Car reviews - Peugeot - 407 - SV V6 sedan
On-road presence, increased size, active and passive safety systems, performance, fuel consumption, six-speed auto, ride quality, handling, steering, boot size and access, standard equipment level, value for money
Room for improvement
Increased weight, occassional reluctance to downshift
17 Dec 2004
By TIM BRITTEN
IF on-road presence counts for anything – and it does – the new Peugeot 407 looks as if it’s moved up in both size and status over its 406 predecessor.
As with just about any evolutionary model, the 407 is bigger in all directions, and much more refined than what went before. In fact, it appears to fill a gap between the outgoing 406 and Peugeot’s luxury entrant, the 607.
That’s just as well, because the new 407 actually weighs more than the 607. At 80kg above the big Peugeot in top-spec V6 SV form – the 406 SV tips the scales at no less than 1660kg – it is about the same as a Ford Falcon XT, and more than a Commodore Executive V6. The 407 is nearly 200kg heavier than equivalent 406 models.
This seems to be the way of the latest breed of newcomers where safety design, greater reliance on electronic systems and added equipment cancel out the benefits of weight-saving design.
So although the new Peugeot stacks up very well when it comes to both active and passive safety (it gets a five-star European NCAP safety rating), none of this comes cheaply.
Fortunately in this case it doesn’t hugely affect running costs. The V6-engined version of the 406 returned average fuel consumption figures around 10 litres per 100km where the 407 V6 averages 10.7L/100km.
The 407 V6 is actually better on the highway cycle, due largely to the addition of a new six-speed automatic transmission, although moving the extra weight takes its toll on urban figures.
The new Peugeot certainly looks impressive. The Ferrari-esque frontal aspect, with its massive overhang and the overall sleekness that is a hallmark of bigger Peugeots, give it a quite distinctive presence on the road - which is why it almost appears to be in the 607 class.
The design formula is basically a development of the 406, but the 407 feels like a bigger car inside. There are extra centimetres in all directions, although the extra front overhang contributes a lot to the nearly eight-centimetre length increase, with the wheelbase only up by 25mm.
It’s a lot wider - about 50mm more than the 406 and down only about 20mm on the 607 – and stands 60mm taller, helping the impressions of space already given by the flat rear floor.
The boot isn’t bad with a capacity of a little more than 400 litres made additionally useful by the standard 60-40 double-fold rear seat.
The front seats – leather-trimmed and power-adjusted on the V6 test car – are big and supportive, while in the back there is comfortable legroom even for tallish passengers. And the extra width helps noticeably with shoulder room.
The 407’s body is the strongest-yet for a Peugeot sedan, and improves on aerodynamic drag to bring the quoted Cd down to a commendable 0.29 (the 406 was already quite good at 0.32).
The suave exterior is well matched by nicely conceived interior architecture that contributes to the 407’s upmarket look.
The look is relatively simple yet sumptuous, with a quite dramatic centre console that begins at the base of the windscreen and works its way through to the centre storage bin/adjustable armrest.
The SV model gets plenty of standard gear for its just-over $55,000 pricetag.
A JBL sound system with six-disc CD stacker, heated (in the front) leather seats, Xenon lights and semi-active suspension with nine different settings are all part of the deal.
This comes on top of things like park distance control, sunscreens for all rear windows, trip computer, rain-sensing wipers, dual climate-control air-conditioning and heated external rearview mirrors that are standard on all 407s.
The five-star safety rating is helped by the use of eight airbags and anti-whiplash front head restraints. The 407’s active systems include ABS with electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist, and electronic stability control - all standard from the $43,000 base model upwards. Tyre pressure sensors are part of the deal also.
The engine lineup includes, as before, four-cylinder petrol and turbo-diesel engines, as well as the 3.0-litre V6 tested here. The turbo-diesel produces more power than before, while the petrol engine has an increased capacity giving noticeably improved power and torque.
The cast-iron V6 gets variable valve timing, multi-valve cylinder heads with twin camshafts and fiddles with torque and power outputs so that it produces slightly less power (down 2kW) and more torque.
Something of a disappointment in the 406, the V6 is helped enormously by the new light-weight Aisin six-speed automatic transmission that is standard on the SV.
Providing sequential operation as well as separate modes for normal, winter or "sport" driving, the transmission gives the 407 an off-line urgency never experienced in the 406 V6, as well as smooth, silky shifts.
The only suggestion of a carry-over is an occasional reluctance to downshift – which can usually be traced back to the adaptive nature of the gearbox that reads the current driving style and adjusts its shift patterns accordingly.
But the V6 is smooth and adequately responsive, while the factory-quoted zero to 100km/h acceleration figure of 8.4 seconds is not to be sneezed at.
This is all in keeping with the fluid nature of the suspension that, in the SV, incorporates a nine-setting semi-active arrangement that smooths the ride in a straight line and automatically stiffens the shock absorbers on corners, sharpening steering response and reducing body lean. The driver can also select full-time "sports" damping via a push-button.
The result, in the V6, is a serene, almost-floaty ride quality that disappears as soon as the 407 is wheeled into a bend. Yes, Peugeot has got its act together again with the 407 (it lost the plot somewhat with the 607’s suspension, which is neither fish nor fowl with its combination of smoothness and harshness, as well as a certain detached feel at the steering wheel).
It’s hard not to be impressed with the Peugeot 407. The front-end look might, perhaps, polarise opinions to a certain extent but the general reaction so far appears to be more than positive.
In every way, the 407 showcases all Peugeot virtues including comfort, space and an on road experience that combines outstanding comfort with secure, driver-oriented handling.
Combine these factors with very high levels of safety, quality finish and smooth powertrains as well as competitive pricing and you have a very impressive, very appealing prestige sedan.
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