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First look: Racy new RCZ emerges road-ready

Chic coupe: Production RCZ emerges less than two years after the concept.

Peugeot unveils its all-new image-leader, the sexy RCZ coupe, due here in a year

15 Jul 2009

PEUGEOT has revealed the production version of its stunning RCZ coupe, which will make its public debut at the Frankfurt motor show in September before going on sale here within 12 months.

The appearance of the road-ready RCZ was heralded 24 hours earlier by Peugeot Automobiles Australia (PAA), which received approval from head office in France to use this week’s 308 CC launch to announce the local arrival of the all-new compact coupe and eight other new or upgraded models by mid-2010.

Its seductive TT-esque styling, which previews a bold new design language for Peugeot, appears from the partial images to be entirely faithful to the 308 RCZ concept car that wowed crowds at Frankfurt in 2007.

That includes the concept’s characteristic double-concave roof and rear window design, which is said to negate the need for a rear spoiler, but it’s unclear if they continue to be constructed from the same respective polycarbonate and perspex materials as the show car’s.

France’s answer to Audi’s sexy TT coupe, which is narrower and some 100mm shorter overall than the 2+2-seater RCZ, is also a clear signal of the direction chosen by the new management team of PSA Peugeot-Citroen, Europe’s second-largest car-maker, for its biggest-selling brand.

“I think it’s a very bold move by Peugeot to do this, particularly in the midst of the difficulties in the global market,” said PAA director Ken Thomas, who has seen the final RCZ design and says its is identical to the concept save for details like wheels.

“It demonstrates with the new management a real direction in terms of reinstating its footprint in the sports car category.”

As we’ve reported, production of Australia’s RCZ will commence in April next year before it is released here in July.

23 center imageStarting from an estimated $55,000, positioning it between the new 308 CC (priced from $48,990) and the 407 Coupe (from $69,800), Peugeot expects it to attract between 350 and 400 buyers a year – on top of 300 sales forecast for the second half of 2010.

As the flagship of the French brand, the fixed-roof 407 two-door comes with 3.0-litre V6 petrol and 2.7-litre V6 twin-turbo diesel engines choices, with Ford/PSA’s new 3.0-litre V6 diesel under consideration for Australia.

It competes directly with $70,000-plus coupes including everything from the TT, BMW 1 Series (and Z4), Mercedes CLK and Alfa Romeo GT and Brera to the Nissan 370Z, Mazda RX-8 and coupe-cabrios like the Volvo C70 and upcoming Lexus IS250C.

The RCZ, however, will be powered the latest Euro 5 emissions-rated turbocharged petrol and diesel four-cylinder engines, matched to both six-speed manual and automatic transmissions, from the 207 and 308 hatchback upon which it is based.

The concept car featured a 162kW version of the 1.6-litre turbo-petrol engine that is co-developed with BMW and delivers 110kW in the 207 GT and CC and 308 hatch and CC range, and 128kW in the 207 GTi, 308 XTS and Mini Cooper S, and 155kW in the John Cooper Works Mini.

The diesel option could either be the 100kW/320Nm 2.0-litre HDi unit found in the current 308 hatch, wagon and CC models, or the newer 2.2-litre turbo-diesel engine that will be fitted exclusively to this November’s 4007 compact SUV. Built by Mitsubishi in Japan, the 4007 HDi offers 155kW and 380Nm and comes with a six-speed automatic dual-clutch transmission.

All engines will be a good match for the turbo petrol and diesel engines now available in the TT coupe, but some reports have also speculated the RCZ could also be available with a 185kW petrol V6 to rival Audi’s range-topping 200kW TT S.

Peugeot says the RCZ nameplate, which will be the first not to employ the brand’s trademark zero or double-zero (for crossover vehicles) model naming convention, symbolises the car’s unique position within its range.

Revealed less than two years after the 308 RCZ show car’s debut, it claims the production iteration was developed in response to overwhelming demand.

“The exceptional levels of interest expressed at the (2007 Frankfurt) show convinced Peugeot that they had to turn this concept car into a commercial reality,” said the car-maker today. “However, in doing so, the transformation from dream to reality would require real determination, daring and a lot of inventiveness.

“Peugeot’s stylists and engineers worked together to ensure that the final production vehicle was fully in keeping with the expectations created by the exterior styling of the concept car.

“The first wish had always been to keep the purity of the original concept’s styling, but also to ensure that the car would drive as well as it looks. In fact, some very ambitious targets were set in terms of driving dynamics and build quality, in order to give the car its own extremely strong identity.

“The objective behind this compact 2+2 Coupé is for it to become an exclusive vehicle, full of emotion, aimed at enthusiasts who are particularly discerning with regards to driving enjoyment,” said Peugeot.

The RCZ is expected to be underpinned by an even more performance-focussed chassis than the new 308 CC, which features a lower, sports-tuned suspension and steering set-up than its 308 hatchback donor vehicle.

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