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Peugeot 407 SW GT 2.7 V6 HDi Auto

Click to view picture galleryExtrovert looks, versatile ability
  and a family-friendly character
  all lift the Peugeot 407 SW above
  ordinary ‘estate car
  For style-conscious family drivers
s definitely worthy of a second

DEFINING A CAR'S LOOKS IS A HIGHLY SUBJECTIVE — and sometimes highly emotive — affair. Take Peugeot's 407 SW estate. Pick a handful of people at random and ask what they think and you'll get answers ranging from 'nose-heavy' to 'interesting'; all the way through to 'double-take striking'. No doubt its swoopy lines make it one of the more stylish estate-cum-sportwagons currently on sale — an image intended to provide people who might not normally drive an estate with something with a dash more 'swagger' but a dash less 'lugger'.

Tested here is the flagship GT model, powered by Peugeot's first-rate twin-turboed 2.7 V6 diesel unit. As you would expect, it's generously equipped. But more of that later after a look at its 'estate' credentials. The 407 SW is a big car, starting with its long nose and stretching all the way back to its swishly-styled tail, so you'll be expecting lots of room. When it comes to cabin space there's more than enough to go round, but when it comes to load space there are more voluminous competitors — albeit nowhere near as attractive.

A closer look at the 407 SW's curvy lines reveals why. The stylishly rounded wrap-around tailgate treatment, allied to the downward slant of the roofline towards the steeply raked rear pillar, do rob the SW of some useful space. However, while boxy is good from a functional viewpoint, the SW is as much about form as it is function. Which, as we said earlier, is precisely what differentiates the 407 SW buyer from the sense and sensibility customer who wants space per se and really doesn't much care how pretty the wrapping looks.

However, that's not to say the 407 SW isn't family-friendly. Behind the rear seats is 430 litres of boot space for a family's baggage; fold-down the 60:40-split rear seats and you'll have a flat load bay with three times that to play with — 1,365 litres. And the load area is of a neat, squared-off shape.

There are also luggage hooks and nets to keep everything shipshape. Not only that, but the high-opening tailgate that's hinged well back into the roof and low loading sill height conspire to make loading as easy as possible. Adding to its versatility is an independently-opening rear window that's comes into its own when full tailgate access is restricted or even for just loading everyday shopping. The front seat back can also be folded down, the better to accommodate long loads.

Pull open a door and sit inside the 407 SW and you'll swear there's far more space than the tape measure says there is. The biggest impact comes from the amount of light flooding the cabin through the huge three-quarter-length panoramic glass roof that is fixed in place. The specially tinted laminated glass prevents 'cooked' passengers. For days when you prefer the sun to be seen but not felt, there's a power-operated electric blind that can be set to any of nine different positions along with foolproof automatic one-shot operation. But even with the sun streaming in, the efficient air conditioning ensures you keep your cool.

Space in the front is generous, with good head and legroom, and drivers will appreciate the steering wheel's generous reach- and rake-adjustment as much as its perforated leather covering. Also convenient was the height adjustable front centre armrest. Thanks to a good backrest angle there's more than enough room in the rear although three sitting side-by-side will need to be extremely good friends!

More important than how much you can take with you is how comfortable and refined the travelling is. Happily, when it comes to comfort, the French surely know a thing or two. For a start, the cabin is inviting — naturally, being the top-spec GT, it's fitted out with full leather upholstery. The sporty-looking front seats are immediately supportive and relaxing. There's a distinctive instrument pack, smart 'pinhole'-effect ally trim and fit and finish is good although it does take a while to acclimatise to the overcrowded centre console — more buttons, as my Irish grandmother used to say, than you can shake a stick at.

As befits the range-topping GT specification, there's lots of kit — including full leather seats (with 3-stage heating for the front pair), full power front seat adjustment (driver and passenger), tyre pressure monitoring, rear parking aid, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, 18-inch alloy wheels, power-fold door mirrors (on locking and leaving), four one-shot up/down electric windows, auto lights and wipers, dual-zone climate control, cruise control with speed limiter and a multi-media system with colour SatNav (with easy-to-follow 3D bird's-eye mapping), GSM phone and MP3 music storage. Naturally there's ABS and ESP along with lots of airbags and a five-star Euro NCAP rating. The price (six-speed automatic transmission included) is 26,395.

Turn the key in the ignition and the high-tech 2.7-litre V6 diesel fires up instantly and idles discreetly — nothing, really, to indicate it doesn't drink unleaded. On the move there's generous mid-range urge and a willingness to rev cleanly all the way to the red line. Make no mistake, this is a quality diesel unit (it was developed with Ford and also serves admirably in the 2.7-engined Jaguars). With 205bhp and 330lb ft of torque at 1,900rpm, this 407 SW will run all the way to 140mph, hitting 62mph from standstill in 8.8 seconds. We averaged 30.7mpg overall during a week's mixed driving = the official figures are 23.7, 33.2 and 43.4mpg respectively for urban, combined and extra-urban.

Paired with the SW GT's torquey twin-turboed diesel unit is a six-speed automatic transmission. And it's as refined as the engine. Changes up and down the 'box are slick but if you have a need to press on you may want to select the manual mode (move the lever to the left) and press the 'sport' programme button for the sharpest response times. In manual mode, gently tapping the selector lever forward changes up a gear; pulling back takes it down a gear.

The chassis feels competent and the steering, while not relaying the degree of communication keen drivers might wish for, is nonetheless accurate. While no sports machine — it does not, of course, pretend or even aspire to be one — the SW is more than capable of tackling a favourite twisty road with assurance. Body roll is not an issue and, in fact, even quite quick bends can be taken safely without the 407 getting the least bit ragged; the SW remaining reassuringly flat and stable as it carries you round and through.

The 18-inch multi-spoke alloys are fitted with 235/45 Pirelli P Zero tyres that do as much for comfort as they do for grip, and there are disc brakes all round: ventilated at the front; solid at the rear. The brakes pedal has an initial sharp take-up but stopping power is never in any doubt.

Surprisingly, despite its large-ish dimensions and long nose and a driving position that sits you well back from the steeply raked windscreen, the SW is easy to place — although the restricted rear quarter visibility means that when parking you will definitely be relying on the accurate standard-fit reversing sensors.

On motorways it feels very much at home and, unlike the train, really does take the strain — wafting along unruffled and refined as it effortlessly eats up the miles. The absence of engine and wind noise plus a decent multi-media system and colour SatNav all help make long family journeys a genuine pleasure as far as travelling is concerned. The SW coasts fluently over most road surfaces but the ride quality is at its best on motorways.

The extrovert 407 SW can't (and doesn't!) claim to be the ultimate load-lugger, but it's much more versatile than its saloon sibling. However, its biggest accomplishment is undoubtedly that while it's unashamedly an estate car — and a rather good looking one at that — it never feels like one to drive or even lets you feel as if you're sitting in one. The look-at-me styling makes sure of that. As a family estate, and one with a dash of flamboyance, the Peugeot 407 SW is certainly worth looking at! —

Peugeot 407 SW GT 2.7 V6 HDi Auto
| 26,395
Maximum speed: 140mph | 0-62mph: 8.8 seconds | Overall test MPG: 30.7mpg
Power: 205bhp | Torque: 330lb ft | CO2 226g/km | Insurance group 15