This may be stating the obvious, but evaluating a car on its launch and then in Britain is vastly different. The launch will be carefully contrived to show the car in its best light (often literally if a Mediterranean location is chosen) and there's tangible excitement from all involved about driving a new car for the first time. A few months later when the hype has died down, it's time to face reality.
Worked in France, damn good here too
Fortunately and pleasingly, the
Peugeot RCZ R
delivered over here just what it promised on the
Col de Vence
in November. In fact, that it has proved so adept in Britain is perhaps a stronger endorsement of its ability.
Let's start with the ride. There's a firmness to the way the RCZ R goes down a road but it's never punishing. That sense of composure and compliance remains regardless of what British roads conjure up. It's a remarkable display given the standard RCZ can often find itself a little flustered, and goes to show what proper geometry work and some choice suspension upgrades can achieve. Furthermore, it's worth remembering that 'R' is very much Peugeot's dynamic flagship and so a focused set-up is to be expected.
270hp makes RCZ R fastest Peugeot ever
What a stint on British roads also revealed about the R was a more adjustable (read: fun) side to its handling not revealed previously. Wet weather requires inputs to be finessed to make the car respond and is rewarding because of it. The diff isn't infallible, and will give way to some understeer if you're greedy out of a damp bend.
Moreover, a lift, dab of brakes or some additional lock before exit will get the R's tail mobile, sometimes to an alarming degree. Unruly would be unfair and the RCZ is quite endearing because of its slightly lairy side but it lacks the ultimate composure of a Megane on the limit. Kudos to Peugeot for making the TCS so easy to disable though.
Perhaps the RCZ's biggest failing during its time with us was not of its own doing; that magic sense of flow from older, softer Peugeots is gone. Again the ride is good by modern standards but lacks that earlier genius.
Peugeot Sport has worked some magic
But the precise, short shift of the RCZ's gearbox is a revelation compared with what went before and the engine just goes to show where powertrain development has come. The enthusiasm for revs of the 1.6-litre turbo really isn't far behind that of the 2.0-litre lump in a 306 GTI-6, plus the power and torque advantages are patently clear. That it does this while (officially) returning nearly 15mpg more (44.8 versus 30.1) and emitting 79g/km less (145g/km versus 224g/km) is remarkable.
There's a separate blog to follow on some of the disappointments to be found inside the RCZ, but it's worth mentioning the seats are fantastic and the steering wheel nice to hold (remember wheels without buttons on them?). Other parts aren't quite so great...
But overall the RCZ R is terrific, a great return to form for engaging fast Peugeots and a car that augurs extremely well for the 208 R. Don't forget that motorsport pedigree from the RCZ Cup too. Brokers are already offering deal dropping the RCZ R below £30K, where it warrants real attention from anyone after something fast and fun.
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)