PH Fleet: Renault Megane 265 Cup


If you’ve been following the progress of our Megane long termer, you’ll have read so far of Dan’s exploits both on and off track that generally involved apexes, cornering speeds, grip and understeer/oversteer balance. I, meanwhile, have been exploring the other side of the Megane’s personality – namely, those to do with contraflows, SPECS systems, stop-start traffic and speed bumps.

Megane has revealed a few... erm... 'quirks'
Megane has revealed a few... erm... 'quirks'
Yes, after Dan’s stint at the wheel over Christmas, the keys to the Renault have been handed to me. I was, naturally, delighted – Dan’s had many a good thing to say about the Megane’s driving experience. But there’s been a problem. Most of my driving these days is done on congested motorways; on that vast swathe of the M25 around Clackett Lane that’s been turned into a 50mph limit thanks to roadworks, to be precise.  

As such, my time with the Megane so far has been less about B-road blasts and more about Radio 2’s traffic reports. I've lost count of the number of times I've heard about the snow gates being closed on the A93 at the Spittal of Glenshea. Still, the experience has at least given me plenty of time to get acclimatised to my new travelling companion. And I have to say, we’ve not made the best of friends so far.

I was most concerned about what the Cup’s ride quality might be like when I first took to the wheel. Actually, it hasn’t been much of a problem. Despite offering a super-taut chassis, the Cup’s well-damped, and although I’d never describe it as cosseting, it isn’t as jarring as you might expect. No, the problems have been more niggling than that. You might not think that much of them, but together they conspire to make the majority of my journeys in the Megane a rather tiring experience.

Standard setting for the climate control...
Standard setting for the climate control...
First up, there’s the clutch, which is stiffly-sprung and leaves you with cramp in your ankle after too long in a queue. Then there’s the long-arms, short-legs driving position – fine for some, but it leaves me feeling as though I’m sitting on top of the steering wheel, craning over it, rather than comfortably ensconced behind it. The stereo’s fiddly to use and can’t handle anywhere near enough bass, and the steering column stalk has far too many unintelligible buttons on it. The trip display has a vast array of functions, which leaves you cycling endlessly through tyre pressure information (front, then rear), service indicator and digital speedo just to get to the readout you want, and then the range indicator changes to useless dashes below 35 miles – just when you need it most.

The plastics feel a bit cheap in places, and the odd carbon fibre effect padded vinyl on the door is just plain weird. The climate control seemingly needs to be set to sub-tropical temperatures to get it anywhere near warm enough... and then there’s the auto stop-start. This sometimes takes an age to kick the car back into life, and occasionally doesn’t actually re-start the car at all. Which leaves you flailing around at a green light trying to work out why the engine hasn’t started and the car’s beeping at you as you gently and powerlessly roll back towards the car behind you. Oh, and the doors are simply too big for any normal parking space.

Good job it still makes us smile on a fast road!
Good job it still makes us smile on a fast road!
Sorry, I know that was a not-really-at-all-well-disguised rant, but when you spend four hours a day in a car having to deal with these little things, they get to you. It isn’t that the Megane is a bad car; it’s just not an easy one to live with. There’s a general sense that things haven’t quite been thought out as well as they could; as well as they have been on, say, a Focus ST or a Golf GTI.

In the Megane’s defence, though, the moments I have managed to get it alone on a back road (oo-er missus) have shown that it can do more there than either of those two. It’s an utter joy to drive fast; not quite as planted as many modern performance cars, but the better for that. The back end is loose, but predictable; meanwhile, up front, the diff hauls you around corners. There’s more power than it can handle on anything but a dry road, but in those circumstances that slightly ragged scrabbliness just adds to the fun. It’s a gripping car to drive fast, and that’s almost led me to forgive its foibles.

Almost, but not quite. Not just yet, anyway. I think I’ll need more time alone with it to really figure out whether the driving experience is worth living with the niggles, but at the moment it really could go either way.  The one upside is that it’s not made of newspaper and filler. Which, in myworld, stands it in good stead at the moment.


