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2015 Peugeot 308 GTI & 2015 RCZ R Swiss Racing – 2015 Zurich Auto Show

Hitting the rev limiter

2015 Peugeot 308 GTI steering wheel
2015 Peugeot 308 GTI steering wheel

Peugeot is being serious about continuing and improving their sports models. After the 208 GTI, it’s time for the 308 GTI to put its wheels (19”) on the tarmac. Since the launch of the second generation 308 in September 2013, Peugeot has developed an entire 308 family, as well as improved it every year: three cylinder PureTech gasoline engines, new BlueHDI diesel engines, as well as a new six speed automatic transmission.

Until the beginning of this year, the range topping and most sporty 308 was the GT version with the 1.6l THP gasoline engine with 205 hp. This year, Peugeot has finally done to the 308 what they did to the little brother two years ago: a GTI version which gets the same 1.6l engine block, with the small difference that it now delivers 270 hp (identical to the one in the RCZ R). That sounds like music to my ears!

On 17 March 2015, Peugeot announced its brand mission as follows: “Peugeot is focusing all of its energy and resources into creating innovative mobility solutions, not only for today but for tomorrow, built around one core philosophy: the search for emotion.” Obviously, just seeing the car at an auto show doesn’t allow me to verify whether it actually delivers the emotions Peugeot wants me to feel. Nevertheless, I can still see it, touch it, feel it and know what makes it going like a proper lion!

Let’s start with the outside, shall we! There are GTI badges on the front fenders and in the back, bigger air intakes in the front and the Peugeot Lion logo is integrated in the front grill rather than having it on the hood, a design feature Peugeot introduced with the GT version in order to differentiate the sportier versions from the more mundane editions. Besides, the grill has a bespoke checkered flag design which refers to the sporting ambitions of the car.

2015 Peugeot 308 GTI
2015 Peugeot 308 GTI

Under the doors we notice the side flaps, which gives it a muscular stance. 19” wheels come standard, behind which boast red brake calipers with 4 pistons, ready to slow down 380 mm discs in the front, as well as 268 mm ones in the back. The suspension has been fine tuned to match the GTI’s power and brake performances. In the back we find a diffuser and a pair of pretty big exhaust pipes, similar to those on the RCZ R. But it doesn’t stop there. In addition to the sports wheels and chassis comes the Torsen differential that makes sure all of the 270 horses find their way from the stables to the road! Excellent!

Inside, it’s a spiced up version of the already really elegant and upmarket 308 GT. On the menu, we find bucket seats made out of leather, cloth and alcantara. Notice that the headrests’ shape are designed to look like they are fully integrated into the seat, but you can actually lift them up in order to adapt them to your height. In order to further distinguish the GTI from the other 308 versions, the stitches on the dashboard and around the cabin are accented in red, the steering wheel gets a GTI badge on the bottom and a red mark at the twelve o’clock position, “PEUGEOT Sport” and “GTI” lettering on the door sill panels, as well as an aluminum gear knob, pedals and foot rest.

The RCZ’ last hurrah

Road test reviews have praised the 308 GTI’s for its built quality, practicality and last but not least, sporting credentials. With that established, the 308 family appears to offer the full range from frugal and functional to the full on Nürburgring lap time chaser. However, being a big fan of the RCZ, I was pretty disappointed when Peugeot communicated that they were abandoning their plans to build a second generation, due to their restructuring plans and strategy called “Back in the Race”. Since the outgoing model was based on the previous generation 308, I can only imagine what a performance car a new RCZ generation would have been. Nonetheless, I’d still like to see what this 308 GTI could look like with a coupe silhouette…

2015 Peugeot RCZ R Swiss Racing
2015 Peugeot RCZ R Swiss Racing

Given the fact that the RCZ’s production has stopped in September, RCZ aficionados will have to make due with the couple of remaining new 200 THP GT Line and RCZ R standing in the showrooms or simply get a used one. At the 2015 Zurich Auto Show, Peugeot presented a special “Swiss Racing” version of the RCZ R. Technically identical to a standard RCZ R, the already leather wrapped interior as standard now features many elements covered in dark grey and red alcantara, such as the inner part of the door panels, the parking brake and the steering wheel. The arm rest cover is still leather but features a special insert marking the number of the limited edition, as well as the full vehicle identification number (VIN) of the car.

