18 August 2008
Itís been a long
time coming, but a European importer has finally been brave enough
to bring in a full-on high-performance car with a turbo-diesel
engine. Though this class of vehicle has been popular in Europe
for years, chiefly due to the long term use of diesel engines for
fuel economy, itís possibly still a brave move in Australia.
and Peugeot have been at it hammer and tongs at the top end of
motorsport, with big turbo-diesel prototype sports cars dominating
the Le Mans 24-hour for the past three years. Yet itís Renault
which has brought the first road-going sports diesel to Australia.
Or rather Renault Sport, the division of the company that
specialises in high-performance road and track products, in the
same way that FPV and HSV do in our market.
new Megane Renault Sport dCi 175 (for 175 horsepower, or 127
kilowatts) is no show pony. This is a genuine semi-race car that
can be used on club events of a weekend. The engine is a 2.0-litre
unit as used in other models in the French marqueís range, but
has been modified to produce a strong 360 Newton metres at just
this hot Renault diesel can commute with ease during the harder
five days of the week. Doing so at a fuel consumption of mere 6.3
litres per hundred kilometres as measured under the regulations of
the official Australian Standard. A consumption thatís
ridiculously low by performance car terms.
befits a sports model, the Renault Sport dCi runs only with a
six-speed manual gearbox. A slick unit that defies the fact that
it sits up front beside the engine. It really does feel (almost)
as though the gearbox is down beside your left foot and sending
its power to the rear wheels.
is to ĎCup Chassisí specification, to use Renault's term for
its full sports dynamic setup. It has virtually the same setup as
the Renault Sport 225 petrol model, with bigger-diameter roll bars
than the standard Megane, firmer bushes and slightly different
of course, are a vital component in any high-performance machine
and the Megane Renault Sport 175 uses large Brembo-operated discs
front and rear. However, the lower power output of the 175 hp
diesel compared with the 225 hp petrol, means that drilling
wasnít considered necessary on the turbo-diesel.
a lot more to a complete performance car than purely go-faster,
corner-harder bits. So this svelte French machine comes with
leather trim, with the same luxury material installed on the gear
knob and handbrake cover. There's a six-disc CD player,
climate-controlled air conditioning, cruise control and power
windows and door mirrors. This is certainly no uncomfortable
stripped-down track special.
body is relatively subtle in the changes to lift it to Renault
Sport standard. Not that you would use the word subtle to describe
the Megane, this is one of the most standout cars on the market
today. Standout to the point of being controversial in its
rear-end shape. The Renault Sport dCi has been lowered in its
suspension and sits on large alloy wheels. Note that the
turbo-diesel misses out on the rear wing thatís used on the 225
goes without saying that this Renault has a five-star rating under
the European New Car Assessment Program (E-NCAP). This is achieved
not only by the use of multiple airbags, but also by the basic
design of a body that is rigid in the correct places, yet yields
in others to cushion the shock of a collision.
were able to do a lot of track testing of the Megane Renault Sport
diesel at the excellent Wakefield Park facility near Goulburn.
There the hot hatch really stood out for its high levels or road
grip, generally neutral feel and the way it could be tossed at
corners in the knowledge that it would react in a predictable and
competent manner. The engine had so much torque that it could
virtually do the complete lap using third gear only, just asking
to be changed back to second in a couple of places.
Renault Sport dCi 175 comes to Australia at a very reasonable
price of $39,990 and has what is pretty well the normal industry
warranty of three years or 100,000 km, whichever comes first.
Marque Publishing Company