RCZ 16l Turbo 6 speed auto $60,400 drive-away as tested
Of all my posts, this one is the one which has received the most attention. I’ve refreshed a few details so the only one we won’t have driven will be the most powerful manual version. Let’s get that fixed right up!
Peugeot have taken a fresh new approach with their shiny new RCZ sports coupe. The 2+2 features some new innovations for the brand in an attempt to tempt buyers away from other luxury European brands. The result of a daring campaign of change was the 308RCZ concept vehicle which was displayed at the 2007 Frankfurt Motor Show. Encouraged by positive reviews, Peugeot took the decision to bring the model to production almost unchanged in a very short 2 years. This doesn’t happen often as “concept” cars are usually a showcase or dream list. The RCZ is unique in this segment. There are other brands with sporty 50-60k sports cars but none get the looks that this car does.
We spent a week with the RCZ and wish it could have been longer.
The first things you notice are the luscious curves, big wheel arches with fat low tyres and the gorgeous arch of brushed aluminium. The most remarkable and unique feature is the double bubble roof which extends through the rear window. It is a real pleasure to see a manufacturer “designing” rather than just “building” news cars. Although the lines may well not suit everyone, no one could deny the RCZ is unusual. The muscular wheel arches bulge out to cover the big fat wheels. The test car had the optional 19inch mags which make the RCZ look even lower and faster.
The cats-eye headlights xenon are not normally a favourite with me but they look fabulous on the swooping bonnet and point the way around corners at night when you turn the steering wheel. The pearl white paint job look particularly beautiful and subtly changes shades depending on the ambient light. The doors are deeply scalloped the aggressive rear end features huge LED taillights. There has been a lot of work done to improve the quality control so the finish is immaculate. The panels and lights fit precisely and the bonnet, doors and boot all have a solid sound when closed. While on the outside, it’s worth noting that this is the very first Peugeot with no “zero” in its name. This is perhaps to highlight just how different and radical a car the RCZ really is. All in all, a beautifully sculptured work of art.
The doors are very long sio if you don’t want them digging holes in the footpath, best you stay well clear of the gutters when parking. I know it’s the case with all coupes but it is a cross worth bearing because the inside is as beautiful as the outside. The test car came fully pimped with white nappa leather seats and an upgraded JBL audio system, but sadly the white leather isn’t available here. The leather look continues on the doors and dash but imagine my surprise when the lady from Peugeot pointed out that the beautifully stitched leather was in fact beautifully stitched Nabuck, a man made lookalike. I was horrified. I had always thought I could pick the difference between cow and plastic, but apparently not. She assured me it was better on those surfaces than leather and would last longer, but under the Australian sun that turns faces into handbags, I’m not convinced but it sure looks the part.
There are touches of hi tech aluminium on the pedals and instrument surrounds. I love the clear layout of the dash but will be very glad when Peugeot abandons the myriad of stalks sprouting from behind the steering wheel as opposed to mounted as buttons on the wheel itself. These house the auxiliary controls for cruise, audio, phone and lights and wipers. Unlike controls on the steering wheel that are easily read from the drivers seat, with stalks, you either have to crane your neck or read the manual before you set off. But this is a small chink the in the amour of an otherwise superb cabin. You are not conscious of the bubble roof from the inside and the visibility is pretty good for a car of this ilk. You are cocooned without that dreadful claustrophobic feeling often felt in cars with unusual lines. I wanted to highlight our car did not come with the RT4 GPS option. At $4,500, I could live without it. It comes with a dizzying array of buttons which do nothing but clutter the centre console and are difficult to use. The screen swings up on the dash and just looks all wrong and has been known to cease functioning. You lose voice control over some functions by not having it but you can easily manage without them. I love the slight retro feel which in some models has gone horribly wrong. In the RCZ looks just right and suits the outside very well.
Peugeot describes the rear seats as “occasional” but would be better thought of as parcel shelves. They fold down to make a bigger cargo area but if you are really keen, you can fit a very small friend into the back for a very short. I wouldn’t want to go much further than to the nearest pub though. At night, there is a comforting glow from the “waterfall” light in the overhead console. Like many other features of this car, it’s there because it’s there and is merely part an overall effect. I love design for design’s sake.
