Easy to like, harder to justify

It’s very easy to like the new Peugeot 607 2.7 HDi and almost as difficult to recommend it. It’s a quandary that can be tricky to resolve: you get a kick out of a car’s better qualities, ignore some of the more irksome aspects and forget the opposition for a while. In that context, this diesel 607 is an appealing machine.

But blotting out such names as Jaguar, BMW and Mercedes isn’t easy, especially when you’re spending around £30,000.

Officially, this car, fitted with the 2.7-litre V6 diesel engine it shares with the Jaguar S-type, won’t go on sale in the UK. The 607 2.7 HDi would make a lot of sense, though: it’s a fabulous power unit and instantly makes the HDi the best 607 of all.

I’d been driving a BMW 535d (272bhp and 413lb ft, 0-60mph in 6.0sec) just before hopping into this car for the first time, and it says a lot that I didn’t think the Peugeot lacked grunt. The 324lb ft of torque is available pretty much from tickover and hurls this car down the road at a satisfying rate – it’ll reach 62mph in 9.3sec, top out at 143mph and return 41.5mpg. It sounds much more delicious than any BMW diesel, too, with a slight howl to the exhaust note that is absent in Munich’s creations.

At lighter throttle openings around town and on the motorway the engine is hushed and supremely smooth, the gearbox equally so. And even though the sound deadening and refinement is nowhere near as fine as in the S-type, the big Peugeot is never harsh.

Throw equipment into the equation and the 607 HDi would probably undercut the S-type diesel by about £5000 – worth remembering if Peugeot ever sells it here, though the savage depreciation hit after three years in the 607 is also something to bear in mind.

But the more you drive the 607, the more you wish it were better. What we’d like Peugeot to build is a real alternative to the German horde – a car with genuine charm but with the basics nailed as well. That means competitive body rigidity, refinement and ride comfort, along with higher-quality plastics and interior build quality.

Despite improvements to the suspension with the latest facelift – new bumpers, headlamps and interior details – the 607 doesn’t ride well enough and has nothing like the composure of an S-type or any of the German saloons. Sharp ridges send shocks through the cabin and you can feel and hear them all too easily.

No, it’s not a terrible problem in isolation, but in this class it needs to be better. The 607 feels too baggy and unsophisticated – float combined with tremble. Jacques Chirac rides in one of these cars, and though the rear seat is very comfortable with miles of legroom, the French President is being jiggled about more than Gerhard Schröder, and more road and suspension noise is attacking his concentration. You can even hear the fuel sloshing around loudly in the tank. You get the impression that’s the sort of thing a German or Japanese engineer would weed out of a car fairly early on.

These and the other details don’t stop you liking the 607 HDi, but they might just stop you buying it.

Bill Thomas

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