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Car reviews - Peugeot - 407 - SV V6 Touring

Our Opinion

We like
Style, cabin comfort, performance
Room for improvement
Ride, tight rear seat space, scrape-prone front

8 Jun 2005

PEUGEOT is right – ‘playtime is over’.

Ironically though this international advertising tagline for the 407 could apply to itself.

Because for all the 407’s design and marketing bravura, the latest mid-sized family sedan from France is cast in a segment that’s steadily sinking worldwide.

Squeezed by smarter smaller cars, prestige protagonists like the BMW 3 Series and the invasion of SUVs, there’s just no room for middle kids anymore. Just ask Jan Brady.

We’re talking about the automotive equivalent to Woody Allen, REM or the VCR – all brilliant once but now in their twilight years and fighting for relevance.

The fact that Peugeot has recently announced it is entering into the SUV segment (courtesy of established experts Mitsubishi) says it all really.

With 407 however, Peugeot isn’t giving up without a fight.

Over the 406 it has spent close to $2b sharpening the dynamics, pepping up the performance (especially the excellent turbo-diesel variants) sexing up the styling and waving a quality wand inside.

So, despite its humble family car role in Europe, the 407 has the smarts to saddle up alongside the 3 Series, Audi A4 and Mercedes C-Class. Just as the Alfa 156, Citroen C5, Holden Vectra, Honda Accord, Renault Laguna, Saab 9-3, Volvo S60 and VW Passat do.

Head turning, outlandish and brave explain the standout exterior styling.

With its upswept D pillar, teardrop tail-lights, split rear tailgate and sporty lifestyle-ready looks (particularly if the useless but striking full-length glass ceiling is added), Peugeot need to be congratulated on pushing the wagon’s design envelope out so much.

Meanwhile the nose’s long overhang (apparently very pedestrian impact friendly), Ferrari-like air-intake, and sleek headlights may divide opinions, but they’re fresh and gel well with the wagon’s posterior.

Underneath, Peugeot is obviously keen to continue the sports theme with a Citroen C5-derived chassis that has been honed to please keen drivers.

Gone are its predecessor’s MacPherson strut-style front suspension for a double wishbone type (and a multi-link rear) for sharper steering and better handling.

And handle better the 407 SV does. Provided the surfaces are smooth, flat or even, which also describes how this Peugeot tackles corners.

The speed-sensitive steering, developed to eliminate front-wheel drive torque steer, is a tad remote at the straight-ahead but seems to improve as velocities increase.

But that’s where the praise for the Peugeot pauses. On rougher roads the ride becomes fidgety, with a pitching motion foreign to other members of the respected marque.

Worst still, speed humps leaves the rear wallowing like a seasick landlubber, resulting in that one metre-plus proboscis scraping the road surface. Even your average driveway is prone to it.

Switching the SV’s standard electronically adjustable suspension from ‘Auto’ to ‘Sport’ actually improves the ride in these circumstance. It seems to tighten everything up.

Sure, the ride feels even harder as a result but at least it stays flat and controlled. In the end ‘Sport’ was switched on constantly.

Now not wanting to sound like an old-fashioned anorak, this is anathema to what a proper Peugeot should ride like.

Even if you’re not an owner of a 406 – let alone a 404, 504, 505 or 405 – you may be horrified at the shifting of Peugeot’s priorities here.

The flipside though is that fast highway curves can be carved with consummate ease (particularly in ‘Sport’).

At such speeds the steering is also well weighted, while the electronic stability program (ESP) keeps everything innocuously in check even in wet and slippery conditions.

Performance from the improved (thanks to variable valve timing) 155kW 3.0-litre quad-cam 24-valve V6 is strong, aided by an eager (perhaps too much so in ‘S’ mode: it hangs on to gears a tad too long) Aisin six-speed automatic transmission as well as a nice exhaust note.

When slotted manually in the Tiptronic-style ‘+-‘ mode the engine ignites to instil a real turn of speed all the way to the 6000rpm power maximum.

The 290Nm torque output tops out at 3750rpm, by the way, and goes some way to overcome the portly 1715kg kerb weight.

Peugeot quotes an 8.7 0-100km-sprint time on the way to a 225km/h maximum speed.

Fuel consumption isn’t as bad as you might imagine either, averaging around 12.6L/100km over some demanding driving courses.

Peugeot has also performed an admirable job with the interior’s presentation, adding a big dose of style, refinement and class that justifies the $60K SV wagon ask.

Soft yet supportive seating for five is available, with the front pews facing a typically well-designed instrumentation binnacle sited besides a metallic-trimmed centre console in the SV.

There are an intimidating number of buttons controlling climate and audio settings, topped by a small screen display with comically ugly electronic display icons.

On the GoAuto test car, however, a glitch reversed the door-opening icons, so an open right door read as ‘left-door open’.

Another gripe was air-conditioning that could barely cope with 30-degree Celsius temperatures outside.

I can’t help thinking that the cab-forward cabin’s space efficiency has been wasted a bit because of the vast dashboard. Rear seat legroom is pretty tight for a car this big.

There aren’t any complaints about the way the front passenger seatback folds to provide airline-style stretched-leg lounging.

Other clever detailing include door mirrors that swing in when the car is locked, a cornucopia of cabin lighting options that add to the Peugeot’s posh ambience, brilliantly simple cruise control controls,

Luggage also gets it good, with the 430-litre load space being both long and lush, aided by handy tow hooks, hidden compartments, that opening glass ‘hatch’ and a lovely finish. The parcel shelf is fiddly though.

The Touring’s offbeat rear side pillar design conspires with the shallow rear glass to really hinder reversing vision.

At least there’s no scrimping on active safety, with eight airbags, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and emergency brake-assist (EBD and BA respectively), ESP, a retractable steering column and pedal assembly and anti-whiplash front head restraints.

Also included in the SV Touring are power windows, remote locking, parking radar, a CD stacker, electric seats, leather upholstery, Xenon headlights, headlight and wiper rain sensors, electric/heated/folding mirrors, a rear sunblind and 17-inch alloy wheels.

With a heavy heart, I have to report that the 407 SV Touring is marred by a ride that lacks subtlety and suppleness – an unexpectedly infuriating trait for a Peugeot.

And while it steers and handles better than any other vehicle in its class (next-generation VW Passat excepted), it still can’t match BMW dynamically. So why do we have to endure the ruinous ride?

The cheaper and gutsier turbo-diesel 407 ST versions promise to be much more balanced and enjoyable to drive, and are closer to the Peugeot family car ideal.

Playtime should be over for Peugeot. Until its engineers work harder to make the 407 SV Touring’s suspension more suitable to our conditions, it is difficult to take it seriously.

Try the cheaper diesel ST instead. It’s bound to be less of a shock to your system.

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