coup de foudre or
coup de maitre?
Theres a touch of
them all in Peugeots
FOR MOST PEOPLE and, in particular, today's motorists self-image is undeniably defined by brand. In effect,
you are what you drive.
But, bottom line, brand is defined by price. Would many of today's £150,000-plus supercars be as revered if they only cost the same as a smart 3-door supermini? And within marques body styles have their own pecking order, with coupés usually perceived as more desirable than their saloon or hatchback brethren.
Which brings us to the coupé tested here. You'll need £27,995 to buy the Peugot 407 Coupé GT 2.7 HDi and that's a very healthy saving against more established prestige coupés such as Mercedes' £34K CLK 320 CDi. So how much are you defined by your designer labels? Read the full road test and then decide if you want to be so easily labelled.
Coupés are very much about looks. Study the 407 Coupé and you'd
be hard pressed to tell that it shares a common platform and wheel-base with its saloon and hatchback stablemates. Hardly surprising, as
it shares no body panels with them apart from the door mirrors which
are the same as the Saloon and SW models. An aluminium bonnet, composite boot lid and frameless doors help reduce weight, while acoustic comfort is improved by the use of laminated glass in the side windows. Dimensionally, it is also the largest model of the 407 family trio. As such it sports a wider track, making it just over two inches broader. And it's also longer, by 5.5 inches. The larger (and structurally stiffer) coupé bodyshell weighs in at 1,799kg, but weight gains are offset by refinement.
Previous Peugeot coupés have worn the Pininfarina signature. But the 407 incarnation owes its striking looks to Peugeot's own in-house designers. It's a bold statement that starts at the elongated nose, gaping grille and wide 'sharp-eyed' headlamp units and flows into the swooping roofline. The attention-grabbing 407 Coupé never lacks for admirers.
At £28K, the two-door, four-seater 407 Coupé faces stern competition from established premium brands. However, the Peugeot offers a comprehensive equipment tally and rarity value. Only 2,500 will be available in the UK each year and the majority are likely to be bought by company and business 'user choosers' market sectors where there are an increasing number of female business executives and 'high-fliers'.
Two petrol engine options are on the table: a four-cylinder 2.2-litre and a V6 3.0-litre. However, we chose the excellent V6 2.7-litre HDi twin-turboed diesel. This highly-acclaimed PSA/Ford joint-venture
V6 turbodiesel is the same one that Jaguar uses in its XJ6 TDVi. Deservedly highly praised for its blend of power, torque, economy and super-smooth refinement, the front-wheel drive Peugeot also utilises the active engine-mount feature that makes the Jaguar installation so impressively quiet.
In the GT, it's mated to a creamy six-speed Tiptronic unit to provide fully automatic, sequential manual and sport modes (there's also a winter programme). Headline performance figures are 205bhp and
330lb ft of torque plus a top speed of 143mph and 0-62mph acceler-ation in 8.5 seconds.
The coupé's cockpit although similar to the saloon has a tactile ambiance distinctly its own. Sumptuous sports-style front seats, upholstered in leather and set rakishly low, immediately prove to be
as comfortable and supportive as they are attractive. In addition to being eight-way adjustable, the driver's seat has two memory settings.
A perfect driving position is guaranteed. There's more perfectly-stitched, high-quality leather gracing the fascia and door panels (as well as the steering wheel) and also real aluminium inserts that run
the width of the dash and the length of the door panels. Dials feature clear and easy-to-read white graphics on dark-grey faces. The three-spoke steering wheel adjusts generously for reach and height and the pop-up, two-level central armrest works well. Nice touches include door mirrors that auto-fold when the car is locked, one-shot up/down windows and an air-conditioned glovebox.
Live with one of these coupés for a while and you notice how the excellent fit and finish endows the airy cabin with a feeling of real class. Coupés are built on a separate, slower-moving production line to ensure they are more 'special' than the saloon and hatchback (SW) 407 models. And it shows. Further GT spec enhancements include satellite navigation and a hands-free GSM telephone. The main SatNav display offers sharp images as well as trip computer and telephone information and is easy to work. At first sight the centre stack looks somewhat 'busy', but all of the important buttons and controls are actually quite easy to find and recall. Another thoughtful detail is the option of switching off the auto-dipping rear view mirror handy when reversing at night. And night driving is definitely helped by the good main and dipped directional headlights.
Rear passengers enjoy separately sculpted seats, plenty of room and individual armrests. Headroom is somewhat limited for six-footers not too unexpected from a coupé. A regular-shaped 400-litre boot with a natty electronic release button disguised as the '0' of the 407 bootlid badge holds sufficient overnight luggage for four adults. The unusual for a coupé 60:40 split/fold rear seats are a boon, as is the ski-hatch. Entry and exit to the rear is made more civilised by front seats that automatically glide fully forwards when folded and then return to their original position.