DS Automobiles – 2015 Zurich Auto Show

DS Automobiles – Making due with what they have

2015 DS 4
2015 DS 4

I know DS is probably not yet the most exiting car brand, but ever since PSA decided to make DS a standalone premium brand in June 2014, I have been following their development with great interest. The facelifted DS 4 gets the so called “DS Wings” front grill, with 84 LED lights. Also, the whole car has been lowered by 30 mm. The full leather interior actually looks and feels quite upmarket. The new 7 inch touch screen is alright. Many reviews have criticized it for having a very slow response time. It’s certainly not on a par with the best touch screens on the market but it’s quite good.

The DS 4 is the first car of the PSA Corporation to introduce Apple CarPlay. Hence, it projects the iPhone’s icons to the touchscreen of the car. The amount of buttons on the center console has also been reduced from 18 to 6. The built quality feels pretty upmarket. Changing gears while standing feels pretty precise and there is little play when in gear.

2015 DS 4 Crossback
2015 DS 4 Crossback

As far as the DS 4 Crossback is concerned, its height has been raised by 10 mm compared to the previous Citroën labelled version, transforming it into an SUV. The Crossback comes with wheel arch moldings and some roof bars. Inside, it’s technically identical to the standard DS 4. However, without the full leather interior, it looks well put together but not premium anymore. The fact that the DS 4 shares the dashboard with the Citroën C4 doesn’t help. The main issue with the DS 4 & DS 4 Crossback remains the pointy rear door with the fixed windows. In all fairness, I didn’t expect them to do structural changes on a facelift.

The revised DS 5 has been on the market for about half a year now and it has been given kind of the same treatment: “DS Wings” front grill, LED lights, touch screen, fewer buttons on the center console, revised suspensions and a new 6 speed gearbox.

2015 DS 5
2015 DS 5

Although all of the DS 4 & DS 5 models have now changed the Citroën chevron logos with the DS signature, the cars are technically still running under the Citroën brand. That will probably change with the brand’s new model generation starting in 2017. Although the manufacturer can’t yet compete with the technically much more advanced and very customer oriented German rivals, such as Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, DS is clearly taking small steps in that direction. Until the end of this decade, DS plans on having a worldwide uniform model range of six models. Now that Jaguar are back on track and tackling the German establishment, we just might see a French contender in about five years’ time.

2012 Peugeot RCZ

The concept

The RCZ started its life as one of many beautiful concept cars of Peugeot at the 2007 International Motor Show Germany – the IAA (Internationale Automobil-Ausstellung). Most of those concept cars never make it into production, but this one got such a good feedback and looked already production ready. So Peugeot made the brave decision and put it into production.

2007 Peugeot 308 RCZ
2007 Peugeot 308 RCZ

Anyway, the moment I saw this car on the internet I wanted it. Growing up in a family that had always had at least one Peugeot at a time (505, 406, 406 coupé, 307 SW) I always had somewhat of an emotional connection with the brand, but most of them were more appealing to the sensible driver rather to the passionate gearhead / petrolhead.

2007 Peugeot 308 RCZ
2007 Peugeot 308 RCZ

Then, two years later, Peugeot presented the production version of the RCZ. They dropped the “308” in order not to have people remind it of the the more functional model it is technically based on, making it the first Peugeot road car to have a model type name consisting of letters, rather than the typical three digits with the “0” in the middle.

The real deal

2012 Peugeot RCZ
2012 Peugeot RCZ

After the presentation of the road going version in the fall of 2009, production started in 2010 at the Magna Steyr plant in Graz, Austria. I knew that one day I would have to own one. Little did I know that that day would already come by the end of 2012. Yes, I’m fortunate enought to call the nacre white one you see on the left my own. By the way, you might already have noticed that I used this car as the official MotorScotti logo. 🙂

2012 Peugeot RCZ
2012 Peugeot RCZ

This one is the 200 hp (147kW) version. I’ve had it since November 2012 and I’m absolutely delighted! Being the GT version it comes with the improved suspension and smaller steering wheel compared to the base 156 hp model.

