1979 Peugeot 505 Review 2

“Point Counterpoint.” Archie Vicar muses on the meaning of Peugeot’s exciting new saloon, the 505.

1979 Peugeot 505 brochure

Drivers & Motorists Monthly (February 1979). Photo by Crispin Darling. Owing to the poor quality of the original images, stock photos have been employed.

The keenly contested large car sector is very profitable. 2.46 million large cars were bought in Europe in 1976. Manufacturers pick different weapons with which to capture these customers. Ford uses keen pricing and generous specifications to help the set-square Granada find its customers (300,000 a year!). Vauxhall tries to offer reassuring safe handling and predictability. Citroen insist wild-eyed technology and futuristic styling will be the way forward for the CX. Renault offer us mystery and confusion in the form of the ancient 16 or the purposeless 30. Rover suggest brash Brummie modernism with their rakish 2300 and 2600.

Into this hard-fought fray drives the new 505 from the Lion Marque. What is its unique atttraction? It’s a bit early to say.

Attacking it from another angle: the Peugeot 604, as many readers know, is a very fine saloon. We pitted it (October ’77) against the Citroen CX 2400 Pallas, Ford’s Granada 2.8 V6 and the Mercedes 230E and it claimed first prize. It’s more spacious than the Granada, more pleasing to drive than the Mercedes (by a wide margin) and more agile and wieldy than the CX, and cheaper too.

Hence the puzzlement I experienced when looking at the 505 in Orly airport carpark. It’s 6 inches shorter than the 604 but is much cheaper. It would appear to compete with the 604 since anyone who likes that car (and well they might) may find the 505 to be (nearly) the same but better (in some ways). That said, 505 still not as well made as the Mercedes, not as cheap as the Granada and not as daft as the CX (nothing is, to be frank).

The only people who will worry about the Peugeot 505 are the fellows who try to make a living selling the Peugeot 604. Perhaps it would have been better either to fit a 2-litre motor into the 604 and forget the 505 or else make a V6 available in the 505 and pension off the 604. Nobody seems to want it, sadly.

Peugeot 604: excellent but unwanted
Peugeot 604: excellent but unwanted

After a hearty lunch during the test drive, I stood under an awning and I stared at the car while enjoying a few filterless Gauloises. I looked at rain drops beading on the 505’s bronze metallic paint (an extra cost option). Pininfarina have styled the car (I wouldn’t let Peugeot near such a delicate job). It doesn’t look very Italian nor very French. Nor very German. Nor British. But it does look as if Peugeot have worked hard to make the car look cheaper than the 604.

Remember that the 505’s predecessor, the 504, had an outstanding ride. I took a British-market model on a hard charging drive across the green lanes of the Chilterns. The impacts were well supressed and the car veritably floated over the undulations and potholes. I concluded that the 505 is as good as the 504 (but no better). One could say that merely by meeting the standard set by the 504, the 505 is still well-ahead of its peers. But in the increasingly competitive world of motoring, it’s hard to feel that good is good enough. And recall that Peugeot owns Citroen who make the succulently-suspended CX which has the softest and most compliant ride of all.

Peugeot 504: still good
Peugeot 504: still good

And so we arrive (painfully) at the conclusion. Only by driving this car across the whole of southern Britain that one can understand it. It is not charming. It will not soothe you nor stir your emotions. Nor will it flatter your good taste, for its styling maintains a reserve of deepest inscrutability.

If you wish to enjoy high performance then similarly priced sports saloons from Alfa can best most models in the range. The Lancia Beta offers a more eloquent tiller. Ford can sell you a more comprehensible saloon. If you value French flavour, the CX is roquefort to the Peugeot’s bland port salut. Rover’s Stilton is yet more pungent. Drivers of German machines will assume the Peugeot is not as well assembled (actually it is). The 505 provides a better ride and handling compromise than either BMW´s nervous, over-priced 518 or Benz’s dull taxis (which neither ride nor handle but offer a lifetime of ill-informed self-satisfaction).

And so we are still arriving at the conclusion. For every point there is a counterpoint, and for everything the 505 does quite well (and it does much) there is another car that does that one thing slightly better (or differently). What the 505 does well, it does so imperceptibly, and this particular quality is the essence of the car. Peugeot will still sell hundreds of thousands of examples of the 505 (and nobody will notice).

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

18 thoughts on “1979 Peugeot 505 Review 2”

  1. Interested to know if the 1.8-2.0 XM/XN engines used in the Peugeot 505 (and 504) were related to the earlier 1.5-1.6 XB/XC or the later 1.3-1.5 XL/XR engines (as well as whether the 1.5 XR was capable of being further enlarged to a 1.6 unit)?

    1. Bob: I don’t know so much about engines. However, I do have an idea of how a survey of European engines might look. The question is how to focus it. Would it be the mass-market engines: Fiat, Ford, GM, PSA and Renault perhaps? A given time period – 1950 to 1990? And why did the engine families develop as they did?

