Peugeot RCZ R

Peugeot RCZ R, front, static
Peugeot RCZ R, front, action
Peugeot RCZ R, side, action
Peugeot RCZ R, rear
Peugeot RCZ R, rear, action
Peugeot RCZ R, interior

IN its relatively short 33-year history Peugeot Sport has enjoyed notable successes in the rallying and sportscar arenas as well as a record-shattering tilt at the notorious Pikes Peak Hill Climb in Colorado.

So it's probably fair to say that the French car maker's bosses were expecting something a bit special when they handed over their eye-catching RCZ sports coupe to the racing boffins to tinker with.

What they got back was the RCZ R - the fastest, most powerful road-going car in the company's history which went on sale in the United Kingdom this year.

In fact, not only is the RCZ R the most powerful Pug ever but the 270bhp it generates also makes its turbocharged THP power plant the most potent 1.6 litre production engine in the world.

That, as you'd expect, equates to some pretty sparkling performance figures and the RCZ R will catapult you from 0-62mph in less than six seconds and on to a restricted top speed of 155mph.

Somehow though, the Peugeot eggheads have also managed to make this speed demon, more efficient than the previous range-topping 200bhp version. Official average fuel economy actually increases from 42.1 to 44.8 miles per gallon while carbon emissions drop from 155g/km to 145.

From the outside, this track-inspired edition differs little in appearance to the standard car - and that's a good thing.

Since it first appeared in 2010 the RCZ's distinctive double-bubble glass roof with sweeping arches along either flank have set it aside from its rivals looks-wise while a face lift last year freshened up the front end.

The only obvious addition for the R is a showy fixed rear spoiler but look closer and you'll notice the obligatory unique badging, which is thankfully discreet and tasteful, and the fact that those roof arches are finished in matt black and the Xenon headlights have an understated titanium tint.

Much less obvious to all but the trained eye - but significant both in giving the RCZ R a more dynamic presence and enhancing performance - will be the wider 19-inch alloy wheels, the fact that it rides 10 millimetres lower than the standard car and is lighter.

As well as that engine there are also other significant changes beneath the skin which help to make this an enthralling and engaging car to drive.

Sharp and punchy throttle response delivers all that power promptly to the front wheels accompanied by a satisfying soundtrack from the sports-tuned exhaust.

A Torsen limited-slip differential and tighter suspension help the RCZ R handle corners at higher speeds and the brakes have been beefed up to cope with the extra pace while well-weighted, accurate steering and the snappy action of the six-speed manual gearbox help the driver to feel fully involved at all times.

The set up really does inspire confidence to push the car as far as your nerve - and the law, unless you're on a track - allows but is also equally capable of coping with everyday motoring conditions.

The sporty set-up does make for a stiff ride but it rarely strays the wrong side of comfortable and you're always held firmly in place by the stylish and impressively supportive leather and alcantara sports seats.

These seats are the major interior difference in the RCZ R over the standard car, although you also get a bespoke gear knob, more R badging, Peugeot Sport branding on the door sills and contrasting red stitching across the soft-touch dashboard, leather steering wheel and upholstery.

Practicality is not the main consideration for buyers of this type of motor, and that's a good job here.

There is plenty of room for those in the front to get comfortable but the RCZ is officially a 2+2 (with two small seats in the back) and rear head and legroom is pretty tight even for kids. I had to have the front seat uncomfortably far forward to drive with my nine-year-old son, who's not the biggest, sat behind me!

Conversely, though, the boot at 309 litres, is quite roomy for this type of coupe and could easily hold a couple of decent sized suitcases.

As the new range-topper of the RCZ the R inherits all the best kit from the range such as automatic dual zone air conditioning, cruise control, automatic lights and wipers and an alarm and immobiliser as well as Peugeot's flagship Connect infotainment system with integrated satnav and USB and Bluetooth connectivity.

Such niceties are likely to be of secondary interest, though, to potential buyers attracted by it's sheer performance and head-turning looks.

FAST FACTS

Peugeot RCZ R

Price: £32,000

Mechanical:270bhp, 1,598cc petrol engine driving front wheels via 6-speed manual transmission

Max Speed:155mph

0-62mph: 5.9 seconds

Combined MPG:44.8

Insurance Group: 42

C02 emissions: 145g/km

Bik rating: 22%

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