The proper move
Formula One. It’s undoubtedly one of the pinnacles of motorsport and a showcase of what’s technically possible when budgets and signwriting are unlimited. Many people will tell you that it’s a proving ground for new tech and the clever new gizmos eventually end up in your next car.
Or do they? Well, obviously we’re not all shooting about in noisy, winged single seaters but stuff like electronic systems, drive-train construction, tyre knowhow, brake and suspension setups may influence the way your new car is built. And sometimes, we get a limited edition spin-off like this Renault.
Based on the already-rapid Megane RS (RenaultSport), this RB8 model gets to call itself a Red Bull Special Edition because just 800 units will be built. Sold in 26 countries worldwide, 50 of these monsters are bound for South Africa so Renault fans can celebrate Red Bull Racing’s F1 successes.
Exclusively painted in Twilight Blue with lots of Red Bull Racing badges and a melting checkered flag on the roof, this special edition also includes the hard but grippy RS Cup chassis, Brembo brakes with red calipers, black 19-inch wheels with 35-profile tyres, three-mode ESP, RS monitor and R-Link infotainment system.
It also features everything you’d expect from a range-topping Megane like polished pedals, keyless entry and ignition, climate control, six airbags, park beepers, Bluetooth, active Xenon lights, auto lights and wipers, electric windows and mirrors, adjustable multi-function steering wheel and cruise control.
The controls are still scattered about the racy cabin in true Renault fashion but I will admit that after the umpteenth Renault test car, I’m now used to them. The RB8 Red Bull also has a proper hand-brake, red seatbelts, body-hugging Recaro seats, a spare wheel, some leather and carbon fiber-look trim.
Should you have somehow overlooked all the stickers, further clues are silver mirrors, a silver front splitter and rear diffuser framing the big RS single exhaust pipe. A few more reminders are a shiny RS gear knob and Red Bull racing decals on the carpets and door sills. The only optional extra is a reversing camera (N$5,000).
The big central monitor of Renault’s R-Link system is controlled by a twisty-pushy knob on the central tunnel which, in conjunction with the rock-hard suspension, can be difficult to operate on the move. Also, it refused to add a Bluetooth phone and got stroppy when I wanted to delete previous entries. C’est merde.
Buried inside this uncooperative blik-brein is the RS Monitor which will keep performance enthusiast entertained for a long, long time. You can switch between multiple screens which display everything from lap times, various temperatures, torque, boost, wheel slip, G forces and throttle position. C’est magnifique!
I’m nitpicking here but the slanted speedometer is marked in odd sets of twenty, making it jolly difficult to spot 60 or 120km/h. Its neighbouring trip computer is completely unreadable during the day. I’d also advise against driving this car in heavy winds as the big coupé doors only have teeny-weeny inside handles.
Not that any of this will matter to the infatuated fan as the prime reason for buying this Megane is the way it drives; unless you’re into comfort and relaxation. The Red Bull Special is very hard and reasonably loud, becoming even harder, louder and downright snappy if you select Sport or ESP off modes.
Moreover, the clutch pedal is comparatively hard but with all that power, you soon appreciate why it is so. 1,998cc divided by four cylinder, fed petrol sequentially and air through a turbocharger send 195kW (265hp) or 360Nm via a wonderfully crisp six-speed manual gearbox to the unfortunate front wheels.
The power delivery is so brutal that it doesn’t take much for this car to upset its traction control or seek a new direction of travel when full throttle is applied. That doesn’t mean it’s completely unruly when driven sensibly – and I’ll leave the interpretation of that word up to your imagination.
100km/h comes up in six seconds, 400m in 14 flat and top speed is an alleged 255km/h, average fuel use 8.2L/100km and CO2 emissions at 190g/km. Our best 0-100km/h sprint took 6.1 seconds and 400m just 13.6 seconds. My most careful driving yielded 10L/100km but a more likely average is mid-12.
Road holding and grip levels are excellent, thanks to that super-firm sports suspension and a clever electronic differential. As with most über-hot hatches, I didn’t push this Megane any further than I deemed sensible (there’s that word again) and came away wide-eyed, adrenaline-soaked and impressed.
This rather wild, very fast and quite limited coupé will set you back exactly N$429,900 and comes with a 5-year/150,000km warranty and 5-year/100,000km service plan. Should you find that they’re all sold or you don’t like Formula 1 stickers, the standard Megane RS it’s based on is just as exciting.
0-100m: 5.7s / 94.7km/h
0-200m: 8.7s / 125.8km/h
0-300m: 11.3s / 144.1km/h
0-400m: 13.6s / 159.5km/h
1/4mile: 13.7s @ 99.3mph (159.8km/h)