Can an even sharper focus enhance an already great hot hatch, or has the Megane RS been eclipsed by even hotter rivals?

Find Used Renault Megane RS 275 Trophy-R 2014-2016 review deals
Offers from our trusted partners on this car and its predecessors...
Used car deals
Sell your car
In partnership with
Powered by

Until very recently, introducing a Dieppe-fettled Renault was like announcing a Beatles album in the late 1960s: you just knew that whatever they’d done, it was almost certainly going to be brilliant.

Consequently, the last Renaultsport model that we tested, the Clio 200 Turbo, was a jolt; unwanted proof that the firm’s genius-grade engineers could knock out tepid acceptability if they were made to work with one hand tied behind their back.

The hardcore Renault Mégane R.26R is the Trophy-R's immediate forebear

This time round, there is no excuse. Limited to a run of just 30 examples in the UK, the Trophy-R is an example of what Renault is prepared to do to a hot hatchback in order to eke out extra performance. Much has been removed in that engineering pilgrimage, and most of what has been added is intended to hone an already razor-sharp chassis. 

We already know that the Trophy-R is the quickest front-wheel-drive production car ever to lap the Nürburgring. But has its new go-faster guise taken it beyond the already thoroughly brilliant 275 Trophy in the driver reward stakes? Strap yourself in for the answer.



Renaultsport badging

Renault’s hot hatch legacy, especially where special-edition cars are concerned, is probably unparalleled. Among a bevy of household names are the Clio Williams, the Clio V6, the Clio Trophy, the Mégane 230 R26 and, of course, the R26.R.

The last of these, launched in 2008, is clearly the direct antecedent of the Trophy-R and came in much the same stripped-out, limited-run format. Of the 450 made, just over half were destined for the UK.

Removing the rear wiper assembly has cut 80kg from the Renault's kerb weight

The quick Mégane is, by now, consequently a familiar machine. Like the 265 and the 275 Trophy, the R gets the same 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine, in the same 271bhp guise, as the 275 Trophy.

The extra power over the standard car is delivered by a revised ECU remap and is again tagged to the car’s Sport and Race modes. It also shares the Trophy’s upgraded Akrapovic titanium exhaust system and the Cup chassis pack, which adds stiffer springs, a larger-diameter anti-roll bar, a lower ride height and – most important – a GKN mechanical limited-slip differential.

The pack normally adds dampers, too, but for the R, these are swapped out for a set of adjustable Öhlins which feature hydraulic compression stops that Renault has dubbed Progressive Damping System. It’s all very well paying the premium for a car with mechanically adjustable dampers, but getting the best from them can be a fiddly and time-consuming process.

Fortunately, to help get the best out of the Öhlins’ built-in amplitude of 20 positional clicks at the front and 30 clicks to the rear (‘0’ being the firmest), Renault has supplied a guide based on the recommendations of Laurent Hurgon — the test driver responsible for the Mégane’s record-breaking time around the Nürburgring.

Out of the box, the Mégane comes on what the manufacturer describes as its standard road set-up, which, with the dampers set to ‘5’ at the nose and ‘10’ at the back, provides the impressive compromise that we describe above. To fine-tune this further, you’ll need to jack the car up and whip the wheels off, then it’s just a matter of twisting the lower portion of the damper to adjust.

Ground clearance may also be lowered by as much as 8mm at the front, although you’ll probably be needing to make full use of your top speed at somewhere like the Nürburgring to make it worth it. Otherwise, just a single click on each damper — to ‘4’ and ‘9’ — will provide you with what Hurgon considers to be the ideal ‘quick dry track’ setting, not to mention the one that saw him into the record books.

Moreover, in what Renault claims as a first for a production car, the model gets Allevard composite front springs. These alone save 4kg from the car’s kerb weight and it’s the weight-saving theme that – again – defines the quickest Mégane. Much has been jettisoned to deliver the 80kg decrease that the engineers were after. About 18kg of soundproofing has been shed, alongside 20kg of rear seating, whose place is taken by a strut brace and a very large, spare-tyre-accommodating boot.

The kit list has been trimmed even more aggressively than that of the R26.R, with the loss of air-con, stereo, multimedia system, rear wiper and automatic headlights. This saves 10kg and there’s reputedly a 5kg saving in the 19-inch Speedline Turini wheels, which come with high-end Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres.

