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Riding shotgun in the Renault Megane RS275 Trophy-R
Drive goes for a high-speed ride in the world's fastest front-wheel drive car with French rally legend.PT3M7S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-3adtb 620 349 June 18, 2014
Few cars are built with such a clear sense of purpose as the Renault Megane RS275 Trophy-R.
It has been designed and engineered to simply be the fastest front-wheel drive car in the world.
The French brand has a long and proud history of building brilliant hot hatches that have owned the front-wheel drive lap record at Germany’s Nurburgring racetrack, the benchmark for performance car testing.
Renault Megane RS275 Trophy-R
New Megane RS275 Trophy-R records a sub-eight minute lap at the Nurburgring.
But Volkswagen’s Spanish brand Seat set a new lap record for a front-wheel drive car at the Nurburgring earlier this year with its new Leon Cupra R.
Renault was already well underway with its own plan to establish a new record and put Seat back in its place..
And that’s the RS275 Trophy-R’s job - reclaim the Nurburgring lap record.
The Seat lapped the 20km German circuit in 7min58secs but Renault test driver Laurent Hurgon has taken the the record back to France with a lap of 7min54secs in the Trophy-R.
Renault Sport management are adamant that the Seat lap was irrelevant to them, saying the Trophy-R project began in 2012.
The plan then was simple - build the most extreme, uncompromising hot hatch it had ever created.
Renault Sport invited Drive to ride around the Nurburgring in the passenger seat alongside former World Rally driver Jean Ragnotti. The three-time world rally winner may be 68 years old but he was more than capable of demonstrating the full potential of the Trophy-R.
And in truth, while the Trophy-R is full street-legal, a racetrack is the only place where its full performance can be unleashed.
The engine is the same 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol unit that produces 205kW and 360Nm found in the new RS275 Limited Edition.
The exhaust system is made from titanium by Slovenian specialist Akraprovic, which not only cuts weight but has also been tuned to increase the car’s aural appeal.
As Ragnotti enters the track and slams on the accelerator the engine unleashes its performance with a rush of induction noise and a bark from the exhaust.
With only 10kW more than the current RS265 Trophy it doesn’t feel radically different in a straight-line. But it certainly feels fast, and Renault Sport claimed Hurgon reached a top speed of 254km/h on his record lap.
The company claims a 0-100km/h sprint of 5.8 seconds, but the Trophy-R comes into its element when the corners begin.
The suspension has been developed in conjunction with racing specialists Ohlins. It features fully adjustable dampers (20 settings on the front, 30 settings on the rear) and composite springs, which the company claims is a world first on a production car. The plastic-like springs are part of the 100kg diet the Trophy-R has been on, compared to the RS265.
While the Trophy-R is unquestionably firm, Ragnotti was not afraid to throw it over the high Nurburgring kerbs because the suspension was compliant enough not to be unsettled.
We suspect the Trophy-R will be less comfortable on Australia’s pockmarked roads, however, we won’t find out until the car arrives in Australia in December.
Another crucial element to the Trophy-R’s performance are its Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres that replaced the Bridgestones of its previous record-setting RS265.
These tyres, the same sort used by Porsche, were developed especially for this project as it is the first time they were used on a front-wheel drive car.
As Ragnotti steers the Trophy-R around the ‘Ring, the amount of grip the tyres offer up is noticeable even from the passenger seat.
The brakes are a mixture of steel and aluminium to save weight (Renault claims 3kg) and measure 350mm at the front, up from 340mm on the RS265. Renault says the brakes have been adapted for “intensive circuit use”, so if they fade you should feel entitled to complain to your local dealer. Certainly Ragnotti didn’t struggle pulling the Trophy-R up.
But the biggest weight saving in saved for the interior. There are no rear seats and the usual Recaro front seats have been replaced by even lighter racing style buckets.
They hug you tight and keep you in place despite Ragnotti’s best efforts to get the Trophy-R sliding around. If you really want to get serious about pushing the Trophy-R on the track you can get optional six-point racing harnesses installed.
Renault is so serious about saving weight for maximum lap time it has removed the radio, airconditioning and satellite navigation system from the Trophy-R. However, if you can’t live without them, they can be added back in for an extra cost.
Renault Australia is likely to offer the reverse situation however, having those items on most of its allocated cars and giving customers the option to leave them if they prefer.
Another weight saving extra is an optional 3.6kg lithium-ion battery that replaces the regular unit. The company claims this saves 16kg over the RS265 when the car hits the scales which, according to the press release, allows “track-day fans eager to gain several vital seconds of the course of a lap”.
To ensure this limited edition truly stands out from the rest of Renault’s growing Megane RS range, the Trophy-R also gets a unique two-tone paint job with a black roof and pearlescent white bodywork. The 19-inch Speedline alloy wheels are available in either black or red to further separate the Trophy-R from its lesser siblings.
Remarkably, Renault Australia has managed to secure 50 examples of the Trophy-R from the run of just 250 cars worldwide; the second largest allocation in the world behind Japan.
Final pricing won’t be announced until closer to their arrival in local showrooms later this year, but the company says the price will be “mid sixties”.
Judging by our ride alongside Ragnotti Renault Sport have achieved their goal. They have created an uncompromising hot hatch that pushes the boundaries of what you expect from a front-wheel drive car.
Renault Megane RS275 Trophy-R pricing and specifications
Price: $65,000 (estimate)
On sale: December
Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo petrol
Power: 205kW at 5500rpm
Torque: 360Nm at 3000rpm
Transmission: 6-speed man, FWD
Fuel consumption: 7.5L/100km