The news of the new 408 made TG immediately want an old 406. This is why:
All too often, fashion and function don’t mix in life. Countless examples of unfortunate mixtures overwhelm us in our day-to-day existence – salt-stained suede boots, twist-seam jeans, Alessi cork screws… But sporadically comes something that makes up for lesser creations, something that’s both stylish and sensible – a Dyson vacuum cleaner for example, or a 406 Coupé.
Peugeot’s sleek and shapely coupé has garnered many fans over the years, some even describing it as a poor man’s Ferrari. Created by the renowned Pininfarina styling house, it seamlessly blended desirability with real life. Yes, it may look like an expensive sports coupe, but it also has functionality to back it up.
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Peugeot launched the four-seater 406 Coupé in 1997 to a world press that claimed that, apart from the 205, Peugeot made mostly staggeringly boring cars. What little competition there was in the sector – the Hyundai Coupé and Toyota Celica, for example – suddenly found themselves faced with a bona fide rival. To maintain its lead, Peugeot redesigned the 406 Coupé just two years later, albeit minimally, to include a different grille and changes to the lights. It remained that way until production ceased in 2003.
Then we got the 407 Coupe. Enough said.
Early cars were available with a four-cylinder 137 hp 2.0 liter or a 194 hp 3.0 liter V6 petrol engine. The 2.0 can sound tense and lacks traction when compared to the thirsty but smooth and punchy 3.0 V6 – which, if you’ve got the cash to spare, can take a beating. We’ve also heard that the 2.0 can be a bad starter, stalling until it finally warms up. When you look at it, make sure you drive it cold to make sure it isn’t going to cause you any immediate problems.
In 2002 a 2.2-liter with 160 hp replaced the 2.0. It’s a good compromise between economy and performance, and certainly a step forward over the 2.0. The acclaimed 136 hp 2.2 HDi diesel arrived a year earlier, in August 2001. Back then, it was creak-free and refined, tangy and so smooth you almost forget you’re operating an oil burner. A good choice for economy and also long life. However, if you are looking at a diesel, remember to watch out for excessive smoke – this could indicate that the injectors are worn out. And if the pollution light comes on in the instrument panel, keep in mind that it could mean that a new cat is on the way.
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A word of caution on all these engines, check that the timing belt has been replaced on time (ie every 30k miles), replacement is much cheaper than repairing the damage of a broken one. And while checking everything else, take a look under the bodywork… oil leaks are quite common.
406 Coupes came with a choice of a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic transmission – upgraded to an electronically controlled four-speed automatic in 1999.
The 406 sedan drove and cornered well and since this was the car the 406 Coupe was based on, it should come as no surprise that the Coupe handled well; better than the four-door, in fact thanks to re-tuned dampers and springs. However, as with all 406s, look for worn shift rods in the rear – not expensive to fix, but annoying. You notice that because the ride at the back feels a bit loose. All models have responsive steering and tight cornering, and the top-of-the-line versions – which came with switchable electronic damping control – ride very well. Stopping isn’t a problem either, especially for the V6 models – they had Brembo brakes as standard.
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There’s a good reason people have called the poor man’s 406 Coupe de Ferrari, and it’s simply because it was designed by Lorenzo Ramaciotti – the man behind the F456 and 550 Maranello. The look has not faded, you would say, literally because the factory body was also heavily galvanized. Any signs of rust could indicate damage from an accident that was poorly repaired.
Despite being written by a Ferrari stylist, the 406 Coupé was surprisingly practical. For practicality, yes, read that, unfortunately, it bears too much resemblance to the dark and relatively cheaply trimmed saloon inside. But also read that it means that there is enough space in the front, while two adults can sit comfortably in the back and you can even fit several bags in the trunk. While looking in the trunk, check to see if the CD multi-changer has a cassette – they could get lost. Go back to the front and play with all the electrical gadgets; make sure the alarm and central locking are working and, if the one you’re looking at has power seats, try them in all directions as well – some can be frustratingly slow when faulty. Another caveat is to avoid lurid color schemes – mustard is only acceptable when served with ham. It’s also worth checking if you can handle the annoyance of reversing a coupe like this, as rear visibility is very limited.
For a tough, timelessly chic and yet practical car you could have done much worse than the 406 Coupé; the 407 Coupe for example. Thanks to its well-designed substructure, the 406 Coupé offers diligent drivers the opportunity to enjoy its sharp dynamics and – in the case of the V6 – impressive speed changes. Plus, he has the trump card of being the brainchild of a Ferrari designer. bella.