If you're not an ardent fan of Flavio Briatore's particular brand of incomprehensible interview and you don't whoop with joy every time Alonso cleverly uses his fingers to show you just how many Grands Prix he's won, then you may wonder why on earth you would want to drive around in a car celebrating the Renault F1 team. And before I went on the launch I would have agreed...
The (deep breath) Mégane Renaultsport 230 Renault F1 Team is based on the recently facelifted Mégane (new rear lights, different grille) and benefits from the more hardcore 'Cup Chassis', but with new rear dampers (which will make it onto all Mégane Cups later this year).
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Motorsport allegiance aside, the main reason for shelling out £900 extra on this special edition over a standard Cup is the £1450 of extra kit that it comes with. You get black gloss wheels and wing mirrors plus luxuries such as climate control, cruise control and a more potent radio. But the most important addition is the Recaro seats (normally an £850 option on their own). They really are fantastic, not only gently hugging you, but more importantly placing you lower down behind the wheel.
The new dampers mean that the F1 Team Mégane is now a more harmonious tool down a back-road, the chassis feeling more planted. Prodigious grip from the tyres and punch from the engine are still very much the car's trademarks, but they are now more ably deployed and enjoyed.
Other improvements are more likely down to the whole range's facelift, but they are equally important to anyone thinking of buying a Mégane. The previous 225 Cup always felt rather like the NVH team had decided that a mug of tea and a Hobnob was a better idea than finishing the car off; the 2006 car, however, feels much tighter, more polished, more - dare I say it? - German.
The press release claims that the F1 Mégane 'provides the thrill of driving on the road that the R26 does on the track'. It doesn't, of course, but it is a very good hot hatch and a more serious rival to the Golf GTI and Focus ST than ever.
|Engine||In-line 4-cyl, 1998cc, turbo|
|Max power||222bhp @ 5500rpm|
|Max torque||221lb ft @ 3000rpm|
|Top speed||147mph (claimed)|