While Renault grabbed our attention at the Paris Motor Show with such exciting concepts as the Nepta gull-wing cabrio, Twingo supermini and Koleos crossover, they also revealed a new suped-up version of their ageing hatchback: the Mégane F1 Team R26.

The R26 takes its name and inspiration from the Renault F1 team's 2006 car, with which Fernando Alonso and Giancarlo Fisichella have been contending for the title. The sporty Renault uses the same 2-liter turbo four as the previous Mégane F1 Team car released last January, and ups the ante with a new limited slip differential. Power is up to 230 hp thanks to revised mapping and a new exhaust, driving through a six-speed manual, good for a 0-60 sprint in 6.5 seconds. Compared to the regular Mégane, this version has special dampers, anti-roll bars and a stiffer suspension for sportier driving.

Visually the R26 edition is differentiated by special badging, red brake calipers on the four-pot Brembo brakes, 18-inch anthracite-finish alloys, and racing buckets inside. The most attention-grabbing, though, are the no-cost-option checked decals, that, with yellow paintjob makes it look more like a taxicab than a hot hatch.

(More photos and press release after the jump.)


PRESS RELEASE

RENAULT AIMS FOR POLE POSITION WITH UNVEILING OF HOTTEST MEGANE YET

- New special edition - Mégane Renaultsport 230 F1 Team R26 – sees two-litre turbo engine gain an extra 5hp, from 225hp to 230hp

- Limited slip differential debuts to give even crisper handling

- Priced at £19,570, insurance group 17. UK ordering opens end October 2006

Its three latest concept cars may have been the stars of the show at Paris in terms of giving a glimpse of Renault's future model line-up, but that didn't mean that the French marque had neglected its current range. On the contrary, it chose the occasion to take the wraps off of its most potent and driver-focused Mégane yet - Mégane Renaultsport 230 F1 Team R26.

Aimed at track-day enthusiasts and derived from Mégane Renaultsport 225 Cup, the latest version features a limited slip differential for even crisper handling whether driven on open roads or round a circuit. Its two-litre turbo engine, uprated by a further 5hp to 230hp, plus its "Cup" chassis and Brembo brakes make it one of the quickest hot hatches on the market while its distinctive lines reinforce its positioning as a true performance car.

Building on the sell-out success enjoyed by the special edition Mégane Renaultsport 225 Renault F1 Team since its launch in January 2006, Renault continues in the same spirit with its replacement - the Mégane Renaultsport 230 F1 Team R26. The name of which refers of course to the current car that has put Fernando Alonso at the top of the Formula 1 World Championship standings. Developed by Renault Sport Technologies, Mégane F1 Team R26 is the sportiest version of the Mégane Renaultsport range.

Engine and chassis engineered for driving pleasure

Mégane F1 Team R26's most striking feature is to be found under its bonnet, namely its revised 2.0 16-valve turbocharged engine which now delivers 230hp at 5,500rpm and boasts peak torque of 310Nm at 3,000rpm thanks to specific engine mapping and a modified exhaust. With 90 per cent of peak torque available from 2,000 to 6,000rpm, this engine provides instant response and ultra-smooth acceleration.

The six-speed manual gearbox enables all this potential to be exploited to the full and helps take the car from rest to 62mph in 6.2 seconds (0.1 seconds quicker than the 225 Cup), while the 1,000-metre standing start is covered in just 26.6 seconds. Mégane F1 Team R26 also offers impressive fuel efficiency for its power output, with combined cycle fuel consumption of 33mpg. As is the case with Clio Renaultsport 197 (199g/km), CO2 emissions do not exceed 200g/km. Finally, work on the exhaust system guarantees a characteristically sporty bark from the engine.

Mégane F1 Team R26's other main strength is its chassis which features independent steering-axis front suspension and a programmed-deflection flexible rear beam to provide first class road holding. Mégane F1 Team R26 is delivered as standard with the "Cup" chassis which is optional on the Mégane Renaultsport 225. This chassis employs specific dampers and stiffer springs, while damper travel has been slightly increased by reducing the size of the bump stops to optimise handling on poor surfaces. The new diameter front anti-roll bar and rear suspension layout ensure stiffer anti-roll characteristics for enhanced handling under cornering.

Now equipped with a limited slip differential, Mégane F1 Team R26 has never been so close to being a genuine competition car. The limited slip differential guarantees impeccable traction performance irrespective of driving style or type of corner, however much grip is available.

Limited slip differentials are a common feature on competition cars, both in rallying and in Formula 1, although they can call for a certain degree of driving skill as a result of the torque steer that can be transmitted via the steering wheel in some situations. However, in the case of Mégane F1 Team R26, the combination of a limited slip differential and independent steering-axis front suspension not only minimises this phenomenon but also permits the driver to profit fully from the extra traction. Following the switch to a tube-in-tube steering column in April 2004, the electric power steering control unit of the Mégane Renaultsport family was recently recalibrated with a view to guaranteeing a more linear feel for added steering precision.

Performance of this standard calls for brakes that boast both bite and endurance, so Mégane F1 Team R26's uprated brake system – which features Brembo four-pot front callipers and vented 312mm diameter discs – provides outstanding stopping power, enhanced further by the work of the 11-inch servo which generates a maximum pressure within the circuit of 115 bar. Mégane F1 Team R26 is equipped with Dunlop SP Sport Maxx tyres (235/40 R18).

Sporty looks – inside and out

Mégane F1 Team R26 is distinguishable from other Mégane Renaultsport models thanks to specific markings on the bumpers, doors and roof (optional but free of charge) and its red-painted brake callipers. It is equipped as standard with the "Cup" chassis and comes with "Anthracite" 18-inch alloy wheels which echo the colour of the exterior mirrors. Mégane F1 Team R26 can be ordered with the exclusive Liquid Yellow body colour (optional).

Inside, an F1-style numbered plaque reinforces Mégane F1 Team R26's exclusivity. Recaro bucket seats are standard, guaranteeing an optimal driving position and enabling the driver and front passenger to feel more at one with the car to edge Mégane F1 Team R26 even closer to the world of motor sport.

The new Mégane Renaultsport 230 F1 Team R26 will cost £19,570 when UK ordering opens at the end of October 2006. Its insurance group rating is 17.



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