Peugeot's RCZ R looks good ... feels better
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What causes a car to be judged as being "girly"? Picking up the new Peugeot RCZ R and doing research on the sports coupe, I noticed that it is often accused of being too feminine-looking.
But you shouldn't judge a car by its looks - it's the driving experience that matters most when you are looking for a car.
So picture this: You're in the market for a European sports car. It has to look great, have performance credentials that are up to track-day standards and be economical enough to run every day. What do you spend your hard-earned dosh on?
Luckily for a select few Kiwis with that particular list of requirements, Peugeot distributors Sime Darby have landed the Peugeot RCZ-R - Peugeot Sport's heated-up version of the RCZ sports coupe.
When I say a select few, I mean it - there are only six $77,490 RCZ-Rs coming to our shores.
Immediately distinguishing itself from the base model, the RCZ R has a swathe of upgrades from Peugeot's go-fast arm, including a fixed rear wing, larger brakes and 19-inch wheels wrapped in sticky Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric 235/40 R19 tyres, and a host of R badges tastefully scattered around the car.
You'll also be greeted by a carbon fibre roof moulded into the signature double bubble of the RCZ each time you walk up to the car, and a full leather interior with stunning red stitching once you place yourself in the race-inspired bucket seats.
"The RCZ R is a hero product for Peugeot," says Peugeot NZ divisional manager Todd Groves. Inside and out the Peugeot RCZ R looks the part ... and it delivers, whether on the open road or in town.
"The quality of the new RCZ R cannot go unnoticed, and there are only six destined for the New Zealand market so it is a very exclusive and affordable sports car."
I can't think of a Peugeot product other than the 205 GTI that deserves the title more.
In the cabin, the RCZ R's sports car credentials are immediately apparent with leather bucket seats and aggressive bolsters holding the driver in place.
Those of a more delicate build will be pleased to hear that they're much more comfortable than they appear, snugly holding in driver and passengers weedy to robust without causing any discomfort.
The interior space of the RCZ R is much more comfortable than the race seats suggest.
The RCZ R also has two rear seats, but these are more a way of separating the decent boot space from the cabin than being designed to accommodate any normal form of human life.
The rest of the interior is bathed in leather accompanied by red stitching which is simply gorgeous to look at. The driver's clocks are finished in aluminium, and the six-speed shifter feels perfect to move through the gears.
All this combines to make the RCZ R feel more akin to a well-made watch than a French sports coupe.
In a step away from current convention, Peugeot has chosen to leave the steering wheel completely button free, which is quite a refreshing choice.
Instead of having buttons for operating the stereo, cruise control and other functions on the wheel, they are neatly placed on easy to reach stalks behind the beautifully sculpted steering wheel.
That wheel is an absolute joy to hold too as it draws your hands comfortably to the nine and three position. Perfect for maximum attack on track or enjoying a long cruise on the Riviera.
A favourite feature inside is the pop up media unit, displaying navigation, phone, and what is on the excellent JBL powered stereo -- which has to be one of the best-sounding units I've had the pleasure of trying to deafen myself with in quite some time.
Our test RCZ R didn't have a reversing camera -- but then you don't really need one with that incredible rear window giving all the rear view you could want.
The RCZ R goes from 0 to 100km/h in less than six seconds, which is a phenomenal achievement considering it is propelled by only a 1.6-litre engine.
But those clever engineers at Peugeot have managed to extract 199Kw and 330Nm out of that little sengine with the help of a twin scroll turbocharger and a good dollop of boost.
To put it in perspective, 199Kw is a figure you'd be more used to seeing until recently from a 2-litre or larger engine with a great big turbo.
The RCZ R also has a nicely tuned exhaust system, giving off a nice note when you give the throttle a squirt and culminating in two exhaust tips not too far behind you.
Helping the RCZ R to hustle its way through my secret back-road test course is a low weight of 1280kg matched with the RCZ R's brilliant suspension - which also sits the RCZ R 10mm lower than the base model RCZ.
Bringing it to a stop is handled nicely by the bright red four piston Peugeot Sport brake callipers clamping down on 380mm rotors which fill out the those 19-inch wheels nicely.
The responsive chassis makes up for the RCZ R sending power to the front wheels with a precise ride and excellent levels of grip. The result is a Go-Kart like drive reminiscent of the old 205 GTi.
The RCZ R is just as at home in the centre of town as it is on the highway, nipping its way around adroitly corners.
The clutch is light and easy to operate even in heavy traffic.
The RCZ R has to be right up there if you're looking for that Euro sports coupe daily driver that won't require shares in an oil-producing nation to run.