Let me start this article by making things clear. The Renault Megane RS Trophy-R is NOT your average Renault Megane. On the technical side alone, there are way too much things that differ, even from the standard Megane RS Trophy. It’s basically a stripped out, lighter, more hardcore and more focused Megane. Ferrari has its own special versions such as the 488 Pista. Lamborghini has its Superleggera or Superveloce, and Renault has had a number of limited editions hardcore Megane in the past. The R26-R Megane II and the RS Trophy-R Megane III set the benchmark for hatchbacks around the mighty Nürburgring Nordschleife. This generation is no exception. We had the opportunity to test drive it during two weeks and divided it in three. This test drive, a comparison with the latest Audi S3 (article soon) and a road trip around “La Route des Grandes Alpes” (article soon). Text: Mickael B. © Pictures: Florent P., Thomas Z. ©

Special thanks to Renault and Renault Suisse for the loan of this car. To check out our other test drives, click the link here.

Renault Megane RS Trophy R
Renault Megane RS Trophy R

Can a Renault Megane RS Trophy-R really be basic?

It’s Friday noon and I’m getting the press Renault Megane RS Trophy-R from my local dealer. Quick look at the car and I already notice that it’s a basic Trophy-R. Basic Trophy-R? Can a Trophy-R really be basic? There’s only 500 of them, and it’s not one of the 32 with the infamous Nürburgring pack. This pack includes carbon ceramic brakes and carbon fiber rims, as well as a 4-point harness. It’s as well one of the only optional extras you can get with this car, but it’s a hefty one. It costs over 30’000 CHF (30’000 US $ or 25’000 €). Base price? 63’700 CHF (64’000 $ or 55’000 €). 60 grand for a Renault. Gulp. 60 grand for a Megane. Gulp. A normal Megane RS Trophy is 20K cheaper. Those 20 grands better be more than just a number on the door sill. Ours is proudly wearing number 69.

Renault Megane RS Trophy R

It’s difficult not to notice a Renault Megane RS Trophy-R

It’s difficult not to notice a Trophy-R, yet only three people (and some cows) recognized this car during our two weeks test. There’s all the red elements: red rims, big red flags on the doors, and red accents. Then, there’s the Trophy-R badges on the sides, Akrapovic exhaust system, carbon fiber hood and carbon fiber rear deflector. A little knock on those two parts and you’ll see that Renault hasn’t been fooling around with fake carbon fiber looking plastics. This is the real deal. There’s only one colour available: a pearl white which suits the car very well. Underneath, the Trophy-R gets the same powerplant from the standard Megane RS Trophy. It is the 1.8 liter single-turbocharged inline 4 developping 300 horsepower. It is a good number for sure, but the competitors are already ahead with 350 horsepower or more. The Trophy-R gets as well 10-way manually adjustable Öhlins suspensions, and is only offered with a 6-speed manual.

Renault Megane RS Trophy R
Renault Megane RS Trophy R

Alcantara is everywhere inside the Renault Megane RS Trophy-R

Enough of the technical stuff. Open the door, with key-less technology – and you better do it like that because every Dacia owner will gladly notice that they got the same key as you otherwise. You’re then welcomed in a world of Sabelt Alcantara bucket seats (whereas the normal Trophy gets Recaros). I admit I was a bit scared of those seats the first time I got in. Especially if you know the french manufacturer’s reputation of making very stiff chassis. It turned out on the first long day of driving that they actually provide good level of comfort while still offering amazing lateral grip. The steering wheel is the real plus of this car, thanks to the use of Alcantara as well. Every single person who drove the Trophy-R loved the touch and the feel of it. If only Renault offered this on normal Megane RS too!

Renault Megane RS Trophy-R Steering Wheel
Renault Megane RS Trophy-R Alcantara steering wheel

No rear seats – who needs friends anyway ?

Look around and if you’ve been in a normal Megane RS, you won’t be very surprised. Although bearing a much higher pricetag than its sisters, the Trophy-R did not get much special treatment on the inside. Actually it feels almost the opposite! There are no rear seats – who needs kids or friends anyway? – no big touch screen, as the smaller one saves 250 grams. The quality of the interior finish is exactly the same as in a normal Megane RS apart from the extensive use of alcantara on the seats and steering wheel. I would have wished for a little bit more on the interior. I really didn’t like the cheap plastic cover to replace the rear seats. What’s the utility of the rear door panels and inside handles given no one is ever gonna sit there? Simple rear door carbon fiber panels, a complete roll cage like the R-26-R used to have instead of the simple anti roll bar and more carbon fiber around the driver to remind you the sportiness of the car would have made the experience that much special.

Renault Megane RS Trophy-R Rear Bar
Renault Megane RS Trophy-R rear anti-roll bar

Over 4000 rpm it’s just turbo noise. Love it!

Where you’ll be surprised though, is the way it drives. First of, I have to thank Renault Sport for leaving the manual gearbox in a track-focused car. Proof that flappy paddles might be faster if you’re not a racing driver but the weight improvement from a well calibrated manual gearbox is more interesting in the end. Then, the loss of the 4-wheel steering which gave the standard Megane RS Trophy an unnatural behavior, has the consequence of giving back the Trophy R its normal Megane RS feeling we’d lost. The Akrapovic titanium exhaust helps a lot with making this car sound even more special with pops and bangs all around the engine revs, but with a sweet spot at 3’500 rpm. It allows as well a great noise from the turbos over 4’000 rpm where the noise of the engine is not present as much and all you hear is turbos pushing air through. Love it!

