Monday, 14 September 2015

COLUMN - September 2015

Here is another chance to see my column from the September edition of The Local Herald and Clitheroe Local. This month I had two rather sporty cars to test in the Alfa Romeo Giulietta Quadrifoglio Verde and the Peugeot RCZ R. They have many differences but one thing in common; smaller, turbocharged engines. On paper they both make for interesting reading, but how would they be in the flesh? Do the small engines work in the real world, and do they give that same sports car feeling? For the full write ups for both cars visit the Reviews page.

The modern sports car is changing. Gone are the days of big powerful engines and replacing them are smaller, turbocharged units which promise to deliver the same power whilst sipping less fuel. This month I have had a Peugeot and an Alfa Romeo on test. In the past, both of these cars would have come with V6 engines; a 3.0-litre and a 3.2-litre respectively. Now though, they are both under 2.0-litre. That’s not to mean they’re any less impressive though, because with over 500PS between them these are two very serious performance cars indeed.

I will start with the Alfa Romeo. This is the ‘Quadrifoglio Verde’ edition of the Giulietta, which is the Italian translation of ‘Cloverleaf’. It’s no coincidence that this is the replacement for the outgoing Giulietta Cloverfield. This sits as the range-topping, high-performance model and as a result is priced at £28,330.

Under the bonnet is a 1.75-litre turbocharged petrol engine, which is the same as in the beautiful 4C. Thanks to the twin exhausts at the back it sounds beautiful too. Power output is a whopping 240PS and 340Nm of torque, and when coupled to the 6-speed twin-clutch gearbox equals a 0-62mph dash of 6.0-seconds, and with a top speed of 152mph. Thanks to the fast changes on the TCT gearbox the speedo just keeps climbing, with very little drama behind the wheel. Generally the handling is very good, with precise steering and a firm ride. However with all that power to the front wheels there is understeer to be had if you push harder.

The looks are typical of an Alfa Romeo- absolutely stunning. The optional 18-inch wheels look similar to those on a 4C and big Brembo brakes sit prominently behind them. In the cabin of the Giulietta QV I loved the seats but found the dashboard a little bland. There’s too much black and dark plastic and some brushed aluminium or carbon fibre would have livened things up somewhat.

The Peugeot RCZ has been given the ‘R’ treatment by Peugeot Sport. They’ve taken the 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol usually offering 200PS and tweaked it, to give 270PS and 330Nm of torque. There’s a 6-speed manual gearbox and the R will go from 0-62mph in 5.9 seconds and on to a top speed of 155mph. That’s even more impressive than the Alfa.

There’s a lovely-sounding sports exhaust system, and some wonderful body-hugging seats. The suspension is lower and firmer, and the R gets a Torsen limited-slip differential to help with all the power going to the front wheels. What amazes me the most is how the RCZ R doesn’t feel full of turbo lag at all. It takes off and just pulls and pulls. I have to confess that the clutch pedal still caused an annoyance, due to it sitting higher than the other pedals. I just found it difficult to find the perfect driving position but once I got there is was an incredible experience.

The styling of the RCZ has always been good but with the addition of the dark, xenon headlights, matte black roofline and a black roof, it really knocks it up a gear. I also like the fixed rear spoiler. Then I should definitely mention stopping power. 380mm front discs and 4-pot callipers mean the RCZ R will pull up in extremely short distances.

But don’t think this is all sports car and no practicality. Because whilst the rear seats are strictly children-only, there’s a big boot and thanks to the 1.6-litre engine combined fuel consumption is 44.8mpg, meaning it won’t cost you the earth to run. So on one hand it’s a civilised, economical coupe, but when the road takes your fancy it’s an absolute riot.

Dan

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