The Trophy-R is a car that, by design, was unlikely to justify its price tag on straight-line pace alone. The car’s outright accelerative potency is enough to compare healthily with the very quickest front-drivers on the market, but it stops some way short of blowing them into the weeds in the way you might expect for the money. Meanwhile, one or two qualitative issues ensure that, though you may be a long way from disappointed by it, you’ll be no more blown away by the way this engine goes about its business than by what it actually does.
On a dry day at the track, our test car’s fastest 0-60mph standing start dipped just below 5.5sec, with a final two-way average of 5.6sec. That’s a tenth quicker than the current, all-conquering Honda Civic Type R managed in 2017, and quicker still than the Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport S the year before that. But it’s hardly seminal, landmark stuff.
The engine’s static rev limiter restricts how much torque can be put through the clutch from rest, while Renault’s electronic launch control worked only very sporadically on our test car – and didn’t yield spectacular results when it did. On warmed tyres, with one occupant less in the car and assuming it could be persuaded to give the driver complete dominion over throttle and clutch control, though, this does feel like a car that could go pretty close to breaching the five-second front-driven barrier.
But look into the numbers more closely and you’ll see signs that the 1.8-litre turbo four-pot may be a little unworthy of the Trophy-R. On 30-70mph through-the-gears performance, the car’s no longer the better of the aforementioned Honda. On the 0-100mph dash, it’s marginally slower than both the Civic and the Golf. It also remains slower than both by the time 130mph comes up, suggesting Renault’s aerodynamic overhaul wasn’t quite as clever as it might have been.
While you’re driving, meanwhile, it’s the sense of overlooked attention to the tactile and transient details of this powertrain’s performance that you’re more likely to notice: the passable if slightly obdurate elastic shift quality – and the power delivery characteristics of an engine that seems a touch unresponsive after big throttle applications, a little boosty and non-linear though the mid range and a little breathless at revs.
Taking so much weight out of this car can only have made it quicker, while that titanium exhaust has also made it angrier and more menacing to listen to. Even so, our conclusion must be that an engine which is clearly strong enough but still fails to count as a selling point in any current Mégane RS has waded out right to the limit of credibility in this one.