A proper test of the Renault Megane RS Trophy

Let’s start by saying I’m not a french car enthusiast in general, and have never driven a Renault Megane RS Trophy before. I really didn’t expect much. Still, I don’t want to die ignorant, so I took my chance on it, turns out it was worth it.

So this one is the fourth generation Megane, and the third of the RS. My good friend Felix started his driving career in a R26R Megane and kept on telling me that it was faster than his Lotus Exige 350 on track: hard to believe. He now drives a Lotus Elan 26R, which I find funny. As an appetizer, you can read Felix and Nicolas’ short Trophy’s test drive. Anyway, let’s jump in.

First impressions facing the Renault Megane RS Trophy

I arrived at the Renault press park, not knowing what they would give me. I ended up facing a Cyrus yellow (quite nice color) manual one. Great. In my opinion, esthetic wise, it’s a success. The design is well balanced, not overdone, it still has an identity while looking agressive. The car looks like a nicer Renault Megane to anyone, and like a dream to youngsters, that’s what I like about it, Renault Megane RS Trophy remains pretty discreet (a part from the color). Instantly you notice how wide it is, I will make comparaisons later in the article.

Anyway, I jumped in and found myself seating in a Recaro alcantara bucket seat, annoucing seriousness. The wheel is also covered in leather and alcantara, and the stickshift has a nice sporty look to it. The rest of the interior is… what it is. The whole thing seems to be 50 shades of plastics, not a single piece of carbon or even alloy (although I dislike carbon in every silly car these days). Even worse, the fake carbon on the dashboard, and the foamy printed carbon thing on the door pannels. Why? Just put alcantara, or even skaï, who cares anyway? “No, let’s put the fakest carbon! Millennials will love it”. Anyway, a part from that, it’s a nice place to be in.

I started the engine in “Normal” mode and let’s roll. I started by using the Renault Megane RS Trophy for one hour in city conditions. Well, many emotions appeared. First, very frustrating to not be able to go up to the rev limiter, it’s like waiting for Christmas presents (or Hannukah in my case). Second, the car feels absolutely like a normal Renault Megane except for two things: the stiffness and the width. Lucky I’m still under 30 years old, meaning I don’t care about comfort, at all. Third, well, I don’t have a smart third to talk about, let’s say the Bose sound is really nice.

The more we advance in time, the more it’s difficult to navigate through Paris in a car. It seems like the french brand cares about his parisian clients, as the car feels very agile thanks to its 4Control, meaning the rear wheels steer. You could make a U-turn in a shoebox. No you couldn’t, but still its turning circle is impressive. Since we are here, two horrible things in the maneuver department. First, the car is wider than my couch. I ended up going in a parisian parking lot in Pigalle, don’t ask, the spiral slope was hell, the car was so close on both sides, kept on beeping everywhere, and the visibility was terrible. I have to say it was a poker bluff on this one, I had no idea if the car would fit, but seeing SUVs in the parking lot, I bet it did. Second, the infotainment system. What the hell? Everytime you put reverse, the computer seems to be confused on wheter it displays camera or beeping sensors. In the end, it freezes, and guess what? Well, you can’t control anything anymore. Temperatures, sound volume, radio station (even when Phil Collins is on), and modes. To undo that, you need to turn the car off, get out, lock it, and start all over again, and sometimes it doesn’t even work. It’s far far behind the Mini’s infotainment. Okay, boring part done, now fun bit.

Proper rocket for a Rocketman

I needed to go to Deauville in Normandie, to spend the weekend with family, but I hate highways. And by the way, anyone testing a sporty car on a highway or in a city is stupid, you will recognize yourself. So I made my own roadbook through the small country roads.

There are 5 modes you can use the car in: Comfort (for when you are low on fuel), Normal (for never), Sport (for normal), Race (for always), and bespoke (why not?). When you put the Renault Megane RS Trophy in race mode, many things change: the exhaust opens and the noise is liberated, the suspension gets a lot stiffer, and the gauges transform to a racing style symetric double rev counter. I don’t know why the double gauges, but turns out it’s easier due to it going from white to red when approaching rev limiter (plus a bip bip, love it), and it makes you feel like you are in a race car. Childish, but very very amusing. In Sport and Race, the exhaust pops every time you let off the gas, it feels artificial as it does it even when you were not pedal to the floor, it sounds silly, and it’s annoying. It’s very trendy these days at AMG and Audi RS, it’s ridiculous, useless, and the clients love it. For Renault on the other hand, this is a track orientated car, what is the point?

Okay, so yes, the Renault Megane RS Trophy is a rocket. The acceleration is impressive, and it makes you like going to the rev limiter. To me, the powertrain makes power, but does not give enough emotions. Although it’s far better than many things out there, I still can’t live with that kind of engine. Woops, almost forgot the specs. 1.8L I4, turbocharged, 300 hp, 400 N.m (420 with the EDC gearbox), revs up to 7k. Okay done. Ah yes, not the same turbo as in the “normal” RS, not the same exhaust either. So, why do I dislike the engine emotion wise? Well, the power isn’t delivered nicely. There is a long long wait when you put your foot down, until the turbo spools up, and then you get a huge kick, meaning going out of corners, you have to time your footsteps and prepare for the exit. Plus, when you let off the gas, the engine is still going for half a second. It all feels to undirect. But, still, very good for what it is, and very impressive low end torque.

