Weeks after an enjoyable encounter with its underdog estate sibling, the opportunity to sample one of Peugeot’s bestsellers presented itself.
The SUV simply isn’t for me. While I’d never describe myself as an unrealised racing driver, I don’t like the cumbersome way most of these vehicles handle. Aesthetically, the tall, blocky looks typically fail to trigger any desires the way sleeker automotive forms do. I could go on about this, but will spare you the boredom and myself the typing.
On the basis of its scarcity, Peugeot’s large estate ought to be an also-ran. After a week behind its wheel, it’s a minor revelation.
Estate cars don’t sell the way they used to. Non-German estate cars even less so, which meant that prior to my pre-Christmas trip to the rental car company, where I was supposed to pick up a VW Passat estate (or similar) that was to take two to three people, one to three dogs and quite a bit of luggage all across Germany and back, I’d seen a grand total of two new Peugeot 508 SWs on the roads.
‘Or similar’ turned out to be a Seat Alhambra, which didn’t set my heart aflutter – to say the least. A bit of haggling eventually resulted in a premature Christmas present of sorts, in the form of the metallic olive green Peugeot 508 SW I’d seen on the forecourt and had hoped to be leaving with. So it was to be.
It’s time to round off this short examination of a much-respected, iconic car.
The 604’s particular failing, being composed of elements from a cheaper, older design, was not unique. There were other cars which attempted to make something rich out of what might be considered lesser ingredients. The main difference, which dignifies the 604, is that Peugeot made a very good job of this expediency.
People rather liked the car and it sold decently (153,266 units in total) until the 505 arrived, which itself was partly made of 604 components. The 604 is therefore unique in the pantheon of sow’s ear cars. The Lincoln Versailles of 1977 was based on the US-market Ford Granada and is a legend in the lore of marketing cynicism. Ford wanted a smaller Lincoln to Continue reading “An Afternoon Like Dusk – The 604 Story, Pt. 9”
And so we turn to the matter of the 604’s image and fate.
The 604’s history reveals how the buyers of the 1970s were less constrained by expectations of brands. What one notices in the reviews from the time of the 604’s launch is that there isn’t a single mention of image. Today motoring writers have internalised perceptions of what constitutes a desirable car: it is what others might also desire.
Even if a particular model is objectively deemed to meet measurable expectations one can find remarks to the effect that the car lacks image, or the brand has insufficient appeal. Quite simply journalists now would never put a large, powerful and luxuriously equipped Peugeot into a test with similar vehicles from established prestige marques simply because it isn’t deemed to be a prestige brand.
A great deal of attention is paid to the exterior of cars though the interior is where we spend our time as drivers and passengers. For the 604 Peugeot had, for at least some of the time, the services of Paul Bracq. In the 60s he oversaw some of Mercedes-Benz’s finest vehicle exteriors, the ones that people think of when they think of a Mercedes (our image of these cars is four decades out of date). They are chromed, formal, upright, solid and faultless.
Deep breath. I don’t think the 604’s styling has been given this level of consideration before.
Peugeot had a long standing relationship with carrozzeria Pininfarina, who prepared the basic design of the the 604. As was typical for Pininfarina, the design owed as much to other work they had done as it did to the character of their actual clients’ cars.
The exterior design was by what we might call the school of Paulo Martin, designer of the Fiat 130 coupé and Rolls-Royce Camargue. The record is not clear on the matter of authorship but a clear affinity among these cars can be seen in the angularity of the surface transitions and the flatness of the panels. Continue reading “An afternoon like dusk – The 604 story, Pt. 6”
Let’s review the reviews of the 604 and maybe go a little further.
Having looked (in the last instalment) at the engine from the strategic and the cost-accountant’s point of view, I turn now to how it compared in road tests. The matter of performance is far from clear. Conventional wisdom now has it that the 604 couldn’t move fast enough. A look at reviews spanning from 1975 to 1983 shows a more complex story than this.
