Renault Megane RS Trophy: Driven


Didn't it used to take longer than this? The hot Renault Megane - or Clio - would arrive, and then some considerable time later a slightly hotter one would turn up, and then a hotter one again, culminating eventually in something with two seats, plastic windows and a new German lap record, just before it went out of production.

And yet only a few months after the Renault Megane RS 280's debut here we are, with a 300 Trophy version; and it would have arrived sooner still but for a glut of models sitting outside WLTP laboratories waiting for somebody to have time to approve them.

The Renault Megane RS Trophy, then, is a mechanically different car to the regular RS, with some options you can spec on the standard car, and some you can't. Those you can't include, most importantly, a 300hp power output, up 20hp over the regular 280hp RS, while torque is up too from 288lb ft. If you pick the dual-clutch gearbox the Trophy will give you 310lb ft, if you pick a manual you'll get 295lb ft because that's all it can take.


Power is liberated partly (mostly) by mapping, partly by a new exhaust system with active flap for quiet or loud modes, while there's also a ceramic bearing in the turbo, which allows it to spool more quickly, said to improve throttle response. Then there is a lightweight 19in wheel option and Bridgestone Potenza 007 tyres, and a new seat, Alcantara-trimmed, Recaro built, and sitting 20mm lower to the floor. All of those things, plus some discreet graphics on the outside, are unique to the Β£32,000-ish Trophy.

And then there are things that the Trophy gets as standard that the regular RS can have as options. Bi-material brakes, 19in rims rather than 18s, and most crucially, the Cup chassis, which has 25% stiffer dampers than a standard Megane RS, 30% stiffer springs and 10% stiffer anti-roll bars. It also gets a Torsen limited-slip differential, on both manual and dual-clutch gearbox (the dual-clutch hasn't been available with LSD until now).

Add those together and they come to around Β£3300 already, suggesting that the Trophy, with a Β£4k premium over the RS and likely easier to sell on afterwards could have - if you'll forgive me coming over all What Car? for a moment - lower whole life costs. So it's the kind of decent value proposition that we've come to expect from Renault, should you want a Megane RS.


Should you, though, have one at all? There was a time when a Megane RS was widely regarded as the keenest driver's car in the class. I've been at rival car manufacturers test tracks where they've had them on hand as a benchmark, and been told: "We keep a VW Golf GTI as the everyday benchmark, and the Megane RS because it's the best car to drive."

With this generation car, though, I haven't been quite so convinced. Available as a five-door only, it feels tall, hefty, reliant on its active rear-steer for some of the agility we used to take entirely for granted. I like it, but for me it has become 'probably one of the best' in its class rather than 'just get that one'.

And the Trophy is much the same, because, in short, it virtually is the same. PH tried a Trophy on both track and road. On the track it was fitted with the optional lightweight rims, saving 2kg a corner, and the Potenza 007s, designed to be at their best on a dry track. So a slight shame we started with a damp one, but it got there in the end.


The engine's sparky enough. It hasn't been given the full gamut of induction noise that it seems to have in an Alpine A110 (I suppose the inlet isn't quite so close to your head) but the exhaust note has been turned up quite significantly.

Throttle response is good but holes are always masked on a circuit anyway, because when you're on the gas you're mostly asking for all of it and from higher revs. Still, there's no obvious need to take the 1.8 turbo all the way to its soft 7000rpm+ limiter. The gearshift - we've only tried a manual - is a little notchy, less slick than a VW Golf's or a Honda Civic Type R's shift, no doubt. But the driving position is pretty good, and the new seats are fab, so heel and toeing is easy and the brakes are fine.

And the handling remains exceptionally lairy. Turn in off the power, or with a trailed brake, or give it a bung, and away it'll go. Really quickly. Renault has given the active-rear steer a two different settings. Flick the drive mode to 'race' and it'll oppose the front wheels at anything up to 62mph, to help agility and turn-in. In other drive modes, it only does it up to 37mph, and Renault thinks the racey setup is too aggressive for the road. I suspect it ain't wrong.


With this balance comes loads of steering feel, some torque steer - to a manageable amount that just reminds you there's a lot of torque, rather than to a really disruptive level - so the Megane Trophy is a curiously balanced car. Pretty entertaining, and really fast, and I think it gets better the harder you drive it.