FACT SHEET
Car:
Renaultsport Megane 265 Cup
Run by: Alex (and Dan when circumstances allow)
On fleet since: December 2012
Mileage: 4,010
List price new: £28,115 (Basic list of £24,840 plus £350 for Renaultsport Monitor, £1,300 for Recaro seat upgrade, £750 for bi-xenon lights, £250 for hands free card with push-button start, £75 for spare wheel, £250 for tyre pressure monitor, £300 for Arkamys Bluetooth/USB ICE system)
Last month at a glance: A go-slow month reveals that the Megane isn't as fun to live with as it is to drive

Previous reports:
The Megane impresses, even from the passenger seat
New arrival! Megane 265 Cup joins the fleet...

P.H. O'meter

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Comments (78) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Dblue 27 Feb 2013

    wheelsmith said:
    How many times have you driven the berg?

    Guess the marketing has worked
    The Berg eh. I assume you're being ironic or knowing.

    But the fact is that just about every manufacturer that has serious ambitions tests there and publishes times. It's as good an indicator as is reasonably possible to get in terms of comparisons.

    The fact is it's pretty amazing on a track for a car that asks very little in the way of compromises in daily driving and it's tremendous fun at the same time.


  • wheelsmith 27 Feb 2013

    Shipper said:
    Fair Call, still, it is no racing clutch and I drive mine in peak hour traffic daily and have noticed no issue re ankle, calf or thigh. I guess you need to be the type of car enthusiast that loves driving fast and gets a thrill out of how a car communicates to you. There are many different types of car enthusiasts. For some it is about the ride. For others it is about the ability for it to perform as a daily driver. Yet for some it’s about punching above your weight in a pocket rocket. The 265 is faster than a Mercedes C63 AMG around the nurburgring. It leaves cars three and four times its price, performance cars, behind. It is a second faster than an Audi RS4, 2 seconds faster than a Porsche Boxter S, 4 seconds faster than the C63 AMG, 10 seconds faster than a Lexus IS-F, 18 seconds faster than a BMW 335i, 21 seconds faster (1 second faster per km) than an Audi TTS Coupe and if we wait for the Volkswagen Scirocco to cross the line after the 265, we will be waiting 39 seconds! Almost 2 seconds slower per km of the nurburgrings 21kms. To beat it around this track you need a BMW M3 E92 at the minimum. That it can be used as a daily driver with minimal ankle damage, raced with supercars in the morning and can pick up the groceries in the afternoon is nothing short of setting a new benchmark for all hot hatches to follow.
    How many times have you driven the berg?

    Guess the marketing has worked

  • ant leigh 14 Feb 2013

    Dblue said:
    Its not though. It may be very quick on a track but it's nothing like an R26R. It's perhaps marginally less civilised than the Opel and Astra but not by much. Certainly its nothing like X -Bow or even a GT3 or BMW CSL. Its not noisy, harsh in any way or impractical. It lacks the cohesiveness in its controls and systems that the best German cars have but it's nit picking.
    Definately this.
    I have driven 11,000 miles now on Motorway, A roads, B roads and C roads. Clear roads, light traffic, heavy traffic and M60/M25.
    Up to 4 hours in one stint.
    Not once has it felt unpleasant or uncomfortable or have I wished I was in something else.
    No rattles, no faults and no weekly chiropractor visits.
    Not previously a massive Renault fan either, this is the first one I have owned, and my good opinion of the company now is entirely based on my experience with this car.

    Sure there are one or two areas that there could be improvements but my argument with the review is that the 'niggles' identified I don't see as issues at all. I have now spent two days trying to understand how the clutch could be described as heavy and how car parks are a problem for the doors.
    If he had pointed out, for example, that the rear threequarter view is poor which makes parking on the wrong side of the road tricky to get away I would have agreed. If the care needed when parking due the ease with which the wheels can be kerbed had been identified I would also have agreed. The radio/cd, enough said, its poor.

