What's Hot: Prodigious ability to get power to the road, exceptional handling.
What's Not: Speedo difficult to read, occasional torque steer, fuel economy claims nowhere near real-world.
X-FACTOR: For drivers who love to interact with the road; this is a genuine enthusiast's car.
Vehicle Style: 3-Door hot-hatch
Price: $52,990 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 275hp, 201kW/360Nm 2.0 litre, 4cyl petrol | 6spd manual
Fuel Economy claimed: 7.5 litres/100km | tested: 12.3 litres/100km
I don't think I've ever driven a car that's had me so hooked, so quickly, as the Renault Megane RS 275 Trophy.
Sure there are faster cars; more comfortable, sophisticated and refined cars, and certainly there are pricier ones.
But this extraordinary hot hatch sits in a perfect sweet spot.
Because it is the sticker price that is the fundamental driving force behind almost every car purchase.
This is a car for people who love to drive; not for those who complain about bumps in the road.
And it is not for people who want to tootle about in the ‘burbs; it's for "getting the hell out of Dodge" and finding a road where there's frankly no-one looking at you except cows and crows.
Out here, where the Trophy's ‘Cup' chassis and 275hp four-cylinder DOHC turbo can be unleashed.
It's designed for drivers. Everything beyond this fact is diminishingly less relevant. If this sounds like you, you simply must check out this car.
- Height adjustable leather and Alcantara Recaro bucket seats
- Alcantara steering wheel trim and hand brake boot
- Aluminium accelerator, brake and clutch pedals
- Dual-zone climate control air-conditioning
- CD, MP3, USB, AUX and fingertip controls
- Bluetooth phone pairing with audio streaming
- R-Link Enhanced Satellite Navigation system with 7-inch touchscreen
- Height and reach-adjustable steering wheel
- Automatic windscreen wipers
- Automatic start/stop engine technology (programmable)
Getting into the Megane RS 275 Trophy is actually quite a trick without clonking your head on the roof pillar, such is the height of the bolsters on the Recaro bucket seats.
But once you're in, the design philosophy of the Trophy is immediately apparent.
It's all about the driver and ‘performance'.
There are some luxuries - dual independent climate control, cruise control, a decent stereo featuring a CD player and Bluetooth connectivity - but the overall impression is of somewhat modest appointments.
The technology is there - like the sat-nav and Bluetooth audio streaming - but it's not what this car is about.
The torso-gripping Recaro front seats and flashy red seat-belts dominating the predominantly grey interior... that's what it's about.
The red contrast stitching looks good, as does the Recaro branding on the seat backs and the ‘Trophy' emblazoned on each of the door sills (in case you forget what it is you're driving).
The mid-grey Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel looks ready for business but I find it less grippy than conventional leather. You do get used to it eventually, just, in my case, never completely.
Another small bugbear I never grew accustomed to even after a couple of weeks behind the wheel was the angle and layout of the speedo cluster.
Apart from its oddly reclined angle, the speedo itself points to odd numbers - 70, 90, 110km/h and so on - which is somewhat annoying given the dominant speeds you need to adhere to in Australia.
You have to use the car's secondary information systems to view a digital speed readout (important, given the consequences of speeding around the fascist nanny state that is Victoria).
accessed via the centrally located seven-inch touchscreen and
rotary controls on the centre console.
This displays a large digital speed reading, along with real-time information about the car's performance and operational status.
Everything from power, torque, air, oil and water temperatures, to turbo pressure, throttle opening, brake pressure and steering-wheel angle.
Internal storage for items like drinks and sunnies inside the cabin is adequate, although not groundbreaking.
The back seat is a tight fit and the vision back there isn't great either, but I've experienced worse.
At 344 litres, the boot space is actually surprisingly large and can accommodate a hell of a lot of groceries, or a couple of decent-sized suitcases.
The rear seats also split-fold to carry longer objects. The Trophy is, in fact, quite practical and more than capable of the day-to-day chores. (Although most of the shopping will be strewn around the car if you take that slightly longer winding route home.)
ON THE ROAD
On road, the Megane RS 275 Trophy is so hands-on-the-wheel fantastic to drive that any shortcomings it may have in the way of luxury appointments recede into irrelevance faster than a 20/20 cricket match score.
This is no suburban runabout or show pony. It's not the most comfortable, best appointed or most convenient car to drive, but it is without question one of the most exciting.
On open country roads, it's quite an astonishing performer. It's fast, very fast, particularly if you are prepared to let it sing at higher revs.
Rolling acceleration is electric. Those 360Nm of torque, lurking, always primed for release, will fling the Megane RS from 80km/h to 140km/h in a heartbeat.
It allows you to hammer around corners without needing to downshift endlessly. And, on take-off from a standing start, it will pin your ears back.
It also has the handling to match.
The Megane RS sticks to the road like a go-cart, will howl around a mountain road and eats steep inclines for French desert.
There is some torque steer, the nagging tugging at the wheel when powering out of corners, but it is so well-attenuated that you will quickly accommodate it.
The Trophy's drive-train is astonishingly well-conceived and constructed.
This car gives the strong impression that all you'd need to enter a rally championship would be to throw a few number decals on doors.
Every time I took the Trophy out for a spin I fell in love with a different gear.
There are six, but, in the end I think my favourite was fourth. Around deserted rural back roads, 4th is capable of powering around corners with astonishing speed and acceleration; great from lower revs right out to the redline.
The Trophy's brakes are impressive too.
They're made to work hard at times as the car encourages you to push faster and faster, but the chassis remains concise and predictable even under heavy braking into corners.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars
Safety features: Driver and front passenger airbags, driver and front passenger side airbags; front and rear curtain airbags, anti-lock braking (ABS), electronic brake assist (EBA), electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), anti-slip regulation (ASR), electronic stability control (ESC).
There is also cruise control with speed limiter, reversing camera, driver seat-belt warning light and tone, one-touch door locking, three-point seatbelts with pre-tensioner and load limiter (front); plus three child seat-anchorage points and height adjustable rear headrests.
WARRANTY & SERVICING
Warranty: 5 Year/Unlimited kilometres with 24-Hour Roadside Assistance
Servicing: The Megane RS range's first three scheduled services cost $299 across intervals of 12 months / 10,000km. Confirm details with your dealer.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The Megane RS 275 Trophy is an athlete, not a supermodel; ‘supremely fit' rather than ‘beautiful'.
And where other sports cars can sometimes feel overweight, vain or spoilt rotten with cosseting lardy features, the Megane does its boasting on the road where it counts.
There are only 100 Trophy Limitied Editions arriving in Australia. Many of them will already be on the road by now so if you're interested in one you'll probably need to get a wriggle on.
For the price, the Megane RS 275 Trophy is an amazing machine.
Some would have it that serious sports cars start at $100k, or even $200k. But this is clearly nonsense.
If you need proof, take a Trophy for a test drive. I doubt you'll be disappointed.