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First drive: Peugeot’s classy coupe comeback

Coupe stark: Stylistically the 407 Coupe recalls its pretty 406 forebear.

Striking, spacious, affordable and with a V6 diesel, the 407 Coupe should cut it

4 Oct 2005

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS in GRANADA, SPAIN

PROMISING outstanding fuel economy as well as remarkable performance and refinement, a diesel V6 will spearhead Peugeot’s coupe comeback from the second quarter of next year.

It will top the new 407 Coupe range that made its debut at last month’s Frankfurt motor show, alongside the more traditional petrol-powered V6.

According to Peugeot Australia spokesman Mathew McCauley, the likely starting price should be "around $65,000" for the 3.0-litre V6 petrol manual.

The auto version will add about $2500, while $72,500 is the likely ask for the 2.7-litre V6 diesel.

This only just eclipses the $71,550 406 Coupe, discontinued in October 2004, despite being bigger, roomier, more powerful, safer, better equipped and offering turbo-diesel economy.

Co-developed with Ford and found in altered states in models as disparate as the Jaguar S-Type and Land Rover Discovery, the DT17 TED4 V6 diesel has a capacity of 2720cc.

While power is rated at 150kW at 4000rpm, the 2.7-litre HDi (for common-rail direct-injection) unit unleashes 440Nm of torque from just 1000rpm.

This contrasts to the 3.0-litre V6’s 155kW at 6000rpm and 290Nm of torque at 3750rpm.

Impressive fuel consumption is the upshot: 8.5L/100km for the European-combined cycle figure, compared to 10.2 for the petrol car. Advanced diesel particle emission filters make the HDi a clean machine.

On the other hand the HDi’s 1724kg kerb weight is around 100kg more than the petrol’s both are upwards of 250kg heavier than the 406 Coupe.

Two six-speed gearboxes are employed – a conventional manual or a Tiptronic-style sequential-shift tri-mode Aisin automatic.

Based on the transverse-engined and front-wheel drive 407 sedan, the Coupe is built in-house in Rennes, France - as opposed to its 406 predecessor, which was made by Pininfarina in Italy.

The Coupe comes with significant changes designed to distinguish it from its more mundane family member.

For starters, while the 4815mm wheelbase is the same, no sheetmetal is shared.

The Coupe’s proboscis and posterior jut out 5.5cm and 8.5cm more respectively the car sits 44cm lower to the ground (bringing the centre of gravity down 25mm) and the overall structure is torsionally more rigid.

There is an extended aluminium sub-frame to support frameless doors while the bootlid is composite to save weight.

23 center image Peugeot in France carried out all the styling work although it did seek out a number of proposals from outside sources.

Among these was Pininfarina, the Italian design firm responsible for a number of celebrated Peugeot designs, chiefly the new model’s predecessor, the pretty 406 Coupe.

However, as one Peugeot insider put it, "...ours was the best".

Like its predecessor, the 407 Coupe is a four-seater with proper full-sized adult accommodation.

Now though there’s significantly more room thanks to a passenger compartment that’s stretched by 58mm – allowing for up to 142mm more elbow space. The rear seat folds for increased boot capacity too.

Yet to make the Coupe ‘feel’ sportier Peugeot lowered and set back the 407 sedan’s driving position by 20mm and 9mm respectively.

Seven standard airbags, new, larger front seats, the availability of a leather-clad dashboard and revised colours and trim lift the Coupe’s ambience over the regular 407 range.

Mechanically much is also sedan-derived, meaning double-wishbone front and a multi-link rear suspension set-up.

But there are minor changes to specification, mostly to quell bodyroll and increase dynamic responsiveness.

Among these are springs that are shorter for a 10mm-lower ride larger wheels and rear hub assemblies which widen the track by up to 19mm on the 3.0 V6 and larger-diameter front anti-roll bars.

All Australian-bound 407 Coupes will come with Peugeot’s driver-adjustable electronically controlled suspension featuring dampers that firm up to nine pre-set levels according to wheel travel sensor movement.

Meanwhile ‘continuous’ electro-hydraulic power steering also uses computer power to provide 217 possible adjustment levels according to steering angle and road, vehicle and wheel speed.

For the first time on any Peugeot, 18-inch alloy wheels are standard.

All local coupes will include seven airbags, anti-lock brakes with traction and stability control, Xenon headlights with directional abilities, leather upholstery, parking radar front and rear, cruise control, tyre-pressure sensors, a full-sized spare wheel, dual-zone climate control and hi-end audio.

There are few rivals at the $65,000 to $75,000 price points the Peugeot is pitched at. Alfa’s four-cylinder GT JTS is one the oddball Mazda RX-8 is another.

The 407 Coupe straddles the upper-prestige market served by the outgoing Holden Monaro CV8 as well as the lower luxury two-door class defined by the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz CLK.

But the latter models’ power and specification equivalents to the Peugeot easily breach the $100,000 barrier.

Peugeot decided to build a successor to the 1996-2004 406 Coupe after that car’s 107,000 sales all-up eclipsed initial projections by 47,000 units. At 160,000 units is the new model’s goal.

In descending order, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Spain are expected to be the biggest markets, followed by South Africa, China, Australia, Japan, Russia, Turkey and Mexico.