As standard, the diet stops there. However, if you’re the kind of buyer who feels they might be looking to trouble the car’s lap record potential, you can spec the Nürburgring Record Pack, a £1995 optional extra that includes a lightweight lithium ion battery, driver’s six-point harness, upgraded brakes (with wider 350mm discs at the front) and – tellingly – four spare wheel covers. Our test car came so equipped.


Renault Megane RS275 Trophy-R dashboard

Tapping the rear side windows of the Mégane tells you something straight away – they’re conventional glass, not plastic. This car hasn’t quite been on the hardcore crash diet of the R26.R but, once you’re inside, you’ll think that everything else that could have been done has been.

The seats slide back and forth but are fixed-back buckets with six-point harnesses and, for day-to-day use, three-point inertia reels. The air-con and stereo have been deleted, although cruise control stays.

The pedals are perfectly placed but the steering column could do with a bit more telescopic range

But none of these things is quite as notable by its absence as the lack of rear chairs. Instead, there’s a luggage net and a lot of empty space, across which the (optional) driver’s six-point race harness stretches to its mounting points.

From that point vertically is a set of webbing, mounted beneath a bright red brace, to prevent whatever’s loaded in the boot from sliding forwards. That’s designed to be a set of wheels and tyres, although only three fit side by side in the boot itself, with the fourth having to be popped over the brace and behind the seats. Which is probably no great hardship if you’re serious about taking spare rubber to track days.

Neither, presumably, is the relative lack of soundproofing, again aimed at reducing weight. After all, this is a stripped-out car with a low-slung, no-compromise driving position to match. And in that context, Renault’s material choices – hard plastics in most places, soft suede-effect or Alcantara in others – is spot on.

As standard, you get nothing on the communications or entertainment front. Cruise control stays and it’s easy enough to dial out the ESP — completely.


271bhp Megane RS275 Trophy-R

All of the motorsport-grade chassis parts and Nürburgring honing in the world comes to little if your first track taste of the Trophy-R comes in streaming rain, as ours did. Despite waiting all day for a dry surface, it wasn’t to materialise – and in the wet, the car’s Cup tyres won’t take full throttle even at middling revs in anything less than third gear.

So dry launch timings will have to wait for another time. Experience suggests that it’ll be at least a full second quicker to 60mph than the wet time we posted. Not quite in sub-5.0sec Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG or BMW M135i league, perhaps, but anything below 5.7sec will make the Trophy-R the fastest front-driver we’ve tested.

Our Trophy-R dispatched the standing quarter in 14.9sec at 103.1mph

All we can say for now is that, even in the wet and cold, the Trophy-R is quicker than a Vauxhall Astra VXR in perfect, dry conditions.

Once its tyres find some purchase, the Renault roars and pops its way through its gears with a rapacious appetite – not only because of its extra power but also because it has a shorter final drive than the last Mégane RS we figured (a 250 Cup).

The old-fashioned multi-point fuel injection combines with pleasingly smart, linear turbo response to make for an accelerator that you can modulate precisely when you need to.

Aside from a sudden lump of torque delivered at 2000rpm – somewhere you just won’t find yourself when you’re stretching this car’s legs – the power curve feels smooth and even. The shift quality of the six-speed manual gearbox is respectable too, although a more substantial feel would suit the car better.

On the road, you wouldn’t criticise the Trophy-R for being noisy or uncivil, although it’s both. Bereft of sound-deadening, the cabin is filled with as much road and tyre noise as it is engine roar at cruising speeds – and, trust us, 74dB is a noisy 70mph cruise.

But it’s all part of the car’s uncompromising, compelling, madcap character, which can’t be escaped or ignored even on the most mundane of motorway commutes.


Megane RS275 Trophy-R hard cornering

The best news to report here isn’t to do with other-worldly lateral grip or physics-defying body control. It’s that, despite its obvious superpowers, the Trophy-R remains a fast Mégane with all of the outstanding facets that we’ve come to revere, given increasingly flavourless rivals.

It hasn’t been warped into a pastiche with a few aspects of its dynamic talent amplified out of all proportion, so much as transported onto a higher level of speed and excitement whole and unaltered.

The Renault's suspension set-up makes you work hard on a bumpy B-road

Which isn’t meant to suggest that the Trophy-R rides like a normal Mégane RS, or is equally easy to guide down a bumpy B-road. You earn your corn in this car. Although the ride isn’t heinously crashy, the suspension is firm and the tyre sidewalls are unsympathetically hard and thin. The wheels skip between short, sharp lumps and bumps when the road surface suddenly turns cruel.

