The 2014 Peugeot RCZ R is the company’s most powerful production car ever, conceived to go up against not just fast coupes but also the best hot hatches.
The turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol that already appears in the RCZ range has received a raft of revisions to increase power to 267bhp. The R also has stiffer, lowered suspension, upgraded brakes and a limited-slip differential.
On the outside, you’ll find a matt black roof, bespoke 19-inch alloys, dual chrome exhaust tailpipes and a large boot spoiler.
The upgrades don’t come cheap, though. At £31,995, the RCZ R costs a whopping £5360 more than a top-spec 197bhp GT model.
What’s the 2014 Peugeot RCZ R like to drive?
With a power hike of almost 40%, it’s no surprise to discover that the RCZ R now has the pace to match the fastest hot hatches. Overtaking is a moment’s work, and at legal speeds you’ll still have plenty of power in reserve. The 'box has longer gearing than other RCZs, too, which means 62mph is possible in second gear.
Unfortunately, it's not as fun as it should be. The gearbox shift is heavy and notchy, which makes changing gear more of a chore than it need be. The engine also tends to lose revs quite slowly, so you have the choice of either changing gear quickly or shifting smoothly – you can't do both at the same time.
One of the most significant changes is the addition of a limited-slip differential, which distributes the 243lb ft of torque between the front wheels, and gives the RCZ R strong traction and stability. However, things don't always remain so composed; accelerate hard out of a corner and the steering wheel writhes to and fro in your hands as the front wheels struggle to transfer the power to the road.
The steering hasn’t been changed, but the lowered, stiffer suspension means that turn-in to corners feels sharp. There isn't a vast amount of feedback through the wheel, though, so you find yourself easing off simply because you aren't quite sure how much harder you can push before the front wheels start to slide wide of your intended line.
Overall, the driving experience is tainted by the vague-feeling controls; the accelerator pedal is a very long-travel affair, while the brakes, although effective, need more initial bite.
The ride is firm, but no more so than in the Renaultsport Megane Cup. In fact, the R feels stiff, but not uncomfortable, and actually feels more supple than the standard car, which crashes over bumps and ruts.
In a car like this, you probably don’t want a quiet engine, and the RCZ R’s revs with a fantastic noise up to the limiter.
What’s the 2014 Peugeot RCZ R like inside?
The red stitching, leather-and-Alcantara sports seats and metal gearlever make the R feel even more special than the standard car, but then so it should do for the extra it costs.
There’s plenty of adjustment in the steering wheel and in the supportive seats, and the equipment list is comprehensive. Bluetooth, sat-nav, climate control, rear parking sensors, automatic wipers and xenon headlights are all standard. In fact, just about the only options you can add are an upgraded sound system and front parking sensors.
All-round visibility isn’t great, but is little worse than other coupes in this class.
There are no changes to cabin space or function, so you get the same tiny rear seats that are only really suitable for kids or emergencies. Still, there is at least a decent sized boot, and the rear seats fold flat to make the load bay even bigger.
Should I buy one?
The CO2 emissions of 145g/km from the RCZ R’s 267bhp engine are remarkably low, which means that running it as a company car will only cost around £20 more per month than the 197bhp manual version. The official fuel economy of 44.8mpg is also good.
However, the 208bhp Audi TT is only fractionally slower to 62mph, steers and handles better than the RCZ R and costs £4295 less. It’s not as well equipped as the Peugeot, but it'll probably hold on to its value better. It’s cheaper for company car buyers, too, courtesy of its lower list price.
The Renaultsport Megane is as fast as both of these coupes, but will cost more as a company car. For private buyers though, it'll be at least £5000 cheaper, and the driving experience it offers leaves the RCZ R standing. Then, of course, there's the BMW M135i, which is quicker than the RCZ R and is much more fun to drive, if roughly equivalent to purchase.
At first, the Peugeot RCZ R would appear to have plenty going for it, but up the pace and ask it to really perform and it starts to fray at the edges. Compare it with rivals that are better and (mostly) cheaper and there's even less of a case for it.
What Car? says…
Engine size 1.6-litre turbo petrol
Price from £31,995
Torque 243lb ft
0-62mph 5.9 seconds
Top speed 155mph
Fuel economy 44.8mpg
CO2 emissions 145g/km