On 26 February, the 84th Annual Academy Awards ceremony will take place at the Kodak Theater, Hollywood, broadcasting glitz, glamour and (melo)drama into living rooms across the globe. By the Monday morning, the newsreels will be wall to wall Best Picture this, Best Actor that, but spare a thought for those lesser awards that garner little coverage. You know, the ones that barely get a mention like Best Performance by a Ukulele-Playing Actress in a Foreign Language Silent Picture.
Fastest Lap by a Front Wheel Drive Car Around the Nürburgring sounds like one of those non-awards, the sort of thing that nobody other than car manufacturers’ marketing teams particularly care about. Which is a shame, because the current holder of that record did so in a time that was bested by the Porsche Cayman (a mid-engined, rear drive sports coupé if you’re unfamiliar) by a mere four seconds. The vehicle in question? The limited edition Mégane RenaultSport 265 Trophy.
8:08 if you’re into that sort of thing. Which is an impressive time regardless of which of the wheels are driven, so plaudits to Renault there. But perhaps not the biggest upset in the annals of the Nordschleife as the previous occupant of the top spot was the last generation Mégane, in stripped-out special RenaultSport R26.R guise. And a whole nine seconds slower too.
The 265 Trophy version is no pared to the bone, back to basics, decontented, track-car-made-legal but rather a lovelier version of the already impressive 250 RenaultSport. Particularly lovely if you’re into yellow, because there’s a lot of it going on here, both inside and out, paying homage to the primary colour of Renault’s corporate racing colour scheme.
Transforming the standard 250 into a limited edition 265 Trophy begins by specifying the hardcore Cup chassis, with its stiffer, lower springs, firmed up dampers and limited slip differential. The Cup already makes the performance Mégane more accomplished on winding roads and combining this chassis trickery with a remapped ECU to release a further 15 horses from the turbocharged 2.0-litre engine, offers a marginal performance improvement on paper but one which feels faster on the road. A near 160mph top speed and a 0-60 dash in a flat six seconds mark this out as a fast car full stop, regardless of which wheels are driven.
Completing the Trophy metamorphosis your £27,820 outlay buys you 19” gloss black and red rimmed ‘Steev’ Speedline alloys, super sticky Bridgestone Potenzas, red brake callipers, Recaro front seats, lots of yellow detailing and Trophy graphics and a choice of Renault’s special i.d. paint in either Diamond Black or Liquid Yellow, as illustrated here. The test car is also fitted with a gloss black roof, as a £415 option.
Once aboard, the Mégane’s cabin is an unfortunate mix of hit and miss. The seats themselves are sublime and hold you perfectly, without ever pinching your hips in a vice like grip. The quality of the materials used is generally quite high, with the majority of the areas within fingertip exploration feeling suitably prod-worthy and well assembled. The equipment count is high too, with air conditioning, electric windows and mirrors and a performance monitor to examine how much of the Trophy’s capability you’ve managed to extract. But it’s a miss in particular because it just doesn’t feel quite special enough, not just for a hot hatch but for a near £30,000 car. That sort of money can buy you membership of some very special interiors. And the yellowness? Maybe my view’s a tad jaundiced but with the weave of the seat material, seatbelts and rev counter all glowing with the sunny hue, it feels a little overdone.
All that can genuinely be overlooked for the quality of the driving experience that the Mégane 265 delivers. Acceleration through the gears is rapid without being savage which is combined with a sublime chassis that is both remarkably compliant around town yet taut and poised around ribbons of B-road asphalt. Steering has a suitably meaty quality, with plenty of positive feel and sharp turn in but the dreaded blight of torque steer was noticeable on the greasy, post rain surfaces of rural Surrey. It’s not enough to pull you dicingly close to the opposite carriageway as the Trophy’s blushes are spared by those griptastic Bridgestones, but it takes the edge off the overall experience.
If you’ve enjoyed the Clio 200 and are considering changing up to the larger Mégane RenaultSport range, then you’ll be thrilled with the speed, additional space, bolder looks and higher level of fit and finish. But something is missing. For all the 265 Trophy can cover ground with astonishing velocity and despite it trouncing the Nürburgring’s front drive challengers, it’s lacking that magical automotive X Factor that takes the sensations from your hands, feet and bum and converts them into a big smile on your face. The Clio has it, the Mégane feels too mature by comparison.
The 265 Trophy’s a fine fast hatch, just not a fantastic one.
Thumbs Up: Staggering speed, looks great, sublime Cup chassis, exclusivity
Thumbs Down: Torque steer, price, overdone yellowness
Model Tested: Mégane RenaultSport 265 Trophy
Top Speed: 158mph
Combined cycle fuel consumption: 34.4mpg
CO2 emissions: 190g/km
Engine size: 4/1998cc fuel injected, turbocharged petrol
Boot space: 344-991l
Kerb weight: 1387kg
Price: £27,820 (July 2011)
All photographs © Keith WR Jones 2012