In 1975 Motor claimed the carburetted SL was the quickest of a group of likely competitors which included the BMW 520, Ford’s Granada 3000, the Jaguar XJ 3.4, the Renault 30 and the Volvo 264. In 1977 Motor Trend felt the car was only just about able to keep up with American traffic, adequate but not brilliant.
This remark was qualified by noting the 604’s handling was far above average which, as mentioned above, made up the speed deficit quite pleasingly. In 1977 Car found the carburetted 604 SL to be slower than the Mercedes 280E and BMW 728 but only by a matter of half a second. It won the test overall so the slight tardiness did not hold the vehicle back.
Turning to the engine, one can see how an attempt to save money here also proved forlorn. The one clear advantage of using the 504 architecture was never exploited: the 604 never had the same range of engines as the earlier car. What it had was a 60° V6 engine designed in co-operation with Renault and Volvo.
As Motor pointed out in 1975, engine development requires a very large investment. Peugeot did not see the sales volumes of the 604 being large enough to justify designing a wholly new V6 on their own. This strategy certainly saved investment costs but did not lead to Peugeot having a competitive motor.
A brake (or should that be a break?) from the norm for the Lion of Belfort.
The idea of the three-door shooting brake estate probably originated in the US (the 1955 Chevrolet Nomad being a prime example), but it was popularised – if such a term can be considered appropriate for such a rarefied product – by Ason Martin’s 1965 DB5; itself initially a one-off, built for AML’s chairman, David Brown, and later produced in miniscule numbers at owners’ behest by the Harold Radford coachworks.
In 1968, the Reliant Scimitar GTE also employed a shooting brake silhouette to positive effect, which not only proved transformative for the carmaker’s profile and reputation, but also gained them patronage from the British Royal family. Continue reading “The Riviera Set”
In part 3 of the Peugeot 604 story we consider the market of the mid-1970s.
The market in the mid 70s was open to a wide variety of contenders in the upper price ranges. Opel in particular was just on the cusp of reaching what we now call the rank of “prestige” with its Senator saloon and Monza coupé. Lancia outsold BMW in the UK.
The mid 70s were also still a time of strong national markets and of far less global competition than today. However, the world of 1975 was not what Peugeot’s planners envisioned when the 604 programme began in 1970. Oil prices had increased markedly, making the 604’s thirsty V6 seem unattractive, the more so over time. Continue reading “An Afternoon Like Dusk – The 604 story, Pt. 3”
We compare a couture twinset from the tail-end of the GT era.
It’s an incontrovertible fact that the end of the 1960’s marked the apogee of the Gran Tourismo concept, both in design terms and in appeal to the broader swathe of the car market. Certainly by then, the choices available to the upwardly mobile individual who wanted to express their more indulgent side were of the more fecund variety. However, those who couldn’t Continue reading “Il Sarto Piemontese”
In the last instalment we had a short introduction to this neglected car. Today we will take a deeper glance at the car’s inception.
Of all the material reviewed for this essay, the text quoted at the start of the previous instalment was the most thought-provoking. Clearly the 604 was viewed as a credible car with a bright future ahead of it.
Today the 604 is remembered, if it is remembered, not for its refined solidity, the remarkable ride quality or, as Motor Trend wrote, its reordering of priorities around comfort, quality, roadholding and safety. It’s remembered for rust and listed as one of the world’s worst cars in Craig Cheetham’s 2006 book and its triumphs forgotten.
The 1975 Peugeot 604 – smooth, refined and viewed as something of a failure. Today we begin a series taking an unusually close look at the 604’s life and times.
Motor Sport (April 1976 said that “one member of the test team summed up the 604 as a professional car. This takes some explaining because all cars these days are professional or are supposed to be. But one gets the impression that Peugeot engineers never say ‘assez bien‘ but keep on working until each feature is, in their eyes, absolutely right. One may disagree with some of the car’s features but if so it will be because someone at Peugeot actively disagrees with one’s point of view not because they could not Continue reading “An Afternoon Like Dusk – The 604 story (Pt. 1)”
Outside of the Driven To Write bubble, a number of new cars were launched over the past few weeks. Time to do a bit of catching up.