"The 407 Coupe is a big image boost for Peugeot," says the company’s Asia/Pacific director Mr Frederic Fabre. He adds that its job is to win over customers who wouldn’t otherwise consider buying a Peugeot.

Why Peugeot said no to a 407 CC

COUPE-CONVERTIBLES, the retractable hardtop drop-top invented by Peugeot in the 1930s but only popularised in the mid-'90s by the Mercedes SLK and, more affordably, the 206 CC, was thought as inappropriate for the 407 Coupe.

Peugeot says its customers desired high-end, Grand Touring-style features and refinement for their money in a car of this size, over the compromises brought on by a convertible.

Style was also a factor, as the 407 Coupe’s silhouette – basically a larger and reworked version of the Pininfarina-penned 406 Coupe – would not have been possible in a 407 CC.

Furthermore, with the success of the smaller 307 CC, Peugeot felt it has enough representation in the convertible market.

Drive impressions:

PEUGEOT has a history of pretty coupes and convertibles based on fairly mundane family car hardware.

The 404 and 504 Coupe models – sadly denied to Australian buyers – are now revered worldwide as stylish icons of their generation. They were also tough and enjoyable to ride in and drive.

But something went awry with the 406 Coupe, which graced our roads from 1997 to 2004.

In a nutshell, its impossibly pretty exterior promised sublime driving pleasures that its conventional front-wheel drive 406 sedan underpinnings just couldn’t deliver.

In its most popular guise – V6 auto – it suffered from nose-heavy handling a four-speed gearbox that perennially seemed mismatched to the 3.0-litre engine recalcitrant electrics (the Italians did build it after all) and it was too expensive.

For keen drivers, the only solace came from the five-speed manual version, which seemed to make the most of the sparkling V6.

Now you’d be forgiven for thinking that the 407 Coupe, with its larger, portlier (by 200kg-plus) body and drivetrain, would be more of the same, but worse.

And it’s true that the Coupe lacks the feminine sensuality of its predecessor.

But in the flesh the new car has a striking road presence that photos fail to project. There’s a muscular, masculine stance that pays homage to Pininfarina design, and a harmony to the proportions that should keep it looking good for years.

Only the rather heavy-handed detailing – front gills, oversized badge, that gaping grille – keeps it from greatness. Oh, and the rear-end treatment is anonymous enough to look like an American two-door Honda.

Inside, however, things really do pick up. At least they do in the top-line leather-and-GPS-clad test cars sampled in sunny Southern Spain.

Large, bolstered and comfy seats, perfectly accommodating perches for four average-sized adults, correctly colour-coded cow hide swathing almost every surface, and an agreeably driving position are all pointers in the right direction.

While it’s obviously a 407 sedan-derived cabin, the execution seems tasteful and suitably expensive. Maybe it’s the frameless doors powered seats that move faster than the previous glacial items found in the 406 Coupe or classic roofline silhouette.

In the 155kW 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine – now married to either an Aisin six-speed automatic or a six-speed manual (as sampled here) – the performance is smooth and silken, but never really very punchy. You need to floor the pedal for rapid progress.

In this 180kW-plus 3.0-litre era, 155kW just isn’t enough. Tellingly, there were no V6 petrol automatics on offer, which seems absurd as this may prove to be the best seller in the Asia/Pacific region.

But at least the manual shifts are smooth, the ratios well matched to the power band, and the engine eager to visit the 6750rpm area before the limiter kicks in.

The steering is typically Peugeot-light and direct, but won’t really excite the occasionally bi-curious keen driver, let alone the Juan Fangios of this world.

And the ride seemed serene enough on the smooth Spanish roads, with little kickback, jolting or jarring coming through the wheel either.

So far, so good… yet nothing too exciting to report really… certainly nothing that rivals like BMW’s ageing 325Ci Coupe couldn’t contend with.

However we hadn’t yet tried the 2.7 HDi version.

Peugeot Australia surely knows it’s on a great thing here because the diesel will be the range-topper.

It’s certainly the better car as far as performance goes.

We challenge you to pick the diesel V6 from the petrol V6 anywhere from inside the car as far as refinement is concerned – whether you’re accelerating full-throttle or gunning down the highway on an ocean wave of torque well into licence-losing speeds.

You certainly won’t be accosted by any traditional diesel racket or din from inside either. Remember, this Ford-Peugeot co-op engine also inhabits Jaguars.

Yet you’ll certainly know the derv-driven device from the petrol V6 by the instant, cascading power swilling at the ball of your foot.

By the way, the HDi’s default auto gearbox (also a six-speeder) is a gem too.

In 2.7 HDi format, Peugeot has a great thing going on here.

It turns the 407 Coupe from offbeat fringe-dwelling Francophiles choice to a grand tourer to terrify the German opposition.

How can the similarly priced BMW 325Ci’s 245Nm compete with the 440Nm 407? Or its 8.7L/100km average, attained after some very highly spirited driving? Yes, the 406 Coupe is prettier... hands down. No, the 407 Coupe isn’t hand-built by Italian coachmakers.

But it’s handsome nonetheless, agreeably accommodating, practical to boot and – as the 2.7 twin-turbocharged HDi – arrestingly fast, frugal and refined.

Buyers of two-door luxury cars should know that the seven-month wait until this particular 407 Coupe’s local launch might be worthwhile.

After all, they’ve already waited decades for the classic Peugeot coupe to finally come to Australia.

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