But while, say, the previous three-door Megane felt like one of the most incisive front-drive cars ever made - not that far behind a Honda Integra Type R in its confidence and ability to work all four tyres at once - the latest Trophy feels more showy, and asks you to worry about one end or the other more: here's some understeer, now there's some oversteer. It's a bit artificial in a way that, say, the Hyundai i30 N or a Ford Fiesta ST are not. There's hardly a car with active rear steer that I wouldn't like to try without it.

Still, some cars barely move around at all, and are simply all about managing what the fronts are up to, in a pretty dull kind of way. So at least the Renault has that going for it. And on the road it's also pretty engaging. The exhaust's shoutiest mode can be a bit embarrassing and so light is the steering in its easygoing mode that I found myself doing the opposite thing to usual on the drive modes, and quietening the engine but giving myself as much steering weight as possible.


The ride's acceptable too. Body control is good, lean limited and yet although it's firm, it shrugs aside really poor surfaces and holes. Renault uses hydraulic bump stops, which it thinks saves it the bother of adaptive dampers by, effectively, increasing damper stiffness in bigger compressions. It works. And the rear-steer pitches in, a little more naturally, but it never quite feels as fluid as I'd hope.

What are the options? I really like the balance of a non-performance Hyundai i30N. A Golf GTI is safe but enjoyable. A Honda Civic Type R is very precise but leaves me a bit cold. I was a bit 'whelmed' by a Peugeot 308 GTI but colleagues I trust say it's great, so it's worth revisiting.

But it feels to me like this segment is still calling out for a car to come along and grab it like the Ford Fiesta ST did with supermini hatches. Maybe it'll be a Megane Trophy R. At Renault's current rate, there'll be one along soon.


SPECIFICATION - RENAULT MEGANE R.S. TROPHY
Engine:
1798cc, 4 cyls in line
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Power: 300hp at 6000rpm
Torque: 295lb ft at 2400pm
0-62mph: 5.7sec
Top speed: 162mph
Weight: 1494kg
MPG: 34.9mpg
CO2: 183g/km
Price Β£32,000 (approx)





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Comments (42) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Itsallicanafford 22 Nov 2018

    ...sounds a bit damned by faint praise in this write-up.

    We run a 2016 275-Cup S...its simply laugh-out-loud fun, it doesn't sound like that magic has worked its way into the latest car.


  • greenarrow 22 Nov 2018


    Oh dear. Not having driven one myself and only going on early reviews, it sadly sounds like Renault have dropped the ball a little with this one. Not Majorly dropped like with the current Clio RS maybe, but It sounds like they've gone for gimmicks rather than just making car that is a belter to drive.

    I expect values of the old Gen 250/265/275 Cup/Trophy to remain strong for a bit, which is a pity, as I've been waiting for them to drop into my "second fun car" budget!!

  • Mike1990 22 Nov 2018

    Doesn’t sound that much of a step up from the regular 280 with the Cup Pack.

    Certainly not the same with the previous Trophy/Cup-S, with its Speedlines, Ohlins and Akra ‘zaust, would have thought they’d have been on option at least on this one...

    Still i think it looks absolutely fantastic, more so in the trademark LY paint.


  • chris_at_mac 22 Nov 2018

    I defnitely keep my Trophy 275. The best fun/price ratio I ever had. I hope Renault does not lose their chassis magic and purity...

  • gofasterrosssco 22 Nov 2018

    chris_at_mac said:
    I defnitely keep my Trophy 275. The best fun/price ratio I ever had. I hope Renault does not lose their chassis magic and purity...
    Yep, my daily RS250 (should be RS330 now wink) is a quite a bargain in that respect. Standard cup chassis is just the right side of usable vs. performance for our roads.

    Plus, I know its now a 5-door, with additional 'stuff' like dual-clutch g'box, RWS etc. but they've added over 100kg in weight over the old 3-door Megane coupe (1,380kg vs. 1,490kg) which cannot help with respect to chassis dynamics.

    One of the advantages on the side of recent powerful FWD hot hatchbacks vs. the recent spate of 'super' hatches (e.g. S3, Golf R, M135i, Focus RS etc.) was that they weighed a decent 100-150kg less, which filtered through along with improved front suspension design and torque management (either electrically or a mechanical LSD) to offer generally superior chassis dynamics and feel, which made up for some of the deficit in driven wheels.

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