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Renault Megane 2014 Review

The Renault Megane RS275 Trophy-R is the world's fastest hatchback, but it doesn't have a radio, air-conditioning or a back seat.

The world's fastest hatchback was unveiled in Germany this week, but there is just one catch. Renault took so much weight out of the car to achieve its goal it doesn't have a radio, air-conditioning or a back seat, despite costing close to $65,000 when it goes on sale on Australia later this year.
 
Only 250 Renault Megane RS275 Trophy-R hot hatches will be made available worldwide but Australia is getting 50, the second-biggest foreign allocation after Japan, and ahead of Germany, the UK and Italy.
 
So although we may be outgunned in the FIFA soccer world cup, Australia punches above its weight when it comes to performance cars.
 
The French car maker sacrificed more than a dozen of life's little luxuries to lose 101kg from the weight from its Megane RS275 Trophy-R hatchback to reclaim a lap record at the perilous Nurburgring race track in Germany, a 21km stretch of road through a lush mountain range about 175km north-west of Frankfurt known as "green hell".
 
It's the same daunting circuit on which Niki Lauda had a fiery Formula One crash that left him disfigured in 1976 but, since F1 cars were banned from racing there, it has become the default industry benchmark for comparing the speed and status of performance cars. And the egos of car executives.
 
Perhaps the real genius behind the hot Renault hatchback, however, is that, as with lightweight Porsches and Ferraris, Renault will charge European customers extra if they want a radio and air-conditioning.
 
Because of our hot climate, however, the cars destined for Australia will get air-conditioning and a radio. But, if they really want to, purists can delete the items and have the car delivered as they do in Europe. 
 
Confused? All you need to know is this: the Renault Megane RS275 Trophy-R is officially faster than a Ferrari 360 from 2004 and just two seconds per lap slower than a Lamborghini Gallardo from 2008. And it's five seconds faster than last year's Chevrolet Corvette Z06. Not bad for a car that started out as a shopping cart and is powered by a four-cylinder engine. 
 
Renault says hot hatchbacks are the new frontier as buyers around the world downsize their cars because of space restrictions in growing cities, but still want a car with a bit of oomph.
 
Weight has long been the enemy of performance and fuel economy but cars have become heavier as customers demand better equipment and safety protection.
 
The test driver who did the 7 minute and 54.36 second lap said the back seat would have added “between one and two seconds”, which is why it was deleted.
 
On its way to losing 101kg Renault removed the back seat (20kg), the regular battery was replaced with a lithium-ion item (saving 16kg), lightweight wheels save a combined total of 5kg, race-car style front seats saved 22kg, lightweight brake discs saved 3kg, the removal of noise-deadening material saved 18kg -- and ditching the radio and air-conditioning saved 10kg.
 
Can't live without these creature comforts? Fear not. The regular Renault Megane RS275 Trophy edition (note, there is no 'R') has all of the above and a slightly cheaper price tag, expected to come in under $60,000. In this case, more is less and less costs more.
 
Renault wouldn't let us behind the wheel of the lightweight 'R' rated special edition (instead we got taken for a white-knuckle passenger ride, see breakout). But we did get the do two very long, ham-fisted and largely unimpeded laps of the epic circuit in the RS275 Trophy edition.
 
VALUE
 
Hard to measure as we don't know the price, but $50,000 to $60,000 for the RS275 Trophy is definitely at the high end of the scale. That money buys a very nice Volkswagen Golf R with a lot of fruit, and some change. The $65,000 stripped out Trophy-R is for purists only, who want to do track days.
 
TECHNOLOGY
 
Incredibly, the coil springs in the front suspension are made from fiberglass and held together with a special resin -- just to save 1kg each. The company claims the fiberglass springs are as strong if not stronger than steel springs.
 
The exhaust is made from titanium; it's lighter, allows air to flow more freely and helps the engine make a fraction more power, and has a nice “crackle” sound as you change gears.
 
Don't go looking for a dual-clutch transmission, this one is an old school six-speed manual. (Renault hinted the next Megane RS will have a DCT, but is yet to decide if it will even offer a manual as an option).
 
DESIGN
 
The Megane gets Renault's new, bold, corporate nose for 2014, but the rest of the hatchback's sleek shape is unchanged. 
 
While the lightweight RS275 Trophy-R gets lairy red wheels and red stickers, the RS275 Trophy is a little more sedate: yellow or black body colour with black wheels and silver stickers. Don't worry, they peel off easy enough.

 
SAFETY
 
Six airbags, a five-star safety rating and a stability control system that has a setting between 'on' and 'off' that allows more lurid driving on a race track, without putting you in danger.
 
DRIVING
 
It's a risky move launching a road car on a race track. Road cars almost always feel slow and under-powered. But the Renault Megane RS275 Trophy is the exception to the rule.
 
With one of the world's fastest and narrowest race tracks as its backdrop, it felt absolutely exhilarating. The brakes never gave up, nor did they even feel like losing their stopping power.
 
The grip from the Michelin Pilot Sport II tyres (the same used on Porsches and Ferraris etal) is profound. They're a road tyre with race-car like grip.
 
The suspension felt taught, but it's hard to know how it will feel in the daily grind. Experience tells us you could be in for a bumpy ride, although these Michelins have a softer side-wall than other tyres so your lower back may be spared.
 
The sound from the titanium exhaust delights the senses and encourages you to rev the engine all the way to the rev limit (at which point a race-car style 'beep' sounds, warning you to change gear).
 
It's a boy racer's dream. And, at this price, probably figures in the dreams of some well-heeled executives.

Pricing guides

$15,990
Based on 33 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$11,995
Highest Price
$25,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
(base) 2.0L, PULP, CVT AUTO $13,200 – 19,140 2014 Renault Megane 2014 (base) Pricing and Specs
CC Floride LE 2.0L, PULP, CVT AUTO $16,000 – 22,220 2014 Renault Megane 2014 CC Floride LE Pricing and Specs
Dynamique 2.0L, PULP, CVT AUTO $14,400 – 20,240 2014 Renault Megane 2014 Dynamique Pricing and Specs
Dynamique Summer Edition 2.0L, PULP, CVT AUTO $13,600 – 19,690 2014 Renault Megane 2014 Dynamique Summer Edition Pricing and Specs