Renault Megane Sport Tourer: Third report

Practicality isn’t our estate’s only talent – it’s big on performance, too. We put it through its paces on a special Renaultsport track day

  • You have to feel comfortable when travelling quickly on a circuit, and this is where the Megane excels. There’s plenty of steering wheel and seat adjustment, which makes it easy to find the perfect driving position, while the heavily bolstered chairs hold you in place during even the most extreme cornering.
  • Unlike its hot hatch cousins, it’s not possible to fully disengage the Megane’s ESP system. On the track, this means the electronic safety net occasionally intervenes, killing your speed in the corners. However, this is a small price to pay for the set-up’s life-saving ability when you are back on the public road.
You don’t expect a family estate to be leading the pack on a high-octane track day, but then our Renault Megane Sport Tourer is no ordinary load-lugger.
Look closely at its tailgate and you’ll spot a discreet Renaultsport badge, which means the chassis of this mild-mannered holdall has been tweaked by the same people who make the scorching Clio and Megane hot hatchbacks.
With such impressive high-performance credentials, I decided it was time to put the Megane’s considerable abilities to the test. Fortunately, I didn’t have to look too far to find a suitable challenge. On www.renaultsport.co.uk I discovered that Renault organises a programme of track days for buyers of its racy range-toppers.
This year’s calendar takes in eight venues, including Germany’s fearsome Nurburgring and the unforgiving Spa Francorchamps in Belgium. However, there are also a number of UK circuits to choose from, including the home of British motorsport, Silverstone.
When I arrived at the famous Northamptonshire venue, my nerves were jangling. Not only was this the first time I’d taken part in a track day, but the heavens had opened. In fact, there was so much rain that I nearly considered swapping my helmet for a set of inflatable arm bands!
I needn’t have worried, though. With expert tuition from my instructor, I was soon picking out the correct lines for the fastest and smoothest route around the flowing South circuit. Within a handful of laps, my confidence was high and I was enjoying every second behind the wheel.
Of course, our Sport Tourer played a big part in making the day so much fun. Any fears that the diesel estate would be left trailing in the wake of lighter and more powerful hot hatches proved unfounded. The punchy oil-burner delivered strong straight-line pace, while the capable and grippy chassis inspired huge confidence as it shrugged off the standing water and slippery conditions.
Better still, the powerful brakes never felt like they were going to wilt under the pressure, regularly helping to bring everything under control when I was a little over-ambitious with my corner entry speed. But the really good news is that all this entertainment cost a mere £179. While that seems a lot on paper, it included a day’s lapping, plus the chance to try out the latest line-up of Renaultsport motors.
If you own one of the firm’s hot models and want to get out on track in 2011, you’ll have to be quick – there’s only one date left this year, at Brands Hatch, Kent, on 22 September. However, if you do decide to take the plunge and hit the circuit, don’t be surprised if you’re overtaken by a diesel-engined Megane estate...

Extra Info

“The pay-off for the Megane’s surprising on-track ability is an extremely firm ride on the road. Even small imperfections are transmitted into the cabin, which means the Sport Tourer can be a tiring long-distance companion when driving on anything other than billiard table-smooth surfaces.”
Ross Pinnock, Road Test Editor

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