Technically competent coupé that puts the emphasis on cruising, but lacks emotional involvement.
14 December 2005

The job of a coupé is a complicated blend. Key ingredients are the capacity to convey two-plus adults in comfort over reasonable distances, and the ability to be driven swiftly and enjoyably when the moment suits. But the coupés that succeed, also provide their owners with a warm glow, a feeling of contentment knowing they have chosen a car that isn’t just some functional box.It’s a recipe that Peugeot blended to perfection with the 406 Coupé; here was a car that took the humble, if competent, 406 saloon and added an elegant, beautifully proportioned Pininfinarina body, swathes of colourful leather and plush seating. The 406 Coupé looked and felt a world away from its saloon sibling.With the 407 saloon Peugeot chose a bold new design direction, the elongated nose and gaping grille giving the a striking, if not universally-loved face. While this approach may have guaranteed the saloon stood out in the office car park, it must have presented a challenge for the designers charged with conjuring a graceful coupé variant.No surprise, then, that despite a common platform and wheelbase the coupé model shares no body panels with the saloon, and with a broader track and extended overhangs sits 140mm longer and 57mm wider.Visual appeal is a subjective, but for us the coupé carries-off the family face more successfully than the saloon. There are some excellent angles: the dead-on rear where the rear screen, buttresses and haunches intersect being particularly effective. But viewed as a whole the coupé’s swooping roofline sits rather awkwardly with the bulky slab sides.Swing open the long doors and the cockpit, although similar to the saloon, has an ambiance all of its own. Chief amongst the contributing factors are the sumptuous leather seats, which are attractive, comfortable and supportive, and are also set lower and further back than the saloon. Leather also graces the steering wheel and on this top-spec GT model the dash board and door panels and real aluminium inserts run the width of the dash and the length of the door panels.Moreover, live with the 407 Coupé for a few days and you’ll notice it feels better screwed together than any other Peugeot, testament to the separate and slower production line on which coupés are constructed. Rear passengers get separately sculpted seats with enough space for adults for journeys of an hour or so, further than this and the tight head and legroom will grate.The 407 is available in petrol guise with either a 2.2-litre four-cylinder or 3.0-litre V6, or - as tested - with a 2.7-litre turbodiesel. This V6, already highly praised in its Jaguar and Land Rover installations, is a fine example of the advances in diesel technology, mixing power, torque, economy and supurb refinement.And it works equally well in the 407, making an effortlessly smooth drive train, allowing you to waft around town and the then measure out the 205bhp and 330lbft as required. Only when you require unexpected acceleration does it disappoint, exhibiting a noticeable delay as the engine summons the force to propel the 407’s hefty 1799kg.Around town the steering is pleasantly weighted - light but linear - making placing what is a long and wide car almost instinctive. A shame, then, that the electronic damping system remains too firm for our uneven urban surfaces. If Peugeot are positioning the 407 as a coupé with the emphasis on comfort, then this firm ride sits rather oddly.Which might suggest that the 407 Coupé will be more at home on sweeping B-roads, but try to pedal the 407 with any gusto and the chassis, despite being competent with an almost total absense of roll and impressive grip, offers little in the way of satisfaction. With the long nose stretching out ahead it can be difficult to place the car with confidence, and the brakes while ultimately powerful lack the precision needed for swift driving.No, the 407 Coupé’s forte definitely on the motorway, where at speed the ride finds a more comfortable rhythm, the drivetrain is working in its sweet spot and wind noise is so well-contained that occupants can sit back relax and enjoy the powerful stereo.At £30,600 for this 2.7HDi GT model, the 407 Coupé is richly priced and faces stern competition from more established premium brands, although Peugeot counters with a strong equipment tally.Viewed objectively the 407 Coupé is a good car: in some areas it is exceptionally accomplished, and it rarely delivers less than an adequate performance. Although too uninvolving for the enthusiast driver, there are other buyers for whom the combination of refinement, technology and underlying performance will appeal.Peugeot should be applauded for trying to carve its own niche, to try to directly emulate Mercedes or BMW would be a fool’s errand. Ultimately, though, it boils down to looks. For Peugeot to entice buyers with £30,000 to spend, the 407 needed to be a stunner, and for our money at least, it falls some way short.Jamie Corstorphine

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