Renault's hot hatch flagship wants its Nurburgring record back, and will come with rev-matching, more power … and a stick!
RENAULT’S next-gen hot hatch hero will boast four-wheel steering and – joyously – the option of a manual gearbox as it takes the fight to the Ford Focus RS and VW Golf GTI.
Renault Sport insiders have confirmed that while a final gearbox decision is yet to be made, the fourth-gen Megane RS will likely have two options: a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic and a six-speed manual, the latter of which could include rev-matching technology.
“There is a future for both DCT and manual, but it’s a question of economics,” Renault Sport boss Patrice Ratti told Wheels. “With each project you need to look at whether it is feasible or not to have one, or two, gearboxes.”
It is believed both options are under development, with RS engineers revealing manual models will be faster than automatic ones due to their lighter kerb weight.
If two gearbox options are available, both will come to Australia according to Renault’s local boss, Justin Hocevar.
What’s more certain is that the Renault Megane RS will include the same segment-exclusive active four-wheel steering system as the new Megane GT that launches in Australia this week, to help improve low-speed maneuverability and high-speed stability. RS engineers confirmed the news to Wheels in Paris, but hinted the system would be available as an option.
There’ll also be more grunt than before, possibly more than 220kW from a retuned version of Renault’s 2.0-litre turbocharged four-pot, to ensure the Megane RS reclaims its crown as the fastest front-drive hot hatch around the Nurburgring. The most powerful version of today’s Megane, the RS 275 Trophy-R, produces 201kW.
Yet despite the commitment to more power, Renault Sport isn’t concerned with matching the outputs of its rivals.
“We’re thinking more in terms of performance than pure horsepower,” said Ratti. “You have to look at the torque curve, the weight, so it’s the performance that we’re targeting. In the end it’s how you accelerate, how you take corners, so it’s a global way of looking at the engine and gearbox.”
Weight reduction is a high priority for the fourth-gen Megane. Ratti said RS engineers were investigating the use of a range of new lightweight materials and composites, but wouldn’t be drawn on whether the new car would be lighter or heavier than its predecessor.
“You’ll see, you’ll see,” he said with a smile. “Just wait.”
The fact the new Megane will sit on a much larger platform and be offered solely as a five-door body style for the first time suggests it’ll be heavier.
As for timing, engineers told Wheels the Megane RS would be revealed in late 2017, possibly at September’s Frankfurt Motor Show.
And in good news for Aussies, we won't have to wait long after that for it to arrive Down Under. Renault is prioritising right-hand-drive markets once production starts, as the French brand strives to boost international sales. In 2015, Australia was the second biggest market for RS models worldwide.
“Unfortunately at Renault we’ve always struggled to bring our new cars at the same time in Europe as the rest of the world,” said Renault’s general manager for sales overseas, Jean Calcat. “At Renault Sport we’re a very small team of dedicated guys and our engineers tend to give priority to European markets.
“That’s not good, but due to the very good sales on record in Australia and Japan, we’re looking to try and give priority to our top-selling markets.”
In terms of rivals, 2017 will also mark the reveal of Hyundai’s first hot-hatch, the Hyundai i30N. However, Ratti isn’t concerned about a threat from Korea.
“Honestly, I discovered it in the newspapers the other day, so I have no idea about it,” he said. “You maybe know more about it than I do.”
Sign up here to receive the latest round-up of Wheels news, reviews and video highlights straight to your inbox each week.
Want free access to 5 years of Wheels archive content? Sign up now!