Recently the opportunity arose to take a closer squint at a 2.2. litre Peugeot 406. What did I find?
The base model of the 406 is already a pretty splendid car. I drive a 1.8 engined-version regularly and there is very little to criticise and a lot that is so eminently right: the delightful steering, the smooth ride and agile handling. On top of that it has superb seating front and back and a huge and useful boot. How does the 2.2 edition differ?
Alas, I can only provide a visual guide as I did not get to drive it. The owner who previously had a Citroen BX and a Renault 25 is more than satisfied with the performance though misses the rear legroom of the R25. Period reports noted that the 1.8 had slimmer tyres, a lighter engine unit and was supposed to be the most pleasant to conduct. Higher spec-versions had a slightly different suspension set-up (passive rear steer, I believe), a different steering system and, of course, heavier engines. That made it better in some ways but also a little less sensitive and indeed less sensuous to conduct.
The 2.2 model shown here corresponds the the SRi model sold in the UK. The car here has no giveaway badges (most Danish market Peugeots were unmarked apart from the mysterious sporty TS4 model and even then that was a decal on the front wing, nothing more).
Peugeot endowed the 406 with a broad range of engines so if the 2.2 (as used in the 607) was not for you, there were plenty of others: “1.8, 2.0. 2.2 and 3.0 V6, while from May a 2.0-litre direct injection engine will join the range. Diesel lovers are also well catered for with 90bhp or 110bhp 2.0-litre HDi engines, and a new 2.2HDi joining the range from the larger 607.”
Sitting in the car, you see that the SRi driver gets an arm-rest and the passenger gets one of their own. That’s a pleasing touch. The upholstery is hide and while I am not very fond of leather, in this car it adds a rather ministerial atmosphere. The rear seats, with the centre arm-rest down, can only be called very comfortable indeed. In Martin Buckley mode, one can easily imagine being ferried from the Elysee to somewhere elegant and refined for a glass of Lillet and a very long lunch. Yes, it’s a cliché of French imagery but allow me my romantic visions, please.
The hide is applied also to the door skins and lifts them rather, in comparison to the base model’s textile – though that’s not at all bad.
The stitching pattern gives the seating a luxurious and nicely old-school appeal. At some point in the last 20 years seat patterns went square and the profiles went flat. I seldom see a seat at any price as good-looking and comfortable-looking as this, with the exception of Volvo who still bother about their passengers.
Clambering back to the front again, we find the one possible annoyance to be found when you get more 406: the panel for the HVAC controls reveals a mass of buttons where rotary dials should be sited. It’s a bit of an invidious choice: to stay lower down the spec levels and get safe and effective dials or to look for more engine power and hide and get ergonomically dubious controls like this in the package.
It is all properly assembled, yes, but those buttons are obviously a lot less easy to use than three dials. Repeat the mantra: to defrost turn all three dials anti-clockwise. You can do it with your eyes closed. One small mercy is that the radio volume control is still a rotary dial.
Fans of fake wood will be pleased with this:
And those who hate it won’t. I wonder how much it would have cost per car to use real wood and would it not have been a rather distinguishing feature, worth every euro?
I had a look around for information on the 2.2 petrol and only a review of the 2.2 litre 406 turned up. This site considered the 2.2 adequate, with a nought to sixty of 9.9 seconds and a top speed of 130 miles per hour. This seems to me to be a little more than adequate even if not near what is considered high performance today.
That said, even if one can get a car with a 0-60 of, say, 7 seconds, the world is not any more accommodating of such performance than in 2002 and so I consider under ten seconds to be more than okay for normal use. I don’t imagine anything a lot faster will be so comfortable or affordable. How does 32 mpg sound?
The main question outstanding is what the 2.2 petrol version of this car, with leather and air-con meant for the larger 2.2 litre 607 which cost a fair bit more. One does get more space in the 607 yet I don’t consider it better to look at nor could it be more wieldy than the 406 which hits the sweet spot for its balance of interior space, exterior size and overall utility.