The Peugeot 407 SV is without doubt a well finished product. However, after spending time with the
mid-sized V6 sedan, we're unsure if Peugeot intended it to be a luxury sedan or
a sports saloon. It seems Peugeot wasn’t quite sure either...
The 407 represents a major change in direction from the previous 406 model, a
car which combined traditional Peugeot long-travel suspension with intuitive
steering, practicality – and was dressed in relatively anonymous styling. The
styling of the 407 is anything but bland - in the week we had the car, we
received numerous positive comments on its looks. This is a car that looks 50
per cent more expensive than its AUD$55,990 sticker. But as we found out, that
styling wow factor comes at a practicality cost...
The 407 is available with three different engines. At the cheapest end is a
2.2-litre four cylinder developing 116kW and 217Nm. The price for the base ST
model is AUD$42,790. Also available is a direct-injected diesel version with 100
kW of power and a stonking 320Nm of torque, with prices for these models
starting from AUD$45,990. The as-tested top-line SV comes with V6 petrol engine
developing 155kW at 6000 rpm and 290Nm at a relatively high 3750 rpm. A 6-speed
automatic transmission is fitted.
When the model procession is outlined in this way, the 155kW engine sounds
impressive for its power, but the car’s mass of 1660kg puts it in perspective.
Many competitors have more power and weigh a similar amount. The factory lists a
0-100 km/h of 8.4 seconds but our time was at least a second slower than that.
However, while you could never say the 407 is a fast car, the engine is smooth,
silky and happy to rev. Variable
valve timing is used on the intake valves and the exhaust system has dual modes
to give a quieter exhaust at low loads while still breathing freely at high
The 6-speed auto – a compact and light unit manufactured by Japanese company
Aisin AW - is a mixed bag. With a ratio for all occasions, it gives good rolling
acceleration and the Tiptronic facility allows easy driver over-ride. However, the gearbox refinement is way
behind many competitors that also use high tech autos. The main problem is as
the vehicle slows, the gearbox actively down-changes, meaning the ‘box is always
in the right gear for immediate acceleration when the driver re-applies
throttle. So far, so good. However, unlike competitors like Honda and Mitsubishi
that use similar control logic, each down-change is felt as a distinct and
noticeable clunk. While not out of place in a sports car, this behaviour is
intrusive in a luxury family sedan. With all the gearchanges obvious, the
hyperactive gearbox can become tiresome – especially in urban cut-and-thrust
The fuel economy result of a relatively low power V6 pulling around a body of
typical weight - with a hyperactive 6-speed auto juggling the ratios - can only
be described as poor. The factory lists the urban economy as a woeful 14.5
litres/100 km and the highway cycle at an impressive 7.0 litres/100km. When
corrected for an optimistic odometer, we averaged 13.8 litres/100 in a mix of
freeway and urban conditions.
It can be said that the driveline of the 407 looks rather better on paper
than in the reality – and the ride can be summarised in much the same way. At
the front there are double wishbones while the rear features an all-new design
using multiple links. The damping is electronically controlled and varies over
nine settings. Each damper is controlled separately and a dashboard button
allows the selection of a firmer sporty setting. However, we found that in
normal mode the car was inclined to float, with especially the rear being overly
soft. In sports mode the ride was too firm – at times even hard. There was also
a disappointing amount of banging and crashing from the front suspension; like
the gearbox clunks, this substantially detracts from the luxury pretensions of
But on the plus side, the handling is excellent. The 407 uses a very rigid
body – it’s claimed to have a torsional rigidity higher than Peugeot has ever
before achieved on a road car – and this can be felt on the road. The electronic
stability control system is also superb. In addition to normal functions such as
counteracting understeer and oversteer by braking individual wheels, it also has
a mode that reads driving style, slightly delaying interventions when it detects
that the driver is deliberately sliding the car. On the road – especially in wet
conditions – the stability control is seamless and fluid. There are no sharp
reductions in power and no sudden yaw movements: the driver is simply aware that
the car is following the intended path. In some cornering situations you could
almost guess the car had constant four-wheel drive. However, as you’d expect
from a 1660kg front-wheel drive, there can be quite a lot of turn-in understeer.
Open the front door (doors which, given the body weight, seem flimsy) and
step inside and you’ll find seats that are firm, easily adjusted and never
uncomfortable. But sit in the back and be amazed: this is a car that has
seriously little rear legroom. Head further rearwards and you’ll find a huge
boot – which can be made even larger by folding the rear seats flat. However,
all is not good news for the driver. Firstly, the incredible slope of the
windscreen – which stylistically works so well – has a real and major downside.
The top of the A-pillars are so close to the driver that they create a major
blind-spot, especially when turning right. We’re talking a gap in vision big
enough to easily lose a pedestrian behind. And it’s not just the A-pillars,
either. Incredibly – and we wonder how the car can pass Australian Design Rules
with this in place – there’s a huge box placed way down the windscreen. It’s the
sensor for the auto wipers and in this right-hand drive car, creates a vision
blockage that has to be seen to be believed.
Like other recent Peugeots, the centre of the dash houses a digital display
screen that shows climate control and sound system information. Also like other
Pugs, it cannot be read when wearing polarising sunglasses... However, more
troubling is the multitude of small buttons housed beneath. How many buttons?
Try about forty! One of our drivers put it like this: the centre dash buttons are attractive and
reasonably intuitive to use... if you are stopped. Like the forward
blind-spots, this part of the design looks like it was OK’d in the styling
studio rather than being tested on the road.
But there aren’t any problems with crash safety. With eight airbags (the side
curtain ‘bags are full-length designs), tyre pressure sensors, automatic hazard
light activation under emergency braking and the usuals like pre-tensioning and
force-limited seatbelts, the 407 is very safe. Just how safe was demonstrated by
its 5-start rating in the ENCAP independent crash tests.
The 407 SV is a car with an identity crisis. It doesn’t fit the categories of
either luxury sedan or sports saloon. In sports mode it has the hard suspension
and the aggressive transmission of a sports car, yet it lacks the performance of
a sports car. It has the equipment levels and size of a luxury mid-sized saloon,
yet lacks the rear legroom and comfort.
The 407 isn’t all things to all people. If you frequently travel on wet
mountainous roads, the 407 will delight you. If you want a soft pampering car to
drive mostly in urban conditions and on freeways, it won’t.
The 407 was supplied for this test by Peugeot