of Peugeot Sport and the raw figures promised a lot, but they can't convey just what a great car the RCZ R is to drive. And having read about so many entirely average Peugeots, that's very pleasing to say.
You drop into a great seat that clamps you in at the shoulders, hips and thighs perfectly. The steering wheel can be brought right out too. OK, the clutch still sits a bit too high and the 208 GTI-sourced gearknob is a little too large but they're small criticisms of a decent driving environment.
Blimey, the RCZ R is loud. At idle it seems like a door has been left open such is the boom that resonates its way through the cabin. It signals a more aggressive edge to the R that permeates its entire dynamic make-up, but it's a welcome one. It would disappointing if there wasn't after the considerable anticipation the pre-launch hype encouraged.
But on the Col and the surrounding roads, everyday habitability is the last concern. You want, you need, precision, responsiveness and control. Fortunately, the R delivers on every front. The myriad of suspension changes, from specific geometry to stiffer dampers, lower ride height to wider tracks, make the R really composed and enjoyable. There's some welcome additional weight to the steering, giving extra confidence in the pointy front end. It still wants for a bit of feel but the improvement over the regular RCZ is significant.
Let's discuss the diff. If ever the benefits of an LSD would be felt, it's out on the hairpins and tight switchbacks of the D2. There isn't the impression of the car chomping through Tarmac as there can be in a Megane but there's no doubting its effectiveness. Power out of a second-gear bend and the R's nose stays locked onto your line, the inside front just nibbling away as the car shoots down the straight with superb traction.
The next hairpin will arrive quickly, really quickly in fact. The R's 1.6-litre EP6CTDR turbo is fantastic. Its 243lb ft torque peak is available from 1,900rpm to 5,500rpm, meaning the RCZ R punches hard between those hairpins. And moreover, peak power is at 6,000rpm, offering the incentive to rev it. It actually spins with such willingness that you'll wind it out to the 6,800rpm limiter just because it's such a pleasure. That menacing idle manifests itself as a real roar at higher revs, an eager and exciting noise that makes you push harder and harder. Don't forget that this engine (officially) returns 44.8mpg too.
As it is, the middle pedal is positioned really well for dabbling with heel 'n' toe. The R's shift is quick and precise, making the fourth-third-second movement a pleasure. Match it with some revs and it just feels brilliant. The diff hauls you out of the corner and then it starts again...
Those looking for that last degree of Megane-style adjustability will be slightly disappointed by the RCZ R though. It feels pleasingly neutral, and we'd like to drive it in the UK before making a definitive verdict, but it feels more nose-led than the Renault. Another minor gripe though.
Writing this back in Baltic Britain, it's hard not to think favourably on a day in France with the RCZ R. But crucially, the car was more than worthy of its stunning launch venue, being a rewarding and exciting companion for some brilliant roads. Peugeot are only expecting the R to take around 10 per cent of RCZ sales, meaning around 300 a year in the UK. £31,995 isn't cheap, but there won't be a single customer disappointed at paying it.
PEUGEOT RCZ R
Engine: 1,598cc 4-cyl turbocharged
Transmission: 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive, limited-slip differential
Power (hp): 270@6,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 243@1,900-5,500rpm
Top speed: 155mph
MPG: 44.8 (NEDC combined)