First, some bold claims to fame. This Megane Trophy is the fastest road-going Renault ever. And on the day we drove it, it became the quickest front-drive car around the Nürburgring, with a time of eight minutes, 7.97secs. If you're bored by the never-ending story of rapid 'Ring laps, consider the following. This £27k Renault posts a faster time than a Viper GTS and a Diablo SV. And a KTM X-Bow.
It also smashes the previous front-drive record set by the vertically arsed Megane R26.R by nearly 10 seconds. But where that had plastic windows and a roll cage, the Trophy has regular glass and room in the back for brave mates. It is not stripped of luxuries, nor is it horribly uncomfortable. All that's mechanically different from a standard 250 Cup is an extra 15bhp and 15lb ft of torque - thank a boostier turbo - plus some gummier tyres.
So there's a bit more grip and go. Top speed is nudged up by 2mph to 158mph, and 0-62mph falls by a tenth to six seconds dead. The lap time shows that, and proves what a really good set of tyres can do, but on real roads, you'd need a bionic connection to really feel the difference between this and a standard car, as the performance gain is more scientific than sensory. Importantly, nothing has been ruined. The new rubber doesn't provoke more torque steer, and it doesn't ride rougher or hum louder.
What we have here is a great car made slightly greater. It's £600 more than the current top-spec RS, but that doesn't just buy extra performance. It buys Trophy decals, new alloys - black with a red rim - and special paint (go for the Liquid Yellow - its lacquer is deeper and more expensive to produce than the black). You also get access to all RenaultSport trackdays, which would actually cost more than 600 quid if you went to them all.
Why, then, didn't the RS have this all along? It's part of the business plan. A fully hardcore and roll-caged version is a way off, if it happens at all, but there is a ‘phase two' model due next year. This one's supposed to pique interest until then. But there's a rumour, not denied by the boss of RenaultSport, that this engine could be standard in the face-lifted car - it's been in development for a year, which seems excessive for one fast lap and a limited run of 500 cars.
Just 50 of those are coming to Britain. But if you're not on the waiting list, here's some advice. Forget the extra power, because it's only part of the story. Then pop into a tyremonger and ask for some Bridgestone RE050As. Affix them to the 19-inch alloys on a regular Megane Cup. Watch your lap times tumble.
We like: A bit more grip and power
We don't like: Not really feeling the difference
The verdict: A power tweak plus stickier tyres make a good hot hatch slighter hotter
Performance: 0-62mph in 6.0secs, max 158mph, 34.4mpg
Tech: 1998cc, 4cyl, FWD, 265bhp, 265lb ft, 1387kg, 190g/km CO2
Tick this on the options list: Liquid Yellow paint, £free
And avoid this: Er, your neighbour's cat?