My brain is fuzzy after a night spent hunched over the keyboard. Yes, the two short, sharp coffee shots I’ve tossed down the hatch have helped, but I’m still drowsy. It also doesn’t help that the Megane looks a bit too familiar on the inside. I scratch my head – is it the lack of sleep? Then it hits me – it’s like the Fluence. The Megane, after all, is a Fluence without a boot. What’s nice is that it has a manual gearbox – trust the French to uphold tradition. Time to step on the gas.
The motor fires with a braapp, braaap – not bad for a 2.0 turbo four. Acceleration is also sufficiently full of character. There isn’t a dead zone or lag in the traditional sense, but things do suddenly get frantic after around 2,500rpm. You initially hear a loud sucking sound, and then you are flung back in the seat, as if from a trebuchet – WHOOSHH. A couple of seconds and you are further down the road than you expect, and this takes some amount of brain recalibration. With fast front-wheel-drive cars, there’s only so much you can expect, but this car has moved the goalposts.
Still, it’s not the power, but the handling of this front-wheel-drive chassis that sets the Megane RS 275 Trophy apart from other hot hatches. The small track we are on has a nice combination of slow and fast corners, and getting the RS up to speed here is seriously grin-inducing. The steering does shuffle around a bit when the boost comes in out of slow corners, but the levels of grip and composure from the body are so high, I’m simply baffled.
I go faster, and the grip feels just as good. It’s as perfectly poised as a downhill skier in his element, and the car even allows you to make corrections when all four wheels are sliding and howling in protest. I expect the driving experience to be all about putting power down cleanly, but it feels so neat and clean even when you attack hard.
As I push more of that 270bhp down to the front wheels and start braking really hard for corners, the balance amazingly gets better. Now, normally, in a front-wheel-drive car, you’d expect the rear to get really light; but not here. The Megane, in contrast, stays flat, with very little pitch, which means the car isn’t entering corners ‘on its nose’. And the rear wheels just seem to have so much grip – not something I’ve experienced in a front-wheel-drive car before. It feels more a grown-up sportscar than a hot hatch. No wonder the Megane RS 275 Trophy-R, a mildly different version, managed a time of 7minutes 54.36seconds around the Nürburgring, making it the fastest front-wheel-drive car to have gone around at the time.
The engine isn’t the most linear or the most refined, the rear seats are a bit compromised and it will be expensive, priced upwards of Rs 40 lakh. But if Renault does decide to bring it here, it could add a slightly fun and light-hearted dimension to the brand. And that’s something the French carmaker really needs.
Renault Megane RS 275 trophy
Price Rs 45 lakh (est, ex-showroom, Delhi)
Engine 4 cyls, 1998cc, turbo-petrol
Installation Front, transverse
Power 269.5bhp at 5500rpm
Torque 36.71kgm at 3000-5000rpm
Gearbox 6-speed manual
Kerb weight 1376kg
Tyre size 235/40 R18