|For my money the 406 is one of the best midrange cars on the road, good looking and capable a delight to drive even in its lower spec, lower power variants.|
Of course no matter which car you own you always dream of a top spec model, with the big power motor. This one doesnt quite fulfil that dream as there is still the rather excessive 3 litre V6 to be accounted for, but it comes pretty damned close.
Ignoring the worthy Diesels the PUG comes in 1.8, 2.0 and 3 litre form punching out a mild 112bhp, a respectable 135bhp and a lusty 194bhp. It also came in a 150bhp 2-litre Turbo form. On paper this is a bit of an odd man out barely more powerful than the conventional 2 litre and a long way down on the V6.
When youve had chance to test the actual performance of these engines in real life situations, its reason for existing become a lot more sharply focused. I've not tried a PSA 3 litre unit but you can bet that they are lusty performers with handsome mid range grunt and a not inconsiderable appetite for unleaded. The 1.8 and 2.0 units by comparison are typically modern 4 cylinder 16 valve units, decently fast, rev happy, torque deficient and requiring lots of left hand assistance, but with a relatively parsimonious appetite by comparison.
Looking logically what some people probably want, and I include myself, is the sensible outright performance and economy of the 2 litre but with some of the mid range grunt and flexibility of the V6.
And that I think is where the turbo unit is aimed at in Marketing terms.
Forget fire breathing, wheel spinning on/off boosting flame throwing, whistling and chattering waste gate turboisms, this one is a relatively lowly tuned, conservatively boosted well behaved rendition of the turbo theme. Tuned for surging low and mid range urge, If you try really hard you will find that the urge does increase above 2 to 2.5 k mark. But the motor is flexible and strong below that mark so you dont need to hunt around the gearbox to bring the motor back on song. Its usefulness was best illustrated when stuck behind a bus pulling just 2000revs in third up a very steep local hill. As the road widened and a short gap in the oncoming traffic appeared there were no worries about it not boosting, no need to grab second to get the turbo spooled up. Just press the pedal to the carpet and whoosh by in a single flat stream of safe reliable urge. On paper you pay for this with the loss of around 1 mpg at every false EEC test point, but as Saab often point out, a turbo motor is often very economical overall for its power output because when the turbos not singing the engines not really working. Its a fair bet that in the right circumstances the 2 litre turbo PUG is very close to the conventional 2 Litre if not better overall, because of its enhanced mid range and ability to pull a larger gear more often.
No matter what the results of direct Fuel consumption test there can be no argument that the Turbo provides a better, easier, more relaxed driving experience. Before the gear change appreciation society writes in to complain that its just me being lazy, remember the swift changing gear box is still there and can be waggled away to your hearts content if its just the extra 15 top end horses your after, keep the engine boiling between 4000 and 6000rpm and it will return really quite stunning performance for a family saloon. The only slight criticism of the gearbox I could muster is that first is so low it revs through without the Turbo taking noticeable effect and fifth could be a little higher without killing flexibility.
I'm not sure what, if any, chassis tweaks Peugeot put into the Turbo version, It does carry wider lower profile tyres on alloys. As the alloys probably off set any increase in unsprung weight from the larger tyres, the very slightly stiffer ride can probably be attributed to changed aspect ratio and lessened compliance in the tyres sidewalls. The worsening of the ride is only marginal though and is only really noticeable when you drive this and the lesser version back to back or if your of a very delicate makeup. In return though you do get even more positive and grippy handling so its a fair trade off. Apart from the slight change in the ride/grip relationship it's still all the good things thats all 406's are. Quite simply it's still the most entertaining mid range family saloon/hatch available.
Jumping straight out of a C class Merc into the 406 brings things sharply into focus. Whilst the Mercedes maybe just edges the ride, the 406 is streets ahead in the handling stakes. The 406 feels positively nervous after the slumbering Benz. Its steering light but positive, delicate but communicative, a front wheel drive Saloon really shouldnt feel so much better than a rear wheel drive one. But the difference is like night and day, you feel like you could push the 406 to within a millimeter of its high limits, the Merc by comparison simple rushes headlong past its low limits without bothering to signal.
