Faster(er) French hatchback from Renault, the Mégane RS Trophy-R, knocks Honda from its perch to become the ‘Ring’s fastest front-wheel drive production car.
We’ll be the first to admit that new ‘lap records’ around the vaunted Nürburgring have lost some considerable sheen over the past few years. Such accolades after all, when you read the fine print of the respective marketing material, are held today by models as disparate as the Porsche 919 Hybrid Evo (fastest overall), the Nio EP9 (fastest overall production EV), the Dodge Viper ACR (fastest manual transmission), the Jaguar XE SV Project 8 (fastest four-door saloon), and even, for God’s sake, the Skoda Kodiaq vRS SUV (fastest seven-seat SUV). That the latter can be mentioned in the same breath as Porsche’s epochal and four-time Le Mans winning 956, which made the 20km Green Hell its bitch in 1983, is sobering to say the least.
Still, for Renault Sport, a broken ‘lap record’ for the brand new Mégane RS Trophy-R couldn’t have come at a better time. For starters, the new ‘fastest front-wheel drive production hatchback’ is set to be officially unveiled at this coming weekend’s Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix, and you can’t get much better pre-event hype than out-pacing a key market rival – in this case the Honda Civic Type-R – on merit.
“That the Skoda Kodiaq vRS SUV can be mentioned in the same breath as Porsche’s 956, which made the 20km Green Hell its bitch in 1983, is sobering to say the least.”
For another, 2019 thus far has not been a good year for Renault Sport. Heading into their sixth race of the F1 season, neither Daniel Ricciardo nor Nico Hülkenberg – one a Grand Prix winner, the other a Le Mans victor at his first attempt – have scored just 12 points combined, meaning the company that has won a dozen F1 titles as an engine supplier currently languishes behind seven of the other nine teams on grid. A reminder that Renault can still beast the most imposing piece of tarmac on the planet couldn’t come quick enough.
Beast it did too, the Mégane RS Trophy-R, with Renault development driver Laurent Hurgon behind the wheel, netting a 7m 40.1s lap time, almost four seconds quicker than the ‘FK8’-gen Honda Civic Type-R managed in 2017 (7m 43.8s).
On to the car. As the ‘R’ addendum suggests, the newboy is a track-focused derivative of Renault’s already potent Mégane RS Trophy. Interestingly, both share the same turbocharged 1.8-litre four-cylinder, and output is an identical 300hp and 400Nm (295lb ft) of torque. What makes the difference is significant changes to the aerodynamics, ‘a more radical development of its drive axles’, and a 130kg reduction in weight over the 1,419kg RS Trophy, much of which is courtesy of the now discarded rear seats.
Alongside this, the Trophy-R features bigger brakes from Brembo, a redesigned exhaust system from Akrapovič, and new, more race-focused dampers from Öhlins. Inside those flared wheel arches are new carbon fibre wheels wrapped with performance Bridgestones(another drop in weight), and at the fron, the production Mégane’s LED fog lights have passed the baton to a new carbon fibre bonnet with ventilation louvres and a new ram air scoop.
Details of the cabin have yet to be released, but you won’t get too many points for guessing they’ll be a new ‘race-inspired’ trimmed Alcantara upholstery and bucket seats. Expect more updates – and if you’re a Renault fan with crossed fingers, a double points-paying finish – at this weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix.
Technical Specifications (Mégane RS Trophy)
Engine: Four-cylinder, turbocharged, 1,798cc
Power: 300hp (220kW)
Torque: 400Nm (295lb ft)
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Brakes: 355km (front), 290mm (rear)
Wheels: J19 (front and rear)
Tyres: 245/35 R19 (front and rear)
Weight (unladen): 1,419kg
0-100kph: 5.7 secs
Top speed: 260kph