Renault Megane RS Trophy R
Renault Megane RS Trophy R

The Renault Megane RS Trophy-R incites you to take B-roads for your daily commute

On your normal daily commute, the Trophy-R can be very practical as you can throw things around both on the rear seats or the trunk. It takes too much time to take off the rear safety net though, so I would not recommend using it as a cargo van. In comfort or neutral mode (your normal mode, which bears this rather strange name), the exhaust won’t do any of its cracks, pops and bangs so it’s really convenient if you just want to (try at least) be discreet, as people look at your bright red rims and stickers, wondering if they got a new “Jacky” tuning enthusiast in their district.

Renault Megane RS Trophy R
Renault Megane RS Trophy R

The clutch and gearbox are surprisingly user friendly for your average day to day traffic jams and I did not feel any unusual tiredness from driving the Trophy-R compared to my normal daily driver. The only thing that would need improvement for these daily use as well as the long road trips is the sound system which would have deserved a more powerful system, especially as the noise level inside can be quite loud. The Trophy-R has indeed thinner glasses for weight saving purposes and the absence of rear seats makes a few rattles and squeaks that you need to get used to. Nothing unbearable though as it turned out to be a very fun car to go to work using B-roads only, avoiding highways.

Renault Megane RS Trophy R Carbon fiber hood
Renault Megane RS Trophy R Carbon fiber hood

Precision. Agility. Almost no body roll. The Trophy-R is impressive on twisty roads.

Find some twisty, narrow country roads and you will really get what the Megane RS Trophy-R is all about. It’s nimble. Precise. Agile. And involving. To the point this car makes me think of a Porsche GT3 RS or a Lotus Elise in some ways. You’d have to be a complete hoonigan to put it at fault, and it’s communicating with you like only the two previous cars I mentioned know how to. The direction, although being 100% electronic now, has a great feeling and consistency, but lacks a bit of feel, specially at low speeds. It’s good, but not to the level of the best electronic steerings I have experienced.

Renault Megane RS Trophy R

What is really surprising is the almost complete absence of body roll, specially on bumpy roads where the car just stays put whatever you throw at it, thanks to the manually adjustable Ohlins dampers. The absence of body roll and great communicating suspensions means that when you hit the Autobahn in Germany, which we did, the Trophy-R communicates so much that you get the impression you are going much faster than you really are. Still we were able to go several times above 260 km/h without any issues, not too far from the claimed 270 km/h top speed, which is not this car’s favorite hobby.

You’d have to be a complete hoonigan to put it at fault

Then, the only thing you really need to get used to is the behavior of the limited slip differential, which will tend to push you in one direction as you really accelerate and its effect starts to show. It’s not something new if you’ve driven previous generations Renault Megane RS, but which needs a bit of practice as you rev the engine and the front wheels start losing traction. The good thing is, if you keep in the high revs such as on a mountain road, its effects will be limited and you can really enjoy the car without having this slight unexpected change of direction.

Renault Megane RS Trophy-R

I mentioned that the gearbox is very good, specially on your daily usage, as it’s not too hard and the clutch is very light. Nonetheless, when on a mountain pass, and on heavy attack mode on some country roads, I found the gear changes a bit too long and we even struggled sometimes getting the right gear due to lack of precision. My guess is, you can’t have it all, and Renault Sport probably did the right choice there. Nevertheless, this engine’s behavior really gets going once you get over the turbo lag’s 3500 rpm, where both noise and turbo performance are delivering their best.

Renault Megane RS Trophy-R
Renault Megane RS Trophy-R

There are a few easter eggs hidden in the software of the Renault Megane RS Trophy-R

In the other annoying points, the entry short video is cool the first time you get in, but starts to annoy you once you gets used to it, and we did not find a way to turn it off. There are as well several software bugs, which you can encounter, like the launch control activating although the Trophy R is only delivered with a manual gearbox, the petrol gauge going to 0 directly once you reached the limit level or 100 kilometers autonomy. The oil level warning popped up as well every single time we parked the car on a hill or descent, and if you switch to Sport or Race from comfort or neutral with the engine stopped (from the start and stop assistant), be prepared to see your Renault going to panic mode. Still, those are minor items or probably easter eggs you can laugh with your friends at your local pub, trying to justify why you spent over 60’000 CHF buying a Renault.

Should you buy one? I think this car makes complete sense if you are already a Renault collector and have an R26R Megane II or Trophy-R Megane III or even just a simple Clio RS. You’ll find the same elements that you already liked from those cars, just even better. It is as well a serious contender if you are looking for an entry-level car you can put on the track, and I would strongly put it in a poll with used Porsche 911 GT3 (996) and Lotus Elise for instance. You should not forget that the Trophy R was designed to be efficient on track, and one track specifically: the Nordschleife.

Renault Megane RS Trophy-R

The result is a car which is extremely good at what it does, but lacks a little bit of fun where an M2 would make you smile more. In addition, the Trophy R lacks practicality and comfort, specially if you are looking for just a good daily driver. A BMW 135i or A35 AMG or even just a standard Megane RS Trophy will already be plenty enough performance while offering more comfort and practicality for the day to day usage. Would I buy one? No, but I would definitely recommend it for anyone looking for a 2 seater affordable car – and rare, as we should not forget that only 500 units will ever be produced – you can put on any mountain road or track with tremendous amount of performance and satisfaction of hitting those apex every single time with an ease that not much cars can pretend to.

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