Peugeot’s RCZ coupe has long been one of those ‘pretty and different, shame about the dynamics’ sort of cars. Well, now there’s a flagship version, and Pug might have overcooked it.
Boasting a huge 270bhp output from just 1.6 litres, plus a raft of chassis and bodywork revisions, it’s the most driver-focused Peugeot this side of the insane 208 T16 Pikes Peak racer. But is there more to it than the spec sheet promises? Read on for the CAR verdict.
Tell me more about the Peugeot RCZ R’s crackers motor!
It’s essentially a heavily tuned version of the turbocharged 1.6-litre THP engine from the regular RCZ 200, and also familiar from the outgoing Mini Cooper S. Thanks to lightweight, F1-grade aluminium pistons (cooled by trick oil jets), revised bearings, a heat-treated block for withstanding massive pressure and a twin-scroll turbocharger, 270bhp makes this the most powerful road-going 1.6 ever. It’s not a boosty lag-monster either: the full 243lb ft of torque is under your right foot from 1900rpm right up to 5500rpm. Plenty to shift the RCZ R’s 1355kg mass, in other words.
Peugeot claims the front-wheel drive RCZ R hits 62mph in 5.9sec, and tops out at a limited 155mph. And the other benefit of using a downsized turbo powerplant? The combined economy stands at a remarkable 44.8mpg, and CO2 emissions just 145g/km. It’s a healthy set of specs, and so it should be: the RCZ R has a £31,995 price tag to justify.
Can the chassis cope with all of that brawn?
Peugeot Sport has taken a completely new route with the RCZ’s chassis, which has undergone significant work to make the drive more engaging. The bespoke dampers are built in-house, harking back to the glory days of Peugeot’s finest cars. There have been changes to camber and toe-in angle, and the track is wider too. This trio of tweaks serve to vastly improve grip, and along with aerodynamic upgrades such as the fixed rear spoiler (in place of the hidden electric one on the regular RCZ) they really help to stabilise the car through faster corners.
That’s not to say it’s boring, though. Far from it. Thanks to tweaks to the anti-roll bars, the R’s front end bites reassuringly on turn-in, yet it stays lively at the rear allowing for a dollop of right-foot adjustability in corners and 205 GTi-esque lift-off oversteer. It’s a lot of fun.
Exiting a corner quickly is rewarding too. The Torsen diff works well with the subtle stability control system to yank you up the road when that turbo comes online. There’s no torque-vectoring nannying here. “Why would you use the brakes to go fast?” asked a Peugeot Sport engineer when quizzed. We think he’s got a point…
Handling is further boosted thanks to a reduction in un-sprung weight. Those unique 19-inch wheels are not only 50mm wider but also save significant kilos on each corner. Behind these lie stronger brakes, gripped by four-piston calipers.
Does it feel like thirty-two grand’s-worth inside?
The RCZ’s chic cabin has always been one of its strongest suits, and the R ramps up its appeal with a pair of sculpted part-leather, part-Alcantara bucket seats. It’s still a 2+2 seater, but given the R’s massive pace, young’uns will be even less keen to contort into the rear chairs.
Other enhancements include red stitching, a 208 GTi’s gearknob (this is a paddleshift-free zone), and a little RCZ R plaque on the centre console. It’s not dripping with sports car intent, but neither is a Scirocco R or an Audi TT RS – we reckon Peugeot spent its money wisely by improving the RCZ’s dynamics, rather than its cabin kudos.
We feared Peugeot had bitten off more than its could chew by giving the RCZ R as much power as a Honda NSX, and then asking almost £32,000 for the privilege.
Even though we’re pleased as punch to say the end result has been a resounding success, the RCZ R won’t be a big seller, accounting for around 10% of UK RCZ sales. But as yet more evidence Peugeot has got its dynamic mojo back with a vengeance, the RCZ R gets the CAR thumbs up.
>> Click here to read the full Peugeot RCZ review on our sister site, Parkers