9 / 10
For dynamics, the current-generation Renault Megane RS has been the benchmark hot-hatch since launching in 2010. Tempted by more power, unique add-ons and the promise of even better dynamics, CarAdvice headed to Tasmania for the first local taste of the latest iteration of the frisky French icon, the limited edition Renault Megane RS275 Trophy.
Wow! From the very first corner, the very first prod of the throttle, dab of the brakes and roll of the wrists, the Renault Megane RS275 Trophy means business. It is so sharp and so responsive that it somehow – and I’m still trying to fully work this out – makes the RS265 (a car that in 8:08 trim broke records at the Nurburgring) feel somewhat tame and less involving.
Priced from $52,990, the Megane RS275 Trophy commands at least a $5000 premium over the newly facelifted RS265. And until the hardcore two-seat-only Nurburgring-record-holding RS275 Trophy-R (expected to be circa-$65k) arrives in late December, it will sit atop the Megane RS range.
Limited to 100 cars locally and around 1000 globally, Renault Australia says 25 Trophys have already been snapped up.
Exclusively available in Liquid Yellow or Pearl White, those with a keen eye will spot the limited edition Trophy’s larger 19-inch gloss black Speedline Turini wheels and centrally-mounted carbonfibre exhaust outlet – the tail end of a lightweight titanium system from Akrapovic that saves 4kg.
More obvious are ‘Trophy’ stripes and decals and a ‘Trophy’-stamped F1-style front splitter, all finished in Platinum Grey.
Inside there’s a delicious mix of Alcantara and leather Recaro sports seats, flashes of red belts, stitching and trim, a ‘Renault Sport’-topped Zamac alloy gear shifter and an Alcantara-covered steering wheel, handbrake and gear lever boot. The real fun, however, comes via what is underneath.
Refined springs, dampers and bushes ensure the Renault Megane RS275 Trophy remains firm but controlled and highly agile, while a 6kW power boost to 201kW guarantees additional grins.
Up from the RS265’s 195kW, torque from the Megane’s turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine remains at 360Nm. Its 7.5L/100km claimed fuel consumption figure is also unchanged for the Trophy.
Already driven in anger around ‘The Green Hell’ back in June, the local launch takes us over 550km of twisting and undulating blacktop from Launceston to Freycinet to St Helens and Bridport. And put bluntly, the experience is divine.
Based on the RS265’s Cup chassis, the RS275 Trophy is equipped with a limited-slip front differential, lower profile Bridgestone Potenza tyres and the carmaker’s Perfohub steering layout – which separates the steering hub from the strut in a bid to reduce torque steer. And on the road, the 1376kg Trophy willingly exploits each and every element to its fullest potential. (Note: Despite being a Renault partner, Michelin tyres are a cost option on the RS275 Trophy in overseas markets but are not fitted to Australia specification cars due to pricing targets.)
Turn-in is hyper responsive and immediate, steering is equally dead precise, grip is exceptional and, apart from some minor steering wheel squirm when throttling hard out of low-speed corners, torque-steer is skilfully addressed and managed.
Featuring red-painted four-piston Brembo calipers with 340mm ventilated discs up front, the brakes are not only solid through the pedal and confidence inspiring in their retardation, but remain bitey long before repeated hard stops begin to dull their initial character.
All but eliminating body roll entirely, the Trophy’s stiff suspension trades overall comfort for a flat stance and consistent geometry. Impressively, it also remains compliant enough to never get too knocked around over poorer quality roads.
Even a brief run over gravel shows the RS275’s ability to reasonably balance ride comfort with performance, handling the loose and rutted surface with enough poise and nonchalance that increased speeds and some pace notes wouldn’t seem too far out of place.
Thanks to the Slovenian wizards at Akrapovic, the engine’s trademark gruff note continues but with greater aural awareness and ‘never gets old’ pops from the rear end – heard better inside the cabin with the windows up and often a friendly reminder to shift up if you’ve missed (read: ignored) the Renault’s calmly delivered shift ‘beep’.
The engine itself remains a strong and punchy unit that delivers plenty of low-end grunt from around 2500rpm but enjoys the long stretch out to its redline – pushed to 6800rpm for the first two gears on the Trophy.
Resoundingly hassled by all and sundry – and spending much of the time with its RS Drive button preselected to ‘Sport’ – on-test, the Renault also manages 12.2L/100km.
When you do decide to swap cogs, the notchy and accurate six-speed manual transmission is a pleasure to use. Becoming an ever-more rare treat in the current performance and sports car climate, the thrill of taking one hand off the wheel, reaching down to a shifter and physically sliding it into a chosen gear should never be underestimated or taken for granted… particularly with a gearbox this good.
Travel from the springy clutch pedal does come up a little high but when linking up a sequence of tighter second-, third- and fourth-gear corners, it, like the two pedals next to it, seamlessly fulfils its role in executing fast and entertaining heel-and-toe shifts.
Keeping you where you need to be during such manoeuvres, the manually adjustable Recaro seats are hugely comfortable, supportive and achingly cool. Heavily bucketed and winged, they also mean your hands remain lovingly wrapped around the firm Alcantara steering wheel when pushing on – though they can make reaching back for seat belts a challenge.
Doing their best to boost the Renault’s ageing cabin are Trophy-specific sill plates and floor mats, a soft-touch dashboard with carbonfibre trim insert, and a semi-integrated seven-inch touchscreen – the latter with satellite navigation, reversing camera display and Renault’s RS Monitor 2.0.
Flat black air vent and transmission tunnel trim replaces gloss black items seen in the RS265, while grippy door pulls and secret under floor cubby holes for driver and front passenger are nice inclusions.
Sadly though, while fettling little with much of the Renault’s core exterior and dynamic attributes has been a recipe for success, the same approach to the interior leaves the audio system and climate control unit feeling dated and clunky.
Rear seat practicality too is mixed, with reasonable head and legroom struggling to outweigh bugger all foot/toe room and ingress/egress difficulties – the latter still an issue for less flexible folk, despite the Recaro seats’ ability to tilt and slide forward.
But if you want practicality in your front-drive hatchback, save yourself $11,000 and buy a five-door-only Volkswagen Golf GTI. The Renault Megane RS275 Trophy is all about the drive and it nails it.
Pleasingly however, there is also a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty with five years roadside assist and three years capped-price servicing (at $299 per year or every 10,000km).
It may very well claim the same 0-100km/h and top speed of the RS265 – 6.0 seconds and 255km/h respectively – but the limited edition Trophy feels more special inside and out. And on the road, the RS275 really is simply better and better again. Taking things to another level, the Renault Megane RS275 Trophy proves once more that French hot-hatch really is the front-wheel-drive king of kings.
Images by Peter Watkins and David Zalstein.