    2. What partly brought it up was information on a project by Peugeot for what eventually became the Peugeot 305.

      Apparently the original J18 project was to use an all-new under-body as opposed to carrying over the Peugeot 304 under-body as done in the latter D4 project, along with featuring a 5-speed gearbox and a 1600cc engine.

      In the case of the engine the 1.6 XB was obsolete, which would suggest the 1.6 engine used in the J18 project was a lower-displacement version of the 1.8-2.0 XM/XN engine unless the engine was actually some sort of precursor to the later 1.6 XU unit.

  2. The XK/XL/XR were all-aluminium OHC engines intended for transverse mounting in 204/304/305 platforms.
    The XB/XC and the XM/XN later derived from it were iron blocked OHV engines intended for use in Peugeot’s rwd cars.
    In no way an XN would have fitted into the 305 or formed the basis for the XU which was a completely new design. If you think of the ‘Douvrin’ four from the Peugeot/Renault cooperation that was a completely different engine to any of the list above.

    1. The XR 1.5 already stretched the XK’s design beyond its useful limits. See the number of headgasket failures for that (pretty much the same happened as in the ‘Rover or whatever they were called that week’ 1.8 K four). There was a short lived 1.6 version of the XR wtih twin choke carbs and 90 DIN hp in a Peugeot 305 ‘S’ Mk1 but that was produced only for a couple of months before the 305 Mk2 arrived.
      The maroon car in the Facebook pictures looks like an early hand built cut’n’shut engineering prototype of the 305, just look at the long rear doors and the way the C-pillar blends into the sloping boot lid – that’s pure 305, just minus the stylists’ work.

    2. Would have thought it was possible to stretch the 1.5 XR unit to at least 1548cc or the same displacement as the related XIDL diesel. While there was an uprated 90 hp version of the 1.5 XR, only the 1.6 XU engine was used in the Peugeot 305.

      The main parts am interested about in the Facebook link is the initial J18 project for what became the Peugeot 305 originally being set to feature an all-new under-body, 5-speed gearbox and a 1600cc engine whose roots at this time are otherwise unknown.

    3. “While there was an uprated 90 hp version of the 1.5 XR, only the 1.6 XU engine was used in the Peugeot 305.”
      At the end of the 305 Mk1’s life there was a 1.6 version of the XR gears in sump engine with 90 hp and four speed gearbox sold as ‘305 S’. It was very short lived (and is largely forgotten) and after a couple of months the Mk2 was presented which had the XU engine and an end-on five speed gearbox, making it the ‘305 S5’. There can only be a couple of hundreds of the old XR engined ‘S’ around, product planning gone mad. Once the 305 Mk2 had arrived, the XU was used also in larger capacities than 1.6. There was a 1.9 iron block Diesel and an aluminium block 1.9 fuel engine with 109 hp in the 305 GTX.

    4. Is there any source saying the XR engine was indeed uprated to a 1.6 for the mk1 Peugeot 305 S as the only information available online suggests the 90 hp XR engine had a displacement of 1472cc.

      Regarding the 1.6 XU, is it known whether the XU engine was conceived during the early-70s prior to being launched in 1982 after much delay?

      The idea being that what became the XU unit was originally developed much earlier during the J18 project in 1600cc form, however the costs of Peugeot taking over Citroen amongst other things meant they placed the XU engine project on hold (as opposed to other projects by Peugeot that were cancelled) until a later date in 1982 when it was finally introduced in the mk2 Peugeot 305 1.6 XS.

    5. The only information on the 305 ‘S’ I have is (my memory of) Peugeot’s marketing blurb for that car.
      I’ve never seen one in the flesh and I doubt that they sold many of them because the 305 Mk1 was completely uncompetitive at that time and didn’t sell too well even in France.
      Don’t know about the XU’s development history but it is quite possible that a double chevron shaped hole in Peugeot’s pocket caused some financial troubles and resulting delays.
      At least the XU seems to have been designed after Renault showed Peugeot how to build an engine that doesn’t eat its head gaskets in the PRV project.

    6. Seems both Citroen and Chrysler Europe did a number on Peugeot’s pocket, makes one wonder what other projects Peugeot had to cancel so they be effectively forced to acquire both companies.

      Especially since it seems Peugeot went almost a decade without a direct replacement for the Peugeot 204 to challenge the Mk2/Mk3 Ford Escort and Volkswagen Golf prior to the Peugeot 309, to sit above the Peugeot 305 and below the Peugeot 104.

    7. I’d never noticed that. The 309 is not quite a Golf match either. And also, if you work backwards from 405 the numbers hop around as in 405 was preceded by 305 and that by 304 *and* 204. The 205 was preceded by the 104.
      Peugeot’s number schema is daft.

    8. Daft numbering scheme aside, Peugeot did originally plan to call the 205 instead the 105 (mentioned in Peugeot 205: The Complete Story) though some within the company thought the car was more upmarket compared to the 104 and managed to win out in the end.

      Agree the 309 was not quite a Golf class car though it in effect became one as the segment grew in size during the 1980s.

  3. richard herriott

    Not sure what you mean by posting the Facebook link on my mail, would just click on Not Now when they try to get people to log in or create an account.

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