Big, French and front-wheel drive? That’ll be a car almost no-one wants, then.
As if to guarantee the inevitable, Peugeot launched the 605 in 1989 with a range of under-powered 2.0 litre engines, a fuel-gorging V6 and no diesels. And when the oil-burners did appear, two seasons later, they were also underpowered.
Only towards the end of its surprisingly long, 11-year life (Peugeot must have been trying to recoup the tooling costs) did the 605 get some decent engines. And then the company lined itself up for the same torture all over again with the 607, whose slightly odd lines made you realise that the 605 was at least properly proportioned.
The 605’s look was the work of Pininfarina, though its creation wouldn’t have taxed the company’s designers too heavily because it resembled both the 405 and the Alfa 164, all three fashioned by the same outfit. It seems amazing, now, that Pininfarina was able to sell essentially the same design theme to two different car manufacturers, and in Peugeot’s case, twice over.
Still, there’s no denying this trio’s handsome looks, each distinguished with styling flourishes peculiar to the marque, though not, in the case of the two Pugs, from each other. Apart from its scale, the 605 was best identified by some subtle, Quattro-esque billows in its wings that suggested an unexpected athleticism.
And not inaccurately. True, this is an accolade for which competition is sparse, but the 605 has to be one of the best-handling, big front-wheel drive saloons ever made, its chassis polished during Peugeot’s finest hours of suspension development.
Being large and luxurious meant that the 605 had to ride, and it did, its suspension serving the loping, supple motion that Peugeots were once fabled for, but the real surprise, even from a company at the top of its game, was the 605’s deft way with curves, its agility and imperturbable capacity for soaking up rough stuff providing genuine entertainment.
You could even direct it on the throttle. The only limitations were steering that was a bit little light and mushy, those lame engines and its size. Which was its reason for being, of course, though not for many buyers, who preferred sending funds to Germany for their executive wares. For good reason.
A tough sell
The 605 looked too ordinary to appear expensive, and was even duller inside, its utterly flairless dashboard fronted by an ugly, airbag-swollen wheel. It must have been hell to sell, as confirmed by the fact that most wore the Coventry numberplates of Peugeot’s UK headquarters, for use by corporate high-ups, dealer principles and fleet sales executives tasked with the daunting mission of palming a few off on their too-savvy-to-be-that-stupid customers.
That made the 605 rare then, and very rare now; indeed records suggest just 40 of various versions remain on UK roads. In a few years and they’ll be close to extinct, which is why, perversely, I find myself wanting one, and its fine chassis, before it’s all over.
Which doesn't look too far away as we could only find one 605 for sale today, a 1999 diesel for £975. Needs some TLC mind.