the 80s and 90s, Peugeot was the most driver-oriented mass production
in the automotive world. Countless of great driver’s cars rolled off
its production lines in France: 205, 309, 405, 605, 106, 306, 406....
the magic suddenly disappeared in the current generation cars, or is
because the current generation engineers failed to match their
Up to this
the last of the golden breed surviving. Its perfect combination of
ride and involving handling has been lost in other Peugeots. But the
is 8 years old and is about to be replaced. Will a great era finally
to an end? fortunately, Peugeot said no this time. The lion finally
up and decided to go back the driver’s cars route. It decided to
reputation with their new family saloon 407.
How to achieve
they developed a new double-wishbones front suspensions to replace the
old MacPherson struts. Compare with MacPherson struts, double-wishbones
has superior geometry, good at maintaining the wheels perpendicular to
the road surface in cornering. In contrast, strut-type suspensions are
more likely to introduce excessive camber under cornering force or when
meeting bumps. You may argue that BMW also employs MacPherson struts as
front suspensions, but remember: BMW is rear-wheel drive while Peugeot
is front-drive. To the latter, maintaining the front wheels, hence
force, contacting well with ground surface is more important.
there is also a change of tuning theory in this Peugeot. In the recent
206 and 307, the emphasis is safe and easy control. In the 407, thanks
to the superior front suspensions as well as the independent multi-link
rear setup (similar to 406), Peugeot can take a more aggressive
in the tuning of suspension geometry. They setup the front suspensions
to maximize contact patch area at compression. In this way, during
the front wheels produce terrific grip, keeping 407 on rails. In other
words, it achieves neutral attitude and high cornering limit.
On the road,
Ford Mondeo may be the King of Handling during the past few years, but
now the new Peugeot beats it convincingly. Its neutrality and body
exceeds that of any other front-drive saloons. The harder you push it,
the more you see its superiority over other family saloons. The way it
grips, the way it steers follow your instructions. While other cars run
out of grip and run into understeer, 407 still bites hard into corner,
leaving all others behind.
Its talent is
to accuracy, but also spread to fun. In corners, you can trim its line
by adjusting throttle. If you lift off suddenly, it can even run into
- this is not the old-style, scary oversteer, but a neat and
oversteer that good drivers will love. Furthermore, the ESP stability
has unusually high threshold such that the driver has plenty of freedom
to exploit the limit of the chassis. It was this kind of engaging
made the old generation Peugeot famous. Now it is going to make this
Peugeot famous too.
fuss-free cruising, the electro-hydraulic steering (luckily Peugeot did
not switch to full electric assistance) is a little numb at
But once you push 407 into corners, it becomes alive! on lock, it
connects the driver to the road, transmitting streams of information to
the driver’s hands. The speed-sensitive assistance is well judged, well
weighted. The 2.8 turns steering ratio is quick and responsive.
407 did not
forget ride quality
either. It rides supple on all surfaces except the most bumpy B-roads,
thanks partly to the aluminum parts used in suspensions. It is a little
firmer than 406, probably because the taller body needs firmer springs
to resist body roll. However, on most roads you will praise the
damping and relaxed manner of the ride.
like what Pininfarina would have styled a 4-door Ferrari. Its front end
is sports-car-like, with very long front overhang, a Ferrari-style
grille, steeply raked windscreen and an air of sleekness. Use a tape
and you will find its bonnet is high - to leave sufficient clearance
the bonnet to pass the forthcoming pedestrian safety law. In many ways,
it looks somewhat like some Chryslers of the 90s, not just because of
sports car style but also cab-forward design.
fact, the cockpit layout is conventional. The seats are at where they
to be, just the far forward and huge windscreen creates an airiness to
the driver. Unfortunately, this is at the expense of rear
because the swoopy and cab-forward roof limits rear headroom. Legroom
also the tightest in class, despite of a respectable 2725mm wheelbase.
Rear passengers pay the price for the stylish exterior design.
The design of
center console is not as attractive as outside. They look business
than innovative. The plastics used meets class standard without being
The negative impression on 407’s cabin proves that you cannot have
and banana at the same time, given a fixed development budget.
engines from Peugeot’s parts pool, including:
heavy in the class. For example, the 2.2 petrol weighs 1480kg, some
more than a Ford Mondeo 2.0. Therefore no matter which engine it uses,
it goes slower than equivalent rivals. Even with the top 211hp V6 and
Tiptronic gearbox, it is not going to be sports saloon, as it takes a
8.5 seconds to accelerate from 0-60mph.
16V, 117hp, 120lbft;
16V, 136hp, 140lbft;
intake manifolds and balance shafts, 160hp, 160lbft;
24V V6, variable
valve timing, variable exhaust, 211hp, 214lbft;
diesel with VTG turbo and particle filter, 110hp, 177lbft. A short
of overboost can lift maximum torque to 192lbft for stronger overtaking;
diesel with VTG turbo and particle filter, 136hp, 236lbft. Overboost to
diesel with twin VTG turbo and particle filter, 207hp, 321lbft.
407SW (Station Wagon)
the most sensible petrol. Its higher power and torque than other
engines enables decent performance, while twin-balance shafts ensure
running. However, the real winner is 2.0HDi, whose superb refinement
gusty torque output suits 407 very well. Mid-range acceleration feels
stronger than the 2.2 petrol. We have to wait for the 2.7 diesel V6 to
arrive in 2005, but from the experience in Jaguar 2.7D (which uses the
same engine) it is likely to be a formidable, if expensive, player.
At last, we
to our conclusion:
Peugeot 407 has become the new icon of driver-oriented family saloons.
Its great handling and ride and its sharp look delight those who place
driving pleasure in first priority. However, its poor packaging results
in two significant flaws: cramped accommodation and high weight. The
deteriorates its performance. I also expect its cabin design and
will lag behind the industry standard in a couple of year’s time as
competitors will continue lifting the standard. For these reasons, it
to match the completeness of its predecessor 406. In other words, it
to clinch the class title from Ford Mondeo.