What is it?
The new RCZ R is the most powerful French car in the world, provided you don’t classify the Bugatti Veyron as French, which you shouldn’t, because it is German. It packs the most potent 1.6-litre engine on the planet, a turbo four-cylinder that generates 266bhp. And, as in the standard RCZ, the power is channeled to the front wheels alone, though a strengthened six-speed manual. If that sounds like a recipe for torque-steery disaster, fear not: the RCZ R is the first production model from Peugeot Sport, the firm’s Paris-based motorsport arm responsible for the 908 Le Mans racer and the 208 T16 Pikes Peak car.
The RCZ R isn’t as riotously wild as you might expect, a new Torsen differential quelling many of the issues that traditionally afflict fast front-drivers. And, on a smooth, flowing road, the bum-roofed coupe is a mighty effective point-and-squirt overtaker, the predictable slug of boost backed by a surprising willingness to run to the red line. There’s masses of power everywhere you want it, a muscular surge accompanied by a satisfying snort from the turbo, while the gearbox is crisp, the uprated brakes strong and fade-free.
However, in the very knottiest, fastest turns, the RCZ R isn’t quite as precise as it could be, with a smidge of understeer and vagueness when you’re really throwing it around. That, combined with a ride firm enough to cause long-term psychological harm after an extended blast down a British B-road, leaves the RCZ R rather caught between two stools: neither rapid mini-GT nor no-holds-barred track thing. For this reason, you may just prefer to stick with the standard car – maybe with a nice torquey diesel engine for good measure, sir?
On the inside
The R has lots of hints that you’re driving something rather hotter than the standard RCZ. You get plenty of plaques, some smart red stitching, and, in a most welcome touch, a pair of plush, bespoke bucket seats as good as any in the business. The standard of finish isn’t quite up there with the Audi TTS, but hey, it’s four grand less for the same amount of power.
Don’t forget the RCZ remains a strict plus-two – those tiny rear seats are for occasional use only.
The R is a 32 grand hot French coupe: safe to say it won’t hold its value like a diesel Golf. But, as with other RCZ models, running costs are surprisingly acceptable, at least considering the amount of power on tap. Peugeot officially quotes 145g/km of CO2 and combined economy of 45mpg: real-world, and with careful driving, you’ll manage thirty-something.