Renault has a history of producing some of the finest hot hatches in the world. Alas, none of them have ever made it to India. We sampled the Megane Trophy anyway – just to see what we’ve been missing out on…
Before I get into describing my driving experience in the Renault Megane RS 275 Trophy – to give you the car’s full name – let me start with a few numbers. 271bhp, 360Nm, 0-100 in 6 seconds, a 6-speed manual gearbox, trick limited-slip differential, and a lightweight titanium exhaust from Akrapovic. Combine all that with a kerb weight of just 1,376kgs in a car slightly larger than the Hyundai i20, and you can well imagine why I was more than a little excited at my first chance of driving this car.
To those who follow international automotive publications, European brands like VW, Peugeot and Renault have for decades been turning out souped-up hot hatches that have enough performance to put many a sports car to shame. And so, for decades I’ve been reading about the chassis and suspension tuning of these cars – and how, even with the compromises that go into turning a commuter hatchback into a pocket rocket, the engineers have been creating cars that are insanely fun-to-drive, and yet affordable for most enthusiasts. Sure, driving some of the fastest cars in the world is an exciting feat. But, personally, I find that driving a car that was never supposed to be used for the performance it delivers has a different kind of excitement – call it a wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing syndrome if you will. Yes, the Megane Trophy is not as subtle in the styling department as the hot hatches of old, but it still gives you that feeling that you’re driving a giant slayer.
And, finally, as I take the Megane out onto a small racetrack where we were testing the car, I finally began to understand what the international motoring press has been raving about for all these years. These cars are pure driving machines – with each control focussed purely on improving the driving experience. And so, the gearshift is slick, the pedals are placed perfectly for heel-and-toe downshifts, the steering responds sharply and has great feel, while the trick limited-slip differential allows you to put all the 271 horses down to the track much faster than you could ever imagine – finding traction where there seems to be none, and virtually eliminating understeer altogether.
Of course, adding to the appeal are the racing bucket seats that provide beautiful support when flogging the car. The trick Michelin Cup 2 tyres, meanwhile, provide fantastic grip. And the piece de resistance is the titanium exhaust, which is loud and delivers a series of gunfire-like pops when downshifting. After all, it’s this combination of elements that makes a more extreme version of the Megane Trophy the fastest front-wheel drive car at the Nurburgring Nordschleife.
As for it ever making it to the Indian market – well, if wishes were horses, this would be at the front of the derby...