2012 Peugeot RCZ
2012 Peugeot RCZ

The main reason why I wanted the RCZ is obvious: the look. I could spend hours just looking at it!! The double bubble glass roof and the two aluminum side rails are without a doubt the trade marks of this car, that add to the overall curvaceous and nicely balanced proportions.

2012 Peugeot RCZ
2012 Peugeot RCZ

The 19” Solstice wheels, the full leather interior (although I believe this one’s dashboard is not covered in real leather) and all of the equipment; electric and three way heated driver & passenger seats, bluetooth connectivity, front and rear parking sensors, automatically dimming interior mirror, xenon directional headlamps, hill assist etc.

Solstice 19'' Matt Black Onyx wheel, 2012 Peugeot RCZ
Solstice 19” Matt Black Onyx wheel, 2012 Peugeot RCZ

A part from the equipment, the inside is just as nice to look at as the exterior – just look for yourself.

Optional aluminum gear lever, 2012 Peugeot RCZ
Optional aluminum gear lever, 2012 Peugeot RCZ
Full leather dashboard, 2012 Peugeot RCZ
Full leather dashboard, 2012 Peugeot RCZ
First generation Peugeot 308 interior
First generation Peugeot 308 interior

Okay, the dashboard looks very similar to the one of the 308. However, it’s not the same. It differs from the 308’s in the back and instead of having three central vents, the middle one is replaced with a very classy analog clock.

Full leather front seat, 2012 Peugeot RCZ
Full leather front seat, 2012 Peugeot RCZ

My car is pretty much stock. The only thing I changed was the gear lever. The original fake leather was not bad, but this optional full aluminum one looks so much more premium and sportier and makes the whole driving experience even more engaging. Being metal, it heats up quickly in the summer, so just be aware of it as you park the car in the sun for a couple of hours.

2012 Peugeot RCZ
2012 Peugeot RCZ

I’ve read and watched many reviews on this car and to it’s main competitor; the second generation Audi TT. In most cases, the Audi won, but were they (1) really comparable and (2) really objective about what the journalists said? I don’t care, I love the RCZ for its style, performance, ride and build quality. Yes, it everything inside is well put together and solid.

Passenger door, 2012 Peugeot RCZ
Passenger door, 2012 Peugeot RCZ

The only thing that is left for me to improve the style are the center elements of the door trim. On this pre-facelift models, it’s simply plastic, despite all the parts around it are wrapped in leather. The facelifted model has this part covered in stitched leather…Peugeot could have done that right away, don’t you agree? My plan is to have that wrapped in leather, too. So stay tuned. ;-).

Instrument cluster, 2012 Peugeot RCZ
Instrument cluster, 2012 Peugeot RCZ

Furthermore, this car is surprisingly practical. The trunk space is huge (321 l). You can even fold down the rear seats and have even more space (639 l). Obvisously, this car wasn’t build to compete with Peterbilt and Freightliner. However, I like to cool it the station wagon of the coupés.

Anyway, the important thing is to look at the entire package. The ride is a little jittery in town, but excellent everywhere else. The chassis keeps the car nicely on track with just very little understeer, the sports seats also hold you firmly in place. I did four laps of the infamous Nürburgring Nordschleife this April. Obvisously, I’m far from being an amateur race driver. But still, this car sticks to the road like glue. Finally, dressed up in that silhouette, this car is already a collector car. This is accentuated by the fact that it went out of production on 18 September this year. Peugeot say they won’t replace it anytime soon. But you know what? It doesn’t need to – although it starts to show its age in terms of connectivity and other infotainment gadgets, this car is at least as desirable today as it was the day it was first presented to the public.

DS Automobiles – Enough fuel to reach the end of the tunnel?

DS Automobiles, now this is a name that rings a bell somewhere in the brain of any real car enthusiast. But what is it all about? Am I talking about the almighty Citroën DS, which was way ahead of its time when it was launched in 1955? Not quite, but not far off, either. Let me give you a brief look into the past. I insist on brief, you can look up the details on every established motoring page. In 2009, PSA’s (Peugeot SA) brand Citroën launched the upscale “DS line” in order to differentiate it from the more common C line. Five years later, due to the high demand of those cars in China, PSA decides to make DS a standalone brand.  As the company is slowly but steadily bringing out facelifted, chevron free models of the already existing DS3, DS3 convertible, DS4 and DS5, the manufacturers also increases the number of dedicated point of sales.

