We drove the Renault Mégane Grandtour Plug-In Hybrid: high-tech versatility with a touch of French genius…

The elegant Mégane is now already a few years amongst us, and has conquered a solid place in its market segment.

A mid-term facelift was in the cards, and this time the facelift of the popular Mégane family was mostly technical, and saw the introduction of a plug-in hybrid version. Directly derived from its Formula 1 technology, its cleverness impressed us. Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Changes found mainly under the hood…

Externally, the changes to the Mégane are mainly cosmetic, with revised head- and rear lamps, which are now LED-powered and have a new light signature.

There is a wider choice of (RS) trim line versions, and in the cabin the main news is the revised digital display in front of the driver to illustrate and control the functioning of this plug-in hybrid. Also all the heating/ventilation/airco commands are grouped together below the display on the central console, and the temperature can be set manually via ergonomic circular knobs.

But the main news is found under the hood. Renault opted for a sedate version of their double overhead cam 1,6 litre four cylinder, laid out with Atkinson cycle combustion for optimal efficiency. No turbo this time either, resulting in some 91 HP at 5600 rpm. Torque is 144 Nm at 3200 rpm, and this means this engine has to rev a bit to show its best. But then this petrol engine is further helped by two electric motors.

The main E-motor is good for 49 HP, and has an excellent 205 Nm of torque. This motor is always used when you drive away from standstill with this hybrid, with the petrol engine setting in later when more acceleration is wanted. Then there is a third starter/generator motor which develops 25 HP and 50 Nm of torque. Its function is also to match the rpm of the engine with the main electric motor, and to recuperate kinetic energy. Taking into account the power losses in the drivetrain, total system power is 160 HP.

This results in more than adequate performance, with 0 to 100 km/h being achieved in 9,8 seconds with a top speed of 185 km/h.

The automatic transmission operates with dog clutches, with both the petrol engine (5) and the main electric motor having several (3) gears, resulting in 15 gears in total.

The second electric motor will match the revs between itself and the petrol engine choosing the right gear combination. The matching is flawless, resulting in smooth, imperceptible changes. The engine will be kept in lower and middle rev ranges most of the time, even in the chosen “sport” mode. Only when using full kickdown, the transmission software will let the engine rev much high(er), which is only logical when full performance is required. Overall, the silence of the engine(s) and drivetrain seduces under more sedate driving conditions, although even under these circumstances brisk performance can certainly be enjoyed. But indeed, this Mégane E-TECH inspires you rather to a comfort-oriented driving style.

Technology derived from Formula 1 experience…

The adoption of ultra-efficient dog clutches for the transmission stems from Formula 1 technology. Only changes had to be smoother for everyday road use, and therefore the extra E-motor is used to seamlessly match revs between the main E-motor and the combustion engine and make smooth changes. This clever technology has been the subject of more than 150 patents…

All-electric for the daily commute…

The 400 volt Lithium-ion battery has a capacity of 9,8 Kw, enough for a useable range of up to 50km in combined cycle (WLTP) and up to 65km in urban cycle (WLTP). We managed indeed to drive a good 45 km between Drogenbos near Brussels, where we collected the test car, to our home town Antwerp on electric power only, albeit adopting a slower cruising speed of around 100/110 km/h on the motorway.

The E-TECH Mégane told us exactly what had happened during our first 67 km drive: distance travelled on E-power: 50,6 km, average fuel consumption: 1,1 l/100 km, average E-current use: 12,6 kWh /100 km. Recuperated energy 1,3 kWh.

Choice between three driving modes…

In the so called “Pure” mode, one drives 100% electric up to a top speed of 135 km/h. You can select also the “MySense” or “Sport” mode to take advantage of the E-SAVE function, always ensuring a minimum 40% battery charge. In both the MySense and Sport mode you enjoy regenerative braking, and when one drives with the necessary anticipation, the system will use the electric battery power again as long as the battery is charged above the set minimum threshold. This means than more often than not, you will still drive electric in urban start stop situations, and consumption will benefit accordingly.

Consumption: anything between zero and around eight litres/100 km…

The amount of fuel you consume depends entirely on the amount of electricity you use to drive  your Mégane. You charge it at home and office and commute some 30 km daily? Then your weekly fuel consumption is of course nil. Are you driving in “Sport” mode on a holiday to the South of France in one fast trip and you don’t want to bother recharging? Then it is good to know that this Mégane has the following stated consumption figures: 6.7/4.6/5.4 l/100km urban/extra-urban/combined. Of course, this Mégane will always start your journey all electric, until the batteries are depleted to the threshold level. Renault knows also that this car will have a reasonable consumption, and opted for a tank volume of only 39 litres.

An urban asset: the “B” mode.

Besides the obvious “D” position of your gearbox selector, you can push it one notch further to the “B” position.

Driving is now easier in the town or in slow-moving traffic with this “B” Mode. The electric motor will now regenerate the kinetic energy more intensely, resulting in increased engine braking. This allows for a one-pedal driving experience, meaning less brake pedal use, a more relaxing drive and better still, it helps preserve or even increase your battery range!

On the map display in your EASY LINK 9,3” touchscreen you can display the charging stations, and you can manage your battery level from your customisable 10.2” driver’s screen.

You can also install the MY Renault app to monitor your battery level, programme charging, or to pre-heat the passenger compartment of your MEGANE Sport Tourer E-TECH Plug-in Hybrid to the optimum temperature from your smartphone.

All in all, we found this E-Tech Plug-in Hybrid very pleasant and relaxing to drive, as we have a natural preference for a cool, fluent driving style, which is exactly what this Mégane seems to be built for.

French comfort

French cars, and also Renaults, are first of all built “pour vivre”, to please and serve you in everyday life. So they are comfortable and practical. Suspension, seats, commands, keyless entry, everything is engineered and perfected to make your daily life a pleasure. This is also what makes this car so endearing to us.

The Mégane also scores in its excellent ride, handling and comfort. The extra weight of about 200 kg, with the batteries sitting under the rear seat, made the engineers adopt a mulitlink rear suspension, so the handling stays top notch. The boot space remains unchanged also at 447 litres, with a neat underfloor space for the charging cables, so they don’t interfere with other luggage.

In the cabin, your led illumination stripes along door panels and centre console light up in electric blue, as do dashboard light accents, so you are well aware that you are driving in the electric age…

Conclusion

This good looking Mégane is superbly versatile, built for the future. Whatever our politicians have in store for us with emission free zones in our European (mega)cities, this Mégane is built for it and can cope. When the extra-urban charging infrastructure in Europe remains insufficient for some time to come, your mobility is nevertheless not impaired, ever.

It is built for the relaxed driving style which suits our congested roads and dense traffic anyway, offering good sound insulation, seating comfort and predictable handling on top of that. It is pleasant to live with, with well-designed amenities.

Renault made a clever throw at making the ideal all-round car for our present times, fit for whatever the future has in store for us. So it deserves a long hard look if you look for a replacement of your company or private car in the coming months…

We will soon test also the Captur in the same plug-in hybrid layout, and will also get acquainted with the all-electric ZOE… stay tuned!

Hans Knol ten Bensel  

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