2015 Peugeot RCZ-R 1.6 THP 270 manual review – Peugeot’s Most Powerful Car To Date

Peugeot RCZ-R?

Driving the 2014 Peugeot RCZ-R 1.6 THP 270 manual

When I tested the RCZ Sport THP 200 in late 2013, I was surprised by just how much I enjoyed it and dispelled the myths about it being the ‘poor man’s Audi TT’. Now though, Peugeot have unleashed the same car which has had some major performance enhancements, a 1.6 turbocharged petrol engine producing an astonishing 270 horsepower – the most powerful Peugeot motor to date – it’s shed some weight and weirdly it’s even more economical and produces less emissions than the THP 200, despite all the extra power squeezed out that little engine. Oh, and it was partly developed using circuit testing – which is what Peugeot say it’s been developed for.

We were sent the 2015 Peugeot RCZ-R 1.6 THP 270 manual to see what an extra 70 bhp and a load of sporty parts upgrades will do.

Exterior. Butt-ugly or beauty?

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Compare the standard RCZ next to the RCZ-R, and you’ll immediately notice it’s more aggressive stance. The ride height has been lowered by 10mm, and there are wider R-specific 19″ alloy wheels with sticky Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymetric 235/40 tyres, which fill the arches with very little room to spare.

R badges are placed subtly at on the front grille, rear boot and wheels, but if you know what it means, you’ll realise that particular RZC is a bit more special than the others. Other differences include a large fixed rear spoiler, a rear diffuser housing two huge exhaust tailpipes, red-painted four-piston brake callipers and 380mm brake discs, plus front Xenon headlights.

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I sang the praises of the RCZ’s exterior design in the THP 200 article and I can’t add much to that, except to say that the R version definitely swivelled more eyes around than the THP 200. Okay, some of it may have been because the Moroccan Red paintwork was more eye-catching than the black, but those dynamically-styled nineteen-inch wheels and the pronounced spoiler really grabbed people’s attention.

On the test car Peugeot sent, the contrasting red body against the black roof, ‘limo’ tinted rear double-bubble-shaped glass, and the matt black roof arches looks fantastic, and while it’s each to their own with regards to colour schemes, for me I’d choose either the red or white as the R deserves a bold colour, I believe.

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With the RCZ-R parked outside the Italian café where I getting my daily caffeine fix, I noticed that although there were a lot of admiring glances towards the R, people physically went out of their way to look closely at it, and there were several times when you could physically see their surprised expressions as they noticed the lion emblem – yes, it really is a Peugeot, people.

The fact that the RCZ-R pulled as much attention as cars we’ve tested such as Jaguar’s XKR-S and F-Type show that the Peugeot’s designers have clearly done something right – the RCZ is a genuinely desirable object!

Interior. Neat or nothing special?

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The physical cabin design remains the same on the R as the standard RCZ, but there are some styling differences. Immediately obvious are the super-cool Nappa leather and Alcantara front seats, which look like they’ve been taken directly from a fighter jet. Huge side and leg bolsters will hug your shoulders, hips and thighs keeping you in place for when the RCZ-R is pushed hard on corners.

They look like they’d only fit a stick-man in, but actually they’re decently wide and really rather comfortable too, with good support for the back. There’s no adjustable lumbar support, but the backrest curves out in the right places to give good posture, which is obviously important on long journeys.

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Red contrast stitching and and large R emblem finishes the design off nicely, and that theme also runs throughout the cabin, which the same red stitching across the dash, instrument cluster, around the centre console, on the door cards, steering wheel and centre armrest. Even the rear ‘occasional’ seats get the treatment to maintain the sports theme through to the rear. There’s barely any leg room in those though, and best for if you’re transporting a child as it’d actually be quite torturous to make your mates sit in them.

There’s also a metal plaque on the centre console with the ‘R Peugeot Sport’ emblazoned on it, which is bolted down, and actually looks very cool rather than being tacky.