The Audi Q3 Sportback is Ingolstadt’s take on the BMW X4. It features all the overwrought details that can be expected from a Marc Lichte-era Audi, including the token overly accentuated ‘shoulders’ above the wheels. Continue reading “The Beat Goes On”
The last traditional Peugeot saloon marks its 40th anniversary this year. We look back at the 505.
The final flowering of a fine tradition, the 1979 Peugeot 505 marked the last generation of rear-wheel drive saloons to emerge from Sochaux. A late ’70s update of the popular and durable 504 model, the 505 cleaved so closely to its predecessor’s conceptual template those of a more cynical mien could scarcely Continue reading “Summer Reissue – Daily Grind”
There roam quite a lot of Peugeot 3008 and 308s in my area and generally in Denmark. They have made me think about brightwork and Mercedes.
I read recently that Peugeot is climbing up the estimation rankings of consumers in Europe. And I notice that in recent years Peugeot has not been afraid to sprinkle a little and sometimes a lot of brightwork magic on their cars. It seems to be optional but with a lot of uptake. If we think back to maybe ten years ago and further, this kind of thing did not feature much on their cars. It probably had to to with some kind of reticence regarding ostentation. Worthy as that might be, it led to some decent cars looking a lot less attractive than they could have been.
Tracing the Peugeot 504’s kinked tail motif through the Pininfarina back catalogue.
In order to capitalise on the popularity of UK TV series, The Avengers, stars, Honor Blackman and Patrick Macnee were persuaded to record a novelty single celebrating not only the fashions adorning the somewhat distracting Ms. Blackman, but the broadening societal permissiveness of mid-Sixties Britain. And while it was a rather throwaway ditty which didn’t chart particularly well at the time, it did take on a second life several decades later.
These things take time – as with fashion, so with design. One of the more interesting aspects of recent discussions surrounding the styling of the 1968 Peugeot 504 was the notion that its rear aspect was regarded with a degree of ambivalence. Uncomfortable and strange were among the soubriquets employed on these pages, but further afield, and particularly in the US, the 504’s kinked tail was considered peculiar. In light of this, it might be germane to Continue reading “Kinky Boots”
The ‘Sixty-Eighters’ rocked France, yet one of its more illustrious offspring would become a bastion of more conformist values.
In a curiously prescient article for Le Monde in March 1968, journalist, Pierre Viansson-Ponté made the assertion that France was suffering from the dangerous affliction of ‘boredom’. During a period which French economist, Jean Fourastié coined as Les Trentes Glorieuses, the country settled into a period of political stability and economic prosperity, transitioning from a predominantly agricultural economy to a largely industrial one.
Rural France had decanted into the cities and its universities were brimming with the young and sexually frustrated, expected to behave in a similar fashion to that of their socially conformist parents. But students from Paris’ Université Nanterre, emboldened perhaps from a diet rich in Satre, Brel, and Dylan would no longer Continue reading “Children of the Revolution”
The other day I gently placed a tiny gauntlet at the feet of the readers, a challenge concerning the set of boring parked cars. What had they in common, I inquired softly.
I received some jolly interesting replies ranging from observations about their grilles to their general banality. There was also a good guess about engine displacements. Alas, despite their ingenuity and their not being 100% wrong, none of the replies were precisely, exactly and perfectly what I was looking for. So, in order to lower people’s tension levels I will Continue reading “If Only Hope and Despair Did Not Live Side By Side”
…which is the kind of image that is worth a science fiction story, I feel.
If anyone wants to spin a science-fiction story off that idea, they are welcome to use it as long as they are kind enough to credit the idea to me.
The notion suggested in the phrase is that there are spaces between the universes which are all packed together like multidimensional foam on a huge scale. Think of the gaps between tennis balls in a bag of tennis balls. That’s the rough shape of the spaces between the universes.
