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Renault Megane R.S. 300 Trophy – long-term review

Should the Megane R.S. have four-wheel-steer?

Specification:
Renault Megane R.S. 300 Trophy
Engine:
1798cc, 4cyl turbo, FWD, 296bhp, 295lb ft
Claimed MPG:
34.4mpg, 183g/km CO2
Performance:
0–62mph in 5.7secs, 162mph
Weight:
1419kg
Price:
£31,835 OTR/£36,185 as tested/£455pcm

Over the last few years, we’ve entered a sort of rear-wheel-steer renaissance. Everyone from Porsche to Lamborghini has started using all four wheels to help change direction, not just the fronts. It’s technology Nissan pioneered in the mid-Eighties, fitting HICAS (High Capacity Actively Controlled Steering) to the R31 Skyline. Being expensive, heavy and sometimes unreliable, this tech all but died out. But now it’s back. 

With cars getting bigger and heavier, there’s a proper thirst for four-wheel-steering to help hide heffalumps and make fast cars faster – 4WS is a useful way of killing two birds with one stone. At low speeds, the rear wheels turn in the opposite directions to the fronts (up to a maximum angle of 2.7 degrees in the Megane) virtually reducing the wheelbase and improving turning circle and response. At higher speeds, the rear wheels move in the same direction as the front ones, improving stability.   

However, the Megane’s 4CONTROL system is one of the more perplexing to use, as it doesn’t feel properly cohesive or natural. It’s as if the calibration is out; like the rear wheels are trying to play catch-up with the fronts. This leads to slightly odd, unpredictable handling. With the 4WS trying to tighten your line – as well as the diff – it all gets a bit confused, so you are constantly winding lock on and off during cornering. It’s hyperactive and disconcerting. And, if you come off the power, the car tends to oversteer. Which is fun if you’re ready for it. But crashy if you’re not. So, you never trust what the car will do, making it hard to grab it by the scruff of the neck. 

For comparison, I’ve spent some time in an AMG GT R Pro. This also has 4WS, but it works in a more natural way. As a result, I’ve turned the Megane’s 4WS right down so it only aids parking and high-speed stability. Interestingly, Renault has binned 4WS for the Trophy-R. The engineers say it’s for weight; I reckon for more predictable handling too.

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