I have a great fondness for Aldo Scribante. It was there – some 34 years (Crickey Moses, am I really THAT old…?) – that I first learnt to drive on a racetrack. I worked at a Port Elizabeth newspaper at the time, and motoring journalist Andre de Kock taught me everything I needed to know about racing lines and braking points.
He was a brave man. I overcooked it completely on one lap, and we spun off. Luckily we didn’t hit anything. I wasn’t fazed. I had more bravado than brains back then (some would say that nothing has changed). But shame, poor Andre nearly platzed.
Fast forward just over three decades (eish) and I once again found myself at the Port Elizabeth racetrack. This time around I was there to drive the new Renault Mégane RS. I hoped that I could keep it on the track this time …
But, before I get into the actual driving experience, let me tell you a little bit about this flipping lekker car (no prizes for guessing that I really dig it). The Mégane RS is a hot hatch with a sporty look and ride (RS stands for Renault Sport, just in case you were wondering). With its low, wide posture, it looks as though it belongs on a racetrack. I love features such as the wide air intake in the front bumper (that incorporates the F1-style front blade); the wing-mounted air extractors, which optimise air flow through the wheel arches; the redesigned, narrower rear spoiler which improves aerodynamic performance and the rear bumper with a built-in diffuser and the iconic central exhaust that has come to epitomise Mégane RS. The two best colours are undoubtedly Tonic Orange (which is new) and Sirius Yellow. Our test fleet at Aldo Scribante featured those colours exclusively (and boy oh boy did they look good).
Two RS model versions will be available: Mégane RS CUP Manual and Mégane RS LUX EDC. Both feature a very perky new generation 1.8-litre turbo engine, which delivers 205kW and 390Nm. Two transmissions are up for grabs: a seven-speed dual-clutch (EDC) auto gearbox or six-speed manual gearbox (I only tested the former; it is magnifique).
We began our track experience by doing what’s known as the “moose test”. It’s actually a test whereby you swerve at the last minute to evade an obstacle. Because we have a shortage of moose in South Africa, we had to make do with cones. We had to approach the cones at 40 km/h, 50 km and then 65 km/h and swerve suddenly at the very last minute. The purpose of this demonstration was to experience the new 4CONTROL four-wheel steering system on the cars. A world first in the compact sports car segment, the 4CONTROL system delivers outstanding agility through tight turns and impressive cornering stability at higher speeds. Meaning it was easy to dodge the cones. Had the cones been moose, I am pleased to report that we could have stated that “no moose were seriously injured in this experiment”. Of course we did nudge a cone or two – but that was due to our lousy driving and in no way an indictment on the 4CONTROL system …
Then we put Launch Control to the test. What fun. When this feature is engaged, the clutch and turbo are pre-loaded, enabling standing starts to be made just as quickly as in a racing car. I mucked up my first attempt (not enough pressure on the accelerator) but nailed it the second time. It was such fun that I did it another three times. Just because I could.
Thereafter we were let loose on the track. It was play time! We blasted around the track and we also went for drives with veteran racing drivers Deon Joubert and Mike Briggs. Those dudes are as old as me, but … goodness gracious me … they can drive. The Mégane RS truly came into its own on the track. You can really fling it around and it’s just fabulous to drive. Unlike my experiences three decades ago, I managed to keep it on the track (probably thanks to the car’s amazing handling; I’m not taking any credit for this).
Finally, we ended up on a 75 km trip to the airport. I was driving with the legendary Roger McCleery. We always have a good natter and this launch was no exception. As a result, we missed a turning. This reduced our drive to 65 km (shh, don’t tell a soul … especially not Renault’s gorgeous PR people … they will knock me out).
Honestly, I was sad at our shortened route. While the Mégane RS is just sensational on the track, it’s a marvellous car to drive on a regular road too. In fact, it does just about everything quite perfectly! I want one!
- Mégane Expression (84 kW): R274 900
- Mégane Dynamique Manual (97 kW): R314 900
- Mégane Dynamique EDC (97 kW): R344 900
- New Mégane RS 280 CUP (205 kW Manual): R549 900
- New Mégane RS 280 EDC LUX (205 kW EDC): R549 900
- Metallic paint: R2 522
- Leather seats: R10 088
- Special Metallic Paint (RS Models): R10 088
- 19’’ Alloy wheels (RS 280 EDC LUX): R 8 070
As with Renault’s entire product range, the Renault Mégane models come standard with a five-year/150 000km mechanical warranty, a three-year/45 000km service plan (with service intervals at 15 000km intervals on the core range and 10 000km on RS models) and a six-year anti-corrosion warranty.
Start of sales:
Mid-September (Mégane range and RS 280 CUP)
Beginning November (Mégane RS 280 EDC LUX)