The French Touch



You have to hand it to Renault. Though they’ve had only mixed success in both the worlds of motorsport and production cars over the last few years, they keep on coming up with cars that look stunning and drive brilliantly.

The Renaultsport sub- brand has produced particularly stunning, race-bred versions of their at-times mediocre road fleet. That the latest ad campaign in the UK plays upon the bad reputation of the brand among UK consumers (“remember when you said you’d never buy a Renault”), seems a curious development when you take a look at how strong is the brand’s motorsport heritage.

The Renaultsport R26 Mégane has, after all, achieved award-winning reviews in mainstream car magazines and having recently road-tested the diesel version of the 5 door Renaultsport Mégane Hatch, we can personally attest to the fun handling, super responsive engine – that still manages incredible fuel economy crossed with that famed beautiful booty. Stick a set of black alloys on the version in red and you’ve got a winning combo that can appeal to the family man who refuses to forget the joy of driving.

But with the ludicrously carnal-looking latest version of the Mégane Trophy race car, the French stylists have shifted up a gear. Having starred in the World Series by Renault – the saloon car championship created in 2005 – Mégane Trophy has undergone a raft of radical modifications in readiness for the 2009 season. The most visible change concerns its new body design which takes its inspiration from the lines of New Mégane Coupe.

Under the bonnet, a fresh look has also been taken at the Renault-Nissan Alliance’s V6 3.5 24V powerplant which now delivers 360hp. At the same time, Renault Sport Technologies has carried over many of the acclaimed features of the current car to produce a competitive and affordable racing car, that can, accoring to the press office, match a 911 GT3 lap for lap.

And how about that design. It looks like a particularly high-end mod job straight from the factory, and the styling reminds us of the F1 version of the Espace that was played around with by Alain Prost and company back in the nineties. The front and rear light units and windscreen are those of the road car, while the designers at the Renault Technocentre have made full use of digital simulation technology in the field of fluid mechanics to hone the lines of the bodywork. The car carries over the ground effect aerodynamics of the existing car, with the front splitter channeling airflow to the extractors and loads of rear downforce generated by the diffuser and wing.

Refinements to the set-up have produced a 20% improvement in downforce and a 15% reduction in drag which, together, represent a gain of almost 40% in terms of the new car’s aerodynamic performance over the previous generation machine. Under its composite outer skin, New Mégane Trophy features the same mechanicals as the current car, including an FIA-homologated sports-prototype tubular chassis, a mid-rear mounted V6 3.5 24V engine, a semi-automatic gearbox with steering wheel-mounted paddle shift, double wishbone suspension with adjustable dampers, 18-inch wheels and Michelin tyres. A new inlet manifold, which is fed by roof-mounted air-ducts, has taken engine power from 330 to 360hp.

We at Influx towers hope to see a version of the car at this year’s French Car Show. Don’t disown your heritage, Renault. There’s a lot to be proud of.