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.
The front wheels do not require the added complication of lock to start them spinning, and they continue to do so in second gear, given the chance. It is this shortfall in traction, rather than any deficiency in power, that leaves the car some way short of its claimed acceleration time.
Given a dry surface, 6.1sec seems realistic. And the 5.5sec it took to get from 30-70mph – half a second quicker than a Vauxhall Astra VXR – just goes to show which league the R’s overhaul has put it in.