" When the 550 Maranello was launched back in 1996: it would have cost you £160K. The 485 BHP V12 it came with meant it could pull away in less than 5 seconds and could make almost 200MPH in the top end. It was a "
Bonkers: Mégane Renaultsport R26R
//BONKERS. It’s the word of the (Early) summer//
And if Bonkers is your thing, and you want your motoring world to be full of staccato shimmies, banshee wails and ludicrous performance-to-pound rates of fun, then the Renaultsport Mégane R26R should be high on your list of aspirations.
We’re talking point and squirt. Picture the scene. Somewhere high up beyond Brecon, in the Eppynt mountain range to be exact, the R26R’s semislick Toyo tires are screeching. When the car showed up, we thought that the deep, carbon-fibre bucket seats and six point harnesses that come as standard might have represented a little bit of design overkill. Wrong.
Negative cambers and randomly grazing sheep tend not only to test one’s nerve, but also the ability of a seat-and-strap combo to hold you in the right place. Over a cattle grid, dip deep then over a brow hard down in second. Momentary air, and then a long, sweep left-and-right down into the valley with negative camber and momentarily my offside front Toyo touches a combo of sheep poo and grass. The nose tweaks and shimmies. This is the only piece of non-positive grip in the whole two days of sublime rag-ology. And that was the driver’s fault.
There’s a certain sound that emerges from the rear-end of the R26R when you floor it. Thing is, it’s only perceptible from inside the cabin. We’ve had discussions, of course. Some people claim it is the turbocharger. But I don’t agree. The engine, which comes straight out of the standard R26, is indeed a four cylinder, 16 Valve, two-litre turbo, but this noise is nothing like the usual wheezey burp that you hear on, say an Impreza. This sounds more like a loud, breathy, banshee wail that doesn’t quite connect with the gallic vocal chords of the engine.. We all love the noise, whatever it is. And that’s not the only aural sensation encoded in the car. There’s also beautiful, singing hum that arises at lower speeds and revs. That’ll also be the barely legal Toyos again, then.
The whole package is stripped of most of the soundproofing, and the rear windows are made of light plexiglass. What this creates is a car that lets you in deep to the experience of driving, and urges you to revel in the sonic artistry as well as try, just try, to test the limits of grip. The Limited Slip Diff and the other running gear tweaks, combined with the aerodynamics of that classic hunkered down, booty-shaking body mean that downforce is sublime and only gets better with speed. Yep. This must be, as Autosport called it at the end of ‘08, the most hardcore hot hatch that has ever been produced.
//PERFORMANCE PER POUND//
Take one of Maranello’s finest on your average British road. No matter how many tens of thousands of hard-earned you spend, it is more or less impossible to exploit it. That’s where the R26R, in the grand tradition of little French sports cars, really shines.
This thing goes from zero to sixty in six seconds, covers a kilometre from a standing start in little over 25 seconds, and, so it is claimed, holds the record around the Nuburgring for a front wheel drive car at 8.17. The list price of the car is around £24K, which while not exactly recession-busting cheap, is a genuinely accessible price point if driving is your passion. And that’s the thing. The build quality might not be Teutonic, you might have to strap your second child in the rollcage on the way to school (as I had to do the morning I picked up the car), but if you want a car that can be a daily runabout as well as an absolute muther of a track day hooligan, then this might just be the perfect fathers’ day gift. To yourself, of course.
CLICK TO ENLARGE