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MOTORNET: Sound Of Silence

Sound Of Silence

SCOOP MOTORNET with Karl Ferguson
Images by Neil Mackenzie -

Sophistication is a quality that more and more people are beginning to expect when it comes to diesel cars. The knock-knock-knock of a cold diesel engine chugging into life and the accompanying clatter from under the bonnet was all part of the experience a few years ago, but not any longer.

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Even so, everyone accepts your average diesel won’t be as quiet as your average petrol. Well, everyone except Peugeot that is. For a case in point, check out the new diesel on the 407 coupe.

The old Peugeot 406 coupe was always going to be a hard act to follow. Even today, it’s exquisitely rounded curves, and drop dead gorgeous profile will turn heads, a considerable feat given it has passed its tenth birthday.

The new 407 coupe, the 406’s long anticipated replacement, is quite simply not as beautiful. Which isn’t to say it’s not a good looking car, because it most definitely is. In fact, from certain angles, particularly from straight on, and the rear three quarter view, it’s a remarkable car. But somehow this in-house designed 407 lacks the Pininfarina flair of its predecessor.

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But sometimes there’s much to be said for substance over style. In this case, the 2.7 litre twin turbo diesel engine secreted under the long bonnet of the 407. It’s a sensation. This powerplant is not unique to the Peugeot, as it will also make an appearance in both Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles (hardly bad company to keep), and you can see why soon after getting behind the wheel.

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The numbers only tell half the story. Maximum power is 150kW at 4000 rpm, while the torque (always the important figure for diesels) is 440Nm at a very accessible 1900rpm. Once past 2000rpm, the engine is veritably humming and acceleration is smooth and progressive. Performance wise, Peugeot claim 0-100km/h in 8.5 seconds, which seems conservative to me. With a decent start, eight seconds dead seems quite achievable in my view.

More importantly, the Peugeot’s power is very accessible in everyday driving conditions, proving more than capable of fast overtaking maneuvers. Handling wise, it’s generally a treat. For a front driver that weighs a porky 1700+ kilograms and a fair bit of that over the front wheels, the coupe is still a good handler. Push it too hard and predictable and controllable understeer is the result, though it’s still a rewarding vehicle to pilot. Grip is good, and the steering provides good levels of driver feedback. There’s zero torque steer too which is pleasing.

If you really want to push the 407, you can change the automatic damper system to sport which will immediately harden up the ride. I wouldn’t recommend it for anything less than spirited driving as the formerly plush ride goes out the window, immediately transferring every road imperfection to the cabin. Besides, this is ultimately a GT car. Why get all hot and bothered when traveling in such style?

Similarly, to get the best response from the still excellent six-speed automatic transmission, drop it into manual mode and do the shifting yourself.

The cabin is typically Peugeot and will be familiar to anyone who has sampled the new 407 range. Brilliant sports seats and sumptuous leather that even extends to the dash helps create an air of exclusivity, as does standard items like the JBL premium stereo. And the heated seats work well besides.

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The dash is attractive, and build quality and plastics are above average. Unfortunately, the vast array of buttons on the centre console can be a little disarming at first, but with time, become a little more user friendly. Keep in mind too that the engine is so quiet from the cabin, you could be forgiven for thinking you were in the latest S-Class Mercedes.

Owners can also take comfort in one other aspect of having opted for a diesel – frugality. Combined cycle figures are around 8.5 L/100km which is pretty good for a car of this size with a V6 engine. You’ll certainly be the envy of current big Ford and Holden drivers, likely for more reason than one. Fuel usage can creep up in round town driving, but open highway motoring is impressive, with figures averaging around a miserly 6.5L/100km.

For a smidgen under $76,000, there’s a lot to like about this Peugeot. The petrol V6 will save you a few thousand, but without even sampling it, my pick would be the diesel. After all, Peugeot’s are all about comfort and style and this one has that in spades. Just as importantly, it also delivers the goods from under the bonnet – the best of both worlds in other words.

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