Slowly but surely, Driventowrite is advancing up to the top of the list of Great European cars like a mountaineer inching up the Eiger. Today, the French get their turn as another piton is hammered home.
Today. Today we have the car embodying the essential key elements of French car design and it was a strong seller too rather than being merely some much admired, often repaired, seldom driven garage queen. You won’t be surprised to Continue reading “Great European Cars Number 4”
We’ve been here before I know, but somewhat akin to the crossover CUV itself, this one simply refuses to go away.
Everything has a shelf-life, none more so than fashion items. Given their popularity with the buying public and the margins to be made upon their sale, compact crossovers have proliferated to an unsettling degree. So much so, it feels as though we are drowning in a CUV sea, whereas in fact they represent just a quarter of European new car sales.
Today I present a meta-review. I haven’t got around to having a chance to try to drive a 508 so instead I’ll report on two articles, one from Autocropley and the other from the Telegraph.
It goes without saying that I haven’t got an axe to grind for or against the 508. Like any car it deserves a fair judgement and something about these reviews suggests that whatever Peugeot does, the UK is a lost cause. If you read these reviews nothing would lead you to Continue reading “I Really Thought You Said Sunday”
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? Continue reading “Behind The Mirror Lurk The Blajini”
PSA’s close links with Iran may have placed Carlos Tavares in an invidious position regarding his North American plans. We investigate.
One has to have some sympathy for PSA’s Carlos Tavares. Having taken the French carmaker from sick man to industry darling, of late, headwinds have been intensifying. A significant strand of Tavares’ Push to Pass strategy has been an expansion into Eastern developing markets, such as India and the CIS region – one which has been paying dividends, PSA posting a strong global sales performance in 2017, with over 3.7m vehicles made, a jump of 15.4% over the previous year.
But additionally, he’s promised a return of some form to the United States, from which PSA have been absent for almost three decades. It has remained unclear exactly how Continue reading “Tea With the Ayatollah”
We ought to rename this site Le DTW. After yesterday’s Peugeot review we now have a whole slew of early 90s French cars under the spotlight.
In 1991 L’Automobile ran an article assessing the comparative strengths of the main three French brands, Renault, Citroën and Peugeot. It was a huge group test: 24 cars. The magazine passed judgement on the main classes and in this article I will pass judgement on the 1991 verdict. Were L’Automobile’s assessments in line with mine? Or indeed yours? Continue reading “Anticipation Creeps Headstrong Towards Us”
A spring break, (or to put it another way, a break in spring) leaves our correspondent in a mildly disturbed state of mind.
One of the many joys of going to the middle of France every spring is that we hire a car for the duration and it never ceases to provide a chance to sample something new from the automotive smorgasbord. This year, for once, we actually got what we expected; Hertz had promised either a 308 SW or a C-Max and we got the Pug.
This is a small gloss on a news item from ANE about the future of Opel’s Ruesselsheim engineering facility.
Does it have much of a future? ANE reported this recently: “One decision that Tavares has put off for now is what to do with thousands of engineers at Opel’s technical center in Ruesselsheim, Germany. They will be part of a “center for engineering excellence” for self-driving cars and electrification, he said, as well as for a planned re-entry to the North American market.” I have mused about this before.
Two significant saloon cars debuted at Palexpo this week, but according to our man pounding the show floor, only one makes the grade.
As any traveller will tell you, getting upgraded from economy is much easier said than done. Indeed, the more habituated one is to travel economy, the key to that threshold appears even more arbitrary and capricious. PSA knows all about this. Having squandered brand-Peugeot’s upmarket credentials during the 1980s and having got their creepy ‘drive-sexy’ phase out of the way latterly, the Lion of Belfort has been painfully clawing its way back to some semblance of stylistic and reputational credibility.
Whether it was Liz’s Jubilee, BL’s annus horriblis, the death of Elvis, the first space shuttle flight or the beginning of the Star Wars juggernaut, 1977 was a year of transitions. Even the music business reflected this, with Fleetwood Mac’s cocaine and divorce epic, Rumours topping the album charts while David Bowie (now off the white powder) offered the icy sheen of Low, a record which suggested a future (if not necessarily the future).