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Another distinction of the RCZ-R is the shorter gear stick and metal gear knob, which looks to be the same one as Peugeot use in their 208 GTi THP 200. There’s also the small, flat-bottomed steering wheel which thankfully isn’t as minuscule as the 208 GTi’s, which blocked vision badly to the dials.

Amenities include a Peugeot Connect Navigation system, which raises up automatically and is controlled via either buttons on the centre console or steering wheel. Not being a touchscreen, it can be a little frustrating to navigate through the menus occasionally when you want to get to something quickly, or type in an address on the navigation, but overall it’s okay.

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The sat nav graphics are actually pretty decent, with clearly marked routes and junction turnoff signals. There’s a USB port, Bluetooth for phone and music, CD player (does anyone still use those) and DAB radio.

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There’s also a JBL Hi-Fi pack to make the sound more punchy. However, once you’re at motorway speeds (70/80 mph) the sound system has a real job of being heard well over the exhaust and road noise, even if you pump the volume up high, which then gets so loud it becomes irritating.

Also standard on the RCZ-R are automatic wipers, power-adjustable and heated door mirrors, electric windows, an acoustic windscreen to help lower wind noise, a rear parking aid, automatic, directional and self-levelling headlights, cruise control with limiter, automatic dual-zone air conditioning. Safety kit includes driver and passenger front and side airbags, plus two isofix points with top tethers for the rear seats.

With 384 litres of space, turning into 760 litre with the rear seats dropped, the boot is surprisingly wide, deep, roomy and practical, with space for at least a couple of large suitcases, and more with the seats folded down. There’s even a elasticated cargo net to hold down stuff which might get flung about easily.

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There’s a lot to like about the RCZ-R interior: it has individuality, a superb design, well chosen materials for the trim, comfortable and supportive front seats, and a good enough spec to be happy with. The large(ish) boot makes it more practical than you might expect too, meaning a dash across to a European race track could easily be undertaken if needed. Which you might want to do once you’ve seen how the RCZ-R drives and handles.

Engine & gearbox

Reading that the RCZ R has a 1.6 litre turbocharged engine (and a 6-speed manual transmission), one would be forgiven for thinking that it’s the same unit would some slight modifying undertaken. But you’d be wrong. According to Peugeot the new ‘EP6CDTR’ motor has “numerous parts [which have been] modified or entirely re-engineered’ to extract this amount of power from such a small engine.

So, what’s been done? The engine block is reinforced using a special heat treatment before machining, to make it more durable, there are new pistons developed with MAHLE Motorsport which are forged and use the same aluminium that goes into Formula 1 cars, and these are cooled by two jets.

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The conn rods are modified to withstand faster engine speeds, and the big end shells can withstand “the highest cylinder pressures”. The Twin-Scroll turbo is designed specifically for the RCZ R, and there’s also a steel exhaust manifold to permit operating temperatures to be kept higher.

That’s all good, but what about the stats. The 1.6 litre, 4-cylinder 16-valve engine kicks out an impressive 270 bhp at 6,000 rpm, with 243 lb ft (330Nm) of torque starting at 1,900 rpm all the way up to 5,500 rpm. With a kerb weight of 1,355 kilograms (2,987 lbs), that’s 170 bhp per litre  which – according to Peugeot – “is [currently] among the best in the world for a production vehicle.

0 – 60 mph is done in 5.9 seconds (6.1 to 62) and it’ll go on to 155 mph at the top end. Official UK mpg is: urban: 33.6, extra urban: 55.4, combined: 44.8, with emissions of 145 g/km. On a motorway run I managed around 45 mpg at 70 mph, and 50+ mpg at 50 – 60 mph, which is highly impressive considering the power produced from its small engine.

Ready to roll? Let’s drive!

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Firing the RCZ R’s 1.6 THP 270 engine into life, I’m greeted with… slight disappointment. There’s a bit of a fruity note to the exhaust, but nowhere near the sort of growling beast I expected. Giving the throttle a blip makes little difference, as a mere throaty rasp is thrown from the exhaust outlets. Meh.

