The hot-hatch performance crown has returned to Renault after a brief stop-over at SEAT – who set the front-wheel drive lap record of the Nürburgring with its Leon Cupra 280 in March.
The new Mégane Renaultsport 275 Trophy-R has now lapped the 12.8 mile Nordschliefe circuit in 7 minutes 54.36 seconds – just over 4 seconds faster than the Leon Cupra 280, and more than 13 seconds quicker than its predecessor.
Renault raised the mark in June 2011 with the Mégane Renaultsport 265 Trophy lapping the Nordschliefe in 8 minutes 7.97 seconds. Fitted with Renault’s critically acclaimed Cup chassis with stiffer springs, firmer dampers, a thicker anti-roll bar and grooved brake discs, it sold for £27,820 and was clearly a road car – albeit cleverly optimised for the track.
Fast forward to March 2014 and SEAT’s record-breaking Leon Cupra 280. In engineering it for the task, SEAT developed the (optional) ‘Performance Pack’, including larger Brembo high-performance brakes, specially designed 19-inch alloy wheels and Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres, which may have accounted for up to 5 seconds of its 7 minutes 58.4 second lap time.
Nevertheless the record was theirs and SEAT were convinced it would take something very special to beat it.
Meanwhile of course we have Honda and their forthcoming 2015 Civic Type R. They vowed it will “become the fastest front-wheel-drive vehicle on the Nürburgring” – a bold ambition in a market so rich in talent, especially given Renault’s identical goal.
Out comes the Mégane Renaultsport 275 Trophy-R, developed in conjunction with motorsport partners Akrapovic, Öhlins, Allevard, Recaro and Michelin.
Not only have Renault thrown the proverbial motorsport parts-bin at the humble Mégane coupé, they’ve also boosted its 2.0-litre engine to 271bhp and increased torque by 10Nm to 349 Nm. To underpin the increased engine performance they’ve also reduced the Mégane’s kerb weight by 100kg, removing the rear seats (-20kg) and replacing the air conditioning and radio with a simplified centre console (-10kg).
Another 18 kg was found by removing most of the interior sound proofing material, enabling occupants to enjoy the full sonic qualities of the Akrapovic exhaust. Overall the 275 Trophy-R weighs in at 1,280 kg compared with 1,381 kg for the standard 275 Trophy.
If the formula sounds somewhat familiar, that’s because Renaultsport did this once before with the 2008 Mégane R26.R. That also set a Nürburgring front-wheel drive lap record back in its day (8min 16.9 seconds if you must ask) and still ranks as one of the most enjoyable cars I’ve ever driven.
Just 30 Mégane Renaultsport 275 Trophy-Rs will be available in the UK priced from £36,430.
These will include the Cup chassis as standard plus a range of options including metallic paint, red finish for the 19″ ‘Turini’ Speedline alloy wheels and range of accessories including the “Nürburgring Pack”, comprising a performance braking kit, lithium-ion battery (weighing 16 kg lighter than the standard item), two Sabelt safety harnesses, four spare wheel covers and a retaining strap.
First cars will be delivered in November, while the Nürburgring Pack can be ordered from September.