The Mégane Renaultsport 275 Trophy-R has just become the fastest front-wheel-drive production car in history to lap the legendary German circuit
The Renault Mégane Renaultsport 275 Trophy-R. Photo:AFP
And to celebrate the achievement, the French car company is bringing this hottest of hot hatches to market as a special edition.
It set a time of 7 minutes, 54.3 seconds around the 20.8km track, which in recent years has become the de-facto proving ground for any car company that wants to put its money where its mouth is in terms of boasts of power, handling, performance or speed.
Nicknamed 'the widow maker' and 'the green hell,' such is the ferocity of the Nurburgring that it was deemed too dangerous a track for Formula One and hasn't hosted an F1 race since 1976 when Nikki Lauda had a near-fatal crash.
The new time, set in May and officially ratified Monday, is a whole 4.1 seconds faster than the existing record, which itself was only set in March by Seat with its equally road-legal Leon Cupra 280.
And like the Seat, the super-fast Mégane will be going on sale to the general public in limited numbers with first deliveries expected in November. Unlike the standard family car, the Mégane Renaultsport 275 Trophy-R has a two-liter turbocharged engine capable of producing 271bhp plus a special mechanical limited slip differential. To further improve performance, weight has been shed, while handling is taken care of by special dampers that can be calibrated to suit the track, the driver's style, or both.
However, be warned, although this car is faster on a track than a Ferrari F430, a BMW M5 or a Mercedes C63 AMG Coupe, it won't be as comfortable, or as ‘practical' as its rivals off it.
It has next to no soundproofing, the back seats are missing (to save weight) and as for ride quality, ‘unforgiving' will be a polite way of describing the firmness of its road holding as it encounters pot holes and speed bumps. Still at around €46,000 it is considerably cheaper. So much so in fact that there'll be enough change left over to buy a standard Mégane too for the school run and trips to flat-pack furniture stores.
The lure of Nurburgring
As for car companies' obsession with breaking Nurburgring records, there appears to be no end in sight. An issue that is worrying McLaren. When it set out to build the frankly phenomenal P1, one of the things it had to be able to do was to lap the German circuit in under 7 minutes. However, Porsche and Ferrari are also using the same marker for developing their latest hypercars, and in September 2013, Porsche succeeded in breaking the sub-seven-minute barrier for the first time with the 918 Spyder.
McLaren is also believed to have set an equally fast, if not faster time in the P1, and Ferrari is working overtime trying to beat Porsche's time. However, McLaren refuses to reveal exactly what the time it set was, not because it was slow, but because it believes that just like in F1, this obsession is going to end in tragedy as its test drivers or even those of Ferrari or Porsche push things one step too far. By keeping the times even from its own drivers, McLaren is ensuring that they focus on the car, not those made by its rivals.