Distinctive can be an underrated quality in a car. So many of the vehicles we drive are so similar visually that having something that stands out has obvious appeal.
Of course, given the choice, most of us would prefer something beautiful but true beauty is a rare and expensive commodity and in its absence, distinctiveness can be a rewarding substitute. If Peugeot’s 407 Coupe had a mother, even she’d have to admit that its looks are more interesting than drop-dead gorgeous but for the kind of money Peugeot is asking, there are few cars with more presence about them.
Peugeot doesn’t have a great deal of direct competition in the market for big coupes without premium badges. That’s partially because many manufacturers have given up on the sector completely, surmising that the first thing on the shopping list of people wanting a large coupe tends to be a premium badge to occupy its grille. It’s true that the likes of Audi’s A5, the Mercedes E-Class Coupe and the BMW 3-Series Coupe have little to fear from the big Peugeot but it could be an option for those who don’t quite have the budget to go German. Renault’s Laguna Coupe is the obvious direct rival and smaller options like Alfa’s Brera and the Volkswagen Scirocco deliver a sportier flavour with less long distance comfort. Peugeot is banking on an advanced all-diesel engine range to give the 407 Coupe a fighting chance.
If you want a coupe to set your heart racing every time the traffic clears and the road opens up ahead, the 407 may not be it. The pair of diesel engines that power it are the first clue to this car’s more laidback nature. Not that they’re lacking in outright grunt: the 2.0-litre HDI has 163bhp and 340Nm of torque constantly available between 2,000 and 3,000rpm. That’s just the entry-level engine too. Peugeot is really proud of its range-topping unit which is a development of the well received 2.7-litre HDI twin-turbo diesel that powered earlier versions of the 407 Coupe and more than a few Jaguar models in the past. It’s a 3.0-litre HDI twin-turbo oil-burner with 241bhp and a whopping 450Nm of torque between 1,600 and 3,600rpm. That’s plenty of engine for a 407. A version of it can also be found in Jaguar’s XF executive saloon, which is a good indication of its quality. It will take the 407 Coupe from a standstill to 60mph in 7.9s and hit a 151mph top speed, while the 2.0-litre HDI engine’s figures are 9.5s and 137mph.
"It will turn heads and that’s half the battle in the coupe market"
This car’s predecessor, Peugeot’s 406 Coupe, was a right looker and one of the most beautiful cars that sensible money could buy in its day. While the 407 Coupe, launched in 2005, was never going to live with that super model aesthetically, Peugeot were keen - and still are - to stress the improvement in handling it offers. Much of this can be attributed to its double wishbone front suspension, which may not mean a great deal to many but in essence sums up the French company’s commitment to handling excellence. Many cars these days have so-called ‘multilink’ rear suspension, but most persevere with a simple strut front set up. In offering a more sophisticated front suspension system, the 407 clearly states its commitment. Its size and comfort-tuned suspension preclude it from really aggressive driving but this is a Grand Tourer that doesn’t fall to pieces when the going gets twisty.
From certain angles, the proportions of the 407 Coupe look rather odd. Perhaps it’s the mismatch in length between the front and rear overhangs that does it, but it’s a complex shape; one that never rests easily on the eye but rewards repeated inspection. The rear three-quarter is probably the most flattering aspect, a flat side profile exacerbating the unusual relationship between wheels and corners. One thing’s for sure. In a market populated by some very anodyne shapes, the 407 Coupe makes an instant impression. The cabin looks very Peugeot - which is possibly the weakest part of the 407 make up. It’s neat and everything seems to work very nicely but there isn’t a great deal of showroom ‘wow factor’ to it. The latest cars feature chrome on the upper edges of the side window frames and larger door mirrors but as facelifts go, this one was more like an eyebrow pluck.
This is a large car and for a coupe, it’s got a decent amount of space in the back. That ‘for a coupe’ is quite a big caveat though, as so many equivalent models offer seriously stingy amounts of space for the unfortunates in the back with head and legroom sacrificed at the alter of a sleek exterior shape. There are two moulded seats in the back of the 407 Coupe, so carrying five in the car is out of the question. Headroom is tight but manageable and so long as the driver isn’t too tall, there is space for legs behind. Access to the rear is helped by a front seat that tilts and slides forward a long way and the boot is a much happier story with a full 400 litres available beneath the parcel shelf.
Only one trim level is now offered but the Sport comes comprehensively specified with alloy wheels, xenon headlamps, Peugeot Connect satellite navigation, cruise control, rear parking sensors, dual zone climate control, front fog lights, automatic headlamps and automatic wipers. There’s quite a jump between the 2.0-litre and 3.0-litre engines with a £4,500 price differential. At the money being asked for the V6, it’s quite possible for buyers to get into an entry-level version of a premium brand coupe with four-cylinder power. To get an equivalent V6 diesel engine in one of these cars, however, at least another £6,000 would be required.
The 407 is very strong on safety. Active safety comes in the form of brake discs with a diameter of up to 330mm and an advanced ESP stability control which is standard on every model. As well as marshalling the anti-skid function, ESP also acts as a controller for the anti-lock braking system, the emergency brake assist and the electronic brakeforce distribution to each individual wheel. Up to nine airbags can be specified: twin front, side, curtain and steering column units offer optimum protection.
The latest diesel engines in the 407 Coupe are as much about efficiency as they are performance. Both engines have the PEF Particulate Emissions Filter bolted on to trap harmful diesel particulate matter before it makes its escape through the exhaust. They also meet Euro 5 emissions standards thanks to their advanced fuel injection and combustion systems. The 2.0-litre HDi engine returns 52mpg on the combined cycle and emits 140g/km of CO2. Go for the 3.0-litre unit and the bills will be larger in line with the added performance. 39mpg is the official combined cycle figure and emissions are measured at 189g/km.
Some may be a little disappointed that the 407 Coupe is no great beauty, but there’s plenty of merit in its imposing looks. It will turn heads and that’s half the battle in the coupe market. The car inherits the attributes of the other 407 models in that it’s comfortable and composed rather than particularly sporty. The impressive diesel engines add to the car’s relaxed persona with their big torque outputs and economy is also strong.
The 407 3-door might not be able to match the desirability factor of the premium-badged coupes out there and it doesn’t have the exhilarating driving experience you get with smaller more sports-orientated efforts. As a big, comfortable car with lots of equipment and styling that stands out however, it could make sense. The V6 model is one of the most affordable ways to own a world-beating six-cylinder diesel engine.