Remember the Clio Williams? Then you’ll probably remember the Williams 2. And 3. Owners of the first, supposedly one-off run of Clio Williams certainly do. Things have moved on since those days: Renault engines are no longer powering Williams F1 cars to victory – but they are taking Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull to three world championships and counting. And, yes, Renault has learned from its Clio Williams faux pas: just 30 Renaultsport Megane Red Bull Racing RB8s will come to the UK, and there’ll be no more, no matter how hard you plead.
Is the Megane Red Bull Racing RB8 really as special as a Clio Williams?
Well, the gulf between the Clio 16v and the Williams was certainly larger, but what you do get with the new Red Bull Megane is a bunch of optional equipment all bundled together in one very worthwhile package – this is not your typical sunroof and stickers job.
So, you get a pair of Recaro seats (normally a £1300 option), the stiffer, harder Cup chassis, red brake calipers and limited-slip diff (£1300), plus 19-inch Steev (you pronounce it like Papa Lazarou says ‘Dave’) alloys shod with the same Bridgestone Potenza tyres (£1000) that gripped and slipped their way around the ’Ring to an 8min 7sec lap – a front-wheel-drive record.
You also get a new version of the Renaultsport Monitor (£900), which can record your laptimes and show entertainingly useless info such as how much G-force you’re enduring. Finally there’s a unique Twilight Blue paintjob (metallic paint costs £495) and some Red Bull stickers – it could have looked gaudy, actually looks classy.
How does it drive?
We’ve always loved the Renaultsport Megane, and the Red Bull package just adds all the bits that any keen driver would want anyway. The seats are set low and – despite their racecar looks – manage to be both incredibly supportive and highly comfortable. The Cup chassis has always shown the Megane RS in its best light, making it feel exceptionally agile and responsive and eager to change direction, and it’s business as usual with the RB8. The trade-off is the pretty firm ride quality, but it’s a trade-off most people in this market will find worthwhile.
Tap into that chassis’s abilities and you’ll be relieved to find that the four-pot Brembos are endlessly strong with excellent pedal feel, the steering is meaty and quick and accurate, the gearshifts punchy and the front-end bite is exceptional thanks to the combination of those sticky tyres and limited-slip diff.
Put the stability control software in its halfway house setting or turn it off altogether and power rises from 247bhp to 261bhp. Do that and you’ll have plenty of punch and still feel like the front grip is far from being overwhelmed – unlike its rowdy rival, the Focus ST. Downsides? A Scirocco R sounds far better. Ummm… that’s it.
Renault asks £25,545 for the Megane RS Cup, but if you added all of the options – which are all incredibly desirable – found on the Red Bull Megane, you’d be looking at over £29k. The Red Bull is yours for £28,245. What’s not to like? It’s super-exclusive, looks classy and features all the options a trackday fan could ever ask for. And, as ever, it remains mind-blowingly great to drive. Are you sure you don’t want to make some more, Renault?