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The hottest Megane is still an incredibly hardcore hot hatch, but it's a more coherent, likeable product than its siblings

Our Verdict

Renault Megane RS 280 2018 road test review hero front

Mégane RS has a chassis of remarkable deftness and balance that gives the hot hatch unmistakable class-leading potential

Simon Davis
12 September 2019
Renault Megane RS Trophy-R 2019 UK

What is it?

£72,140 Renault Mégane. As in seventy-two thousand, one-hundred-and-forty pounds sterling. If you were looking for a measure as to just how mad the world is becoming, this is probably a pretty good one.

Of course, this isn’t just any old Mégane. It’s the Mégane RS Trophy-R, the third installment in a series of seriously hardcore Renaults that stretches back to the magnificent R26.R from 2008, and the one you see here has been done up to the same specification as the car that Renault used to set its record-beating Nürburgring Nordschleife lap time (7min 40.1sec, to be precise).

So, you get carbonfibre brakes and a set of carbonfibre wheels à la Ferrari 488 Pista - options that cost a fairly staggering £9000 and £12,000 each. Or the price of a new Ford Fiesta ST-2, to put it another way.

Without those rather, well, expensive optional extras, the standard Trophy-R - if you can really call it that - still costs £51,140. That’s £19,305 more than the standard RS 300 Trophy it's based upon. Rest assured, though, that that hefty premium nets you more than a coat of Alpine White paint, a bonnet scoop and some snazzy Trophy-R decals.

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In fact, so extensive are the modifications that you could probably dedicate an entire article to the differences between the Trophy and the Trophy-R. But here’s a quick run down anyway. A stringent weight-saving regime has resulted in the the Trophy-R being some 130kg lighter than the Trophy, courtesy of things such as a carbon composite bonnet (-8kg), the removal of the rear bench (-25.3kg) and the ditching of the polarising four-wheel steering system (-32kg).

Then there’s the adjustable dual-flow-valve Öhlins dampers, the lightweight springs, the increase in front camber and the modifications made to the rear suspension, which include a lighter torsion beam. There’s a new front splitter and a massive diffuser at the rear for even greater levels of downforce, while the underbody has been modified to achieve similar results as well. 

There’s also a titanium Akrapovič exhaust, which not only sheds an additional 7kg of weight but also makes the already waspish, aggressive timbre of the turbocharged 1.8-litre four-pot sound even naughtier. On that note, the engine actually remains unchanged from the one you’d find in the standard Trophy, developing 296bhp and 295lb ft.

What's it like?

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.

Then there’s the steering. In addition to its impressive tactility, it’s superbly weighted, occupying that Goldilocks zone between being too heavy and too light - regardless of the driving mode you’ve selected - to great effect. But the biggest improvement is the effect that the removal of the rear-wheel steering has had on the car's handling manners. 

This is still a supremely agile hot hatch, but it’s now one that's far more predictable and consistent in its response to your inputs, so you feel like you can lean on its immensely grippy front end to a greater extent. You’re more inclined to adjust your throttle inputs mid-corner to either trim your line or coax out moments of lift-off oversteer. It may not feel as stable at high-speed, but the additional confidence it inspires when you’re simply mucking about on a twisty stretch of road is a welcome trade-off.

Should I buy one?

If you’re even pondering purchasing a Mégane RS Trophy-R Nürburgring Record Pack, the fact that it costs £72,140 likely won’t be too much of an issue in the decision-making process. Neither will the fact that it has no back seats, nor that you probably wouldn’t want to drive it over long distances. If you’ve got money to spend on a hardcore, stripped-out, front-wheel-drive track car for the road, you could do a lot worse than this Renault.

More of a problem will be the fact that only 32 examples of the 500-unit production run will make their way to the UK. And of those 32, only two will be fitted with those optional Brembo Gold Carbon Ceramic brakes - one of which is already on the Renault UK press fleet. Then again, you might know a guy…

Anyway, based on our short acquaintance with the Trophy-R here in the UK, it’s the pick of the Mégane RS range. A full Autocar road test is imminent, too, so watch this space.

