RENAULT Sport has revealed that performance hybrids and even a full EV model have a place in its future line-up as the French brand strives to regain the upper hand in the cut-throat hot-hatch market.
Renault Sport boss Patrice Ratti (pictured below) told Wheels his engineers are focusing on emerging hybrid and battery technologies – including drivetrain elements shared by the next-gen Nissan GT-R – to ensure it stays ahead of its rivals.
But don’t fret that the fast-car company is turning away from its analogue, driver-oriented philosophy. Wheels has learnt Renault’s next-generation Megane RS will feature segment-exclusive four-wheel steering and the option of a manual gearbox as it takes the fight to the Ford Focus RS and Volkswagen Golf GTI.
While a final gearbox decision is yet to be made, it’s understood both a dual-clutch automatic and a six-speed manual are being developed, the manual featuring rev-matching technology.
It’s also understood the fourth-gen Renault Megane RS – which will be offered solely in a larger five-door bodystyle when it debuts next year – will form the test-bed for an increasing focus on alternative drivetrains. Mild hybrids are expected to appear first to both boost performance and meet increasingly stringent emissions targets.
“We’re looking at every technology in the future, hybrid and all-electric,” Ratti said.
“Hybrid is difficult because of the cost and the weight, so you really have to move carefully. In some markets it might be necessary in the future. There are some mild hybrids that will come gradually.”
Ratti said Renault’s alliance with Nissan, and its recently confirmed deal with Mitsubishi, means that Renault Sport’s engineers are already leaning on the group’s partners for hybrid technology transfer.
“In the [Nissan] alliance we have a common powertrain division, so everything we do in the alliance can be used on both sides,” he said.
Ratti wouldn’t be drawn on when these new drivetrains will appear, or what performance potential they hold, but did reveal he sees more sense in a full electric vehicle.
“A full-electric RS car, yes, it’s coherent with the strategy of Renault and the evolution of the market and we’re looking at the improvements of the batteries now, but it’s still not enough yet.”
Ratti said Renault’s recent advances with the all-electric (though not-for-Australia) Zoe citycar, which has doubled its range from 200 to 400km, means the tech for an electric RS variant could be sourced in-house.
“We’re doubling the capacity of the Zoe battery, but that’s still not enough,” he said. “We need even more efficient batteries and that will eventually come. The thing you lose is the noise, that’s clear. But an electric motor has a lot of torque, so the acceleration is usually very high. Surely, we won’t do only electric cars, but we could well have one in the range.”
Lap times at the Nurburgring have played a key role in the new Megane RS’s development, with company boss Patrice Ratti hell-bent on reclaiming the crown for the fastest front-drive hatch. Volkswagen holds the lap record with its Golf GTI Clubsport S, which clocked 7min 49sec. The fourth-gen Megane RS will feature more grunt than before, possibly in excess of 220kW from an all-new 2.0-litre turbocharged four-pot. That’s up from 202kW in the hottest version of the current car, which uses the ageing F4R petrol donk.