Safety is another big plus for this car. Peugeot says it is the most torsionally stiff of any Peugeot bodyshell. It has a Euro NCAP 5-star safety rating for passengers and seven airbags as standard front, front side and curtain plus a steering column airbag for the driver's knee along with directional headlights. All models have an electronic stability programme.
Fortunately, the GT model has enough performance to back up its sporty good looks. With 330lb ft of torque delivered from only 1,900rpm a substantial 112lb ft more than the 3.0-litre petrol V6 it provides punchy performance and superb flexibility. The twin turbos dole out
the power with barely a murmur. You really cannot tell what it drinks, either from inside or outside the cabin. The only clue, once you're behind the wheel, is the rev-counter's 4,300rpm red-line. So whereas you can hear it's a V6, you can't tell it's a diesel. However, with so much ready thrust on tap, it's best to let the six-speed Tiptronic auto 'box do all the work for you. About the only problem arising from the 2.7's mechanical and aural refinement is that it is perilously easy to drive far quicker than you thought you were.
Another major benefit over the 3.0-litre petrol engine is, of course, markedly better fuel economy. Official fuel consumption figures for the 2.7 HDi are 23.7, 33.2 and 43.4mpg respectively for Urban, Combined and Extra-Urban. During our week with the car we recorded an overall average of 30mpg. For the record, the automatic V6 petrol model returns 14.9mpg on the Urban cycle and 27.6mpg Combined. Cruising
at speed is rewarding, and not just because of the chance to achieve around 40mpg. As you'd expect from something in this class, you're well insulated from the outside world. There's a distant, soothing V6 hum but wind noise thanks to the laminated glass is so well-contained that everyone aboard can relax and enjoy the powerful eight-speaker JBL sound system.
Admittedly, in its class the 407 Coupé is not the fastest car on offer. The comparative CLK coupé from Mercedes-Benz will run to 153mph and hit 62mph from standstill in 7.3 seconds. Overall, though, the 407 Coupé is a well sorted car: the GT handles more than capably for such a big car. In keeping with the lowered suspension, the chassis provides impressive grip and stability coupled with an almost total absence of roll. Consequently the handling is precise and trustworthy and it's also effortless to drive whether you're booting it down to the Italian Riviera or wafting lazily locally. The brakes by the way, are powerful. They get on with their job without coming to your attention you brake; you stop.
In town, the steering is pleasantly weighted. A touch on the light side, it responds with speed and accuracy and, combined with good front and side visibility, makes placing what is a really quite a wide, long car almost too easy. Parking it just as trouble-free the front and rear parking sensors provide visual and audible feedback and are very accurate, even picking out the kerb.
The GT's active electronic dampers offer a choice of Sport or Auto suspension styles at the push of a button. While Sport is handy when pressing on (with the dampers set to their firmest setting), the Auto's ride settings are good enough to manage both 'soft' and 'hard' driving styles. So much so that the majority of our test miles were covered with the car in the default Auto mode, for which we were rewarded with a serene and well-controlled ride throughout. Even better, speed bumps are dismissed with disdain. And we should point out that the composed ride quality was not obtained with the standard 18-inch alloys, but on 19-inchers shod with low-profile 235/40 Pirelli P Zero tyres. Impressive.
If you want more involvement, do make full use of the Tiptronic. For really urgent up and down shifts, nudge the selector to the left (into Manual mode) where light fore and aft flicks will trigger immediate and fluid gear changes. Great, too, for exploiting the torque-rich 2.7 V6's huge flexibility and effortless overtaking ability as well as maximum control on quick B-roads. I actually enjoy being able to do this it keeps the driver totally in command and ensures he (or she) gets the best out of both the transmission and the car. I sometimes think drivers can forget that they should be in charge and pro-active. Besides, if you're not going to use it why have the option in the first place?
And just a reminder of how well loaded the GT version is the only option you can specify is metallic paint. In addition to the safety kit already mentioned, you get leather upholstery and hand-crafted dashboard, JBL hi-fi kit and MP3 playback, radio/CD player, 6-disc CD autochanger, 3-stage electric heated seats, electric mirrors, 18-inch alloy wheels, bi-xenon directional headlights, auto-dimming rear view mirror, cruise control and speed limiter, rear parking aid, auto door locking laminated side windows, dual-zone climate control, electronic suspension, tyre pressure sensors, auto headlights and wipers, trip computer, colour satellite navigation system along with a hands-free GSM phone.
But take note if you're looking for a hell-for-leather 2+2 this is
not the car for you. If, on the other hand, you want an elegant and sumptuously comfortable Grand Tourer with practical technical high-lights that will waft you from place to place in limousine splendour, the 407 Coupé GT could be the very car of your £28K dreams. Peugeot is to be congratulated on providing a genuine alternative to the more expensive German brands for those confident enough not to need labels to tell them who they are.
Peugeot 407 Coupé GT 2.7 V6 HDi | £27,995
Maximum speed: 143mph | 0-62mph: 8.5 seconds
Test MPG: 30mpg | Power: 205bhp | Torque: 330lb ft
Visit Peugeot's website