We drove the Renault Mégane Grandtour DCi 130 hp: a smooth and stylish operator…

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Renaults now really stand out in style, thanks to the creativity and talents of Laurens Van den Acker and his team. Renaults have now a bold and characteristic styling language and identity. Moreover, they have timeless and excellent proportions, and this Grandtour version of the Mégane amply proves the point. On top of all that, there is mechanical refinement to be enjoyed, and indeed, during the test of this diesel engined, lively Renault, we more than often had broad smiles on our face…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Stylish

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Indeed, looking at this latest Mégane Grandtour from a distance or up close, and walking around it, we liked what we saw from any angle. The accompanying photos amply show this too. They are taken with my big Nikon DSLR, and yes, this shows…

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The design team also succeeded in giving this break or station wagon Mégane fluent and elegant contours and curves, which makes it a joy to look at for years to come. No wonder about 40 % of the sales of the Mégane come in this GrandTour version.

The same confident and elegant styling language is found in the interior, with a dashboard layout which bears of course a strong family resemblance to the other Renault models. Indeed, we are very fond of many interior details in today’s Renaults.

A digital instrumentation layout which serves as benchmark…

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First of all the digital instrument cluster and instrumentation which is one of the most logical and stylish we have come across. The “eco” driving mode just gives you the ideal rev range, indicates the gear you should be in and shows of course the driven speed in bold numbers.

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Choose “comfort” mode and the green hue changes to blue and now you have a large analog looking speed dial in front of you.

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In the “normal” mode a large rev counter now takes central place, with the driven speed showing up digitally, as well as the gear change indicator.

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This layout is basically retained in the “sport” mode, with the instrument lighting hue now changed to red. There is now also an indication of the used engine torque and power. How clever!

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On the central console shines the large vertically placed touchscreen, with totally logical and intuitive controls for navigation, infotainment, car setup, connectivity, you name it.

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We enjoyed all the good properties of the well thought our Renault R-link and last but not least our test car came equipped with the more than excellent Bose sound system.

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Needless to say we enjoyed Jazz and classical music on the system, and indeed, the renderings of chamber music pieces like Maurice Ravel’s String Quartet in F and Debussy’s Suite Bergamasque had to be heard to be believed. French motoring and art certainly go well together!

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The contoured seats are excellent and a good position behind the wheel is soon found. Right in line of your vision is the in screen indication of speed and navigation directions, an option which is certainly worth considering.

Formula 1 technology built in…

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Pushing the start button and the 1,6 liter dCi jumps to life. Ever so smoothly. Totally gone now is the usual Diesel clatter when cold, thanks to state of the art fuel injection and the sophisticated electronic engine management.  In 2006, when Renault engineers began designing this brand new engine, named R9M, they worked from a clean sheet of paper. Eric Blanchard (Energy dCi 130 Project Leader) stated: “Developing a new engine meant we were able to take advantage of the latest technological developments and also have a totally free rein with regard to design.” Right he is. The Energy dCi 130 is also the fruit of collaboration between the engine specialists working out of Reuil and Viry-Chatillon.

Indeed, thanks to the privileged ties they enjoy with Renault Sport F1, the engine specialists who work out of Rueil in France were able to profit from the expertise of Viry-Chatillon, to carry over a certain number of technologies developed and fine-tuned by their F1 colleagues toseries production engines.

The 130 hp version develops on top of its mechanical sophistication an ample torque of not less than 320 Nm at 1750 rpm, propelling this Mégane with its 6 speed manual gearbox from 0 to 100 km/h in 10,6 seconds. Top speed is an effortless 199 km, and this Mégane is of course totally fit for high cruising speeds. The pickup and acceleration in the individual gears leaves nothing to be desired, and this Mégane is quite lively indeed.

Indeed, there is a lot more to tell of this engine, which now finds its way… also in the Mercedes C Class.

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This technology transfer was facilitated by Philippe Coblence, the design office manager for the R9M project. Philippe formerly held the same position at Viry-Chatillon where he worked on Formula 1 engines at the beginning of the last decade. Some F1 thinking was applied to the new Renault Energy dCi 130 engine, amongst others a ‘square’ architecture, where the bore is equal to the stroke, an arrangement which allows large-diameter valves to be housed in the cylinder head for more efficient filling of the combustion chambers.

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Then there is transverse water flow. This cooling technique, which is common in Formula 1, has been combined with a double water jacket design for the cylinder head. Transverse water flow, which is used in F1 to maximise cooling efficiency and minimise downforce losses, enables water to flow naturally through the system, which means that less energy is required to drive the water pump. This in turn results in less fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.

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Last but not least, work has been done to reduce internal friction. Like super-finishing and special surface treatments. Then there is the UFLEX oil control ring technology, which has been used in F1 for more than 10 years, was incorporated from the very beginning of the project. The U-shaped geometry is highly flexible and enables the ring to adapt to bore distortion (under the effects temperature and pressure) in order to achieve the best compromise between efficiency (scraping of oil on the cylinder liner to reduce consumption) and friction.

One of its very strong points is moreover its excellent thermal efficiency, with EC average being quoted at 4 l/100 km. It was no effort at all for us achieve averages between 5 and 6 liters/100 km, even with a fair amount of urban driving thrown in.

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Frugal and clean

The Mégane scores also very good in CO2 emissions, with a figure of 103g of CO2/km. Indeed, From the outset, the R9M engine was designed to be the best for low CO2 emissions.

French “savoir faire” in handling and comfort

When it comes to striking a perfect balance between agility, steering precision and comfort, French car builders really score, and this Renault Mégane forms of course no exception to the rule. Considering its long legged cruising comfort, the way it swallows potholes, has excellent straight line stability and lets itself steer through corners with total balance, this Mégane has true Gran Turismo qualities.

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In urban driving, the smooth clutch and transmission are a pleasure, with the excellent parking aids, both visual and acoustic, additionally supported by a rear camera lets you park in tight spaces with confidence.

The Grandtour is spacious too, with enough legroom in the rear and of course more than adequate luggage space. With both rear seat backrests folded down, the luggage space reaches a good (…) liter. Last but not least their is no loading sill or ridge, so it is a breeze to shift larger objects into the rear of the car.

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Conclusion

A well engineered, styled and built elegant station wagon, striking an ideal balance between compact dimensions, so ideally suited to European (urban) driving conditions, and spaciousness.

The 1,6 Energy dCi engine totally convinced us again with its smoothness, power and frugality, with the well laid out cabin making living with this Mégane very pleasant indeed. The Bose sound system in our test car made us also enjoy the art of French motoring, and made this Mégane quite endearing…

Hans Knol ten Bensel