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Those at Peugeot who terminated its long and celebrated union on coupes with the famed Italian coachbuilder Pininfarina, and insisted that the successor to the 406 Coupe would be bigger, fatter, heavier and — from where we stand — much less attractive, have a lot to answer for.
Granted, the in-house-designed 407 Coupe is still a striking car to behold, and we understand the need for it to have a closer connection with the 407 sedan than with the 406 Coupe.
There are also trace elements of the Pininfarina-penned Ferrari 550 Barchetta — often quoted as a source of inspiration for the 406 two-door — such as the menacing grille and new shark's gill detailing.
But this is not beautiful, elegant or radiant like the 406 Coupe. Instead, the 407 version embodies a "shock and awe" doctrine and, it seems to us, the false belief now rampant among most of the world's car manufacturers that with each new generation a vehicle must be bigger and plusher to be deemed better.
An argument often metered out is that this sort of action is required to make the vehicle safer, and in the case of the 407 there is no doubt it is streets ahead of the 406 on this score. A maximum five stars from the independent European NCAP crash-test program bear this out.
The thing is, it is not a better driver's car. Whereas the 406 Coupe offered one of the best front-wheel drive ride and handling combinations of its time — something that was once a Peugeot trademark — the 407 returns to the field in this department.
It also has insufficient rear-seat room for its size, which seems incredible when the move from 406 to 407 increased its dimensions 200mm in overall length, 88mm in width, 45mm in height and 25mm in wheelbase.
Instead, the 407 Coupe relies on a strong value proposition compared to other European coupes and a unique selling point with a hi-tech — and quite exceptional — twin-turbocharged diesel engine in the range-topping HDi model variant tested here.
The result of Ford/PSA Peugeot-Citroen collaboration (and used across several brands including Jaguar and Land Rover), the 2.7-litre common-rail direct-injection V6 in this application develops 150kW at 4000rpm and 440Nm at 1900rpm.
Making a delightful combination with the clean-shifting standard-issue six-speed automatic transmission (with a pseudo-manual shift mode), the engine is smooth, muscular and, above all, whisper-quiet.
It fails to turn the sports coupe into a fireball from a standing start — indeed, at a claimed 8.5 seconds over 0-100km/h it is quite a bit slower than its exterior demeanour suggests — but there is no real sense of deficit for the driver who can revel in the diesel engine's flexibility and strength at the all-important low and medium revs.
This occurs despite the fact that the 1850kg kerb weight of the HDi is up to 112kg heavier than the 155kW/290Nm 3.0-litre V6 petrol model also available.
It remains effortless to drive, supremely refined and economical at all times. Indeed, in one of the few occasions we've ever achieved a lower figure than the government fuel consumption rating, we returned an 8.4l/100km average (compared to Peugeot's claimed 8.5l/100km) over a long-distance tour that covered a range of mountainous, free-flowing and dead-straight terrain.
Take out the snaking roads and our lasting impression of the 407 Coupe might have been different. But in tight situations, the extra weight of the vehicle — a considerable 365kg more than the 406 Coupe, much of it hanging over the front end — makes it feel less agile than its predecessor.
The coupe is stiffer than before, has a wider front and rear track, sits a little lower and uses electronic “active” dampers with its double-wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension. It rides on hard-gripping 18-inch 235/45-series Z-rated Pirelli P Zero rubber.
It should be much, much better. Sadly, it isn't. Across troubled road surfaces the firm ride can turn crass and uncomfortable and the steering can give rise to some undesirable jiggling. The variable-assistance steering feels too light at speed and the turning circle is a cumbersome 12.0m.
The brakes on our test car were prone to squealing and should have shown more resistance to fade in arduous conditions. The headlight performance is outstanding — and unsurprising considering the package includes bi-Xenons and a cornering function — but the Pirellis rumble across coarse bitumen.
The doors are very heavy (which some will consider a sign of quality rather than a burden), some of the satellite controls should be moved from on the steering column to the tiller itself and the rain-sensing mechanism takes up an inordinate amount of windscreen space.
The large and heavily bolstered leather driver's seat is fabulous for its comfort and support, while position memory and electric adjustment for all directions (bar lumbar) are welcome. The steering wheel has a full range of manual adjustment.
Access to the rear compartment is excellent thanks to the electric front seat mechanism, but legroom is poor and the sloping roofline restricts headroom for taller people.
The 400-litre boot is simply cavernous, and contains a full-size alloy spare wheel and a six-CD changer. There is a ski-port and a split-fold rear seat. Standard equipment includes seven airbags, traction and stability control, a tyre pressure monitoring system, trip computer, dual-zone climate control and front and rear parking sensors.
Hindsight is hard to ignore. This incarnation has lost the beautiful looks of the 406 and, to a certain extent, its soul.
Verdict: 3.5/5 stars
GOOD:Refined and muscular diesel engine. Smooth transmission. Superb headlight performance.
Cavernous boot. Full-size spare wheel
BAD: Sensuous 406 Coupe looks have gone. Lacks agility of its predecessor. Big turning circle. Cabin niggles
|(base)||2.9L, ULP, 6 SP MAN||$6,300 – 9,790||2006 Peugeot 407 2006 (base) Pricing and Specs|
|HDi||2.7L, Diesel, 6 SP||$7,700 – 11,990||2006 Peugeot 407 2006 HDi Pricing and Specs|
|SR HDi Comfort||2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP MAN||$4,000 – 6,490||2006 Peugeot 407 2006 SR HDi Comfort Pricing and Specs|
|ST Comfort||2.2L, PULP, 4 SP||$3,100 – 5,390||2006 Peugeot 407 2006 ST Comfort Pricing and Specs|
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