Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Perfect Day with a RENAULT MEGANE RS

The perfect day... how would one define it? I have no immediate yardstick for it, but I know i've had a perfect day when I had one... :-p

Well, how would you look at a day where the morning start with a free flowing traffic to the office (instead of the usual dreadful hour long traffic deadlock), an always satisfying ride in a GTR afterwards (even IF you're only sitting in the back seats :-p) and round off the morning with a rather spirited testdrive of the latest hothatch to hit our local market? X-) surely, a morning like that would make anyone smile from ear to ear the whole day long :-p it surely did that to me X-p

Anyways, I am not here to talk about how perfect my morning started off, or how nice the day wound away... I am here specifically to talk about that new rave in town, the hot and sexy Renault Megane 250 RS cup (did I wrote the name right? :-p)

Yes, I had the very rare opportunity to sit in the back seat of a GTR into the renault showroom driveway to testdrive their latest introduction to our already crowded yet expensive local automotive market ^^ and how would I sum it up you say? I would say that the Megane RS is a world of contradiction :-p

Let me explain, the car is great, it is a whole bundle of fun, like an overenergetic puppy on steroids that would come yapping and jumping at you from a mile away, and yet, the yapping and jumping is so subdued and subtled, that you'd think the puppy was shot with a tranquilizer the moment it started yapping and jumping :-p not that it's bad, it's all in a positive sort of way... :-p it's like handling a thoroughbred yet tamed to be timid enough for children to play horsie with... X-p

Let me first explain the style of the Megane. I used to despise the Megane, its looks are so devastatingly ugly, that I would attribute it with a mutated fault in its dna genes caused by its ascendants being tainted with radioactive fallout of hiroshima :-p (but of course renault being french, wouldn't really be an unfortunate participant of that tragic yet triumphant page in history, depends on whose side of the fence you're looking from)

(See how everything was just ALL SO WRONG with the previous car X-()

But now, the mutated genes have all been rooted out, and I suppose following the wake of their success in F1 during the alonso years (the RS has been around Europe since 2008) they came out with such a beautiful exterior design, with all the right curves, dips and grooves (the insanely beautiful smooth curve of the front splitter was claimed to be inspired by F1 aerodynamics) that would match the beauty of any French nobility :-)

(see the family resemblance? X-p)

Honestly, i've never had much of a liking to hatchbacks, to me, they are like cars without a butt X-p but in recent years, hatchback designs have evolved to such an extent, that it causes me to rethink the way I look at them, and the latest Megane is the final nail on the coffin of that outdated thinking.

Nowadays, hatchbacks are cool stuff, from VW golf and scirocco to the Ford Focus RS and Fiesta, some of the designs are pretty much love it or hate it, but yet, its endearing and makes you think that THAT is a proper car and that you wouldn't miss the butt so much :-p unless you want to put a spoiler, then you'd start to have the ridiculous idea of strapping it on the rooftop X-p

To say how beautiful the Megane is, I'll let the pictures do the talking :-) because I certainly am not really adept in explaining beauty :-p but I am pretty much adept in describing how the car jumps and bark (or yap in the case of puppies X-p)

(that lower front splitter reminiscent of the low slung front nose of an F1 machine)

(that unique rear light clusters and exhaust is just insanely enchanting)

(the silhouette of the car and its side profile looks fast even when standing still, and those red scarlet brembos punch the point in the opposite direction :-p)

The interior is very much minimalist, with even the radio controls tucked away behind the steering wheel giving a very clean wheel :-p not cluttered by numerous buttons that one would not even bother to notice when taking a turn at high speeds :-p

The field of vision, the usual A-piller, as in any car, given the right circumstances is always a bother :-p the rear view, how should I say, requires a periscope X-p (not that you would bother what's at the back of ya :-p) but apart from that, the interior is almost perfect ^^ the recaro seats hug you like a supermodal in love :-p the wheel is full and satisfying to the touch and the pedals, with its studded rubber, is wholesome :-p (if that is the right word X-p)

