Peugeot has designed and manufactured its most powerful road car to date, with the arrival of its Peugeot RCZ R. This is the first model in a series of high-performance Peugeots to bear the "R" badge. We expect an R variant of the all-new Peugeot 308 to follow in the RCZ R's footsteps.
The RCZ R has been heavily modified over the standard variant by Peugeot Sport engineers. These guys have already proved their expertise, having claimed class victory at the gruelling Nurburgring 24-hour races in 2010, 2011 and 2012 with their RCZ race car. In 2012 the Peugeot RCZ racing cup was introduced and has been successful in France, Germany, Italy and Spain. Now enthusiasts can sample a Peugeot Sport performance car on the road.
The R’s sporty look is aided by 19-inch alloy wheels, a fixed rear spoiler to increase downforce, a rear diffuser and subtle R badges front and rear. It has a lower and wider stance than its regular RCZ sibling, with stiffer sports suspension and a widened front and rear track for superior handling. The interior will be familiar to any RCZ driver, albeit with the welcome addition of two Alcantara-clad sports seats in the front; these bucket seats hold you in firmly, offering great shoulder support when cornering. The rear seats are pretty much redundant for anyone bar small children. The use of leather with raised stitching across the dash and door cards heightens the luxurious feel to the car’s cabin.
Deep, throaty noise
As soon as you start the car, your aural senses are treated to a deep, throaty noise bellowing from the twin rear exhausts. On acceleration, this noise sensation is increased with an induction roar, all the way to the rev limiter. At the heart of the RCZ R is a 1.6-litre THP turbocharged petrol engine. This may seem a bit wimpy for a car of this nature, but through the use of Formula One-grade aluminium for the construction of the engine's block and forged pistons, this engine develops a notable 270hp and 330Nm of torque.
In general, a front-wheel-drive car will struggle to transfer this power to the road and cope with steering inputs simultaneously. Thankfully, this isn’t the case: Peugeot Sport has spent copious amounts of development time with the car’s chassis, suspension and transmission set-up to hone the car’s driveability. The R’s front suspension is 14 per cent stiffer than the standard RCZ, and the rear suspension’s stiffness has been increased by 44 per cent. The resulting improvements in the car’s handling are noticeable, although it may prove to be too harsh a ride on some poor Irish country roads.
The RCZ R has a six-speed manual transmission and, crucially, a Torsen limited slip differential (LSD). On twisty sections of our test route along the Col de Vence, which plays host to some stages of the infamous Monte Carlo rally, just north of Nice, we had perfect conditions to put the car through its paces. The power steering is hydraulic and offers a more precise feel and communication from the front wheels in comparison to the electromechanical systems that are being widely introduced. You can turn in to a corner and accelerate fiercely without interrupting the car's immense grip.
It's suitably fast, too, capabale of accelerating to 100km/h from a standstill in 5.9 seconds, and it can continue to an electronically limited top speed of 250km/h (155mph). Decelerating from high speeds happens at a rapid pace thanks no doubt to the colossal 380mm front discs, harnessed by four-piston Alcon racing callipers. Using the manual transmission increases the driver's involvement and adds pleasure to the overall experience; the pedals are positioned close to each other, which makes heel-and-toe manoeuvres straightforward on downshifts.
Behind the wheel in the RCZ R, it reminded me of a recent drive in the Scottish highlands in the high-flying Porsche Cayman. It's not too far removed, either, as competitors go, with a similar power output (275hp vs 270hp), although the Porsche has a preferred rear-wheel-drive setup. Audi's TTS is another likely opponent; its 2.0-litre engine produces 272hp coupled with quattro all-wheel-drive.
Peugeot Ireland won’t confirm exact pricing for a few weeks, but they have given an indicative price of €50,000. It will obviously be a halo model for the brand. Nonetheless, at this price its close on €20,000 cheaper than the Cayman and TTS. 1Handing the RCZ over to Peugeot Sport has resulted in a finely honed sports car that will reward keen drivers in abundance.