The electrically adjusted front seats are very firm but after an hour behind the wheel, did not feel hard. They hug you so you don’t slide about when driving a little too enthusiastically which feels solid and reassuring. Most of us don’t have younguns to worry about so the lack of room in the back isn’t going to be an issue. All you really need to know is that should you and your other half decide that a romantic getaway is just the thing, you’ll be able to take a couple of good sized bags without having to leave any of the essentials behind. Ledorga, a European gay website made the RCZ their car of the year as voted by its readers. Keep in mind it has been available there a little longer than here and costs a little less than it does here. We have had the RCZ since September ’10.
One last thing is the Bluetooth. It is the easiest system I have ever used. You pair it quickly then leave it alone for ever. You can scroll through your phonebook via the stalk button behind the wheel but the best feature by far is the audio streaming functions. It allows you to play from your ipod or phone through the Bluetooth connection so starts playing from where you finished the last use. The display that shows the audio functions and phonebook also has a battery meter, so unless you are charging your phone, it can stay in your pocket or bag. They tell me this function will be rolled out over the rest of the range.
The feeling of sporty luxury usually only found in high end cars means you don’t feel short changed and shows a huge step forward for Peugeot.
The BMW derived 115kw 1.6l tubo petrol (0-100 8.4 sec) in automatic is the lowest powered of the 3 engines available. There is also a 1.6l turbo petrol manual (0-100 7.5 sec) and 2.0l turbo diesel manual (0-100 8.2 sec). The performance isn’t neck snapping by any means but you can only go 110kph in this country. Is it really worth 100k to do it a few seconds faster?. It feels fast because you’re bum close to the ground. Regardless, 7.5 to 8.2 seconds means all three engines are as fast as most 6 cylinder cars of today. All versions have 6 speeds and the auto is from Japan. I think this is a positive because the previous Peugeot automatics haven’t been quite right. In sports mode the RCZ holds the gears a little longer and changes down as you slow down. The engine sounds fantastic with a raspy growl as you put your foot down. In fact this is not the engine or the exhaust but a membrane somewhere deep in the bowels of the car. It seems bizarre but it works and if no one had told you it was there, you would be none the wiser.
The real surprise is the ride. I have been in “sporty” Peugeots before where the ride was so rough that it shook your fillings loose and completely ruined your kidneys. The RCZ is subtle and refined and reminds me more of the traditional Peugeot. The handling is brilliant with almost no body roll at all. The goat tracks that pass as roads in Sydney were no problem at all and we even found a cobbled street in an attempt to upset her but she was not fazed. My favourite corkscrew at the end of the Cahill Expressway leading on to the harbour bridge scarcely registered. In tight turns the steering feels very responsive and direct and although there is a certain amount isolation from the road surface, you know where the wheels are at all times. We pushed through some very tight spots without even a sniff of understeer or oversteer. I don’t drive Miss Daisy but I don’t drive like a knob either and I can confidently say this is one of the best drives I’ve had and is at least as good as my previous favourite, the mighty Golf GTd.
I wanted to quickly touch on the fact that we did seem to get a lot of looks. Whether it was the striking exterior of Kylie at top volume, we will never know. We stopped at a cafe in Bourke Street in cosmopolitan Surry Hills and managed a small crowd asking “what is it”. The boys were more curious than excited, but any port in the storm!
There is a veritable alphabet of technology to keep the car on the road and the passengers safe. We have a fistful of airbags, ESP, Traction Control (ASR), DSC, EBDF, EBA plus more. None of us really know what it is or how it all works, but we don’t care as long as we don’t slide off the road into the shrubbery every time we make a teensy mistake. There is no reason why this sports car could not be used as a daily driver. As I said, most of us only have the other half and a few bags to carry, so it is a very practical and stylish transport option. Though not cheap, it’s an awful lot of car for the money.
Some of you might remember I have been a little critical of Peugeot’s Peogeots in the past. The 407 is a love-or-hate family sedan and the 308 and 207 are hatches with the 308 costing about the same as a commodore. Peugeot have transformed their customer care . They have punished the RCZ with 2 million test kilometres and fixed the electrical issues. This particular model has made me rethink the whole brand. The 508 arrives around the middle of the year and replaces the 407 and the much unloved 607. If the pictures are anything to go by, it will be a continuation of the rethink of their range. But back to the RCZ, so let’s just finalise with a few words, simply scrumptious, I want one (and so does my other half who doesn’t know one car from another)!
NB The photos courtesy of Peugeot and show the correct exterior colour but not the white leather seats.