(first posted 2/4/2015)
When one thinks of a French luxury car, they probably think of the avant-garde Citroen DS or CX. They might think of the boxy-but-capable Peugeot 604. But over the years, the French automotive industry has produced many luxury cars that remain an enigma to all but the most devoted of Francophiles. The curiously styled Renault Vel Satis and Avantime come to mind, as do their more conservative 25 and Safrane predecessors, respectively; the lovely Citroen XM, too, is an overlooked albeit mercurial gem. Peugeot continued to make full-size luxury sedans after the 604’s run, though, and today we look at what is the most recent big Pug to date.
photo courtesy of Order 242
After the Peugeot 604 ended its run, it was replaced by the 605. It looks suspiciously like an Alfa Romeo 164 with Peugeot 405 front and rear fasciae, which is understandable as the 605 and 164 were both designed by Pininfarina. Underneath, though, there was no relation to the “Type 4” cars: the 605 shared its platform with the eccentric Citroen XM. Blame the familiar styling or the lack of brand cachet, but these Pugs sold in paltry numbers outside of France. Sometimes, it almost feels as though the world has completely forgotten about them; I almost did, probably because I’ve never seen one on the roads here despite their availability from 1994-96. Remarkably, they sold for ten years in Europe, and also were featured fairly prominently in the movie Ronin.
Opel Omega (top), Ford Scorpio (bottom)
Clearly, Peugeot realized they had to shake things up with the 605’s successor. However, if there was ever a sizable market for full-size French luxury sedans in Europe, it was now contracting. In fact, all mainstream brands’ “executive saloons”, as they were known in the UK, were becoming thin on the ground due to the increasing popularity of German luxury sedans as company/lease cars. Ford’s fish-faced Scorpio was dead after 1998, Mazda’s Xedos 9 (Millenia) the year after, followed by Citroen’s XM in 2000, Opel’s Omega, in 2003, and Nissan’s Maxima QX, in 2004. Those that did stick around made little impact in an increasingly image-conscious market: Witness the failures of the aforementioned Renault Vel Satis, Citroen C6, Toyota Camry and Honda Legend.
Into that shrinking segment the 607 was born. Five inches longer than its innocuous predecessor, the 607 was a sizable car; to provide a North American perspective, it had similar dimensions to a W-Body Impala but was around 7 inches shorter overall. The 607 remained front-wheel drive and on the now decade-old 605/XM platform; front suspension was a MacPherson strut design with a lower wishbone, and the rear suspension featured coil springs and double wishbones. There was the option of electronically variable damping, too, with nine different settings.
The flagship engine was Peugeot’s 3.0 V6, introduced in 1995 to replace the outdated PRV “Douvrin” V6 formerly used in the 605, and employed across a wide range of Citroens, Peugeots and Renaults. Power output was 208hp and 218 ft-lbs, and 0-60 was accomplished in a modest 9 seconds.
Lesser models’ motivation was provided by 2.0 and 2.2 petrol fours, and the 2.2 HDi diesel four. The former weren’t introduced to all of the 607’s export markets or were dropped after a short while. This was understandable due to their inability to quickly move the 607’s porky 3500 lbs+ curb weight; the 2.0, for example, had only 136 hp and 143 ft-lbs, but fortunately was available with a five-speed manual. The diesel, though, was a popular choice for taxi drivers, with 136 hp and 235 ft-lbs initially; later models received a twin-turbo version with around 40 more horsepower and ft-lbs, and there was even a 2.7 HDi V6 with 201 hp and a sizeable 325 ft-lbs.
Buyers of the 607 received a lot of kit for their money, with every model featuring standard air-conditioning, eight airbags, central locking, CD player and electric windows. Moving further up the range netted you niceties like heated seats, parking sensors, satellite navigation and an electric rear sunblind, among other features. There was plenty of cabin room and a huge trunk, and the interior had an attractive and modern design.
Handling was competent-but-neutral, and unexciting, thanks to the front-wheel drive layout. The 607 was no rocket ship, even in V6 editions, due to its hefty curb weight. What was surprising, though, was the 607’s ride quality. Bumps were keenly felt in the cabin: disappointing for a Peugeot, and even more disappointing for a full-size luxury sedan.