Ah well, the drive is more important anyway. Pushing the short 6-speed gearstick into first, the clutch feels light and there’s little resistance – good news if you’re doing a lot of city commuting. Accelerating a normally and going through the gears, the changes are positive and the shifter goes between them slickly. The throw isn’t as short as something like the Mazda MX-5s, but it’s nice enough and there’s no effort to it either.

 

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Acceleration in the R is energetic and lively. The revs spin up quickly, as do the front tyres should you give the go pedal a shove. In first gear, and with a reasonable amount of push on the accelerator, the rev counter climbs ridiculously quickly towards the limiter, and I found myself quickly shifting into second, where the same thing happens again. Third was my favourite gear, as it gives plenty of speed and thrust range from low in the rpm to high up in the red.

Whichever gear you’re in though, there’s always a whopping surge of power kicking in between 3,500 to 4,500 rpm, and there’s an almost old-school turbo-lag feel. Don’t think that below those revs there’s no power, because there is and plenty of it too – it’s just that the muscular way it comes on mid-range reminded me of a nineties Subaru Impreza.

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If you’re not used to it, the incredibly forceful forward momentum at those rpm can genuinely take you aback, especially in second or third gears, and you’ll find yourself wrestling with the steering wheel as the front end pulls about. It’s an absolutely joyous turn of speed though, and it never once got boring pushing hard through the gears with the accelerator firmly down – there’s even a hint of dump valve hiss as I click between gears with the turbo loaded up. Sweet.

As the rpms rise, the exhaust tone changes to a more aggressive one and the low-down rasping becomes more of a growl. Actually, it rather reminded me of the noise old sport cars such as MGs and Alfa Romeos make. However, at anything above 63 mph where the exhaust tone changes, it does actually become quite annoying.

After only around half an hour at a constant speed of 70 mph, I noticed the exhaust drones and hums in a highly irritating and tiresome manner, and strangely enough it’s slightly less annoying at eighty.

I’m not some moaning geezer, as I’m absolutely all for a nice exhaust burble, but the RCZ R’s was just irksome at higher speeds, which alongside the high road noise through those low profile tyres made cruising any distance a pain, and I’d honestly recommend wearing earplugs if you’re planning any sort of long drive.

On a more positive note, distances won’t be hard on your wallet as I was averaging 50+ mpg at 60 miles per hour, and easily 45+ mpg at seventy mph.

Tackling a bunch of winding, switchback sections of tarmac sees the RCZ R giving a 10/10 grin factor as it sticks to the road unbelievably well, and sits firmly planted even when on tight bends it’s going from aggressive acceleration to a forceful push of the brake pedal and then back on the gas again – a test which’d normally unsettle a car without a decent chassis/suspension setup.

The large brakes easily cope with constant forceful pushes of the pedal, and there’s nothing but positivity

The steering is super-positive, with even a slight adjustment to the wheel showing feedback. It’s not quite as go-kart like as the 208 GTi’s, but believe me when I say it’s certainly sharp enough.

Although I really like the Peugeot RCZ R’s handling, this is a car that would feel so much more satisfying if it was driven through the rear wheels. It’s got the power, it’s got the looks, it’s got the drivability – why not make it rear-driven?

2014 Peugeot RCZ-R 1.6 THP 270 manual review

At slower speeds, like the ones you’d do through towns, the RCZ R’s firm suspension is manifest, as every bump and imperfection in the road is felt through the chassis. It’s not unbearable, as the seats are thankfully very comfortable, but it is plain that Peugeot designed this R model with the track at the forefront of their minds.

If you’re looking to buy an RCZ, and are thinking of purchasing the R version simply because it’s such a big jump in power and speed over the next one down – the 200 – then I would recommend trying the two on back-to-back test drives. This is because the R is a much more serious driving machine. It’s not ‘just’ a case of an extra 70 horsepower, and it’s simply not going to be as easy to live with on a day-to-day basis than the others.

