My sixth and final Peugeot came in the form of the Italian designed and assembled 406 Coupe. At the age of 25 and struggling to find the dollars to purchase one new (at the time costing around $76,000 plus options and on-roads in 2001), I settled for a 2-year-old Galileo Green metallic with an auto transmission.
It would seem there was a severe shortage of these on the pre-owned market, especially the clutch-driven models available. Sadly, the 4-speed was everyone’s default choice and it shortly became mine as I decided that I could not live with a Post-It yellow exterior just to get a 5-speed stick shift.
From the moment Peugeot’s gorgeous 406 Coupe was released, I knew I had to have one. I’d driven two of these new, courtesy of the local Toowoomba dealership, in both auto and manual, and was blown away with the car’s silky-smooth, easy to operate transmissions and cosseted driving experience. As a young driver at the time, I kept an eye on the pre-owned market, waiting for one to surface at around half the sticker price so that the inside of my garage would see the likes of this quad-cam 157kW, 3.0-litre V6 machine.
What impressed me (besides the recessed rear window and the flying c-pillar buttresses...drool) was the level of tech available in these vehicles, which seemed well-equipped and on par with many of the more lavish Teutonic and Italian marques in the 2000s. Brembo brakes, electric and heated Recaro leather seats, one-touch windows (and remote window closure with the key), electrochrome rear view mirror, Xenon headlights with washers, rain-sensing wipers, and frameless windows which dropped when opened and lifted to seal when closed.
The 406 Coupe was the result of a long history between Peugeot and Pininfarina, initiated in 1951 when it was tasked with creating Peugeot’s 403 sedan. This first project saw a production run of over 1 million and 403 units – quite impressive for the era.
Since that time, and every few years after, another Pininfarina coupe or cabriolet would appear in PSA’s range – from the sublime 504 coupe / cabriolet, the funky 205 open top, the stunning 404 2-door twins, to the sensual 306 cabriolet. Sadly, this partnership did not last - brutally obvious from the later models ending in -07: who can forget the gormless front styling and bland backside of the 407 coupe?!
Unlike the more recent Pugs, the 406 Coupe saw many styling awards and much praise for its design as well as interior space (including the monstrous boot). When launched in 1996, an English magazine asked, ‘So, do you still want that Ferrari?’
Often lauded as the poor man’s prancing horse, to some its styling seems more relevant and timeless than Maranello’s front-engined 456 Grand Tourer, which was released in the same decade.
Ownership has been relatively smooth, and fuel consumption is easy to live with, sitting comfortably on 7L/100kms with the cruise control activated on the highway – to 11.9L/100kms in the urban commute. In our 17 years together, she’s had the regular servicing undertaken and has seen no break downs. The gearbox did, however decide to require a recondition at 140,000kms and $4000 in 2006, but with regular gearbox fluid changes, it has been a dream since. The coil packs remain original and untouched, with close to 190,000kms on the odometer.
The exhaust and muffler system are still unmolested with only the front control arms and rear suspension bushes replaced during ownership. And while nothing has fallen, some of the plastics have become brittle in some spaces. For example, the concealed washer jets in the front bumper are split, but remain operational. From research, this is common on many vehicles with the same system – regardless of country of origin.
My biggest (first world) problem is that I am unable to get the mirror on the passenger side sun visor to activate since its cessation in around 2012. This is my wife's side of the car, so you can imagine the grief it brings. I know the French’s reputation for reliability is, well… ‘caca’, and I understand the rehashed 3.0-six, done in conjunction with Porsche, wasn’t as bullet proof as the original, however if all of their cars were built like this, and continued to improve as advancements were made, they’d be a lot more popular than they currently are in Oz.
The Peugeot 406 Coupe was, and continues to be, a wonderful escape from the stresses of modern life. I look forward to many more weekend drives through Samford Valley and South East Queensland.