PEU­GEOT RCZ: HATCH THAT BE­CAME A SU­PER­MODEL

The lit­tle Peu­geot gives you a su­per­car shape and su­per-boy per­for­mance

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page - PAUL POT­TINGER CARS­GUIDE EDI­TOR paul.pot­tinger@news.com.au

YOU needn’t as­pire to a Fer­rari, Lam­borgh­ini or a Maserati to own a car that turns heads, one that glad­dens your heart to look upon it.

Un­der­neath, Peu­geot’s RCZ shares me­chan­i­cals with a ba­sic hatch­back rather than a su­per­car, but it’s a su­per­model’s shape. Or maybe a mod­ern art ex­hibit. If it didn’t drive so en­ter­tain­ingly, you’d stick it on a pedestal and call it a sculp­ture.

It looks fast just sit­ting there — all low-slung stance, swept planes and uniquely con­vex rear win­dow that emu­lates the shape of a woman’s shoul­der blades. Well, that’s what Peu­geot de­sign­ers say. They’re French.

Now it’s fast to drive, too. The R edi­tion of the RCZ has been tuned, sprung and fired up by Peu­geot’s rac­ing di­vi­sion. The cur­rent car (a 2010 Cars­guide Car of the Year fi­nal­ist) is no slouch but can’t hold a can­dle to the R ver­sion, the quick­est and most pow­er­ful road-go­ing Peu­geot, a vari­ant that cedes lit­tle to ri­vals priced closer to 100 grand.

VALUE

Not that they’re giv­ing it away. At nearly $70,000, an RCZ-R oc­cu­pies fairly rar­efied ter­rain, es­sen­tially a two-seat coupe with all of the prac­ti­cal ap­pli­ca­tion that en­tails. But how do you quan­tify emo­tional en­gage­ment?

There’s no ne­ces­sity per se for the RCZ, let alone this dearer de­vel­op­ment, other than to act the part of Peu­geot’s halo car, the top model that con­fers lus­tre on those be­neath. It would be a joy­less soul who frowned upon this lit­tle two-door and, as we’ll see, a harsh judge who dis­misses its ca­pa­bil­ity.

The re­newed and facelifted RCZ starts at $58,990 and comes with gleam­ing xenon lights and huge 19-inch wheels to set off its perky, ca­pa­ble 1.6litre turbo four. Ditto the R ver­sion ex­cept it’s been en­hanced and em­pow­ered — to own an Audi TT of equal po­tency would set you back six fig­ures. The new TT, due next year, needs to be a bit spe­cial.

Un­usu­ally for sports cars, both RCZs are vouch­safed by five years’ capped price ser­vic­ing.

TECH­NOL­OGY

In this part of the planet, Peu­geot is not syn­ony­mous with mo­tor­sport yet it’s a Le Mans chal­lenger and record holder for the spec­tac­u­lar Pikes Peak climb. The brand’s sport di­vi­sion im­bues the RCZ-R with a new twin-scroll turbo and race bred com­po­nents, not least brakes.

Most telling is the lim­it­ed­slip dif­fer­en­tial fit­ted to the front axle. This makes all the dif­fer­ence to a pow­er­ful front­drive car. The R sits low and on a wider track than the stan­dard RCZ, some­thing ap­par­ent through the first cor­ner.

And at 5.9 sec­onds, the R is al­most two sec­onds faster to 100km/h from stand­ing.

As Ger­man car mak­ers ob­ssess on set­tings to vary ride, throt­tle and steer­ing — to of­ten dis­tract­ing and mud­dy­ing af­fect — there is no such frip­pery on this Frenchie, not even a sport but­ton. Peu­geot boffins back them­selves to get it right rather than bur­den­ing you with non-choices. This is re­fresh­ing.

DE­SIGN

By now you know where we stand. Es­sen­tially the R builds on the base car’s al­ready al­lur­ing looks with sub­tle yet dis­tinct ac­cents in­clud­ing a lip spoiler and omi­nous look­ing tail-pipes on ei­ther side. Have some reser­va­tions about the thick black strips that frame the roof on ei­ther side; they look prone to scratches and fad­ing.

A sim­i­lar theme is within, a pur­pose­ful and com­fort­able setup. Some will dis­like the driv­ing po­si­tion. It hap­pens to fit me fine. Got to love the lux­u­ri­ously up­hol­stered rear lug­gage rack, which in novel fash­ion is shaped as seats and even fit­ted with belts.

SAFETY

There’s no crash rat­ing for ei­ther RCZ model but ANCAP ap­prov­ingly notes its “elec­tronic sta­bil­ity con­trol, cur­tain airbags ... seat belt pre­ten­sion­ers and seat belt re­minders”. To that add the R’s pow­er­ful brakes.

DRIV­ING

Which is well, be­cause this model likes a party, one with whom you’ll find ex­cuses to take out and dally on back roads. Nor is she es­pe­cially fussy about the sur­face.

As she is re­tuned and gen­er­ally tough­ened up, I fully ex­pect a ride with the com­pli­ance of roller­skates on cob­ble­stones. In­stead the R car rides more ca­pa­bly over pock­marked road sur­faces than the lesser vari­ant and, al­though a good deal more po­tent, it’s ac­tu­ally eas­ier to drive.

That ex­tends to the way in which this al­most un­fea­si­bly punchy 1.6 puts its out­put down. It’ll wail on revs with the best of them and when the turbo kicks in you know you’ve been spo­ken to.

But it’s the torque that

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