Price

(Figures correct June ’15) The Peugeot RCZ R retails at £32,250. Does it feel worth it? In short, yes. This is a genuine two-door sports coupe with superb handling and power, and the interior has been well executed too.

It’s around £3,600 more than the THP 200 version we tested, but there’s a lot been done to the car in way of a revised engine, handling package, weight loss and also aerodynamics to an extent.

The direct competition is the Audi TT – a car incredibly well-established within the market. However, the RZC R places itself power-wise between the TT models, as theirs jumps from 230ps to a 310ps version with no in-between, and the 310 versions come in at over £6,600 more than the RCZ R.

There’s also the styling to consider too. I’ve said this in the past, and I’ll stick with it: the Audi TT looks good in an aggressive, German-styling kinda way, but the RCZ has more panache and character about it, and it’s way less commonly-seen than the TT. If you want individuality, buy the RCZ.

2015 Peugeot RCZ R THP 270 verdict & score

Blasting down country roads in the 2014 Peugeot RCZ-R

It’d be easy to mistake the RCZ R for simply sporting more power – it’s way beyond that. This is really Peugeots first go at making a full-on focussed sports coupe, and it’s their most powerful production car to date too. They’ve not simply applied a bit of engine fettling, but have gone to great lengths to make sure this is genuinely a car you could enjoy on the track, as well as the street.

The engine uses special MAHLE pistons and a heat-treated engine block, the enlarged brakes are built to cope with regular hard use, and the twin-scroll turbo is made specifically for the R. The suspension has been lowered and tuned for the R, and the wheels and tyres are also designed for the track.

So, it’s a very quick car and it handles brilliantly too, but there’s a price to pay for a car aimed at setting fast laps around a track: the suspension is noticeably firm on the street, the exhaust note produces an annoyingly loud drone at motorway speeds and there’s a load of road and wind noise coming into the car at around 70 – 80 mph, and even the speaker system simply cannot keep up with all this to relieve the noisiness.

However, the good stuff is as follows: the seats are comfortable, there’s a decent enough amount of tech on board, and it’s actually fairly practical thanks to surprising boot room and rear-folding seats. Do I like it? Yes and no. Yes for all that power and the speed it provides, no for the fact it needs to be slightly more street-friendly.

Do you own an Peugeot RCZ R, or have questions about it? Share your thoughts and leave a comment below!

Exterior  9
Interior  7.5
Engine  8
Gearbox  7.5
Price  8
Drive & Handling  8
Ride  6
Overall Score  8.0 / 10 

Specs

Model (as tested)  2015 Peugeot RCZ R THP 270
Spec includes  Leather/Alcantara sports seats, 19″ R alloys, fixed rear spoiler, dual sports exhaust, Xenon directional headlights, electric adjustable & heated side mirrors, rear parking aid, Acoustic windscreen, Peugeot Connect Navigation with USB, cruise control with limiter, driver/passenger front & side airbags See website for more details
Options you should spec  N/A
The Competition  Audi TT
Price  (June 2015) £32,250
Engine  Petrol, 1.6 litre, 4-cylinder, 16-valve, twin-scroll turbocharger
Power, Torque  Power: 270 bhp @ 6,000 rpm | Torque: 243 lb ft (330Nm) between 1,900 – 5,500 rpm
Drive, Gears (as tested)  Front wheel drive | 6-speed manual
Top Speed, 0 – 60 mph, Euro NCAP  Max speed: 155 mph | 0 – 60 mph: 5.9 seconds | Euro NCAP rating: Not yet rated
Fuel economy (UK mpg), CO2  Urban: 33.6, Extra urban: 55.4, Combined: 44.8 | CO2: 145 g/km
Boot size, Weight  Boot (litres): rear seats up: 384, seats folded: 760 | Weight (kerb): 1,355 kilograms (2,987 lbs)
Websites  Peugeot UK, Peugeot worldwide

Words: Chris Davies | Photography: Chris Davies, Matthew Davies

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