What’s it like?
Pretty flipping fast, unsurprisingly. But unlike, say, the Mitsubishi Evo FQ400, the RS500 hasn’t become perpetually manic. The engine mapping means that it retains the regular car’s low-speed character and civility.
When the RS500 does blow, though, by crikey it blows hard. You feel it most through the mid-range. There’s no discernable increase in the time it takes to spool up; the RS500 gets going like the regular RS, but gets going harder, and faster, for longer.
The regular RS already has astonishing ground-covering pace. The RS500 usefully shortens the time it takes to fling itself from one bend to the next.
Because torque has only been increased by four per cent, torque steer is prevalent only as it was before. Which means it’s there, but is manageable. The steering’s terrifically precise and accurate otherwise too.
On fresh tyres the RS500 is, just like the RS, wonderfully exploitable. It grips hard at the front to the extent that it’ll lift a rear wheel if you’re steady on the throttle. Alternatively, in faster corners, the rear can be coaxed into helping adjust the cornering line if you trail the brakes towards a corner with the ESP switched out.
From experience of Autocar’s former long-term RS, I know that on worn tyres the dynamics become more dominated by the available grip at the front as the rubber gradually loses its resistance to power. But if the RS is on new tyres, the Renaultsport Clio is the only other current production hot hatch that has the same level of exploitability and adjustability. And no other hatch shoves like an RS500.
Should I buy one?
Spot of bad news on that front. The RS500 sold out pretty much as soon as it was announced, even at £35,750, which sounds like quite a lot given the limited extent of the mechanical changes.
Still, there’s no shortage of demand – as I write speculators have put them up for auction at over £40,000. One thing’s for sure: at any price, the RS500 is one of the fastest, most capable front-drive cars ever produced.