It might have all the familiar design cues you would expect from a top-of-the-line hot hatch, but what you’re looking at here is the most extreme production series front-wheel-drive hatch in the business.
Its official nameplate is the Megane Renault Sport 275 Trophy-R and there will only ever be 250 of them on the planet, with just 50 of those available in Australia.
Its "ultimate" status in the Renault Megane hierarchy is duly reflected in the car’s significant price premium over its already hardcore RS siblings. With drive away pricing from $67,490, the Trophy-R commands a significant hike over the next-in-line $57,275 Cup Premium and more than a $20,000 jump from the entry-level RS 265 Cup version.
It’s said that you get what you pay for with cars, and in this case you certainly get plenty of the right stuff. It’s the fastest, and most track-focused production car Renault’s performance division has ever created.
It currently holds the title of the fastest front-wheel drive series production car in the world, having lapped the infamous Nürburgring's Nordschleife in 7:54.36. To give that some perspective, that’s faster than a Ferrari F430, which ran a 7:55 in 2005, and just .36sec off a Porsche GT3 in 2003, which ran 7:54.00.
Clearly, this thing lifts the hot-hatch segment to a whole new level.
It’ll do 0-100km/h in 5.8 seconds, though all-wheel drive rivals such as the Volkswagen Golf R, and upcoming 2016 Ford Focus RS claim to be quicker – at least in a straight line. But show the Renault a few corners, or a tight, twisty circuit and it’s capable of outperforming some of the very best sports cars money can buy.
It does so with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine under the bonnet, developing a maximum 201kW at 5500rpm and 360Nm at 3000rpm. Top speed is a claimed 255km/h.
The Trophy-R isn’t the kind of car for those seeking sleeper status in their daily drive. It’s not just the pearl white body, black roof or even the fire-engine red racing style wheels and sticker pack that give it away as something other drivers should either respect or fear. It’s more the fact that the madmen at Renault Sport have stripped the poor thing bare in the interest of shedding weight. Lots of weight. Like, 100 kilos less than the already hardcore 275 Trophy version.
Those lightweight 19-inch Speedline alloy wheels alone save around 16 kilos, and they’re also shod with some of the best road rubber that money can buy; super sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2s for maximum corner carving ability.
Inside, there’s a pair of Recaro racing seats with harnesses, and not much else. But those pews save a whopping 47 kilos, meaning the Trophy-R tips the scales at just 1284kg.
There’s no radio (that saves 1kg), and no Bluetooth, either. No sat-nav, and no air conditioning (another 6.6kg saved). There are no rear seats, as they’ve been ditched to make room for the heavy bracing, as well as four full-sized wheels. For most buyers, that alone would be a deal breaker, but for the bona fide enthusiast or track day junkie, this is the holy grail of affordable supercar slayers.
While the Megane Renault Sport 275 Trophy-R might be devoid of all modern day creature comforts, when it comes to getting the job done on the racetrack, all the good stuff is there.
The racing-style seats are upholstered in stitched leather with Alcantara inserts for maximum comfort and support, even when you’re peddling at ten tenths. For maximum body-hugging torso traction, you’ll want to strap into the real-deal Sabelt six-point harness.
This is a car that has been engineered to break lap times at the Nürburgring, so big speeds can be carried through the bends. It doesn’t take long to get used to it either, such is the level of work and commitment that has gone into honing the Renault Sport Cup chassis.
Standard kit like the limited slip diff and "PerfoHub" double-axis front suspension keeps the front end sharp and wonderfully precise, as well as minimising torque steer. Unfortunately, if you bury the right pedal with a decent dose of right or left lock, you’ll still cop some wheel tug.
It also has fully adjustable Ohlins dampers and composite front springs that are truly at one with this exceptional chassis. There’s a staggering amount of grip on turn in and the car feels very tied down. Body control is astonishing, and the sticky Michelins are phenomenal in their ability to hold the car’s line under huge load.
Ride wise, it’s definitely firm, but there’s a level of compliance built into the suspension that’s able to absorb speed bumps and larger potholes for general duties away from the track – if you must.
There’s little or no understeer, even when pushing through the high speed corners, so driver confidence builds quickly. The accuracy and feedback from the steering is a tad light for me, but you can still feel every single pebble on the tarmac. It all filters back through the Alcantara steering wheel, which is not too thick, and not too thin – just right.
The pedal box is beautifully sorted, making heel and toe downshifting mere child’s play. The same goes for the proper six-speed manual. It’s mechanical, but nice and precise with each short-throw shift.
The 2.0-litre engine is an exceptional piece of engineering by Renault Sport. It builds revs very quickly, particularly for a turbocharged unit, so take note of the audible upshift prompt or you’ll be pinging off the rev-limiter before you know it.
The car's 5.8-second sprint statistic doesn’t quite do it justice. Mid-range acceleration is mighty strong and even when the turbo is at max pressure, it actually feels more linear than boosty. The brakes are epic, too. There's big stopping power delivered on-call, but they don't quite grab like some of the German makes do.
Under full throttle, the RS Trophy-R makes a very distinctive noise. It's a combination of major induction roar and the aftermarket titanium exhaust by Akrapovic, which adds a carbon fibre tip for extra crackle and pop, even on full-tilt upshifts. Just make sure you tap the RS button to the right of the steering wheel for the full effect.
This hardcore Renault is probably the last car you want as a daily driver, but as a track-day fun car it’s another engineering masterpiece from Renault Sport that’s guaranteed to make you feel special, even with its sky-high price tag.
Click on the photos tab to see more images by Mitchell Oke.