9

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.

Nic Cackett

Nic Cackett

Road tester
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.

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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.

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