What is it?
A brand new hot Renault Mégane, which slots in-between the current 265 and the Trophy-R, which Renault has used to smash the current Nürburgring lap record for front-wheel-drive production cars.
It's the latest in a long line of Mégane special editions which have included the likes of the Red Bull Racing RB7 and RB8 in the past. Unlike the Trophy-R, production of this hot Mégane won't be limited, and Renault expects to sell around 100 models in the UK.
From the regular 265 comes the five-seat interior, albeit with a few highlights (contrast stitching, Alcantara wheel and a numbered sill plate, as well as some exterior highlights), and the essential Cup chassis with that essential mechanical limited-slip differential.
Meanwhile, from the special Trophy-R comes the 10bhp power upgrade, a lightweight Akrapovic exhaust, as well as the option of 19-inch Michelin tyres from the R in place of the standard 18-inch Bridgestones.
Also optional are Ohlins adjustable dampers from the R (at £2000 over the Trophy’s £28,930 base price), adjustable by 20 steps at the front and 30 at the rear if you’re prepared to get underneath and twiddle. Renaultsport will suggest damper settings on its website for different circumstances, including the ones it used on the Trophy-R’s record run on the Nordschleife. That’s where we drove the Trophy.
What's it like?
Two laps of a circuit doesn’t usually tell you much but, this is the Nürburgring, so it’s a lot like a 20-minute thrash on a B-road. A smooth, very fast and seriously inclined B-road.
Around it, this car is seriously good. The changes taking the motor to 271bhp are all electronic, and that there’s more torque through more of the rev range means, Renault says, there’s less need to downshift. Not sure I noticed much, but that sounds fair – it’s broad, responsive, and the exhaust makes a belting pop on lift-off too. The pedals make heel-and-toeing a little tricky, so it’s just as well.
The Trophy’s steering and handling are also tremendous. There’s so much road feel you’d swear the steering was hydraulically not electrically assisted, while grip abounds and the Trophy has the kind of adjustability and communicativeness that are Renaultsport trademarks. There are previous Mitsubishi Evolution or Ford Focus RS levels of tenaciousness at work here.
I can’t tell you about outright ride quality and therefore the relative effectiveness of the Ohlins dampers, because I haven’t driven the Trophy on the road, but running over the odd kerb edge it was free from harshness, while body movements are so deftly controlled that you’d swear the car was made for this track. Which, in a way, I suppose, it was.
Should I buy one?
Even though it’s possible the deftness and ability the Trophy shows on the track might not translate to lumpy back roads, my bet is that it will. On this showing, it is the greatest version of today’s greatest hot hatchback.