Comfort-wise, it is actually more refined than the regular R26 over a rough road, and therefore more comfortable to travel in.
How so? Several reasons. One, the spring rates front and rear are just over 10 per cent softer than normal (mainly because the kerbweight is that much less); the dampers are also of a much higher specification, providing compliance and control where those fitted to the normal R26 do not; lastly, the tyres themselves (the Toyos) also provide better ride quality.
So where the R26 tends to get a little thumpy over really nasty surface scars and occasionally sends a shiver back through its steering column, the R26R glides more serenely, its suspension flowing over surfaces that flummox the regular car’s chassis.
What you also notice is the extra road noise generated by the R26R over rough surfaces, simply because there is less sound-deadening in the car everywhere. It’s not a ridiculous increase but with the optional titanium exhaust fitted there is perhaps 15 per cent more noise generally.
As for the noise from the exhaust itself, it is sensational, amplifying the car’s turbocharged engine to a point where you sometimes feel like you’re on board a miniature Group C Le Mans car.
The best way to describe what the R26R feels like on a track is as an extension of your own self-belief. As each mile passes that self-belief grows because, in short, the R26R seems to have an answer for pretty much any question you ask of it.
For starters, the level of grip it develops through any given corner is quite spooky compared with normal cars and will – with the Toyo tyres fitted – be so alien to most drivers that they won’t get close to the car’s limits to begin with. That’s one key improvement.
Spend more time and do a few more laps with the car, however, and what you’ll eventually realise is that the lack of weight manifests itself in just about every aspect of the R26R’s behaviour. This, more than anything, makes it feel so different to the already sharp R26. Not only does it accelerate far harder but it changes direction more crisply, stops better, steers more sweetly, even changes gear with more precision.
Should I buy one?
In total there will be just 450 R26Rs made at Renaultsport’s ex-Alpine factory in Dieppe, and of these some 230 will be sold by Renault UK. If you can get your hands on one, it’s absolutely worth the money.
As a genuine driver’s car the Renault Megane R26R has few rivals, and not just in the world of hot hatchbacks but at any level, at any budget.