2015 DS DS5 1955 Limited Edition
2015 DS DS5 1955 Limited Edition

After China, the DS Worlds, DS Stores, DS Salons and DS Lounges are now step by step showing their faces in Europe as well. In a way, just like BMW did when they bought MINI and build up their brand presence within the BMW dealership network. But are they doing it right? Are they taking it as seriously as they ought to? And if yes, do they still have enough time to succeed? In a premium market, the devil is in the details. If there is anything important in a brand that has the ambition to tackle the established elite like Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar, the only things DS have to care about are the details. And this is the critical part. Okay, PSA have been making a lot of very good cars over the last decade; the Citroën C4 Picasso, C4 Cactus, Peugeot 208, 308 & 508 (especially the facelifted model) are all excellent cars. However, have you ever been in a RHD version of any of them? PSA do not move the fuse box to the right side, meaning that it takes half of the place of the glove box…!!!! I discovered this by watching several Carbuyer reviews and Mat Watson has pointed it out every single time!

2010 Citroën DS3
2010 Citroën DS3

I had high hopes that this would end with the introduction of the new EMP2 platform…but it didn’t!!! How can the person or the group of people responsible for the validation of any PSA car look at this and say “Yes, this is acceptable”? Guess what, it isn’t!

2015 DS 3
2015 DS 3

The same thing is to be found in the current DS 4 & DS 4 Crossback. The back door handle is incorporated in the window and gives it a pointy end, which frankly is not practicle and you must be very careful not to spear yourself when opening the door in a thight parking space. Best of all, these back windows don’t even open…!

2015 DS 4 Crossback
2015 DS 4 Crossback

You might ask, how is that possible? The DS 4 finds its origins in the DS High Rider Concept which was basically a two door version of the current version.

Citroën DS High Rider Concept
Citroën DS High Rider Concept

Obviously, Citroën at the time decided to make it a four door car, but there was visibly no space in the shape of the door to accomodate an the windows. What a shame and yet someone decided to go on with the project and launch the for door version into production just like that. And that’s the thing about PSA: They make excellent, good looking, solid, reliable cars, but then way to often are there flaws like these that literally ruin the entire car and tarnish the group’s reputation.

2013 Citroën C4 Picasso glove box
2013 Citroën C4 Picasso glove box

Anyway, my point is not rant meaninglessly about Peugeot, Citroën and DS. On a contrary, I’m a big fan! Even more so am I worried that they overlook all of these details, which at the same time in my perspective are the most important thing in a premium car. In the end, what is it that we want from a premium car? Style, comfort, power, exclusivity? Yes, probably, but in my opinion I call it a premium because the engineers found a way to make product more userfriendly, practical and efficient and at the same time stylish and desirable… A Citroën DS or the original Porsche 911 Carrera were given their shapes because the shape followed the functions designed by their respective engineers.

2011 Citroën DS4
2011 Citroën DS4
2015 DS 4
2015 DS 4

So all in all, I think PSA’s strategy is solid and the ambitions its CEO, Carlos Tavares has set for DS Automobiles are achievable. In my opinion its also the only way to succeed in the premium market. They needed to have a premium-only brand. It could have been Citroën, but then they would have to leave the utility vehicles to Peugeot. To DS’ defence, I believe they are doing the best they can with the resources they have. Audi would have facelifted the entire range within six months, but DS lacks the cash. So for now, revised chassis, LED headlamps, touch screen, some new interior trim levels and paint choices will have to suffice until the from the ground up new generation of DS models will fight for their market segments all over the world.

2011 Citroën DS5
2011 Citroën DS5

I do think DS can make it. They just need to start bringing new models soon (2017 at the very latest) and treat customers according to their premium ambitions. It would definitively be a fresh breeze in the already very established premium segment.

2015 DS 5
2015 DS 5

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