Overall, though, the 607 represented somewhat of a bargain. It was a lot of metal for your money, especially as a used purchase. Unsurprisingly, the 607 wasn’t the car that shifted the tide against the smaller Germans. If the 607 failed to make a splash in Europe though, it didn’t even break the water’s surface in Australia. Despite eight long years on the market (2001-09), the 607 was a complete non-entity here. It was launched in one well-equipped specification with the 3.0 V6, but MSRP was $AUD80,000!
silver 607 photos courtesy of Order 242
Critics were impressed by its feature content and space, but all remarked that $80k was far too close to dynamically superior mid-size Germans like the 5-Series and E-Class. Compounding that, the V6 sang sweetly but was no more powerful than the contemporary Holden Commodore–and if you loved the engine that much, you could get it in a Renault Laguna for $30,000 less and with one more gear in its slushbox (early 607s had just a four-speed auto). The bang-for-your-buck quotient simply wasn’t applicable in Australia as it was in Europe, and the lofty pricing highlighted the 607’s dynamic deficiencies.
Citroen C5 (top) and Renault Laguna (bottom)
Australian critics were particularly brutal in their assessment of the 607’s dynamics, given the price, with scorn leveled at the trick electronic damping system that either transmitted either too much impact harshness or a glut of body roll, and just an overall lack of ride quality. In fact, Drive’s Bill McKinnon called the 607 dynamically inferior to the $20k cheaper Citroen C5 V6 and even the Nissan Maxima and Mitsubishi Verada (Diamante), although he praised the stylish interior. Sales were virtually non-existent, as were any meaningful marketing efforts, and the 607 gathered dust in Peugeot showrooms before being axed, mercifully, in 2009.
Back in Europe, although the 607 may not have been a raging success, it offered a lot of metal for the money. Dynamically, it was absolutely no match for the smaller Germans in its price bracket, but perhaps a thrifty buyer may have found merit in a diesel model, particularly if someone else had worn the savage initial depreciation. You may have seen dozens of exactly this kind of thrifty buyer, eagerly waiting to pick you up from the rank at Charles de Gaulle Airport.
Eats miles in silence.
Pardon moi but Great Car to buy used !
Costs next to nothing and eats miles in silence with a smiling owner !
( Je suis dutch and yes nous are tight )
A friend picked up a black on black (leather) 607 Diesel in Germany with little miles and a wee small price, 18 months old !
I believe he still drives it 6 – 7 years later simply because there is no decent alternative available !
And when maintaining the darn thing properly, it just goes on and on and on !
CC effect at full blast I shot a 607 on my 1000km round trip to my aunts funeral today thinking that’l fool em at the curb nobody will know what this is I get home log in and find this. Yeah they have only the same power as a dungadore but drive the Pug and you’ll never consider a Holden worthwhile again V6 Dores have trouble outrunning my 1905 diesel with only 90hp from100kmh onwards.
Not as handsome as the 605 (which looks great despite or because of its resemblance to the 164) or 406, but still a nice-looking car. I’m less sanguine about the interior — the shapes aren’t bad, but the wood trim is dire and seems out of step with the overall design themes. It makes me want to yell at the interior design team, “You’re French. Why on earth are you trying to make the cabin look like an X-type’s?” (I suppose the 607 did come first, but still.)
All the “’07s” (207/307/407/607) were rather porky. Some of that was to try to improve their NCAP scores (which they did, I believe), but the latest 208 and 308 are a bunch lighter.
The interior reminds me of Rover cars under BMW ownership.
From the period during which Peugeot seemed to lose its way as far as handling/roadholding was concerned with, these ate least offer a cheap way into big sedanhood here (austria). It was never a huge success here either but they did sell better than in Oz I assume. And yes, some cabbies do like them… Just as a matter of interest, I had a look at the local equivalent of C-list and there is a number for sale, mostly with more than 140,000 miles which at least seems to indicate those are reliable.
