Here's why the new Renault Megane Trophy R costs 70 grand

By topgear, 18 July 2019
Renault Megane Trophy R

This is the new Renault Megane RS Trophy R. It comes with plenty of impressive numbers attached to it, from its combination of 296bhp and 1,306kg to its 7m 40.1s Nürburgring lap time. A record for front-driven cars, naturally.

The biggest talking point of all, though, has been the cost of buying one of the 500 cars Renault’s making. While UK prices are yet to be confirmed, educated guesses put an entry level car at the £50,000 mark, while a fully specced Trophy R – with optional goodies like ceramic brakes and carbon wheels – could skim £70,000.

Yes, really. But click on to read why that might not be such bad value after all…


There’s Formula 1 know-how on board
Alright, it’s one of the bigger clichés in performance cars. This isn’t some tenuous marketing link to Renault’s current Formula 1 efforts, however, a la Clio Williams. François Xavier Delage, one of the Trophy R’s chief engineers, worked in Renault’s F1 team during its world title wins with Fernando Alonso in 2005 and 2006. Work which has informed not only some of the Megane’s components, but its development processes.

“The carbon diffuser is very close to what I designed in Formula 1,” he tells us. “There, it was all about very short-term decisions and everything being performance orientated. Every component here had to be designed in time for Nürburgring test days, in much the same way F1 parts had to be developed ready for each Sunday.”


That diffuser really works, too
The Trophy R produces twice the downforce of the Trophy it sits atop in the Megane range, thanks to 30 per cent more surface area of its entirely carbon diffuser. The exhaust pipes sit behind a gap carved out in it, and are hidden away rather than being a design element that scuppers the aero.

But it doesn’t boast a headline figure like its Civic Type R rival, Renault Sport’s engineers preferring a neutral set-up that sees the car resist lift rather than actively produce downforce.

“The aerodynamic set-up is not bespoke to the Nürburgring,” François says, “but it’s such a demanding circuit that developing a car there naturally helps the profile. We never considered a bigger rear spoiler– we knew we didn’t want drag. It’s all about the diffuser.”


Every part is functional, in fact
That fancy NACA duct on the spookily light carbon composite bonnet? It feeds air not to the engine, but under the car and out through that diffuser as part of the aerodynamic profile.

Extra cooling instead comes when you spec one of the Trophy R’s pricey options packs, which sees the lower running lights either side of the bumper removed and the gap left behind feeding cool air to the engine. Only on one side though, curiously. That also sheds two of the 130 kilos that separate Trophy and Trophy R.


Hot hatches weren’t the only benchmarks
François tells us that on top of the benchmark cars you’d expect – the Honda Civic Type R which the Trophy R knocked off its perch around the Nordschleife – his latest car also faced the kind of names you likely shouted at your screen when you initially saw that price tag.

He wouldn’t be drawn on which, but we reckon it’s safe to assume the Porsche Cayman GT4 is among them. The two are priced similarly, after all…


It’s lightweight, but not basic
The Trophy R’s predecessors didn’t have quite such a heavy diet, yet both came with the option of losing the air conditioning and stereo for ultra weight saving. But that’s not an option here.

“We looked at not taking the media but we looked at the previous vehicles and none were sold like that,” says Renault Sport’s Thierry Reveillé, who was on top of shaving kilos out of the Trophy R.

“Everybody takes that and the air con. So we looked at saving that money and spending it elsewhere. Also, if you lose the media screen you lose all the adjustable driving modes, and we need the Normal mode for the homologation of the car, and it allows us to keep the RS Monitor telemetry.”

The Trophy R does use the smaller of Renault’s touchscreens, though, saving 250g (or ‘a quarter of a kilo’ in engineer-speak) and Reveillé reckons it’s easier to use than the larger, portrait screen in other Meganes.


You can spec it with eight wheels
Nope, Renault hasn’t delved into the extraordinary sub-niche of performance ATVs. But if you spec the optional carbon wheels – saving 2kg each corner, so you really ought to – then they don’t actually replace the gauche red alloys of a standard Trophy R.

Instead, your car will be delivered on the red wheels with the carbon items wrapped in individual covers, sat snugly where where the rear seats were before Reveillé’s team ripped them out, thus removing another 25.3kg. So you can keep your supremely valuable carbon rims for trackdays, keeping them tucked away at a safe distance from crappy urban streets.


The seats are *special*
You know a car’s had engineering love lavished upon it when you come away wishing to write a thesis on the seats alone. They’re made by Sabelt – just one of many big brand names on the Trophy R’s spec sheet – and share their design with the Alpine A110’s slimline seats, only theirs is a bespoke set-up here.

Renault set a target of 16kg per seat, and Sabelt managed to skim another 400g still. The seats are fixed – they roll forward and back, but don’t recline and only adjust for height if you get your toolkit out. Their spine is fibreglass rather than carbon, because the latter’s weight saving would be negligible in comparison to its cost. And while the seats give even slim people a tight clutch, the shape is suitable for 95 per cent of the population, apparently. You can spec six-point harnesses instead of regular seatbelts. We say you must.


You can print Laurent Hurgon’s cheat codes off the internet
This is a wildly customisable car long after you’ve bought it. Ohlins dampers on each corner adjust through 20 clicks, with their softest setting said to be more compliant than a regular Megane RS Trophy. On top of that, you can adjust the ride height front and rear through a 16mm swing, setting different heights front and rear depending on how much oversteer you want.

Worried it’s all too much choice? Laurent Hurgon, the man responsible for that batsh*t ‘Ring time, has detailed his favourite settings online alongside a tutorial video on how to manhandle the car’s suspension into place. Just don’t go haring cocksuredly into your first ever Touristenfahrten and blame him for the mess afterwards.


It’s beaten emissions regulations as well as the ‘Ring
The Trophy R has arrived just one year into this Megane RS’s life, where the R26.R and 275 Trophy R before it felt closer to run-out specials. Why? Because impending emissions regulations in 2021 would have made launching a car like this significantly harder.

“It’s a sh*tty period for every car but for the sports cars it’s even worse” one member of the team told us, saying that a huge amount of engineering time is being diverted towards tweaking cars to conform to increasingly stringent rules.

The Trophy R’s arrival time has also been dictated by build spots on the Megane production line; unlike previous RSs, this one slots into the line with all the diesel rep cars, something which also limits the number of cars available with trick carbon ceramic brakes to just 30, of which a tiny handful come to the UK. The full £70k-spec car will actually be pretty rare, then.


It’s an engineer’s dream
With the freedom to launch the car before 2021, though, the Trophy R’s spec sheet represents something of a wish list for driving and engineering nerds alike.

The target customer is described as male, age 45-50 and ‘a fan of motorsports and with a huge passion for car heritage’. It’s a car for ‘purists, real experts in cars and track enthusiasts who really know how to drive and are looking for performance exclusively’. Can there be a more satisfying person to design and engineer cars for?

It’s why the four-wheel steering that’s so far plagued the standard Megane RS has gone; a near-40kg saving helped cement that cause, but Renault did test the car with 4Control before concluding the ‘expert drivers’ who’ll buy the Trophy R know fine well how to back a front-driven car into a corner without artificial assistance. It was always going to be manual-only, too, for a similar combination of reasons.