Executive is a bit of a strange phrase to label a car with. Personally I associate it with fat unproductive freeloaders, but I think PSA are trying to suggest top of the tree, all the extras, best of everything. Peugeot have done a reasonable job of squeezing just about every half useful device into the car. Electric Memory Heated Leather seats with integral individual armrests whilst relatively compact, provide comfortable support perches for your backside and Leather wrapping of the compact adjustable steering wheel provides a nice place to rest your hands. The Executive has Air con, and you may think thats no big deal, especially when you consider that Air con is such a marketing must, that it has filtered right down the range to all but the cheapest models. But there is Air Con and there is AIR CON. On the cheaper cars its nothing more than a slow acting under bonnet chiller unit integrated into the standard heater plumbing. On the Executive you truly get AIR CON, Digitally controlled and integrated properly into the heating system to the point where Climate control is probably a better description.
Security is a strong point on the 406, Alarmed, Remote central locking with dead locks and a keypad immobiliser and non removable integrated RDS radio all help make it more difficult for dreaded tea leaves to make off with the car or usefully gain much from breaking in. The Keypad whilst ingeniously and artistically hidden from eyesight doesnt present a visible visual deterrent so you may still get your window broke before the Sods realise they cant start it without the code.
Getting a few posh extras and gadget to gel properly in an interior designed to also be cost effective for Base model is always a problem for top of the range cars. You can't really expect manufactures to create entire new interiors for a low volume models that would be prohibitively expensive. Luckily the 406 interior which is fairly pleasant to start with does have a head start in avoiding looking like a dogs dinner. The two tone black plastic is broken up by neat grey velour panelling. The switches are for the most part logically arranged and clear in their function.
Of more marginal value are the dark wood/plastic wood strips, which bi-sect the panels. I cant help thinking that wood is getting a little passť and is just the easy option for manufactures trying to make a statement of luxury. It can look great in the right surroundings, but here it just smells faintly of unimaginative marketing and Peugeot should take a look at some of the current Audi interior materials for a bit of inspiration.
By night though it all looks fabulous with lots of buttons glowing a gentle pinkie red in a fair impression of a plane cockpit. The road looks pretty good too when you invoke the spotlights to turn night into day
Neat touches abound.
Like the rear sunscreen, ski hatch through the rear seats, rear shelf tray, though this probably holds the regulation first aid kit on the continent. Nice touches of design show through in the little touches like the left centre air vent being the same curved one from the left door side and its line scribing a gentle curve into the dashboard.
So what equipment is missing.
Well I would still like a sunroof myself, despite the undeniable attractions of the decent Air Con system. A Multi player CD would also be very nice too. Other than that I can't really think of anything else that I could usefully add, to this already excellently equipped car.
Really the only thing which detracts from the feeling that this is quite a special car is the rather limited set of instrumentation. Speedo, Rev counter Engine temp and petrol gauge you expect to find in most modern cars. The only other gauge is one that rather curiously indicates something or other when the ignition is turned on and then turns its self off for the rest of the journey. I think its a coolant level indicator, but its job could be done happily by a warning light and is a bit of a waste of the limited dash area.
The one other thing I would want is a different colour scheme, though normally I dont have a problem with black cars, I dont think Black shows this model off to its best extent,. Maybe the lines are just too clean and simple to carry it , maybe its too plain in one flat colour, It dont know . What I do know is there are plenty of other colours out there which suite its lines much better.
On the plus side the only external indications of what's lurking under the bonnet are the Discrete Alloys, very discrete executive badge and the fat tail pipe. Not a single reference to the Turbo or even the cubic capacity rears its head on the car and as such I think its a car which will surprise a few unsuspecting people.
All in all an excellent underrated car.
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