A few around in the UK but nowhere near as often seen as the Lexus,BMW & Audi big cars.CC effect strikes again as I’ve just seen a couple of them in Spooks
That picture of the Scorpio is probably THE best one available, most other pictures I’ve seen make the car look long and (too) narrow.
The French are no better in this segment than the Italians and are even losing ground in the (shrinking) mid-size segment. It’s my guess that “back in the day” the French and Italian automakers lackluster quality started their long slide into near oblivion. Unfortunately, now that folks are more accepting of quirkiness in their consumer goods, Peugeot and Citroen are stylistically different….but (apparently?) behind the curve mechanically…..at least in the large and medium size segments.
Put a large “T” on the front of that 607 and they would sell by the thousands/hundreds of thousands in the U.S.
A large T – Thornycroft? Tatra? T….oh!
I think this was one of the reasons why more upscale French cars fail to be successful, even in Europe. In higher segments, the usual choice is German iron. Some decades ago, French offerings could lure buyers with great ride quality, good design, some quirks and an overall air of something a bit different.
Now, they are more or less as bland as Germans, often with similarly harsh ride, and most importantly, not enough image.
They can only compete in the lower segments, and their main (only?) weapon against German cars is lower price…
Fully agree with you, the French should make French cars, and not try and make German imitations.
If I want a French car I want that magic carpet feel, big seats and a drive in comfort.
agree with you there ,was the thing that entranced me when I first got a lift home with the head of the english department at high school in his 1965 Peugeot 404.Made the 1965 Buick Skylark seem very ordinary in comparison.
German imitation is a dangerous industry trend, as a while ago people could tell someone or something is very British if there is a Ford Cortina, very French if there is a Citroen SM, and even a German-size SeVille was very American, and Mitsubishi Debonair was very Japanese. I wonder if German imitation would ruin the whole luxury car industry.
It’s a nice looking car. I’d sure as hell take one of these over a W-body Impala!
It’s fairly attractive if a wee bit bland, sort of like the current US Passat which it vaguely reminds me of for some reason.
The 605 was always quite attractive probably because I really liked the 405’s styling, pump it up a size or two and mo’ be betta’. The 607 just looks like a rounded off version, not bad but not particularly memorable either.
Shame about the dynamics though, sounds like they really dropped the ball on their flagship. That Omega wagon looks the business though, my uncle in Germany had several, it’s kind of Germany’s B-Body, big, roomy, comfortable, and capable. And what is the dark gray Holden Wagon in the 6th picture?
” And what is the dark gray Holden Wagon in the 6th picture?’
Just your routine Commodore SS wagon. They’re all over the place down here.
I’m surprised to learn about the 607’s poor ride. I always admired (from afar) its predecessor, the 605. It’s a really elegant design–much better than the Type 4 cars to which it’s often compared. (And that’s not a criticism of Type 4; I think the Alfa 164 is great though a bit stubby.)
I wonder if the 607 will be remembered like the Talbot Tagora. Rather than be appreciated like the 604 and 605 (unpopular cars with real merits in their niche), people will just ask, What was the point?
Not a bad looking car and the interior is nice (I do like the X-type wood btw). But I’d much rather have that Opel Omega wagon!
Nice-looking, if not super exciting. Of course some of it may be novelty as we haven’t had any Peugeots in this country since the 405/505. If the price was similar to the Germans, and the dynamic qualities were inferior, I can definitely see a “why bother” reaction?
One would think that the French should stick to what they do best–being unapologetically French, even in their cars. If this car had the same styling, same engine, but a classic French magic-carpet ride, I wonder if that might have hit the mark better.
Another sad chapter in the decline of Peugeot’s (and France’s) larger cars. Sigh.
Well, not only the decline of France’s larger cars. The others: Ford, Opel, Lancia, Saab, Fiat and Alfa Romeo.
The current Peugeot 508 basically replaced both the 407 and 607. It’s only 11 cm shorter than the 607.
But have they made the ride properly French?
The feeling of British critics is that it’s extremely dependent on which engine and suspension package you get. The GT 2.2HDi has a different suspension than other models, which allegedly makes a noticeable difference in ride and handling. I recall some of the reviews of the 407 saying much the same thing, longing for the days when Peugeot chassis rode and handled well across the board, and without expensive suspension electronics.
