In the Pug of War with the Audi TT, the stunning Peugeot RCZ pulls sporty minds towards design aesthetics.
If an Audi TT can turn half the heads on Sheikh Zayed Road, what does it take to make the driver of the Audi roadster to turn his or, quite often, her head? That is not a mere hypothetical question. It was perhaps the very brief that Autodesk designers received at the Peugeot headquarters. May be on the same day as the engineers in Paris received a do-or-die briefing on Peugeot’s way ahead! It seems what they came up with has urged not only die ingenieur at Ingolstadt but the entire world to sit up and take a second look! The RCZ from Peugeot reiterates the superiority of style over everything else in French Automobile Grammar.
A fresh blast of avant-garde aerodynamics
Audi TT’s timeless design has been around for a while now. For those eyes yearning for something fresh, RCZ offers plenty of recess, with its double-bubble design leading from the rear and the polished aluminium arches running down both sides of the sculpted roof. The yet unseen, even if a little weird, double bubble catches your attention like two shapely bums on a Playboy cover and distinctly marks the RCZ despite its frontal likeness to the 307cc and the Peugeot family in general. Peugeot eagerly steers the design innovation towards superior performance dynamics but whether it actually does or not, it looks damn neat – and I think the job is done right there!
The masculine front grille still retains Peugeot’s French elegance bolstered by the ostensibly muscular chassis, while the long-stoop to the behind gives a feminine persona accentuated by the innovative double bubble on top.
One of the most significant sensations associated with sports cars – lying low and almost hugging the road is emphatic during the drive. The RCZ, by design, clings lower to the ground when compared with a TT, thus giving the feeling of being slightly longer than it actually is.
RCZ: The power to pull the Peugeot brand-wagon
When offered the test drive, my preference to experience the manual drive first, as against the more popular automatic transmission, was just as obvious as the additional 44 bhp power available in the 200 bhp manual version. The latter’s torque as high as 275 Nm makes the manual drive as powerful as you want a mid-range sports car to be. Despite fielding a 1.6 L engine – thanks to Peugeot’s environment-friendly agenda – you don’t have to wait for the torque to kick in. This makes the manual transmission smooth and pleasurable, and the purposeful gearshift adds to the sporty feeling of the drive. The reasonably quick yet measured response gives a feeling of stability to the car, and you have already geared up for its firm drive quality when you signed up for a sport coupe in the first place.
Nudge it with your foot and the RCZ responds by returning an immediate rush of adrenaline – to borrow the favourite cliché for the nth time in motoring history. The run up to 100 kmph is pretty quick (7.1 sec) but the temporary over-torque pegged at 1770 rpm means it takes a much longer time to cruise past the 200 mark. But then, it’s an uncannily similar comparison here with the Audi TT 2.0 TFSI, that leaves 100 behind in less than 7 sec but crosses the 200 mark at (yawn!) 29.5 sec, in fact half a second behind the RCZ!
Where the RCZ further scores is in the area of fuel consumption and emissions, thanks to the fact that Peugeot features a 1.6 L engine which generously hands out more than 14 km/L for mixed driving. Boasting a Euro 5 compliant engine, the 200 hp manual RCZ exhales only 159 g/km of CO2. It should be mentioned to the French marque’s credit that it remains the only carmaker in this market that can claim Euro-5 compliant environment-friendly standards across its range.
Active driving dynamics and N-Cap safety rating
Peugeot RCZ features a dashing spoiler across its boot that comes awake with a crunch that sounds more like a sharp and sudden revving of the turbo-booster – a signal to other drivers regarding the powerhouse that is passing by. Christened the Active Rear Spoiler, it is deployed automatically according to the vehicle speed or by the touch of a button in the central console, and is designed to optimize the flow of air and improve the down-force.
The wide stance on its spread out 19” wheels and the low-lying design make lane changing and highway maneuvering top-class but what’s a tad disappointing is the cornering at higher speeds.
Peugeot has backed up the braking and maneuvering process with a plethora of safety features right from Dynamic Stability Control and Electronic Stability Programme to Emergency Braking Assistance. Unmistakably displayed next to the C-pillar is the badge of N-cap safety. Getting you home safe and sound is a matter of pride for Peugeot, but you can choose to peel off the sticker once the initial reassurance has set in!
Sparkling with a sporty touch, inside out
From the feline headlamps and the gleaming Felis Leo at the centre of the bonnet to the ruby rear lamps and the chromed twin exhaust tailpipe, Peugeot has invested a lot of thought in the detail – apparently they are banking a lot on this one, and their 3008 crossover, to see them through renewed challenges from compatriot Renault and the Chinese crusaders. The wide, steel pedals and the race track-inspired flat-bottom steering emphasize the sporty setting as you settle into its low profile, comfortable seats.
The awe-inspiring exterior isn’t exactly duplicated inside the cabin. The dials are pretty impressive with their tasteful metal inserts but the central instrument panel is pretty basic and overly understated. One could say in defence that it is in keeping with the pre-Panamera sport tradition. Driver information is just about enough, leaving all the advance navigation math to the driver’s sailor instinct. The sound system displays the characteristic sports coupe negligence, but gets pretty ear-worthy with the higher versions offering JBL perfection.
Besides the high visibility quotient of the rear windscreen, handy Parking Sensors with a blip make it a friendly cockpit to drive in. On the flipside are the cruise control and speed limiter stalks that are well concealed behind the steering spokes – looks great by being invisible but reduces practicality during the drive.
Keep the golf bag (s) in but the kids out!
The RCZ throws open a surprisingly spacious boot, good enough for not just a few golfclubs and kits – even a large sized pram can fit in comfortably. Not that you’ll actually want children squeeze into the back, especially with those shapely inverted bums overhead!
For the fortunate two in front, the seats are not only supportive during the firm ride, but also recline gracefully and generously at the touch of a button, allowing you to languish at a pit stop on your long drives.
Remarks from the road run
Content with riding the 200 bhp manual, I decided to have the RCZ Automatic for dessert. Well, if you would rather barter a vial of adrenaline for the ease of everyday urban commute, the automatic transmission still doesn’t deprive you of the RCZ essence. There is a lot of style and character to the car that help keep the balance, as the absence of one-fourth of its pulling power tends to tip the scales in the wrong direction.
Above everything else, what marks the RCZ is its refreshing ability to inspire awe. Cruising along the Garhoud Bridge, I noticed a pretty impressive sport sedan slow down in the next lane to check me out. (I call it the double-bubble effect!) He must have in turn been impressed by what he saw, for the lingering presence alongside was an invitation – to prove my (and by default my car’s) sporting skills. Being an advocate of pacific road manners, I restrained my foot from giving in to the heavy feeling weighing on my right toe. If I did, I am sure, the road rage would have towed him along to the sales desk at the Peugeot showroom!
Upside: Strikingly fresh design innovation. Smooth and powerful manual drive. Comfortably reclining seats. Unusually spacious boot.
Flipside: Cornering could have been better. Backseats stripped of utility value. Lackluster interior compared with stunning exterior. Bonnet design too close to the Peugeot lineup.
Drive courtesy: Swaidan Trading, Dubai
Picture Courtesy: Peugeot Middle East; Alex K