Renaultsport Mégane F1 Team R26
The latest F1-inspired Renaultsport Megane has learnt from previous models' failings, and is now a brilliant all-round package
This isn’t the first time a hot Mégane has appeared in Greatest Drives. In 2004, a 225 RS finished 23rd out of 25. We said at the time: “The Mégane RS misses not only the bullseye, but the whole target. Let’s hope Renault gets the message.”
It did and, three years later, the Mégane R26 was the biggest surprise of Greatest Drives 2007. Renault stripped down the car and started again with the suspension, engine and even the front sub-frame. Latest on the list of additions is a limited-slip differential.
It was this piece of hardware that really sold us on the car. Every other hot hatch, even the Clio and Honda Civic, spun an inside wheel when exiting sharp bends, which meant they lost power, speed, traction and slipped off line. Not the Mégane. The diff pulled it through Anglesey’s tight corners efficiently, while the potent turbocharged engine made mincemeat of the straights. No one was surprised when the Mégane posted the fastest hot hatch lap – at 68.2 seconds, quicker than the Caterham and BMW 130i, and only a few fractions behind the VXR8.
As front-wheel-drive hatches generally struggle to cope with spiralling power outputs, it’s great to see a company finding an engineering solution to the problem, especially as the R26 works equally well on the road. There’s not too much torque steer or pull through the steering wheel, and the suspension soaks up punishment.
Gaudy decals aside, it even looks good. However, on our car, the slack gearchange eventually gave up the ghost, and while the Recaro seats are superb, the cabin doesn’t convey any sense of excitement. Under the skin, though, the Mégane is a hot hatch transformed. Well done, Renault.
- 1Welcome to Greatest Drives 2007We've gathered together this year's hottest cars to fight it out on road and track for the title of Auto Express's Greatest Drives 2007
- 2Mercedes CL63 AMGThe latest Mercedes AMG is a variant of the Bentley Continental-rivalling CL63. Does a two-tonne sports saloon make sense?
- 3BMW 130i M SportAlthough it's the baby of the BMW range, it bears the M Sport pack, giving it a formidable 261bhp
- 4Vauxhall Corsa VXRIt was our top supermini earlier this year, but does the VXR version of the Vauxhall Corsa cut it in this esteemed company?
- 5Audi S5It might not be the most thrilling to drive, but the Audi S5 is one of the easiest cars to drive quickly
- 6BMW M5 TouringThe estate version of the BMW M5 is no slouch, but it doesn't feel as special as previous M cars from BMW
- 7Lotus 2-ElevenThe Lotus 2-Eleven is an uncompromised trackday car - driveable, if not comfortable, on the road, but unsurpassed on a circuit
- 8Morgan Aero 8 AmericaThe most visually distinctive car here, the Morgan Aero 8 may look old-fashioned but it's a precise and powerful sports car with an engine note to die for
- 9Vauxhall VXR8The Vauxhall from down-under is very much an old-style muscle car - and the VXR8 knows how to let you have fun
- 10Nissan 350ZA previous overall winner, the Nissan 350Z still impresses in its current incarnation, even if it's not quite as fresh three years later
- 11MINI Cooper SNow a more mature drive, the latest MINI is slightly less fun than previous Cooper models - which is why it's outside the top 10
- 12Caterham Sigma Roadsport 125It's a perennial favourite of Greatest Drives, and this year's Caterham Roadsport is no different - brilliant on the track, a little rough on the road
- 13Fiat Panda 100HPAs much fun as cars 10 times its price, the Fiat Panda 100HP won't set any lap records, but will leave a big smile on your face
- 14Mazda MX-5 RCIt's the top-selling two-seater of all time, but does the Mazda MX-5 still have the flair to challenge for the title of Greatest Drive?
- 15Renaultsport Mégane F1 Team R26 - currently readingThe latest F1-inspired Renaultsport Megane has learnt from previous models' failings, and is now a brilliant all-round package
- 16Porsche 911 GT3 RSThe hardcore Porsche 911 GT3 RS is an unequivocal supercar. With incredible performance, the only doubt is its real-world usability - and price tag
- 17Renaultsport Clio 197 F1 Team R27If you thought the Megane was impressive, the hot Renaultsport Clio R27 manages to force its way into the top 5 with sheer poise
- 18Lamborghini Gallardo SuperleggeraThe Lamborghini was the most expensive car on test. Luckily the super-light Gallardo was also the most rewarding to drive
- 19Honda Civic Type RThe Type R version of the Honda Civic is not only the best hot hatch, its chassis makes it one of the best drivers' cars, full stop
- 20Audi R8The hottest car of the year, the Audi R8 isn't perfect, but driving it is such a thrilling experience, you won't care
- 21Porsche Cayman SDespite the presence of serious rivals from Lamborghini and Audi, the amazing Porsche Cayman S retains its title