In the meantime, every one of those bumps is felt through the bristling, weighty, scalpel-precise steering and will frequently knock the car slightly off course. Plenty of rival hot hatchbacks make better fast road cars than this, it’s true. But none is more involving or more devoted to providing tactile vivid thrills when the opportunity presents.

And when it does – on a dry track day with plenty of more powerful machinery to pursue – the Trophy-R’s hardcore temperament serves up an absolute riot of a driving experience. Huge grip levels, feelsome and well balanced controls and benign but still absorbing front-drive handling manners inspire tons of confidence and allow you to carry heroic cornering speeds.

The car is typically balanced, directionally responsive and adjustable as you begin to approach the edge of its hold on the asphalt and permits more slip angle than anything front-drive has a right to. It’s stable, too, but to put it simply, you probably won’t go faster or have more fun on a circuit in anything save the very finest sports cars and supercars.

In the wet, on the wrong road, in a train of traffic and elsewhere, you’ll pay for that devotion. But, if you’re like us, you’ll very seldom regret it. The crowning achievement of the Trophy-R is how purposeful, rewarding and three-dimensional its handling is on a dry circuit. No driver would ever get out of it and say “it’s a shame that it’s front drive” because the car gives you every option not just to pick your line but also to tweak your cornering attitude.

It takes a while to get used to the sheer tenacity of the car’s adhesion to the asphalt, which is as high as any track special from Lotus or Porsche. In the dry, that is. In the wet, those Cup tyres do struggle for grip, although the fundamental chassis balance and controllability of the car are preserved.

Braking stability is excellent either way, and stopping power is huge in the dry, so you’ll only ever be braking into an apex by choice. You might choose to, though, because there’s wonderful cornering balance in the handling mix that allows you to point the car’s nose at the exit of a corner early, and simply open up the taps to straighten it out. Front-drivers rarely have such poise when driven so hard.


Renault Megane RS275 Trophy-R

Renault had trouble shifting all of its UK allocation of the R26.R Méganes, to the extent that they were fairly heavily discounted towards the end, and their values are up to and around £20,000 now. But Renault made more than 200 right-hand-drive R26.Rs: this time there are just 30.

Don’t be surprised if the Trophy-R holds its value better even than our residual experts suggest. For other costs, it should be broadly in line with the standard Trophy, such as the 26.2mpg on average and broaching 30mpg when cruising – in the unlikely event you do much of that.

Low volume is likely to keep values high for the Trophy-R, even compared with more usable, upmarket options

We'd re-spec the air-con and stereo though. Unless you're a diehard fan that wants the best then it's probably worth steering clear of the optional Nürburgring pack as well. It may add bigger front discs but the six-point harness is a pain in the neck most of the time and the lighter battery makes a negligible difference.


4.5 star Renault Megane RS275 Trophy-R

The Renault Mégane RS 275 Trophy-R is a car of giant-killing purpose and genuine excitement.

It’s a tribute to the skill of Renaultsport’s engineers that it can turn an £18k family hatchback into something with the grip, body control, stopping power and thrills comparable to those of a Lotus Exige S or Porsche 911 GT3 RS circuit special.

If you prefer your front axles powered and your track cars usable, this is the only choice

The Trophy-R may not be in the same league as those big hitters on outright speed, but the fact that it’s endowed with more poise, more control, sharper responses and a stronger hold on dry asphalt than it needs somehow makes it more appealing.

The perfect hot hatchback should be more usable, habitable and affordable than this, which is why the Trophy-R doesn’t get the final half star. But the market is doing all right for practical,
well mannered, well priced options.

What it didn’t have was a truly unhinged, razor-edged, track-ready entrant focused enough to make a Mini GP feel like a 1.0-litre Mayfair. Until now.

Matt Prior

Matt Prior
Title: Editor-at-large

Matt is Autocar’s lead features writer and presenter, is the main face of Autocar’s YouTube channel, presents the My Week In Cars podcast and has written his weekly column, Tester’s Notes, since 2013.

Matt is an automotive engineer who has been writing and talking about cars since 1997. He joined Autocar in 2005 as deputy road test editor, prior to which he was road test editor and world rally editor for Channel 4’s automotive website, 4Car. 

Into all things engineering and automotive from any era, Matt is as comfortable regularly contributing to sibling titles Move Electric and Classic & Sports Car as he is writing for Autocar. He has a racing licence, and some malfunctioning classic cars and motorbikes. 

Renault Mégane RS 275 Trophy-R 2014-2016 First drives