Many years ago I read that Peugeot was the only vehicle manufacturer which made its own shock absorbers,so owning quite a few Peugeot 404 cars and two utes,eventually had to replace a couple of shocks.Peugeot dealer had no Peugeot shock absorbers in stock and he said can provide something almost as good,Bilsteins.The Bilsteins were good but could tell the difference between them and the Peugeot ones.The Peugeot shocks were better.Wonder if Peugeot still make their own?
The only car with that 2.2 diesel here was Jaguar both Ford and Peugeot omitted it.Comparing it with the Diamante has to be a joke those cars have awfull handling just big bags of mush whenever you turn the wheel.
I’ve read several Dutch and Belgian reviews and tests. In short: an excellent and comfortable -and that includes a perfect sound insulation- long distance runner.
If I were looking for a car in this segment it would be right at the top of my short list. That’s a short list, not something like Mr. Stopford’s list the other day. 🙂
Nice write-up William about this almost forgotten top model Peugeot.
A colleague had two Citroëns C5 (not at the same time) as pictured above in the article. So the C5 model before it got Audi-ized.
Both were diesels, his second C5 had the 2.2 liter HDI BiTurbo diesel. It went as the fire brigade, as we say. Very roomy and comfortable, since these cars had Citroën’s hydropneumatic suspension.
When I bought my current car I passed up on a diesel one of these at auction as my wife had instructed me “4 doors, not too big”. In Scotland, a 607 is definitely “too big”.
It was a nice metallic blue and had 125,000 on the clock. It went for 1100 gbp and I ended up spending more on a slightly frayed old model Mazda 2. Hmmm.
A CC for me thanks!
Before Volvos I went through a Big Pug phase: a beautiful ex-Japan dark red 605 with beige cloth followed by a double black ex-embassy 607. Both were loaded V6s, the only model seen in New Zealand, and they sold in the usual tiny numbers after an initial flurry of interest when the 605 first arrived.
Pininfarina’s usual sin of one-size-fits-everyone styling did the 605 no favours; I knew what to look for but often mistook the smaller and completely different Pug 405 for mine. Both were immaculate but bought at auction cheap as chips as they’re terminally unwanted sadly.
Fortunately I just slipped under the bar to buy a full mech warranty for the 605 as it later blew a head gasket and had various other mech niggles. Scrapped when the auto trans blew up and we reached a settlement rather than a $8000+ bill.
Both were meh cars, pleasant on a good road and superficially impressive but as others have said, they had no particular reason to exist. The 605 was better as at least it was less lardy and more tasteful.
It resembled a Toyota Camry with a French flavor of course.
The 607 has quite an obvious visual link with the 307 i.e. the post-Farina Peugeot look. The 605 though is really handsome, better than the 164 Alfa, I’d say, not being compromised by using the ‘type 4’ body underpinnings shared with Fiat and Saab.
Ugly crap,give me a Citroen C6 any day over that plebian tasteless excrement.
I’ve always loved the 607 and the 605. The first time I ever went to France, my family rented a green 605 in 1996 and I was disappointed because the sample car was a Mercedes C180 or similar. After riding around for a week in that car, I learned to love the 605 so much so that I even bought a special Solido 1/18 scale model of a 605 at a toy store in Bayeux. The second time I went to France, we rented another car and once again hoped for a Mercedes…no dice. We ended up with a silver 605 diesel this time with power windows in the front and manual in the rear. I remember that these cars had the fattest key ever and I thought it was so cool that the unlock button was on the key as opposed to a separate fob. They also had some sort of alarm that you had to put in a code before you started a car. I believe they called it an immobilizer. 10 years after my first trip to France, I studied abroad in Paris and my host family lived in the 7th arrondissement and 607s and Renault Vel Satis were ubiquitous among the miscellaneous Ministry buildings. Peugeots really helped me become a Francophile after that first trip in the 605. However, the only Peugeot I’ve ever driven was when I studied abroad and we went to Germany to drive on the autobahn. We were supposed to get a Golf but ended up with a 407 coupe with the 2.7 V6 diesel…
The Citroen XM was also derided as one of Citroen’s most unreliable and inconsequential vehicles that fine company ever produced,a sales disaster.
