The gearbox can be manually manipulated using paddles behind the steering wheel, while speccing the dual-clutch also gives drivers launch control.
Rather than focusing on massive power figures, it would appear Renault has dedicated its time to honing the chassis of the R.S. It now has "4CONTROL" rear-wheel steering, capable of turning the back wheels in the opposite direction to the fronts up to 60 km/h (37 mph) for a tighter turning circle. When the speedo swings past 60, they turn in the same direction as the fronts to virtually extend the wheelbase.
The car rides on suspension with hydraulic compression stops, reportedly inspired by rally cars, and the independent steering-axis technology on the front wheels has been redesigned compared to the setup on the outgoing car. That should help keep pesky torque steer to an absolute minimum. The R.S. Cup will have a limited-slip differential on the front axle, working with a stiffer suspension tune for a more track-focused drive.
From the outside, the R.S. is a significantly meaner machine than the regular Megane. The wheel arches have been flared by 60 mm (2.4 in) at the front and 45 mm (1.8 in) at the rear, while there are unique 18- and 19-inch wheels in the options list. The nose is home to a wider, more aggressive bumper, while the rear bumper houses an aggressive race-style diffuser. Put simply, it looks absolutely brilliant.
Inside, the basic Megane cabin has been tarted up with the usual gamut of go-faster pieces. The vertical central touchscreen is home to a revised version of the R.S. Monitor, which is now able to record video of track days or provide live engine telemetry. Drivers can flick through five drive modes using a switch on the dash, ranging from laid-back Comfort to track-optimized Race. Owners are also able to individually tweak the gearshift mapping, throttle weighting and rear-steer system, then save those preferences in Perso Mode.
The R.S. made its debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show, where New Atlas is on the ground covering all the action. Stay tuned for the latest.