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Click to view picture gallery“Give the French
  their due — they enjoy
  good food and wine,
  and they know how to
  get around in style.
  Welcome to the 2.7 V6
  HDi Peugeot 407 SW

HAVING JUST COMPLETED my own 1,000-mile 'Tour de France' on business — fortunately with a few days of sunshine thrown in for free — it has brought it home to me that if you're carrying passengers and equipment over long distances it's essential to have a roomy, long-legged, comfortable cruiser. Ideally, with a diesel engine.

The perfect choice of transport turned out to be the Peugeot 407 SW Executive, powered by a punchy 2.7-litre V6 HDi diesel engine. With Peugeot dealerships seemingly in every town and village (a reassuring back-up in the very unlikely event of a problem), what better way to travel in France than in a roomy and very capable big Peugeot.

With its Ferrari-inspired appearance, Peugeot's 407 range of Saloon, Coupé and the SW Estate has proved to be a big hit with UK company car and fleet users, while in Europe as a whole it is the second-highest selling medium-sized car for both business and retail customers.

Seventy six per cent of UK 407 sales find their way into the business sector of the market, and 92 per cent of all customers choose diesel engines.

The 407 Saloon and SW models were launched in 2004. The Coupé
was added in 2006 along with styling updates and the introduction of the PSA/Ford 2.7-litre V6 twin-turbo diesel engine.

Peugeot says the purchase rationale for UK customers is the 407's distinctive appearance, advanced body design, ride quality and high specification.

They do sell well in the UK, but go to France and the 407 is a very common sight. They seem to have taken over the medium car sector and, in particular, the saloon version. The French see the 407 as competing against medium sector premium brands such as the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 and the Mercedes C-Class. I guess in the UK we would include the Ford Mondeo and Vauxhall Vectra as competitor models. The beauty of the 407 SW over some of its competitors is that the Peugeot's estate body style is integrated within the overall eye-catching design of the car as opposed to being a 'load box' tacked onto the tail of the vehicle.

It just so happened that whilst I was dashing from place to place in France, one of their main motor magazines did their evaluation of all the diesel engine options available in the range. While the 1.6 HDi unit didn't rate that highly, the 2.0-litre and the 2.2-litre HDi units were judged best of all. Bottom of the pile was the new 205bhp 2.7-litre V6 HDi unit as fitted in my test car. But that is because the French tax laws on big engines is even more draconian than ours. The V6's performance was rated at five stars, but the unit lost out on fuel consumption and price.

It's true. This particular 407 SW Executive model is relatively expensive for private buyers, costing as it does £26,945 on the road. Which is why you would expect sales of new ones to be mostly to company car users. Financially, it makes much more sense for the private customer to buy one of these V6 models as a used vehicle. Although the French might not think the fuel economy for a twin-turbo diesel engine is particularly good, I consider — bearing in mind its refinement and flexible power delivery — that the overall 37mpg achieved during my 1,000-mile trip was very acceptable. At one point 41mpg was being shown by the on-board computer before heavy traffic took its toll.

The 407 SW can be summed up very easily as a stylish and capable load carrier. But there is so much more to the car than that.

Although the Peugeot is a large vehicle, this is offset by the extensive use of aluminium alloy for the chassis. Furthermore, it never feels like
a big and weighty barge of an estate. All V6 petrol and diesel models have a variable electronic-controlled suspension that independently controls each wheel, responding to load weight, speed and driving performance at any given time. It's an effective system and gives a comfortable ride with a good balance when the car is heavily loaded. Like many such electronic systems (including its power steering), you do feel a bit detached from what's going on under the skin of the car.

On motorways it is fine; over other poorer road surfaces and side roads the 407 SW seemed less settled — but not uncomfortably so for the passengers, who all seemed pretty impressed by the quality of their ride. Only the centre position of the rear seats caused a few comments about being hard on a long journey.

The interior can be rated highly for design and the comprehensive levels of specification. Not only is it roomy both front and rear, but the panoramic glass roof makes it light and airy too. At first glance the console looks somewhat complicated and busy, with loads of buttons and controls to operate the climate control, sound and navigation systems and so on. However, live with the car for just a few hours and you can quickly familiarise yourself with it.

Safety is another important plus point for the 407. It has a five-star Euro NCAP rating and an army of airbags as standard ('smart' driver and front passenger, front and rear side, front and rear curtain as well as
a steering column airbag). Active safety is taken care of by ABS plus a comprehensive electronic stability and traction control system package including automatic activation of the hazard lights in the event of rapid deceleration so drivers coming up behind can react in good time too.

The load area can be extended, thanks to folding rear seats that fold almost flat. It is certainly not the roomiest in the load area of similar-sized estate cars because the stylish design does compromise the overall space available, but it is easy to load with four to five suitcases and soft bags. The rear screen also opens independently of the tail-gate — particularly handy in a restricted parking space or close to a wall. For the record the SW's load area capacity extends from 489 to 1,365 litres, depending upon seat arrangements. The 407 SW may sacrifice ultimate estate car load carrying for style and the Peugeot may not be as roomy in the boot area as, say, the Vauxhall Vectra Estate, but I think it looks a whole lot better!

The 407's refinement also extends to the engine and transmission.
The V6 2.7-litre turbo diesel unit is now well-known for its many applications in diverse models from Ford, Land Rover, Jaguar, Citroen and Peugeot. Installed in the 407 SW, it is quiet and refined. Inside the car, there is little evidence that the car has a diesel engine and outside the car, the noise is still low. Mated to Peugeot's excellent six-speed Tiptronic auto 'box (with sequential shifting as well as a Sport mode), the twin-turbocharged and intercooled Euro IV compliant 2.7
V6 also provides a thoroughly responsive and effortless drive courtesy of masses of torque — a very substantial 330lb ft of torque from 1,900rpm — which makes it flexible at low speeds. Travelling at high speeds is equally unstressed and as the fuel consumption proves and despite the misgivings the French have about it, this unit is pretty frugal.

For UK customers, the choice of which engine to go for is very much down to the type of driving they do. Having driven all the engines,
the diesel units are by far the best option — even for private buyers.
I actually think the 1.6-litre diesel unit is ideal, unless you are a high-mileage motorway driver, and both the 2.0-litre and the 2.2-litre units are excellent choices that give the best of both economy and perfor-mance. But for overall refinement, the 2.7-litre engine delivers the performance and sophistication to go with the overall elegance of the 407 SW.

Style sells, so few owners will mind about trading some load space for sleek looks. I felt that the driving dynamics could do with a dash more sparkle, but more than making up for this are the 407 SW's distinctive and elegant looks, high standard specification, good build quality and roominess.

Standard equipment on the Executive model tested includes leather upholstery, powered and heated front seats, 18-inch alloy wheels, cruise control with a speed limited, a rear parking aid, one-shot front and rear windows with laminated glass for the side windows, digital air conditioning with climate control, a radio/CD with 6-CD autochanger, auto lights and rain-sensing wipers, Xenon headlamps and electrically operated and heat door mirrors.

In addition it is comfortable and refined to drive, fast and responsive and offers high levels passenger and pedestrian safety. That's a lot of plus points, and more than enough to close an impressive number of sales. — David Miles

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Peugeot 407 SW Executive 2.7 V6 HDi
| £26,945
Maximum speed: 140mph | 0-62mph: 8.8 seconds
Overall test MPG: 37mpg | Power: 205
bhp | Torque: 330lb ft
Visit Peugeot's website Click to go there now

--------------------------------------------------- Peugeot 407 SW Executive