Car reviews - Peugeot - 607 - sedan
Luxo-barge styling with a Euro theme, equipment level, plenty of space including huge boot
Room for improvement
Remote feeling steering, poor ride and handling, dull power delivery
12 Sep 2002
By BRUCE NEWTON
LAND at Paris' decrepit Charles de Gaulle international airport and there's every chance you'll then jump into a Peugeot 607 taxi. That's right, the car Peugeot charges you a luxurious $80K for Down Under is fleet fodder at home.
And that about sums the 607 up. For all of its massive standard equipment list, conservative but individual styling and French allure, this car is a workhorse rather than a showpony.
It's not really a surprise considering French big car history. The Peugeot 604 and 605 both failed dismally here and in most other places as well, and we're fortunate enough never to have been inflicted with the hideous Renault Safrane in Australia. At least the Citroen XM was ... different.
The pity is the French build wonderful small cars and not bad medium-sized cars. Peugeot's history is littered with them - 504, 205, 405, 306 and the outstanding 406. Sharp, exciting, dynamic and the best combination of ride and handling in-class in some cases.
Sorry, 607, you've got positives but those aren't amongst them.
If it was cheaper - say $25,000 cheaper - maybe we could warm to 607 a bit more, but at the aforementioned $80,000 or so it's just too close to entry-level BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-classes and it's just not in the same class as them dynamically.
Peugeot offers a variety of variants of 607s in Europe with four-cylinder petrol and turbo-diesel engines and several different specification grades.
Here, it's much simpler and that's because the local distributor has a modest target of selling just 100 607s a year (a figure it's not going to get close to in 2002). So what we get is a single 3.0-litre V6 model driving the front wheels via a four-speed triple-mode automatic transmission and loaded down with all the fruit - making for more performance and equipment than a base 5 Series.
In terms of creature comforts there's leather upholstery, an excellent six-stacker CD audio system with no less than 10 speakers, dual-zone climate control, power everything, cruise control and even an air-conditioned glovebox. The headlights come on automatically and even adjust themselves depending on the load being carried. The only options are a sunroof and rear parking sensors.
The safety equipment level is simply superb, with front and side dual airbags up-front and curtain airbags protecting all outboard passengers on top of lap-sash belts and headrests all-round.
There's electronic gizmos galore - ABS, EBA, EBD, ESP and TC. That's anti-lock braking, emergency brake assist, electronic brakeforce distribution, electronic stability control and traction control. They're all designed to variously control or maximise braking performance and wheel grip.
The electronics far from finish there. The gearbox is kept in close contact with those electronic safety features to monitor driving style and adapt its gearchange pattern accordingly.
The suspension is similarly tricky with an electronic damping mode that allows the driver to choose between sports and comfort settings. The former programs the suspension in the firmest set-up, while comfort is continuously adaptive, the suspension's brain choosing between nine different damper settings.
Just to cap it off there's road-speed sensitive power assistance for the rack and pinion power steering system.
The mechanicals are more straightforward. The V6 engine is well known to anyone familiar with French cars as it is also sold in Australia in the Peugeot 406 and Citroen C5 (the two companies make up the PSA Group) as well as the Laguna model from deadly rival Renault Laguna.
That means you could actually purchase this engine in a car for more than $30,000 less in the case of the cheapest V6 Laguna, still with a very high standard of equipment and with the advantage of a five-speed auto gearbox.
In the 607 the engine produces 152kW at 6000rpm and 285Nm of torque at 3750rpm, hardly mind-blowing particularly when you consider the 4.9 metre-long 607 weighs in at 1580kg. Even claimed performance figures reflect this, with a 9.9-second stroll to 100km/h, 16.9 seconds for the standing 400 metres and a top speed of 232km/h.
Fuel consumption claimed on the recommended premium unleaded is 10.5L/100km on the city cycle.
The suspension architecture is also absolutely conventional and is actually adapted from little brother 406, along with the platform. In fact it can even trace its underpinnings all the way back to the 605. Inverted McPherson struts reside up front with wishbones and a decoupled anti-roll bar. At the rear it's a multi-link system with four arms per side plus an anti-roll bar.
Considering the lineage to 406 it's disappointing the 607 is so average to drive. The greatest disappointment is undoubtedly the suspension which is either too soft and drowsy and still finding too many of the roads irregularities when set on comfort mode, or crashing and bashing too much on sport.
Just as annoying is the lack of sport in 607's soul. There's no tactility in the steering and you'll find yourself working hard twirling the big steering wheel as understeer rears its ugly head on tight bends.
That's because you've switched off the overly-intrusive stability control system which persists in neutering the car every time there's a suggestion of wheel slippage. The warning light sent out a constant Morse code from the dash when we drove the 607 on a dirt road.
The level of grip generated is aided by the very sporty tyre choice - 225/50 ZR17 tyres mated to attractive alloy wheels. The downside is they do contribute some interior noise, along with the suspension.
Peugeot Australia is acutely conscious of the issues surrounding the 607's chassis finesse, or lack of it. It says the electric damper system wasn't tuned properly to go with the Aussie 17-inch wheel choice on the first cars to arrive in Australia (which included our test vehicle) and has been progressively improved with subsequent shipments. We'll hopefully have the opportunity to prove that for ourselves at some stage.
The brakes - 309mm ventilated discs up front and 290mm solid discs at the rear - also seem to struggle a bit with the car's weight, requiring a lot of effort on the pedal before they respond.
The V6 engine is soft on delivery down low, feeling like it struggles against the weight initially - a five-speed auto gearbox would have been helpful here and certainly appropriate considering the asking price and competition.
Further up the rev range the engine gathers its skirts and proves more responsive, all the way staying vibration-free and quiet. The 100km/h mark comes up at a relaxed 2300rpm.
The gearbox mates sweetly to the V6 for upshifts, but can be a bit abrupt on the occasional downshift. If you want more aggression there is a sports mode which extends the revs in each gear and a manual shift capability which works quite quickly.
Inside there's plenty of good stuff with good, big seats, heaps of space in the rear - including the gigantic boot - and an attractive and bespoke interior presentation, finished in a youthful carbon-fibre and metal-look trim rather than the traditional wood. It's a really pleasant and soothing place to be - on smooth roads anyway.
The driver is particularly soothed with memory settings on the powered seat, although the headrest and lumbar are manual, and a hooded instrument binnacle with a simple elegant dial design - although the speedo graduates in odd numbers. There are soft-touch surrounds and the conversion to right-hand drive arouses no issues apart from the radio volume dial being on the far side of the head unit.
The bummer is the disastrous four-stalk design sitting in behind the steering wheel, with two stalks on either side of the column.
On the left, where the indicator and cruise control stalks are located, is where the problems lie. First off and potentially a serious problem was activating the indicators when wanting the cruise and vice-versa. An annoying and frequent occurrence.
Just as bad was the recalcitrance of the cruise control itself. I read the instruction manual - more than once - but in a week of driving I just could not get it to behave consistently when trying to change speeds or switch it on or off. Very frustrating and distracting.
If Peugeot set out to build a true luxury car to challenge BMW and Benz it has comprehensively missed the target with the 607. In this sort of company and exceptional level of equipment does not compensate for an average mechanical package which seems to smack of a lack of commitment to quality design and execution.
It's understandable that Renault has veered away from the traditional three-box concept with the forthcoming Vel Satis luxury car. Peuegot could learn a lesson here and perhaps follow a more individual and convincing path next time.
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