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MOTORNET: Six-Speed Sensation

Six-Speed Sensation - Peugeot’s Excellent 407

SCOOP MOTORNET with Karl Ferguson
Images by Neil Mackenzie -

Honestly, I really didn’t think I was going that quick. It was a bright sunny weekend in late summer, and we were headed for New Plymouth for a weekend away. The idea was to travel in two cars and rendevous in Wanganui for lunch. As the driver of the second car, and having left slightly later than planned, it’s fair to say that I was trying to make up some time.

I thought I had spotted our companion’s blue Falcon not far in the traffic ahead. As it turned out, I hadn’t. I also failed to spot the patrol car parked on the opposite side of the road, and as we passed, a quick glance at the speedo confirmed my fears… an indicated 120km/h plus on the clock.

I had pulled over and stopped before the cop had fully had a chance to turn on the lights and do a U-turn, but there was no mistaking who he was after. Who would have imagined that I was going to get my first speeding ticket in years driving a diesel Peugeot?

Not that long ago, it was conceivable that many of the diesels on New Zealand roads would barely make the speed limit let alone exceed it. But a great deal has changed in these last few years and now performance diesels are all the go.

I had driven Peugeot’s excellent 407 before – both in petrol and diesel form and rated it very highly. I was never that taken with the estate’s slightly odd rear C-pillar treatment, but having picked up the gleaming gold wagon a few days before, I found the styling was really growing on me. Not only that, but the full length glass roof with retractable blind (exclusive to the wagon) was perfect for the great weather and we were making the most of it.

The crucial difference with this 407 diesel though was the transmission. It really is amazing what a few extra gears will do. Perhaps the Achilles heel of the earlier entry level 407s was their four-speed automatic boxes. Four speeders don’t really cut it any longer, and the torquey diesel just wasn’t at its best labouring with so few cogs. That’s changed with the introduction of Peugeot’s extremely capable six-speeder. The gearbox no longer has to hunt for a gear, meaning improved driving characteristics and much more accessible performance from the plucky engine. It really is noticeable, particularly in passing maneuvers and from standstill. It may only produce 100kW of power, but the torque figure of 320Nm is what really counts and now with the six-speed, the Peugeot has really come into its own.

Not only that, but the diesel Peugeot also comes equipped with an FAP or particle emission filter. Particulates are the nasties produced by the burning of sulphur in diesel fuel, causing poor air quality and health problems. Particulates have long plagued diesel engines but a few years ago, Peugeot developed a maintenance free particulate filter that captures the particles and then, periodically, burns them up through the heat of exhaust gases. What’s changed is the amount of sulphur in New Zealand diesel, now below 500 parts-per-million meaning Peugeot can equip its cars here with the latest technology. Previously, the high sulphur content overwhelmed the filter and could cause major engine management problems and even engine failure.

Just as importantly, the 407 diesel enjoys excellent fuel economy. At around 110km/h we were averaging about 6.8 litres per 100 kilometres. That’s not far off hybrid territory.

Other good news is that the 407 diesel shares the attributes of its petrol brethren. Handling is good, as is the ride. Equipment levels are high including such niceties as leather, climate control air-con and all the safety mod cons you would expect in this price bracket. There are some other additions you might not expect like automatic headlights and side mirrors that can be set to retract once the engine is shut down and the car locked up. Build quality is good but materials, particularly in the cabin, are only average and can be a little plastic to the touch.
At $54,990 the 407 SW HDi ($51,990 for the diesel sedan) represents pretty good value for money, with direct competition likely to come from the recently released VW Passat TDi, just coming available now in wagon form. It may be subjective, but there is no doubt that the 407 is one of the most comfortable cars I have had the fortune to drive and in this day and age, there really is a lot to be said for pure and simple pampering.
As for the incident with the Police patrol, it didn’t end all badly. The officer accepted my explanation that the ‘Pug’ had simply gotten away from me coming down the hill. He still gave me a ticket though, but good bloke that he was, only for 15 kilometres over the limit which made life a little easier in the wallet and demerit point department. The moral of the story then? Never underestimate the power and seductiveness of the modern diesel engine, especially when it comes courtesy of a new Peugeot Estate…


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