Probably the easiest criticism to level at the standard RCZ is that it simply isn’t quick enough. Even with the 1.6-litre petrol engine in its lustier 197bhp format, the coupé won’t bust the 60mph tape in much less than 8.0sec – about the same time a BMW 320d takes. It’s adequately brisk but never a prospect to trouble the imagination of an enthusiast buyer.
The R’s first task, then, clearly addressed by the heavy-duty overhaul undertaken below decks, is to cash the cheque its racy body first wrote almost four years ago. This it does with aplomb. From either a standing start or out of any of its six shorter ratios, the car is now perceptibly rapid.
Its four-cylinder motor, whether in a Peugeot or elsewhere in a Mini, has always been a willing unit, but the modifications enacted here – particularly the efforts made to wring better performance from higher engine speeds – deliver the most fervent variant yet built. There’s a new-found enthusiasm to rev beyond 5000rpm, and even though a stopwatch would testify to the benefits of upshifting before striking the limiter at 6800rpm, the let-up barely registers.
Extra potency has not left the R feeling needlessly peaky. The bustier twin-scroll turbocharger continues to work well low down, and it is unquestionably the 243lb ft of torque from 1900rpm that gives the car a thrusting sense of urgency. So much so that in poor conditions, much like those faced on test, the R struggles to deploy all of its output cleanly.