Saturday, 21 February 2009

Tried & Tested: Renault Megane CC

The French automotive brand Renault has undergone a sort of a revival in Malaysia recently, with local franchise holder, TC Eurocars introducing what they coined as the Fabulous Five. One of them is the lifestyle coupe-cabriolet known as the Megane CC. The others in this new stable are the Clio 1.6, Clio RS, Megane F1 R26 and the Grand Espace.

Though late forthcoming to the Malaysian market, the Megane CC is one neat looking coupe with sleek sidelines and an amazingly sharp looking rump, even in comparison to the other benchmark setting coupe-sunroof-cabriolet (2.0L segment & below RM250k) the VW Eos. Though the frontal visage is debatable against its Germanic counterpart, it is no less menacing when hunkering down the motorway on the fast lane, not necessitating any right turn signal or headlamp flash (which can be less desirable) to make known of its intention to pass. Perhaps this has got to do with the R26-esque persona when viewed from the rear view mirror of the car up front. Not a bad thing really.

The foldable metal-and-glass hard top even comes down in what seemed like a few seconds quicker than the Eos, in true “Transformers” fashion which requires origami-folding of what appeared to be like significantly lesser folding parts. With the glass roof up, the curvy C-pillar even reminisces that of a proper fixed hardtop coupe like the Audi TT. Nice and sporty.

Much has been lamented about its rather lethargic, normally aspirated 4-pot of 2.0L capacity but get acquainted (I did!) with the engine’s mid-range delivery and work manually through its - rather paltry - 4 gear ratios, it isn’t that bad in isolation. Understand the weight penalty of the Megane CC’s body plus its armaments of braces and reinforcements, you’ll soon accept and appreciate that nice and easy, relaxing drive. Ride quality is commendable while wind noise and road noise levels are rather exemplary for something with a frameless window, B-pillar less architecture et al.

Interior cabin ambience is classy and cozy, with the red leather upholstery taking centre stage, even though the dashboard is beginning to show its age. Typical Frenchie are the supportive and hugging seats, perfect for those longer interstate jaunts. The rear bench though, along with dismal rear legroom is strictly meant for children under eight or so. Renault’s keyless entry and start, executed by means of an electronic card is just a fancy piece of gadget which complicates a simple turn-key start into a more annoying two-steps execution of single-minded function of cranking up the engine. Nothing but a case of form over function, I reckoned.

As with most coupe-cabriolet, scuttle shakes are part & parcel of a trade-off when the chassis engineers lop off the roof. In the Megane CC, it is still pretty solid puttering leisurely but when you start throwing it topless into fast corners it starts to get a little hairy with that ‘loose’ feeling of the front flinging about a tad more than desired. However once you set the top back in position, the completed ‘egg-shell’ structure makes handling around bends noticeably more planted and reassuring.

A lot of people would not understand the joys of being in a coupe-cabriolet, more so in our blazingly sunny, hot and humid climate. These people are far from guilty of misjudging and stereotyping such a niche example of an automobile, since it’s pretty dusty and polluted in most urban and suburban areas too. However, should you want to enjoy the crisp cool air of the highlands or the salinity of the sea-breeze on a fine clear day (preferably slightly cloudy?) with sun-setting in the backdrop, there’s nothing better than being in a roadster, a Targa, cabriolet or best, in a coupe-cabriolet! With TC Eurocars dropping the price a smidgen below RM200k now (from RM236k previously), that wind-in-your-hair driving experience can now be yours being a little fluffier on your hair, as well as a little lighter on your pocket.

1 comment:

BMW.Toyota said...

It's a great feeling... driving with the wind against your hair. Sadly, such luxuries are reserved for the rich and famous (and car journos) only.