To that end, it’s not unlike three cars we ran in another test featuring a decade-old car: a Porsche 911 GT3 RS from 2010, which lined up alongside a recent 911 GT2 RS. There, as here, the newer car felt all of more rigid, heavier and larger and yet simultaneously more responsive, grippy and accelerative – if not necessarily any more enjoyable.
The 275 Trophy-R isn’t the same as a GT2 RS, obviously; there’s the small matter of 425bhp between them. But there are similarities between the ultimate Renault Sport line and GT Porsches. And there’s no denying that, in the same way that the most powerful new car, the GT2 RS, is the most extreme model, the latest Mégane 300 Trophy-R is similarly the most ballistic and hardcore of all the Renaults.
For the 300 Trophy-R’s concept, the same path as with the other two cars here is followed: there are no rear seats, so weight is reduced, and power hasn’t been increased. This time, the big weight loss comes from ditching the active rear steering mechanism that makes the standard 300 Trophy such an unpredictable drive, leaving you wondering just how much it’ll turn on each steering input and coursing bends like it’s outlining a 20p piece.
You’ll need a lot of those coins to get one. I wonder if Renault, buoyed by the relative commercial success of the 275 Trophy-R, has overstepped here. I love the 300 Trophy-R dearly – more than most of my colleagues – and, given the depth of engineering changes, I’m happy to explain away its asking price of £51,140.
Add carbonfibre wheels, carbon-ceramic brake discs and a straight-feed air intake to that, though, and you’re looking at a price of £72,140, for a car with the Nürburgring Record Pack. Worth it? It depends. I like this car very much even without them, but nothing other than a back-to-back test on the same road will truly reveal what difference the wheels and brakes make to driver feel. But the fact is that it won’t go as fast without them. Only 32 examples of the 300 Trophy-R will make their way to the UK, and only two of those will be fitted with the Record Pack.
Either way, by gum it’s fast. The lap time has fallen to 7min 45sec but, in a straight line, the gulf between the 275 and 300 feels a strong as between the R26R and the 275. It zaps to the redline with such ferocity that it feels like the clutch is slipping, and there’s a real breathiness to it, making more intake noise and less exhaust sound than the 275 – over which it also feels bigger and heavier again. And, in rather sophisticated style, the 300 is exceptionally agile: if you turn in with no power on, it moves around predictably, quickly and controllably (who needs rear-steer?), with a steering system that, at 2.3 turns between locks, is pretty fast, but somewhat distilled like the rest of the car. It’s a sports car with more front-end bite than the others, and that lets you lean on it much harder.