Trophy is arguably pick of the Megane RS line-up, but like the standard car it’s still a flawed gem.

The Trophy name has always been reserved for the hottest Renault models, so it’s fair to say expectations are high for the Megane RS 300 Trophy. Aimed squarely at the sublime Honda Civic Type-R, it’s the most powerful model Renault Sport has ever produced, boasting a 220kW version of the turbocharged 1.8-litre first seen in the Alpine A110.

Visually, the Trophy looks much the same as the standard RS model, the only new additions being the tri-tone 19-inch alloys and the prominent Trophy decal on the ‘F1 blade’ front splitter that sits in the lower front grille. The changes are equally low key inside, where you’ll now find a pair of high-backed, figure hugging Recaro seats. Not only are they more supportive, these chairs can be set 20mm lower than before and are trimmed (as are the rear seats) in Alcantara. The rest of the cabin is standard Megane RS, which means it’s reasonably spacious, well finished and generously equipped.

Technical highlights

Underpinning the Trophy is the same Cup chassis that’s an option on the standard car. That means you get a strut front suspension and torsion beam rear axle that feature dampers, springs and anti-roll bars that have been stiffened by 25, 30 and 10 per cent respectively. Also included in this package is a Torsen limited-slip differential, which on the Trophy is mated with the six-speed EDC twin-clutch gearbox for the first time. Another option made standard are the hybrid cast-iron and aluminium grooved front brake discs that promise greater fade resistance and a reduction in unsprung weight of about 1.8kg per corner.

Making its debut on the car are Bridgestone’s Potenza S001 tyres, which are fitted to the new ‘Jerez’ 19-inch alloy wheels. Drivers planning to spend time on track can specify the similar diameter ‘Fuji’ wheel, which is both 2kg lighter and wrapped in the track-focused Bridgestone Potenza S007.

Like the standard RS, the Trophy gets Renault’s controversial 4Control four-wheel steering. No physical or calibration changes have been made to this set-up, so you get the same electronic actuators that can turn the rear wheels up to 2.7 degrees in the opposite direction to the fronts, or up to 1 degree in the same direction – this changeover happens at 60km/h in all modes other than Race, which switches at a much higher 100km/h.

Engine, transmission and 0-100km/h

The biggest upgrades have been reserved for the engine and transmission; with the turbocharged 1.8-litre four-cylinder now delivering 220kW, which is an increase of 15kW. Torque is up too, with those cars fitted with the tougher EDC transmission getting 420Nm, while the six-speed manual has 400Nm. Most of the gains come from the use of a new turbo that boasts ceramic bearings to cope with its maximum boost speed of 200,000rpm. There’s also a revised exhaust system that now features an electrically actuated valve rather than the 280’s passive system. In Comfort mode it stays closed for a subtler sound, while Sport setting opens it idle and again at around 4000rpm for a rortier soundtrack. Select Race and the flaps stay opened, boosting volume further and allowing the engine to breath better.

On paper the gains in performance are modest, for the manual car at least, with the 0-100km/h sprint trimmed by just a tenth to 5.7sec, while the top speed is upped by 6km/h to 260km/h. Renault has yet to officially announce figures for the EDC car. You notice the extra mid-range wallop more than the top end gains, the car pulling with real intent from as little as 2000rpm. Throttle response is sharp in Sport and Race modes, while the exhaust note is the right side or fruity when pushing on – although the barrage of pops and bangs on the overrun is a little ostentatious when you’re trying to make swift and subtle progress.

We only got to drive the six-speed manual, which suffers from a notchy shift action but is swift enough and benefits from a light, progressive clutch action. The EDC version wasn’t available, but engineers claim that shifts in Race mode are even faster than before.

What’s it like to drive?

The short answer is not much different to the Cup chassis version of the standard machine. Yes, there’s more power, while the greater torque output means there’s a fraction more tug through the steering over even mildly bumpy surfaces, but in all other respects it’s remarkably similar.

The lower seating position isn’t really all that noticeable, while at lower speeds you get a slightly strange feeling from the rear axle, as if it’s operating a fraction of second behind the fronts. Push a bit harder and it feels better, although it’s still a car that doesn’t quite feel natural. There’s bags of turn-in bite yet also the strange sensation of the rear of the car rotating quickly and in a manner that has you thinking you’re starting to slide. In fact, it’s the rear steering doing its thing and pointing the nose into the apex to give you a cleaner straighter exit. It feels odd at first, but calm your inputs and learn to trust that the considerable grip is there and the Megane will obliterate a series of corners with unfettered speed and clinical precision.

On a wet but drying Estoril circuit, the Bridgestone S007 shod cars (examples used on the road routes had the S001) were a mixed bag. When the conditions were at their wettest and in ESP disabled Race mode the Renault felt like it wanted to oversteer into every corner, the transition from grip to slip fast and spiky with multiple corrections needed to keep things on track – it felt as if the rear steer struggled to fully comprehend what was happening. With drier conditions and heat in the rubber the Renault clung on tenaciously, slicing through corners fast and flat, the LSD keeping the nose locked on your line even when full throttle is applied. The brakes were fairly effective with a firm pedal, but there was some grumbling towards the end of each three-lap stint.

Ride comfort is on the acceptable side of firm, the suspension – in combination with the trick hydraulic dampers – following the road surface closely but rounding off all the worst edges.JAMES DISDALE