Those engineers at Renaultsport, the subsidiary of Renault where all the motorsport and performance road cars are developed, have been busy producing another update of the turbo-charged Megane – which is perfect for us here in the UK as we buy more Renaultsport cars than anyone else in the world – even the French! The result is Megane Renaultsport 230 F1 Team R26, the most potent and driver-focused Megane yet.
Aimed at track-day enthusiasts and derived from Megane Renaultsport 225 Cup, the latest version features a limited slip differential to keep the engine power channelled to the road even in slippery conditions where previously power may have spun away or been killed by the traction control, whether driven on open roads or round a circuit. Its two-litre turbo engine, uprated by a further 5hp to 230hp, plus a development of the revised "Cup" chassis and Brembo brakes make it one of the quickest hot hatches on the market while its distinctive lines reinforce its positioning as a true performance car.
Building on the sell-out success enjoyed by the special edition Megane Renaultsport 225 Renault F1 Team since its launch in January 2006, Renault continues in the same spirit with its replacement – the Megane Renaultsport 230 F1 Team R26. The name of which refers of course to the current R26 F1 car that has put Renault at the top of the Formula 1 World Championship standings. Developed by Renault Sport Technologies, Megane F1 Team R26 is the hottest version of the Megane Renaultsport range.
Megane F1 Team R26’s most striking features are to be found under its bonnet, principally its revised 2.0 16-valve turbocharged engine which now delivers 230hp at 5,500rpm and boasts peak torque of 310Nm at 3,000rpm thanks to specific engine mapping and a modified exhaust. With 90 per cent of peak torque available from 2,000 to 6,000rpm, this engine provides instant response and fearsome acceleration.
The six-speed manual gearbox enables all this potential to be exploited to the full and helps take the car from rest to 62mph in only 6.2 seconds (0.1 seconds quicker than the 225 Cup), while the 1,000-metre standing start is covered in just 26.6 seconds. Megane F1 Team R26 also offers impressive fuel efficiency for its power output, with combined cycle fuel consumption of 33mpg. As is the case with Clio Renaultsport 197 (199g/km), CO2 emissions do not exceed 200g/km. Finally, a new exhaust system guarantees a sporty rasp from the engine thanks to the new sports exhaust, particularly at low speed and during hard acceleration.
Megane F1 Team R26’s other main strength is its chassis which features a development of the "Cup" chassis which is optional on the Megane Renaultsport 225, but modified still further with specific dampers and stiffer springs, while damper travel has been slightly increased by reducing the size of the bump stops to optimise handling on poor surfaces. The new diameter front anti-roll bar and rear suspension layout ensure stiffer anti-roll characteristics for enhanced handling under cornering.
Now equipped with a limited slip differential, Megane F1 Team R26 has never been so close to being a genuine competition car. The limited slip differential guarantees impeccable traction performance irrespective of driving style or type of corner, however much grip is available.
Limited slip differentials are a common feature on competition cars, both in rallying and in Formula 1, but very rare on front wheel drive road cars, as they can call for a certain degree of driving skill as a result of the torque steer that can be transmitted via the steering wheel in some situations. However, in the case of Megane F1 Team R26, the combination of a limited slip differential and independent steering-axis front suspension not only minimises this phenomenon but also permits the driver to benefit from the extra traction. Following the switch to a tube-in-tube steering column in April 2004, the electric power steering control unit of the Megane Renaultsport family was recently recalibrated with a view to guaranteeing a more linear feel for added steering precision.
Performance of this calibre calls for brakes that boast both bite and endurance, so Megane F1 Team R26’s uprated brake system – which features Brembo four-pot front callipers and vented 312mm diameter discs – provides outstanding stopping power, enhanced further by the work of the 11-inch servo which generates a maximum pressure within the circuit of 115 bar. Due to the new limited slip differential, in place of the previous Dunlop SportMaxx tyres, Megane F1 Team R26 is equipped with Michelin Pilot Sport 2 tyres (235/40 R18).
Megane F1 Team R26 is distinguishable from other Megane Renaultsport models with its unique Renault F1 Team decals on the bumpers, doors and roof (optional but free of charge) and its red-painted brake callipers. It is equipped as standard with "Anthracite" 18-inch alloy wheels which reflect the colour of the exterior mirrors. Megane F1 Team R26 can be ordered with optional Liquid Yellow i.d. metallic paint, previously seen on Clio Renaultsport V6 255.
Inside, an F1-style numbered plaque reinforces Megane F1 Team R26’s exclusivity. Recaro bucket seats are standard, guaranteeing an optimal driving position and enabling the driver and front passenger to feel more at one with the car, edging Megane F1 Team R26 even closer to the world of motor sport.
As well as being the most comprehensively specified Megane road car from a technical perspective, it comes with a matching level of equipment, including 60W RDS-radio CD-MP3 with six speakers, automatic double optic headlamps with "See me home" function and headlamp washers, climate control, cruise control with speed limiter, de-connectable ESP and electric windows with driver’s one touch controls.
The new Megane Renaultsport 230 F1 Team R26 will cost the same as the former 225 F1 Team special edition at £19,570 when UK ordering opens at the end of October 2006, so the extra technical specification and power come for free. Its insurance group rating is 17.