The clutch is light, and being track-cum-race oriented, is pretty suprising :-p the brakes, as always for cars that care to employ the magic of brembos, are phenomenal. The feel of the brakes are just awe inspiring (as a matter of fact, the whole car is awe inspiring :-p), you feel you could out brake any car any day :-p given that it is not up against a GTR or any other supercars out of its class X-p Another thing worth mentioning of the cabin is the gearbox, the short shift gives it a very robust feel and it slots into each gear with a very convincing; pray for lack of any proper word; racy feel to it X-p

To put some justice to the car currently under limelight, allow me to define the perimeters and circumstances of which I am priviledged to experience. First of, the ever obliging sales man had set the car to “sports” setting, and from what I could see, it maps the engine throttle and response, torque curve and everything that has to do with those electronic wizardry I suppose, to a fairly aggressive yet linear set up, whereby the torque curve would rise rather fast but without much drama, and having a fair bit plateau of a powerband. The Megane has 5 settings, the first 2 for economical and leisure driving I suppose, the 3rd for a linear drive (as in the curve being linear), the 4th being for sports, and the 5th they called it extreme. Here the torque curve is pretty dramatic, with a much wider plane for the powerband.

Without given much liberty to try the rest of the settings, my thoughts will thus be on how the car handle under the “sport” setting only.

Secondly, as I have said before, having gone there on a GTR, I could not help but to compare the RS with the GTR, eventhough that would be grossly unjust. Nevertheless, having a fresh memory of how the GTR would burst out under acceleration doesn't really help in the impression of the RS. But the fact that I am comparing it with a GTR, and that it could hold its own, is pretty impressive in itself.

Thirdly, we were only priviledged enough to gun the car through the autobahn X-p there were not many curves and corners for us to truly appreciate the handling charateristics of the subliminal beauty of a car, but I suppose it'd do enough to give us a peek at its true performance :-) especially at high speeds ^^

Now, that put aside, we begin to slowly roll out of the showroom. Being a track-oriented car, it's pretty unforgiving :-p the clutch being a typical racing clutch, would catch the flywheel very early without slip, and without a proper input of throttle, the RS would leave you stranded there with a stalled engine :-p which to my embarassment as a self-styled passionate driver, is quite a slap to the face on my inadequacies X-p I would usually match the rev of the car with the clutch from the sound of the engine, but the RS being very subdued, audio-wise, would hardly allow you to hear the purr of the engine, and before I know it, the engine stalled, without even giving a hint of it apart from the sudden jerk and stop :-p

The very much obliging salesman do point it out to me that even the clutch point of the RS is adjustable per the settings as aforesaid above. Pretty impressive. Yet still, pretty embarassing to have stalled the engine X-p

After going through the dense traffic of PJ, I opened her up through the highway passing Sri Hartamas, took a right hander quite enthusiastically, and was instantly impressed X-) the acceleration may not be as dramatic and G-force inducing as the GTR, yet as I said before, it is quite raw, yet on the same breath, very subtle. You feel the jerk as the car zooms forward digging the road with all its 340 Nm of torque (YES, 340 NM OF TORQUE!!!), yet it comes at quite a gradual pace with little drama. It is like being slapped with a gentleman's glove by a gentleman X-p it is not painful, yet it hurts your dignity like a stab to the heart X-p this is all that, in the opposite direction that is :-p so satisfyingly fast, yet timid and controllable. The car is INSANELY fast, yet manageable and not scary. It gives confidence to any man that you feel you could control it, yet at the same time, the car dares you and instantly you know that you would need a whole level of skills to truly tame the beast.

When one hears that it spills out 340 Nm of torque through the front wheel, one would think that steering is pretty much non-existent X-p like how Jason Plato would describe it, think of the front wheel as 'men', hopeless in multi tasking X-p same goes with front wheel drive cars, the tyres could do only so much when traction is jostling with control and forward propulsion :-p lets just say that the traction circle would have to deal with a lot more tasks than simple braking and steering.

The car tempts you to go faster, with its stiff and rigid chassis, magnificent suspension, very talkative steering, phenomenal brakes, and when you are tempted so, the car dares you to try to reach its limits, whereby you'd notice a chasm where only the truly brave and great could leap with the god-like skills of a professional racer.

