An encounter with the Trophy-R in Belgium back in July revealed it to be a thrilling, highly engaging proposition on track. At the time, Matt Prior even wrote that it felt like a less-accelerative, front-driven Porsche 911 GT3 RS in terms of its grip, feel and levels of communication - and he’s not one to mince his words.
Now we’re back on British asphalt, and - surprise surprise - on the residential streets near our London road test base, the Trophy-R feels just as bone-shakingly hardcore as its Cup chassis rangemates. In fact, the volume with which the bangs and the jolts erupt inside as you trundle over ruts and bumps is amplified by the fact that the car has been largely stripped of any insulation. So, it’s not particularly refined at low speed, then.
But that’s fine, because as soon as you pick up the pace and point it down a twisty stretch of road, it all starts to come together nicely. The vice-like sense of tautness that defines the regular Trophy’s primary ride is still overridingly present in the Trophy-R, but the tweaks made to its suspension seem to allow it a bit more scope to breathe with any undulating topography that might pass - at high speed - beneath those £12,000 wheels.
It’s a marginal improvement at best, and you’d probably need to drive one back-to-back with a standard Trophy to gauge just how significant it is. But, rather interestingly, whereas it can be difficult to look past the unforgiving ride quality of the regular car, in the Trophy-R you just sort of ignore it; the rest of the package comes together so coherently that you don’t find yourself getting irritated with all the small things that prove frustrating in the lower-order car.
Things like the transmission. Renault says there have been no modifications to the six-speed manual gearbox, but the shift quality feels marginally lighter and less notchy than the often brutish action in the standard Trophy. The super-sticky Bridgestone Potenza S007 tyres (which are, admittedly, an option on the regular Trophy) also telegraph more information through to the rim of the now fully Alcantara-upholstered steering wheel and reduce the car’s appetite for tugging at the wheel when you accelerate hard.
And you will want to accelerate hard, because the accompanying soundtrack is pretty special: serrated and angry with static-like undertones that confirm the addition of that Akrapovič exhaust was a very good idea. It’s quick, too, but not to the point that you feel dissuaded from deploying all of its performance on the road.