I feel it necessary to step in an defend the XM. I am a bit biased as I have owned two.
Period reviews rated the car for its ride (overall), striking styling (Gavin Green of Car didn’t) and excellent interior comfort. The steering was sharp and the car is very agile. The useful boot can accomodate masses of the junk we seem to travel with as a family and it gets 32 mpg at normal speed. I used to travel at 100mph on the autobahns and it would get 25 mpg. My car is a petrol engined model. In 16 years of ownership I’ve been stranded twice and that was the 1989 car; the 1990 car has been reliable. It has a huge ashtray too. Yes, it’s not perfect but I’ve never tired of looking at it and the car is drenched in thoughtful touches such as unimpeded forward views for the rear passengers and luxurious seating plus the inside glass pane that keeps cold air out when the tailgate is opened. They are very special cars.
This seems pretty apt I’d say
[vimeo 122760927 w=640 h=360]
Top Gear – French Peugeot Breakfast – Let's make terrible cars! from Ad Hoc on Vimeo.
This was the last Peugeot I found really handsome. All of the newer models seem overwrought and bloated and I have zero interest in them. The 607 is almost American looking in its proportions and simple details, especially from the back. I never realized it until now but that last photo looks exactly like a 1998 Chrysler Concorde – a much more handsome and less fat looking version, of course. I’m sad to learn it lacked substance wasn’t well regarded for its (lack of) inherent qualities.
I’m sure I’d be disappointed if I saw one in person as its not really “big” by US standards. If it’s shorter than an Impala, then an actual Concorde has got to be a good foot and a half longer, not to mention wider. Mid-size at best, but still a handsome sedan.
Just to illustrate the deceptive size difference between Europe and North America that isn’t apparent through photos – that “big” Opel Omega, which I’m assuming was their largest sedan in the line-up, was sold here as the Catera, the SMALLEST car Cadillac offered at the time.
I have to strenuously object to your characterisation of newer Peugeots as being ‘bloated’. The current 208, 308 and 508 have so much less visual bulk than their predecessors and with crisper, more handsome and far less overwrought styling. No more pudgy lines, no more grotesque Cheshire Cat grilles. Check out Peugeot’s website for proof.
I hadn’t seen the newest versions of the 308 and 508 – you’re absolutely right, those have become far more crisp and clean, almost Volkswagen-like, but thankfully still with that distinctive bit of French weirdness in the front and rear-fascias to set them apart. I actually kind of the like 508 sedan.
It’s been a few years since I perused their offerings but my comment was primarily referring to this monstrosity, which seems to be the face of Peugeot in the 2000s. I really can’t find anything nice to say about the car – the details, the fascia, the melted, disfigured hunchback shape of the entire body. I can’t stand how the headlights almost stretch back to the cowl. Truly grotesque…..
I’m glad you checked it out. Peugeot has their design mojo again.
I am in complete agreement with you about the first 308 and other Peugeots with that design language. No redeeming qualities stylistically. At least the leering, grinning Mazda3 had a decent enough rear end, that 308 can’t even manage that. And if you go back a generation to the 307, it had a more sensible front fascia and yet was still unattractive. Odd proportions, bloated and overwrought.
The only Peugeot of that design era I will defend is the 407 Coupe, because its proportions are much more harmonious. I covered it earlier…
Yeah nar, I seen lots for sale with toasted transmissions.
Dinamically fine, but as far as reliability is concerned, a comment from a friend of mine who worked at Peugeot dealer (and drove 405 SRI untile very recently…): “At any given moment, there are at least 3-4 607on our parking lot, waiting for some ‘computer’ replacement!” N.B. by some calculation, top of the line 607 had about 23 various ‘computers’ (micro processing units of some kind) making sure that everything work (and it rarely did!).
French used to make briliant handling Peugeots, but never really mastered ‘multiplexage’ or electronics…