Yes, that is what I felt, in that split-second of turning the car into the corner at God-knows-what-speed, I was instantly tempted and dared, in the same breath, at the same instance, that I am both truly amazed and terrified (the passengers would probably be more in the latter category than the former :-p). The car is both forgiving, yet once you pass the threshold where only the greats would commit and touch the ceiling, the car turns into the unforgiving race car that it is. It is a TOTAL bundle of fun, terrifyingly fun, horrifyingly fun X-p

The tyres tell me they could handle more traction than I expected, and as I squeze the throttle even more, I felt the car losing some traction over some rough surface of the inner side of the corner, but the tyres instantly catch the car, and the LSD went to work. I felt the car, instead of understeering as expected of FF cars, rotates in the turns O.o IT IS THAT AMAZING. The feeling was EXTRAORDINARY!! X-D

The car is so talkative, you know instantly what is going on. The recaros hugging me like i'm Brad Pitt, doesn't falter in its task, and I hardly felt the side Gs through the turns (if not for my rather useless head being tossed to the side that is :-p) the steering, full and responsive, tells me the condition of the road and what the front tyres are going through, the chassis, rigid and firm, confidently relaying me messages from the suspension hub how the car is coping on its legs.

All these raw information, and yet subdued and civilized, is what the RS is all about. It truly inspires confidence, and truly makes you feel confident enough to even try to be the professional race car driver and make the jump :-p it reminds me of the GTR :-p only on a perhaps lesser extent (I am still truly in love with the steering feel of the GTR, which I suppose, save for the Lotus Evora, which I have yet to try :-p is perhaps one of the best, if not, the best, steering feel in any car i've driven ^^ which is not much i'm afraid :-p) .

But unlike the GTR, you can feel how mechanical the car actually is. It doesn't put in place a gazillion computers in keeping you from being silly and throwing the car over the kerb, but instead in its place are all these mechanical feel, that as if its just telling you what is going on, and leaving you the option of either being a silly bloke or a sensible one :-p that it makes you feel IF you would ever find yourself upside down over a kerb, that it is THAT which what you have chosen X-p the car is pretty much very persuasive I suppose :-p

If there is anything wanting in it is perhaps its rather lazy revving engine :-p being french, I suppose it couldn't be helped X-p still, perhaps this is in comparison to our rev happy rotary rocket ^^ or even Hanz's magnificently responsive Neo CPS, thus it won't be truly fair to compare it with the two. However, seeing that it is unfairly compared to the GTR, I suppose it won't do any harm to mention it anyway. But truly this is mere cheery picking, would that small inconvenience put me off the Megane RS? HELL NO!! X-p

For lack of a better word, I suppose the Megane RS is a gentleman of a car, yet, powerful enough to make you know that this is one gentleman you wouldn't want to mess with :-p I could go on and on about the car, how it drives, how it feels, but I suppose this post is already longer than is warranted, i'll leave with a note that the new Megane RS is all that a hothatch should be, it is agile, it is fast, it is brutally good in corners, yet it is subdued and subtle, that you could have a very disagreeable (to the local folks of the road) night drive through the local touge, and yet take your wife and kids for a leisure sunday drive through the city. To both the task it does very well, very well indeed that this car could be the best hothatch there is :-) its looks are just as great and cool as the scirocco, its performance could shame the Golf Gti and Ford Focus, and yet still agreeable with the wife and sleeping kids in the back seat :-p the Megane RS is truly a driver's car, it doesn't bother with paddle shifters, dsg gearboxes and all the electronic wizardry, it stays true to good old old school gear stick and mechanical drive ^^

Would I buy it? If I had 230 grand laying around, DEFINITELY YES!!

Would it best the rotary rocket? DEFINITELY NO!! X-p

The rotary has always been my first true love, and though its perhaps only a bit younger than myself, and though now even FF cars are faster than it in corners (yes, we have yet to have a rematch with Hanz X-p and restore what little left of my dignity) but would I substitute it with the Megane RS? HELL NO!! X-D

I would buy it as a practical everyday car and for the occasional burst of fun of perhaps annoyingly sticking around an EVO through the turns :-p but for a fun filled weekend car, nothing beats a rear wheel with a heart of a rotary :-p

To top it off, I would like to quote the 5th gear presenter Vicki Henderson:

“Is this the best hothatch money could buy?...... YES!” X-)

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