The camouflaged model was driven by Renault F1 driver Nico Hülkenburg (see video at bottom) on the famous street circuit, providing a first glimpse of its design and performance ahead of the car’s official reveal in September at the Frankfurt motor show.
Unlike its lairy-looking rival, the Honda Civic Type R, the hot Mégane’s exterior design is rather subtle. Brand design boss Stéphane Janin told Autocar that this was because he believed Renault Sport's next model would be better off flaunting its performance with raw pace rather than dominating bodywork.
"Our brand is not about aggressivity," he said. "We try to have a powerful product but rather simple with sensual shapes. That's what we tried to make with the next RS, which is actually harder than going aggressively, I think. To find the right balance is harder but I think we have done it.”
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Renault has refrained from releasing information on what will power the new model, but sources expect that the turbocharged 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine of the Alpine A110 to be used instead of an updated version of the previous Mégane’s 2.0-litre unit, due to its lower CO2 emissions.
The new 1.8 produces 249bhp and 236lb ft of torque in the Alpine, but power is predicted to be more than 300bhp in the Renault Sport hot hatch, in order to give the car a fighting chance against rivals like the 306bhp Civic Type R. This would make the new car at least 29bhp more potent than the most powerful version of its predecessor, the 275 Cup S.
The engine will drive the car’s front wheels through a six-speed manual gearbox or, for the first time in a Renault Sport Mégane, an optional six-speed EDC dual-clutch automatic gearbox. While European markets are expected to prefer the manual, markets in Asia are predicted to have more demand for EDCs.
Due to the lower and longer five-door only platform of the new Mégane, which sits 25mm lower and is 28mm longer than the old car, plus the use of wider tracks, the next Mégane RS is expected to have significantly more mechanical grip. The use of four-wheel steering will also help to make the car more agile at speed, while improving its turning circle and allowing for more alert steering.
Straight-line performance will also reach new levels, with the new car trimming the old 275 Cup S’s 5.8sec 0-62mph time to potentially edge the car ahead of the Honda Civic Type R, which takes 5.7sec, and close to the four-wheel-drive Audi S3 that needs 5.2sec.
When the car goes on sale in spring 2018, it’s expected to be priced from around £27,500. This significantly undercuts the Civic Type R, which costs from £30,200, and ranks the Mégane RS well above the less hardcore Ford Focus ST, which costs from £25,235.