I am somewhere around Reitz when the power starts to take control. For the last two hours I have been dodging potholes and creeping past speed traps. But now, my lower spine battered to a mush by these supportive yet terminally uncomfortable Recaro seats, it is time to open the taps on the Mégane RS 265 Trophy and get to Clarens before either my kidneys rupture.
So I click the ESP into Sport Mode and hop on the loud pedal. With the front wheels squirming and that sports exhaust system hissing like an enraged Darth Vader, the way this thing surges forward gives my bruised internal organs renewed hope. And the Scirocco R reason to watch its back.
This is because the Mégane RS 265 Trophy packs, as the three numerals in its name suggest, a serious amount of horsepower. Fast Méganes have always been well endowed in the pants department but this limited-edition (only 30 have been imported to SA) model is the veritable Dirk Diggler of the modern hot-hatch brigade.
Packing more power and torque than the aforementioned Volkswagen, Renault has achieved this by modding their familiar 2.0-litre twin-scroll turbo engine with slightly more boost as well as a revised air-intake system for better breathing. The French firm further claims that this under-bonnet tinkering has seen an improvement in fuel consumption. Yet even with careful driving I am struggling to get my average to drop below 10l/100km. But this doesn’t matter on a performance vehicle now, does it?
No, what really standouts in the skillset of a ballsy hot hatch is instantaneous throttle response and a willingness to rev – two attributes that the Mégane RS 265 Trophy has in spades. Oh yeah, now spearing my way down the R712, even the lightest of inputs on the accelerator pedal has an influence on the amount of power delivered to the front wheels.
Smooth right up to the shift light (programmable to suit your needs or driving style) this delicacy is complemented by practically zero turbo-lag. In fact even in higher gears and at lower revs, the Mégane RS 265 Trophy responds with an immediacy that you would usually only experience in a car equipped with a normally aspirated engine. You know, something like the Civic Type-R.
But where the appeal of the Honda, let’s be honest here, struggled to stretch beyond its iVTEC trickery and manic 8250rpm redline, the Renault proves to be a much more complete package. Even the Free State knows how to throw a few curves and through them the Mégane RS 265 Trophy proves to be an accomplished dance partner.
The electric power steering system, for instance, is not only nice and weighty but also impressively detailed. Evo Magazine said it could do with a little more feel but I think that it’s pretty much perfect. Ditto the pedals. Clad in stainless steel, the throttle and brake are perfectly positioned for quick heel-and-toe work – something that all keen drivers will appreciate.
They will also enjoy the slick six-speed box and fade-resistant Brembo braking system (whopping 340mm discs lurk up front). Not to mention the RS Monitor that lets you do things like measure cornering force, monitor crucial engine information in real-time and time your own quarter-mile run. If you want you can even customize the sensitivity of your throttle map. I know it sounds a bit nerdy but if you’re serious about driving, this is a feature worth having.
Cool techno gimmicks aside, the real dynamic meat of the Mégane RS 265 Trophy sandwich can be found in its superb Cup chassis. You’ve got to be pretty hardcore to stomach the punishing ride (something that’s further amplified by those Recaro sports seats) but here, today, on this road, I’m quite happy to take the beating because it equates to a driving experience that can rival more expensive sports cars.
Low and incredibly planted (those sticky Bridgestone RE050A tyres work a treat once warmed up), high-speed corners can be dispatched with real confidence. And thanks to an ultra crisp turn-in, not to mention the fitment of that standard mechanical limited-slip differential, blasting through tight hairpins is an equally satisfying task. There is even a surprising amount of adjustability to spice things up a bit. Come hard off the gas or brake extra late into a corner and that slanted backend will happily step out to meet you. Provided you have the three-way ESP fully neutered that is.
Driven in anger the Mégane RS 265 Trophy is a truly phenomenal machine. Actually, with the ‘Welcome to Clarens’ sign now blurring into sight, I’d like to stick my neck out and say that it is the most enjoyable hot hatch on the market. Be this as it may, however, it still does have a few glaring faults.
A bone-rattling ride, some rather questionable interior finishes, awful aft visibility as well as the worlds very worst audio system (can anybody say the word distortion?) detract from the prospect of living with this Renault on a day-to-day basis. Oh and let’s not forget the little fact that you can no longer buy one because all 30 of them have been sold.
Fortunately (and for about R10 000 less) you can still purchase the slightly more low-key Mégane RS Cup. Even though it doesn’t share the same alloy wheels, loud door decals or radical red pin striping tattooed across the front spoiler, it remains every bit as good to drive. Sure a VW with an R badge stuck on its tailgate might be a better all-rounder but when it comes to the performance crunch, this is the car you really want to be in.
The Facts: Renault Mégane RenaultSport 265 Trophy
Engine: 1998cc four-cylinder turbo
Power: 195kW at 5500rpm
Torque: 360Nm at 3000rpm
0-100km/h: 6.0-seconds (claimed)
Top Speed: 255km/h (claimed)
Fuel Consumption: 10.4l/100km (achieved combined)
CO2: 190g/km (claimed)
Price: R409 900
Fabulous exhaust note
Sorry, they’re all sold out
Hard and tiring ride
Interior not as solid as German rivals