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Car reviews - Peugeot - 406 - Coupe

Our Opinion

We like
Interior space, on-road competence, build quality
Room for improvement
Choppy low-speed ride, average performance of 1.6-litre version

13 Jun 2001

FEW cars have stirred our emotions as deeply as the 406 Coupe.

Amazingly, it turned out to be more beautiful in the metal than even the pretty sensational press pictures suggested.

Smitten is a good way to describe its affect on us, as we lovingly drank in its visual impact.

Ferrari-like front end, striking C-pillar, purposeful stance and unadorned body shell illustrate quite clearly the genius of the original design. The shape needs no spoilers, no stripes, no plastic body cladding to draw attention. As affordable coupes go, it is perfection.

We tried to find an angle from which the car looked ordinary and failed.

In Europe, the battle between street smart coupes with every-day underpinnings is hot. While the 406 sedan begat Coupe, the Ford Mondeo begat Cougar, Benz C-class begat CLK and Volvo S70 begat C70.

Buyers there can slide into a stunning 406 Coupe quite cheaply if they choose the entry-level 2.0-litre, four-cylinder manual version.

Armed with the 3.0-litre V6 motor from the 406 SV and mated to a four-speed automatic transmission, the Australian specification Coupe has potential for impressive performance.

But the rather cranky autobox neither interprets the driver's desires nor changes gears exceptionally cleanly, though in Sport mode, with fourth gear locked out, performance takes on a harder, more rewarding edge.

Some down-changes can be quite harsh, not exactly what you want on a sunny afternoon's cruise. We recommend enthusiasts tick the manual gearbox option and save a few dollars in the process.

The manual is all together a far more rewarding beast to drive. Stirring those gears turns the cruisy Coupe into a saucy sports car.

The V6 engine and five-speed gearbox are one of the all-time great motoring couples. They interact so naturally that even the drudgery of gear changing in heavy traffic is transcended, so satisfying is the action.

The gear stick seems to prod the engine like a sharp poke in the guts. Even a gentle right-foot action elicits a sonorous roar. But watch that speed because this purring kitten will soon be bolting like a scalded cat.

But back to those looks. Slope along a beach-front boulevard and the strolling masses will be unable to disguise their jealousy.

The Coupe is in its element here, purring softly along interrupted only by the rear suspension banging over broken surfaces at mild speeds.

Move more quickly and the ride settles down, tuned for comfort not speed or sharp cornering. It is not a car that revels in point-to-point hustling.

It is nicely insulated, the throaty V6's repertoire subdued in line with the car's desire to cosset and comfort. Even on full kickdown it barely intrudes while road and tyre noise is barely perceptible.

The standard 406 sedan dash is well proportioned but unexceptional, brightened for Coupe buyers by chrome-ringed dials.

Alarmingly, the thickly-beaded leading edge of the driver's foot- well mat has been known to trap the throttle wide open after a kick-down manoeuvre, having slipped its floor-mounted mooring.

But sit back in the superbly shaped, electrically adjustable, leather-covered seats and relax. There are two memory positions, supposing you are the generous sort who would allow another occasional spin.

The leather for the seats and doors comes in a choice of three shades - apricot, ideal for darker exterior paint hues, black and burgundy. The latter, we are reliably informed, goes wonderfully with silver.

The 406 is colour sensitive. It is devastating in silver or Riviera - a light blue metallic - but loses some impact in darker colours which merge its finely-honed lines.

Oddly, this Mercedes-Benz priced Peugeot comes without remote control central locking. Apparently it interferes with military frequencies.

Heated seats, climate control air-conditioning which is fiddly to use on the run, dual airbags (side bags are coming soon), cruise control, anti-lock brakes and front and rear fog lights help justify the price tag.

There is also a CD player tucked into a boot big enough for a weekend's clobber.

Just why the Coupe needs sporty, boldly badged Brembo front brakes is a mystery. The pads are noisy and juddery when cold.

The Peugeot 406 Coupe is probably the best looking production car in the world. This alone is justification enough for Peugeot to slug $20,000-plus to the 406 V6 sedan's price.

The fact it is a great car in other areas almost makes it seem like a bargain.

- Automotive NetWorks 02/06/1999

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