The Renaultsport Megane is the most hard-core, bad assed of the fleet of hot hatches on sale right now, and it’s just announced that the new Renaultsport 275 Trophy-R is officially the fastest front-wheel drive machine around the famed Nurburgring race circuit in Germany. It’s more powerful than a Golf GTI, more involving than a Seat Leon Cupra and sharper than a Ford Focus ST, and it’s been given another shot in the arm to ward-off faster and faster rivals. Read on for the CAR review as we ring the Megane’s neck around the Nurburgring…
Is this the record-setting Megane Renaultsport 275?
No. To match or better the 7:54.36 lap time sent be Laurent Hargon back in May, you’ll need one of the 30 limited edition Trophy R models that will be arriving in the UK. The good news is that you won’t have to pay £36K for this car – it’s £28k – and even better is the fact that you can cherry-pick the items that were fitted to the high-flying record holder.
Our test car, then, has air-conditioning and a radio, as all civilized hot hatches should, but has been equipped with the adjustable Ohlins coil-over suspension on the R version. That’s a pricey £2k option, but it gives you the opportunity to set the coil-overs dampers for the track, lowering the ride by to 10mm, and then soften them up when you have give your grandma a lift to church…
So what else does the Megane 275 Trophy get?
The 275 tells Renault loves that there’s an additional 10PS (9.9bhp) here, which means the RS’s shove has swelled from 250 (247bhp) to 275 (271bhp) in the last 24 months, but it still has the same 0-62mph time as the 265 we drove earlier this year, which is 6.0sec flat. The extra shove is down to ECU tuning and the titanium exhaust from Slovenian maker, Akropovic, which has given it a more menacing backing track and lopped 18kg from the Megane’s mass.
Making the most of the extra punch are the standard Michelin Cup 2 tyres. Sure, they sticky boots may not last as long, but they offer masses of grip and help with straight-line traction. This really is a track-focused machine, as opposed to merely a marketing message.
So what lap time could the Megane 275 Trophy do?
We asked Thierry Landreau, the engineering director of Renaultsport that very question, and his answer is that Renault doesn’t have a lap time of the Trophy – only that Trophy R. ‘But, on the Nurburgring, every 10kg is worth around one second,’ he suggested. That puts this car in standard trim 10sec adrift of the 70kg-lighter R, for an 8:01 Ring time, which is better than the old 265 Trophy’s (then record) 2011 time by six seconds. That still makes it slower than the Seat Leon Cupra R’s 7:56, but that car didn’t have air-conditioning, and try asking your Seat dealer to supply you one like that…
What’s the new Megane 275 like to drive?
Brilliant. We already have a soft spot for this hard-core hatch, and this version adds another dose of strength to an already formidable package. As a driver’s hatch, it’s difficult to beat – perhaps the Golf R can topple it – but the strength of that 2.0-litre turbocharged engine is backed up by even stronger pull. There’s more high-end torque, too, thanks to those ECU changes, and those Michelin tyres give add another dimension. Attacking corners, the sublime steering gives you some much precision to place the car, and then you can lean on the front wheels as you push the nose hard. There’s little understeer – in Sport, where ESC still operates, it doesn’t intrude – and the rubber screeches as you push the nose on the throttle out of the bend using that brilliant front limited-slip diff.
So it’s well balanced?
Absolutely. Around the German track, its composure is superb: change of direction, when slamming in those progressive 340mm brakes, and the pull out of corners – there’s no energy wasted in catching a sloppy body or vague steering – this is a honed, direct and focused machine. The gearshift is direct, and the six-speed manual well geared for the track at least, while the weighting of the well –positioned pedals, the gear lever and steering are all in sync. It’s a hoot to drive.
The Megane 275 Trophy has kept up with the times – unlike some of its opposition such as the Alfa Romeo Gilulietta Quadrifoglio Verde we were so disappointed by last week. Renaultsport isn’t blind to the powerhouse-hatches coming out of Germany, such as the Golf R, Seat Leon Cupra R and the Mercedes A45 AMG, and has given the Megane a leg-up in the race. Just like the previous versions of this car we’ve drive, the RS isn’t the first choice for a glamorous cabin, nor is it the most comfortable around town. Yet Renault has carved this car its own hard-edged niche and delivered a package – complete with a manual gearbox ¬– that gets under your skin as a driver like few modern cars can.