Life & Style | Motoring

Mega fast: Renault's Megane R26.R

Theoretically, the Megane R26.R is the perfect car for the UAE. According to Renault engineers, it is optimised for bone-dry, twisty tarmac.

  • By Matt Joy
  • Published: 15:02 February 26, 2009
  • Wheels

  • Image Credit: Supplied Picture
  • It comes with Renault's keyless-entry card as standard, but those bucket seats take a bit of effort to climb into.
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Theoretically, the Megane R26.R is the perfect car for the UAE. According to Renault engineers, it is optimised for bone-dry, twisty tarmac. If the pictures haven't given the game away already, this is the last of the old-shape Meganes that is still on sale, and, as if to celebrate the brilliance of the Renaultsport versions, the tweakers and fettlers at Renaultsport in Dieppe, France, have gone off the scale and made the R26.R the maddest of the lot.

Consider the standard equipment list as an illustration: The R26.R does without the following: A stereo, rear seats, rear screen heater, rear screen wiper, passenger or side airbags, climate control and front fog lights. In addition, a whole load of sound proofing has been chucked on the skip too, making it considerably noisier than a regular Megane, but more significantly, it's 123kg lighter than a regular Megane Renaultsport.

However, the Renaultsport team have added carbon-shelled bucket seats with six-point race harnesses, a carbonfibre bonnet, polycarbonate tailgate and rear side windows, grooved front discs and upgraded suspension, with recalibrated dampers, springs and stiffer front bushes.

And that's not all. On the options list, there's a titanium exhaust, a rear roll cage and Toyo Proxes tyres, the closest you can get to a road-legal slick tyre. This is a no-compromise hot hatch that is designed for performance and not much else. Sure enough, this Megane is an absolute riot to drive.

One look at the outside should put you in the mood. The R26.R comes with the full spectrum of go-faster add-ons: The racy alloy wheels come in red or black, the graphics are smart and the black carbon bonnet looks suitably sinister.

Getting in might slow you down a bit, though. It comes with Renault's keyless-entry card as standard, but those bucket seats take a bit of effort to climb into. Once plonked inside, you instantly feel the benefit though, as they hold you very tight and sit you upright, all the better to pummel the wheel.

The Payoff

Strap yourself in with the six-point harness, then fire it up, and the R26.R's 2.0-litre unit spins quickly and with a distinct exhaust rumble from underneath. It's not a raucous engine, but removing so much sound proofing means you can hear more of what's going on.

Within the first few metres, it's obvious the R26.R is stiffly sprung.

It follows every dip and curve of the road with unerring accuracy, and the surface topography is transmitted straight to your backside via those race seats. It could become wearing, but the pay off is the virtual absence of roll. Pitch the Megane into a bend and it squats rather than leans, drifting gently at the front as you push harder, blatting out the other side as you squeeze on the power.

In dry conditions, the Toyo tyres are unshakeable, and, thanks to the help of the limited-slip diff, it scoots out of bends with poise and grip. The steering is light, but accurate and responsive, reacting sharply to inputs and also the surface of the road. It requires a fair degree of concentration to pilot the R26.R at the speeds it is capable of, but it doesn't give up the balance and benign nature of a front-wheel drive car. It's easy to forget the front wheels are doing the work too: The combination of the wide torque band of the 227bhp engine and the trick differential.

The R26.R is a limited edition. Just 450 examples are being made, and just a handful may make it to the UAE, if at all. But at the right place and the right time, the Megane R26.R is quite simply the greatest hot hatch money can buy.

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