Renault Mégane RS Trophy-R Nürburgring Record Pack specification

Where Surrey, UK Price £72,140 Engine 4 cyls in line, 1798cc, turbocharged, petrol Power 296bhp at 6000rpm Torque 295 ft at 3200rpm Gearbox 6-spd manual Kerb weight 1381kg Top speed 163mph 0-62mph 5.4sec Fuel economy 35.8mpg (WLTP) CO2 180g/km (WLTP) Rivals Honda Civic Type R, Hyundai i30 N Performance

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Comments
5

12 September 2019

its like Autocar and Evo had two absolutely different cars. This has been going on for decades now. Evo drives the cars harder and on more challenging roads getting more interesting and testing results, while Autocar drives cars more at 7/10’s and invariably the cars tested 99% of the time come out reviewed very well. These predictable results are not fitting for performance car testing. Some things never change. J

13 September 2019
jl4069 wrote:

its like Autocar and Evo had two absolutely different cars. This has been going on for decades now. Evo drives the cars harder and on more challenging roads getting more interesting and testing results, while Autocar drives cars more at 7/10’s and invariably the cars tested 99% of the time come out reviewed very well. These predictable results are not fitting for performance car testing. Some things never change. J

 

Evo agreed with Autocar,  when driven fast it was better,  and both agreed the ride was firm.   Evo used to have some very good drivers but I am not sure how fast Adam Towler is.

13 September 2019
Cenuijmu wrote:

jl4069 wrote:

its like Autocar and Evo had two absolutely different cars. This has been going on for decades now. Evo drives the cars harder and on more challenging roads getting more interesting and testing results, while Autocar drives cars more at 7/10’s and invariably the cars tested 99% of the time come out reviewed very well. These predictable results are not fitting for performance car testing. Some things never change. J

 

Evo agreed with Autocar,  when driven fast it was better,  and both agreed the ride was firm.   Evo used to have some very good drivers but I am not sure how fast Adam Towler is.

It could be argued that on todays roads that over 90% of the time you can't drive it that hard, so seeing how it copes in more representative driving is perhaps rather a good thing.

BUT £72 grand!!!! WTF

13 September 2019
Mikey 67 wrote:

Cenuijmu wrote:

jl4069 wrote:

its like Autocar and Evo had two absolutely different cars. This has been going on for decades now. Evo drives the cars harder and on more challenging roads getting more interesting and testing results, while Autocar drives cars more at 7/10’s and invariably the cars tested 99% of the time come out reviewed very well. These predictable results are not fitting for performance car testing. Some things never change. J

 

Evo agreed with Autocar,  when driven fast it was better,  and both agreed the ride was firm.   Evo used to have some very good drivers but I am not sure how fast Adam Towler is.

It could be argued that on todays roads that over 90% of the time you can't drive it that hard, so seeing how it copes in more representative driving is perhaps rather a good thing.

BUT £72 grand!!!! WTF

 

Fair point.

I actually think the £72 grand version would keep it's value quite well as only 2 in the UK out of 30. So it would be very very rare as RHD.

The ironic thing is that if you got that version and used it the first thing you would do is remove the carbon wheels so you did not kerb them.

As an aside this article has so many hyphens in it I wonder if it is a joke on the - R  moniker?

so many words linked up with them, a record.

13 September 2019
jl4069 wrote:

its like Autocar and Evo had two absolutely different cars. This has been going on for decades now. Evo drives the cars harder and on more challenging roads getting more interesting and testing results, while Autocar drives cars more at 7/10’s and invariably the cars tested 99% of the time come out reviewed very well. These predictable results are not fitting for performance car testing. Some things never change. J

 

Don't read the articles then handjob.

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