Racy RCZ R powers up Peugeot’s performance
- Credit: Matthew Howell
Peugeot has had a tough time but 2013 saw it come back fighting. Now Peugeot has unleashed its most powerful road car ever. Matt Kimberley, of the Press Association, puts it through its paces.
Peugeot has dabbled in motorsport for decades, most notably Group B rallying and Le Mans racing, but recently the experts at Peugeot Sport haven't exactly had a lot on.
On that basis you could argue that the RCZ R, the fastest and most powerful production car the Peugeot has ever built, has genuine racing DNA. After all, it was created and engineered by the same people who built incredible Le Mans racers and terrain-munching rally cars.
The R's extra muscles bulge from every angle when you compare it to the standard RCZ, itself an athletic car. A model-specific touch is the aggressive new two-tone alloy wheel design, which looks a nightmare to clean but is drop-dead gorgeous. 'R' detailing ices the cake.
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Power to the people
Under the bonnet is what you might think is the same turbocharged 1.6-litre engine that the lesser RCZ uses, and while you'd be half-right a lot has changed. A bigger turbo and new engine tuning create more power, while lightened and strengthened internals make sure the R will last the test of time – and mileage.
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The proof is in the acceleration. If there's enough grip, and it's a big if for a front-wheel drive car with this much power, you're pushed into the seat.
Careful turbocharger tuning gives the RCZ R huge pulling power from just under 2,000rpm. While turbo lag is inevitable it's fairly minimal if you hit the power over 3,000rpm.
Too hot to handle?
The same wide tyres that can struggle so hard to transfer the mammoth power output to the road provide stunning cornering grip. The R stays flat and poised from entry to exit, and a Torsen locking front differential helps it to pull itself out of corners with indecent gusto.
You also get a delicious amount of steering feedback thanks to that differential, which chatters and chirrups through to your fingers when it kicks in. The net result is a much more tangible connection to the road than you normally get.
As you'd expect, the ride is firm, but it's rarely crashy or uncomfortable. Peugeot Sport has tuned the dampers to keep the wheels in firm and confident contact with the road, and it works.
The price is right… sort of
At a fiver short of £32,000 the R's list price is eye-opening. The five-seater Audi S3 and BMW M135i are more powerful and cheaper, although its most direct rival is the £4,000 pricier Audi TTS.
It's still not cheap, but climbing into the cabin there's a heady aroma of luxury. The heavily-sculpted seats hug your body closely, and it's only when you leave the car that you realise how comfy they really are. Copious amounts of black leather with mouth-watering red stitching abound in the interior, and there's very little within reach that doesn't feel distinctly premium.
The only real bugbear in terms of ergonomics is you have to stretch forward away from the seat back to reach the controls on the centre console, l.
Something to shout about
Real car enthusiasts might also wish the R made a more characterful noise. The performance is there, the quality is beyond doubt and the looks are striking. Its relatively bland drone doesn't quite fit the 'special' feel that envelops the rest of the car.
But specialness doesn't negate practicality. The car's boot is huge – big enough for most average families to take a week's holiday away, although the rear seats are only designed for occasional use.
The R model of the RCZ has forged a much bolder path. Peugeot Sport has done a remarkable job and we're told this is just the first step…