Jäeger (pronunciation: ˈjɛːɡɐ or yay-ger) the German word for “hunter” – one that hunts other animals for sport. This is perhaps the only time it will ever be apt to use a German phrase to describe a French vehicle, but when said vehicle was a Nurburgring record holder for some time and is once again after the new record it set yesterday, the phrase suddenly seems the only one appropriate to describe the Renault Megane RS RB8, itself a homage to the mighty success enjoyed by the Renault-powered RB8 Formula 1 car.
The Megane RS265 Trophy, upon which the RB8 is based, famously held the FWD Nurburgring record of 8:08 since 2011 until earlier this year when Seat managed to dethrone it. Enabling the Megane RS to set such a time was a host of technologies; first and foremost a 2.0-litre turbopetrol 4-pot engine developing 195kW and 360Nm, driving the front wheels via a 6-speed manual transmission, and maintaining a firm handle on things with the use of a mechanical limited slip differential, which carries with it inherent personality traits not to be overlooked when driving the RB8 to its fullest.
But right at the edge of its ability is where the Megane RB8 likes to be, pushing the limits of what a FWD hot hatch can achieve, no matter how harsh the resultant ride becomes. Harsh may just be the understatement of the decade though, as the Megane RB8 rides even the smoothest South African roads with rough demeanour, feeding the slightest veins in the tar surface through to the driver’s seat without cushioning the blow in the slightest. But within this harsh setup, the suspension remains well damped, and the ultra-firm springs serve a far greater purpose as around twisty bits of tarmac the low-slung Megane refuses to give in to body-roll. The suspension, whilst regarded as crashy at the lower end of the speed spectrum, gets better the faster you go, gripping the road surface with ferocious tenacity and feeding vital surface data to the driver via the “bum-dyno” Recaro seat.
The stiff suspension partnered with a quick, direct steering setup became a seemingly solitary unit, responding instantaneously to inputs and replying with pinpoint accurate data about the road surface beneath the front rubber. The direct nature of the steering became somewhat telepathic, the neural pathways of the driver’s brain finding a high-def connection with the RB8 via the steering wheel, and the weight of the wheel seeming to fade into background noise as it matched steering responses flawlessly, weighting up smoothly in long, drawn out turns, and changing direction with ease.
This would all be in vain if the Megane RS were not capable of shunting along at a decent pace, but with 360Nm available at 3000rpm and a solid 6-speed manual transmission at hand, pace came easy to the RB8. The clutch, although incredibly short and solid which made the RB8 tough to launch consistently – we managed to record a best 0-100km/h time of 6.5 seconds – had a smooth take with a predictable bite but a pleasure to flip through gears with on the fly. Once rolling, the Megane responded to delicate throttle inputs with urgency, reading the play on the pedal like music off a sheet, and surging forward precisely as directed with a strong surge of power right until redline when a loud beep indicated it was time to make use of the solid gear change. Pedal placement enabled perfect heel-and-toe shifting for gear changes ahead of tighter curves, and with each prod of the accelerator out of those bends a guttural growl was emitted from the exhaust, accompanied by a turbocharged flurry of air being sucked into the engine.
The way the Megane RS RB8 managed to put its power down through the 235/35 R19 Bridgestone Potenza tyres was nothing short of magical, clinging to the road through turns at breakneck speeds with an unnatural ability. The LSD equipped to the RB8 meant that power was apportioned as needed to avoid wheel-slip, and the stability control programming was such that the car responded better on the throttle than off, with throttle-off understeer a common occurrence and throttling on resulting in predictable, controllable oversteer just before being slung out of a corner at a rapid rate.
The Renault Sport team built this to go flat out, and the resultant understeer from coming off the throttle around corners hesitantly may find many an unskilled driver in a sticky situation; but with a maximum-attack attitude, the RB8 responded with a depth of character seldom seen in a mechanical object. Luckily, should things get a bit too rapid, and the Megane too out of control for unwary pilots, the Brembo 4-piston callipers, painted red, do a sterling job of bringing the RS to a halt, clamping down viciously on 340mm diameter grooved front brake discs.
The Megane RS RB8 is a true max-attack machine, and although capable of trundling along effortlessly at humane speeds with measured throttle inputs, the harsh ride and Spartan interior make it less of a commuter than it is a track monster. It gulped fuel at a rate of 10.2l/100km on our test run, and although equipped with a relatively good sound system, USB, Bluetooth and auxiliary connectivity, cruise control, and an adept navigation system, its greatest features, besides its incredible ability, were those filed under the “RS Monitor” on the overhead touch screen, recording lap times, G-forces, sprint times, and GPS data around a track.
To understand the nature of the Jäeger, you need to become the hunter; you need to sink yourself deep into the low slung Recaro bucket seats and wrap your thumbs around the racing steering wheel. You need to head out to a bit of twisty road with no traffic, no music, and nothing but your wits and every ounce of skill you think you possess. Only then, with no distractions and a world of possibility at your feet, do you realise what the Megane RS RB8 is truly capable of. That’s when the beast that tamed the Nurburgring comes alive, and with it, so do your senses.
The Renault Megane RS RB8 is a car best enjoyed in solitude, when driving pleasure matters more to you than the comfort of a commute. Should comfort be the order of the day yet you still want something with similar dynamic ability then perhaps you’d be suited more to the likes of the Opel Astra OPC, but if being the best driver you can be, regardless of the discomfort, is what sets your heart racing, then you’ll never be happier than when you’re alone in the Megane RS RB8 hunting down the next lap time or piece of winding tarmac.
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195kW @ 5500RPM
360Nm @ 3000RPM
6.0 seconds claimed
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Author: Roger Biermann