    Although none of which matters at all, once you get an open road and a few corners driving

  • Dblue 14 Feb 2013

    Shipper said:
    I think what we are forgetting here is the underlying rationale of the 265. It is designed to be a brilliant track car first and then a hot hatch second. If you go here (http://fastestlaps.com/tracks/nordschleife.html), then click on the renault 265, you can see how it performs on a large number of tracks. Hot hatches are either designed for comfort, hot street or hot track in mind. The Ford Focus is hot hatch plus comfort. The Opel Atra OPC (277hp, up on the 265 Megane) is hot hatch plus street speed and power. The 265 flips it around. It was designed specifically to set nurburgring lap records (and be a cop pursuit car) and then to be a hot hatch. Here's an example. The 265 pulls an 8.07.97 around the nurb, the OPC pulls a 8.20 flat, some 12.03 seconds slower. The Focus is slower again. A ferrari 360 (400hp), a Lamborghini Diablo SV (519hp), BMW M5 (507hp), Dodge Viper GTS (457hp), Audi's brilliant TTRS (340hp) and an Audi RS6 (579hp) are all slower around the nurburgring (but all faster than the Opel OPC, the Megane's closest competitor). It is more track car than hot hatch. We just get to use it as a daily driver and I can live with that.

    Correct me if I'm wrong, the Megane 265 get's sent by Renault as a bare chassis to the Renault F1 team where it get's bolted together. It then, with 265hp and front wheel drive slays cars worth 4 times as much with twice the hp and in some cases 4wd. It is a track day car like the KTM X-Bow (241hp) that can be driven to and from the track in the rain or snow and used as a daily driver with minimal loss of daily use amenity. I am constantly amazed by this car when I switch on the race computer and put my foot down. It thrills. It punches with the heavyweights and costs bantomweight money. I think the Opel OPC is brilliant and could buy one. I would if all I wanted was a really good hot hatch. I want to dice with giants and leave them wondering.
    Its not though. It may be very quick on a track but it's nothing like an R26R. It's perhaps marginally less civilised than the Opel and Astra but not by much. Certainly its nothing like X -Bow or even a GT3 or BMW CSL. Its not noisy, harsh in any way or impractical. It lacks the cohesiveness in its controls and systems that the best German cars have but it's nit picking.

    It has a truly brilliant chassis that is all the more amazing because it's hardly a money no object set up. Renaultsport don't have the budget to throw at it like Porsche or BMW M do so it makes do with a limited number of uprated components. The Megane, unlike the Clio RS, is built in Renaults regular plants I think. It doesn't get assembled in Dieppe (Think that's what you were getting at rather than the F1 team - very different animals)

  • Shipper 14 Feb 2013

    I think what we are forgetting here is the underlying rationale of the 265. It is designed to be a brilliant track car first and then a hot hatch second. If you go here (http://fastestlaps.com/tracks/nordschleife.html), then click on the renault 265, you can see how it performs on a large number of tracks. Hot hatches are either designed for comfort, hot street or hot track in mind. The Ford Focus is hot hatch plus comfort. The Opel Atra OPC (277hp, up on the 265 Megane) is hot hatch plus street speed and power. The 265 flips it around. It was designed specifically to set nurburgring lap records (and be a cop pursuit car) and then to be a hot hatch. Here's an example. The 265 pulls an 8.07.97 around the nurb, the OPC pulls a 8.20 flat, some 12.03 seconds slower. The Focus is slower again. A ferrari 360 (400hp), a Lamborghini Diablo SV (519hp), BMW M5 (507hp), Dodge Viper GTS (457hp), Audi's brilliant TTRS (340hp) and an Audi RS6 (579hp) are all slower around the nurburgring (but all faster than the Opel OPC, the Megane's closest competitor). It is more track car than hot hatch. We just get to use it as a daily driver and I can live with that.

    Correct me if I'm wrong, the Megane 265 get's sent by Renault as a bare chassis to the Renault F1 team where it get's bolted together. It then, with 265hp and front wheel drive slays cars worth 4 times as much with twice the hp and in some cases 4wd. It is a track day car like the KTM X-Bow (241hp) that can be driven to and from the track in the rain or snow and used as a daily driver with minimal loss of daily use amenity. I am constantly amazed by this car when I switch on the race computer and put my foot down. It thrills. It punches with the heavyweights and costs bantomweight money. I think the Opel OPC is brilliant and could buy one. I would if all I wanted was a really good hot hatch. I want to dice with giants and leave them wondering.

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