Okay at least they gave me a manual gearbox. Well… it’s not excellent either. It feels like a french gearbox. It’s pretty slow synchronizing the gears, the throw is a bit longer than I would have liked, and it feels clunky. I found myself being impatient at times, and throwing a gear too quickly, ended up it this weird “Am I in gear? I am! throttle! Nope, I am not! Let’s put it in gear. Wait, which one. Okay third it is. Oh, the revs are too low now, let’s go to second with a blip. That’s more like it! Wait, did I close the window this morning? I def… wait, I don’t remember closing it! Oh shit!”. Okay, I am being difficult, Renault is still offering a manual, so I should be thankful, because it made it a lot funnier for me.

At the end of the day, it’s still a modern car, limited by a lot of rules, so if I have to take that in consideration, I have to say the powertrain is far from being the worst on the current market, probably one of the best in the hot hatchback market. Take my previous words as coming from a guy mostly driving 60+ years old vehicles.

Okay, the trip to Deauville was actually a great moment, I enjoyed every second of it. Although, on Monday, I was driving with a group of friends in La Vallée de Chevreuse, so I want to tell you about the handling part there.

“Okay, now I’m impressed”

I heard this sentence many many times on Monday, each time I took a new passenger in. First because they don’t expect a Renault Megane doing a 0-100 in 5.7 secs, second because of the braking performance – although somehow I noticed some smoke coming from the rear brakes, even though I wasn’t on a track, and the pedal started to feel softer – and third, because of the grip and agility. It’s so impressive, that I spent the whole day following (or being followed by) a 991.1 4S Cabriolet, owned by a good friend. The poor guy had his license retired two weeks before and was driven by a friend of his (who had driving skills). Ah, the Renault Megane RS Trophy is 2cm wider than the 4S, yes, really.

Well, no one would expect the Renault Megane RS Trophy standing up to the great 911, but it did. In acceleration, it’s not far behind, but mostly, in twisty bits it seemed quicker as it is so agile, it loves changing direction, and has huge grip, and in high speed curves felt pretty much equal. The Renault Megane RS Trophy weighs 1419 kg, although it doesn’t feel like it due to a great cup chassis, a Torsen LSD and great sticky tires: Bridgestone Potenza S001 245 all around. Although, you have to be careful with those in wet conditions. But the main thing that makes it so good is the 4Control 4-wheels steering system.

Warning: technical point about the RS Trophy

Okay, so you probably have seen 4-wheel steering being a trend in the past few years, Porsche does it, Ferrari does it. So is it a marketing innovation as many, or is it proper engineering? Well, let me tell you, it is as revolutionnary as the Quattro, or the LSD, or the disk brakes in my opinion. Not the disk brakes, this one was big, but still, it’s genius, so let me explain once and for all how it works and what it does.

Ever drove an Austin Mini? Well, you must know how agile it is on twitsty roads, and how unstable it is on long curves. Ever drove a S-class? Well, you must know it’s terrible in the twisty bits and very good in long curves. It’s all due to wheelbase: a short one gives you agility, a long one stability, and it has always been a problem for sports car manufacturers, because the sports car has to be able to do both. So they usually choose an in-between, and the car ends being not too bad at both. Well, now, it can be excellent at both.

So, steering has a rule: condition of steering. For correct steering to happen in any car, the lines going from the centers of the four wheels (perpendicullarly to the drive) must intersect in one single point. The more you turn your front wheels, the smaller the radius of the turning circle. Okay, easy enough, the rear wheels don’t move. Now, what if they do?

Well, the lines still have to intersect in a single point, but it gives you the possibility of having a smaller or bigger turning circle radius depending on the way they steer, as the drawings shows below.

The first drawing shows how a normal steering works with the wheelbase in blue. The second one shows how a 4-wheels steering works at low speeds, with the virtual wheelbase in red. Thrid one shows how a 4-wheels steering works at high speeds, with the virtual wheelbase in red.

So, in the end, what it does is virtual wheelbase. In the Trophy, in Race mode, the steering works the following way: under 100 km/h, the rear wheels will turn the opposite way to give a virtual short wheelbase, over 100 km/h, they will turn the same way to give a virtual long wheel base, the rear wheels steering angle goes up to 2.7°, which does not sound like a lot, but does a lot. Enough that according to my own calculation, the virtual wheelbase of the Renault Megane RS Trophy can go from 2.28 meters to 3.2 meters, while its actual wheelbase is 2.67 meters. Now you get it, you have a Mini and a S-class in one car.

At low speed, the steering is very direct, you end up making a small input to have a big output, while at high speed it is the opposite. My only hope is that the system will be reliable after some kilometers, it seems expensive. No doubt it will be implemented in many cars in the future seeing how practical, safe and performant it is.

So, should you get a Renault Megane RS Trophy?

Well it depends. It always does of course, but in this case it depends on what you intend to do with the car.

If you intend to do red light/highway runs, you could buy it because of the Watts it delivers. But, there are so many cars out there that can do the same for you with comfortable suspension, and a nice interior and infotainement, luxury orientated.

#FunToDrive Score: 80/100

On the other hand, if you intend to buy a trackday car that can be a correct daily as a second function, then the Trophy is absolutely perfect for you. To my knowledge, 44,000€ for a brand new car that will do track all day long and not break, you can not find anywhere else.

To tell you the truth, even though it isn’t perfect, it’s the rare kind of car that feels like a toy and a serious tool at the same time. There are funnier toys out there, there are also more serious track tools out there, but there is rarely such a good compromise. The proof is, I will miss it.

7 Comments

Renault Megane RS Trophy: let's give it a serious test drive (for once)

  1. Bravo Renault, bravo les français, vous nous faites toujours rêver (malgré quelques ratés parfois ahah)💪🏻

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