Renaultsport Megane R26R (2008) CAR review and video

Published:27 October 2008

Renaultsport Megane R26R (2008) CAR review and video
  • At a glance
  • 4 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5
  • 5 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5

By Chris Chilton

Contributing editor, ace driver, wit supplier, mischief maker

By Chris Chilton

Contributing editor, ace driver, wit supplier, mischief maker

London motor show video

Dreaming of a Porsche 911 GT3 RS but living with a hot hatch budget? Renault’s stripped-to-the-bones Megane R26R is the answer. Based on the acclaimed R26, the R version is the most extreme factory hatch since Renault’s own Clio V6. But instead of adding a big engine and more kilos, Renault has left the engine alone and cut out the flab to create the ultimate track-day hatch.

So what do you get over the regular Renaultsport Megane R26?

It’s more like what you don’t get. There are no back seats, no front foglights, no rear wash wipe, radio or much soundproofing. Even the headlamp washers and heated rear window element have been left in the parts stores.

What you do get is a carbonfibre bonnet, competition-style bucket seats, plastic rear side windows and the option of a titanium exhaust (for £2250). You can even have a full harness, the R26R being the first road car to be homologated with racing belts. All told, a serious 123kg has been culled from the R26: at just 1230kg, the R is barely heavier than a Clio.

Brisk, is it?

Although the engine is no more powerful, the diet process improves the power-to-weight ratio from 168bhp to 185bhp-per-tonne. And with the optional sticky track day rubber and standard-fit diff biting into the tarmac, it’s no surprise that the R hits 62mph in just six seconds, a half second improvement over its more docile R26 sibling.

It feels rapid enough and emits a jet-style hrrrrrrrrshhhhhhhhh when you’re giving it death and rushing the light and quick, but knuckly gearchange home. Because there’s no turbo lunge, it doesn’t feel massively faster than a Focus ST or any other mainstream hot hatch. But some of that is down to the chassis, which is so good that you know it could handle a whole lot more power.

Scroll down the page to the embedded player to view Renault's unedited footage of the Megane R26R

Click 'Next' below to read more of our Renaultsport Megane R26R  

London motor show video

How good is this R26R?

Brilliant. The original Megane RS was a mushy dud, the tauter Cup and Trophy transformed and, with the addition of a limited slip differential, the R26 was on a different planet altogether. But now the R moves the game on again. You might have noticed the 8:17 logo in the rear quarter windows, a reference to the Megane’s time around the Nordschleife. If we told you that a Porsche Cayman is barely quicker there, you’ll probably get an idea of how sorted this thing is.

Because while you might expect the R26R to be a rock solid circuit car that was too stiff to be any good on the road, it is in fact incredibly compliant – and this makes it eye-poppingly quick on real roads. The steering is quick, light, accurate and utterly devoid of the rubberiness of the early Megane RS’s helm while the optional Toyos work miracles on the car’s outright grip levels and ability to change direction.

Those tyres, together with the limited slip diff, allow you to just keep pushing on and on through corners that should be spitting you into the scenery. And incredibly there is no torque steer at all. Renault claims the tyres alone are worth ten seconds of that ‘Ring time.

I’ll bet it’s unusable day to day...

Well clearly it’s not going to be winning any What Car? Awards for practicality. It’s a two-seater with a compromised boot space and (if you specify the optional Toyos), less than ideal wet-weather performance. And the racing harnesses are a pain in the bum (and the groin) in daily use.

However, the R26R is also surprisingly civilised. Though Renault claims to have removed lots of soundproofing, it appears to be little noisier than the standard car and because it still has carpets and door cards, the panels don’t resonate like an old washing machine on full spin. If you didn’t look behind, you’d never know the madness going on in the rear.

Click 'Next' to read CAR's verdict on the new Renaultsport Megane R26R

London motor show video

Verdict

We can’t remember the last time we had so much fun in a hot hatch. And it’s remarkable to think how far the hot Megane has come from an inauspicious start. Such is Britain’s love for hot Renaults that 230 of the 400 run are UK-bound. If you love track days, you’ll love the R26R.

Our only concern is that robbed of the practical element that is at the cornerstone of the hot hatch concept, the R26R moves into very competitive territory. For us the prospect of a six-month old Lotus Elise or 18 month-old Exige for the same money would be too difficult to ignore.

Scroll down the page to the embedded player to view Renault's unedited footage of the Megane R26R

A step too far? Click 'Add your comment' below and let us know what you think of the Renaultsport Megane R26R 

Specs

Price when new: £22,990
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 1998cc 16v turbocharged 4-cyl, 227bhp @ 5500rpm, 228lb ft @ 3000rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Performance: 6.0sec 0-62mph, 148mph, 33.2mpg, 199g/km
Weight / material: 1230kg/steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4228/1777/1437

Rivals

Other Models

Renault Megane Cars for Sale

View all Renault Megane Cars for Sale

Renault Megane Leasing Deals

Photo Gallery

  • Renaultsport Megane R26R (2008) CAR review and video
  • Renaultsport Megane R26R (2008) CAR review and video
  • Renaultsport Megane R26R (2008) CAR review and video
  • Renaultsport Megane R26R (2008) CAR review and video
  • Renaultsport Megane R26R (2008) CAR review and video

By Chris Chilton

Contributing editor, ace driver, wit supplier, mischief maker

Comments