Until recently the racy looks have perhaps outshone the performance for it to be classed as an affordable super-coupe. The main selling power units are no more than acceptable in terms of outright performance. They range from the 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol 156 and 200hp petrol and the 2.0-litre HDi 163hp turbodiesel units with Sport and GT specifications with prices ranging from £22,100 to £26,900. Now we have the motorsport bred 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol R version offering 270hp.
The stunning RCZ R 270 will be no volume seller with an estimated 300 UK sales in a full year out of a target of 3,000 total RCZ registrations this year. Although ideal as a track-day car it will mainly appeal to motoring enthusiasts for fast but responsive to drive daily road use and it now has the performance to match the looks.
Engine downsizing is commonplace, look at F1 as an example, so with modern technology there is no real need to power the racy RCZ R with an engine of 2.0-litres or more. And the benefit of that is fuel economy which is officially 44.8mpg in the Combined Cycle. It’s road tax friendly as well with 145g/km of CO2 which means VED costs £145 a year but insurance is rated at a hefty 42E.
On test my RCZ R returned a very respectable 39.1mpg but by no means did it involve manic driving given the bad weather, the potholes and the busy roads.
The engine is the product of Peugeot Sport who has developed this unit from the current 1.6-litre THP 200hp unit. The engine block is reinforced to improve durability with new pistons developed by MAHLE Motorsport raising the compression ratio to 9.2. These are a forged structure and use a grade of aluminium used in F1 engines.
There are modified con-rods and polymer coated big end shell bearings to withstand higher cylinder pressures. The twin-scroll turbocharger has also been redesigned and an intercooler provides power-boosting cold air into the induction system. There is a racing inspired steel exhaust manifold and the exhaust includes an enhanced ‘sound system’ to amplify the sporting character of the new RCZ R.
To cope with the extra power and torque there is an uprated clutch and a strengthened close ratio 6-speed manual gearbox. A clever torque sensing front differential is used to minimise torque steer and to maximise grip during high speed cornering meaning to some extent understeer is kept to a minimum. But with this amount of power and torque driving only through the front wheels it is always the case of ‘driver beware’ especially in wet and greasy conditions.
Aiding extra grip are wider front and rear tracks, revised suspension settings to give increased stiffness, an anti-roll bar upgrade, the suspension has been lowered by 10mm for good measure and a fixed boot lid spoiler aids down-force.
Of course the disc brakes have been upgraded and the red four-pot callipers carry the Peugeot Sport name. The RCZ R comes with 19-inch specific design alloy wheels shod with ultra low-profile asymmetric 235/40 tyres. A word of warning here as my test car arrived with four ‘nibbled’ alloy wheels caused I suspect by damage from the deep potholes which blight our roads rather than careless kerbing.
The combination of a stiffer suspension, large wheels and low profile tyres gives a very firm ride indeed but the cornering grip is surefooted and the brakes strong and are in keeping with the coupe’s impressive performance which in turn now gives the RCZ the performance to go with its Coupe design.
The gearing of the six speed transmission is configured on the low side to enhance the brisk acceleration and response mid range and maximises on the power and torque available. But this in turn means relatively high engine revs at the maximum legal cruising speed on motorways which can be tiresome as is the road noise intrusion at times depending on the condition of the road surface. Those who want an RCZ R for long-legged cruising will be better off opting for one of the lesser powered versions and the ride will be more comfortable. That’s the logic but when has buying a sports car been a totally logical decision?
There is no doubt for most people with a motoring heart that the 2+2 RCZ is a pretty Coupe with its mid section passenger compartment and double-bubble roof with a wide stance, a curvaceous body and sleek rear end. The R design enhancements with the matt black roof, big wide wheels and its lower ride height add considerable magic to the product. However it does have vices – don’t we all?
Generally the interior has the usual Peugeot high quality look to it, an area which the manufacturer has excelled at in recent years and generally streets ahead of other mainstream brands in terms of sporting good looks with character. The high level fascia and deep centre console form the twin cockpit design and there is the signature sporting red stitching for the leather look-alike trim.
There are sporty retro style instruments with sports front seats upholstered in a mixture of leather and alcantara fabric.
In the rear there is a snug but folding bench seat with sculptured areas for the two tiny rear passengers to sit. Rear seat leg room is minimal, close to none at all with the front seats in their normal position. Unfortunately there are no electrically operated functions to adjust either front seat which I would expect for this price. The control pedals are not aligned that well for the right-hand drive configuration and the foot space for the driver is small.
Tall front passengers need to be agile and flexible getting into the RCZ as the seat squabs are low as is the headroom through the door frames. Once inside the front seat headroom is good thanks to its unique double-bubble roof. Getting into the rear seats requires a loss of modesty if you are a female and even us chaps look pretty silly working out whether to slide in backwards or go in head first and then try to turn round. Of course this is not unusual for sporting Coupes, it’s just that the RCZ feels less welcoming. On the opposite side to that the access to the large rear boot is excellent and the folding rear seat backs give up really useful luggage space for those long touring holidays for two people.
The RCZ R specification includes an alarm, deadlocks, electric front windows, electrically operated and heated door mirrors, air conditioning, automatic lights and wipers, Xenon directional self-levelling headlights, acoustic windscreen, rear parking aid, dual sports exhaust, Peugeot Connect sat/nav and Bluetooth. Items that should be available are electrically adjustable front seats and seat-belt presenters as it is difficult to reach the belts from the front seating positions.
If the Peugeot RCZ R doesn’t fit your requirements then the new BMW M235i Coupe at £34,250 is an alternative as is the outgoing Audi TT with two or quattro all wheel drive models but the 2.0-litre with similar power costs over £38,000. Price per power output and the stunning looks are in favour of the RCZ R but the driving refinement and proven brand image of the German duo cannot be overlooked.
Peugeot RCZ R THP 270 Coupe £32,000
Engine/transmission: Peugeot Sport 1.6-litre, 4-cylinder direct injection petrol with turbocharger and intercooler, 270hp, 330Nm (243lb ft) of torque from 1,900rpm, 6-speed manual with torsion differential
Performance: 155mph, 0-62mph 5.9 seconds, 44.8mpg Combined Cycle (39.1mpg on test), CO2 145g/km, VED road tax £145
Insurance group: 42E. Warranty: 3-years unlimited mileage
Dimensions/capacities: L 4,294mm, W 2,107mm, H 1,352mm, boot 309-litres, 2+2 seating.
For: New impressive motorsport developed engine to go with its stunning looks, clever differential reduces torque-steer and aids cornering grip, high specification, classy finish for the interior, roomy boot for a mid-sized coupe.
Against: Very firm ride, virtually no rear seat legroom, no front seat belt presenters, steering wheel masks control stalks, low headroom through the door frames, small space in the driver’s footwell.