New king of the ring
by Andy Bryenton
The Bugatti Veyron. The Lamborghini Murcielago 640. The Mercedes-McLaren SLR. The Porsche 911 GT3. A group of supercars, which have more in common than merely sharing poster space on the bedroom walls of a generation. They all lapped the infamous Nurburgring circuit in Germany in 7 minutes 40 seconds.
Now, this rarefied company of auto legends has a new member. While their records may have been beaten by other, more exotic hypercars, there’s a new addition to the 7:40 club that would have been unthinkable a few short years ago — a front-wheel-drive French hatchback.
The French are the acknowledged kings of lunatic FWD tech, giving us such amazing examples in the past as the Peugeot 205 turbo. This time they’ve outdone themselves. Renault’s Megane RS Trophy R picked up the challenge from Honda’s equally mad Civic Type R (with its Star Wars exterior styling and triple exhausts) and hit the ‘ring with seasoned Renault racer Laurent Hurgon at the wheel. In motorsport terms, the three seconds by which the French bombshell blitzed the JDM rocketship is positively epochal. The next best contender, from Volkswagen, is left a Jurassic seven seconds behind. To put it in context, a bevy of Corvettes, the Nissan GT-R and the Merc AMG C63 Biturbo are all slower.
All this is achieved with a mere 1.8 litres of displacement, delivering more than 300 horsepower and 400Nm of torque, all funnelled at high pressure through a six-speed EDC dual-clutch auto transmission. The front wheels do all of the work, both steering and delivering power to the ground, but it’s not just blistering the tarmac that makes the Renault Megane RS Trophy R so quick. It’s also super light and keeps in maximum contact with the black stuff thanks to the wizardry of the shocks, tyres and brakes combo of Ohlins, Bridgestone and Brembo.
Do you need all this furious power and lightweight handling in a hatch designed to handle the shopping and the school run? Unlikely. Does it mean that Renault will enjoy a certain cachet while they are wearing the crown?
Absolutely. Would you rather still have a ‘slow’ old Bugatti? Your 10-year-old self might — but present-day you would rather have the Renault’s fuel bill.