“Citroen’s newest car!” In what very much looks like a verbatim transcript of a period review, Archie Vicar considers Citroen’s 1978 Visa. Does it have what it takes be a proper Peugeot?
The article first appeared in the Evening Post-Echo in November 1978. Douglas Land-Windermere provided the accompanying print photos. Due to the poor quality of the images, stock pictures have been used.
French car-firm Peugeot’s buy-up of the perennially troubled French car-firm Citroen could not have come soon enough. The new Visa is the last of Citroen’s lunatic inventions, engineered under the former rule of Michelin, surveyors of food and purveyors of tyres. It takes a good six years to devise a new car so the germ of the Visa hatched long before Peugeot could rescue Citroen from itself. That’s why Peugeot find themselves watching Citroen launch the deliberately eccentric and challengingly strange new Visa yet it is still a car with a hint of Peugeots to come.
“More and more than before!” In what appears to be a period review of the Peugeot 204 by legendary motoring critic, Archie Vicar, the car is assessed in the course of a drive in Portugal.
The article first appeared in the Neath Guardian, January 12, 1973. Douglas Land-Windernere (sic) is credited with the photography.
The French do like these peculiar little cars, the English less so: 130 a month is all Peugeot can sell around here compared to 1300 Renault 12s. One doesn’t have to look hard to see why this might be. The coachwork demands concentration to behold, the price is high and the interior is Spartan. But Peugeot want to Continue reading “1973 Peugeot 204 Road Test”
The Peugeot 1007 was an embarrassing commercial failure, but could the story have played out differently? Driven to Write gets the popcorn out.
In the 1998 movie of the same name, the sliding doors of the underground train were a plot device or portal – a form of magical thinking which suggested that one’s life could turn on a sixpence. On one hand: lose job, meet that nice John Hannah on the tube. Romance ensues, (as do more plot devices), get run over by car. (I haven’t seen the film, so I’m winging it here).
Searching for your inner hero? This 1996 Peugeot concept had the key.
The same year the Pininfarina bodied 406 Coupe was first shown, Peugeot also displayed this, the Toscana concept. What the Sochaux-based motor company’s intentions were remains unclear, but whatever the intent, it cannot have been all that serious. With a bespoke body marrying key styling elements of the 406 saloon – nose treatment, rear lamps, body swage line – to a distinctly sci-fi canopy section, the Toscana was as frivolous a concept could be while still loosely based on a production model. If anything, it puts one in mind of some of GM’s Motorama concepts from the 1950’s – or indeed Adam West’s Batmobile. Continue reading “To the Batcave! – Peugeot 406 Toscana”
Hailed by Pininfarina as a celebration, Nautilus marked the final act in an unravelling relationship dating back to 1951.
The same year as 406 Coupe’s began leaving Pininfarina’s San Giorgio Canavese facility, the carrozzeria displayed Nautilus at Geneva; a concept for a full-size four-door luxury saloon, said by the coachbuilder to be “an exciting stylistic exploration of the high class sporty saloon, created as a tribute to our partnership with Peugeot.” But behind the scenes, this already souring relationship was entering its death throes. With Murat Günak appointed as Peugeot styling director in 1994, one of his first acts was to enlarge the styling team to bolster both numbers and influence; the aim being to further eclipse the Italian coachbuilder and favour the in-house team. Continue reading “Depth Charge – 1997 Pininfarina Nautilus”
This is a vignette more than a postcard. I did see these two in Schleswig, on the way west.
We stopped in a supermarket and I thought to stock up on provisions: some JJ Darboven coffee and German-market Aperol which is 15% rather than 11%. In the carpark I noticed an early series 1 Peugeot 406 and a Series 2.
A Suave Swansong. The 406 Coupé embodied values which had seen a Franco-Italian marriage survive and prosper for a generation. Sadly, it wasn’t to last.
At some unspecified point during the 1990’s something quite seismic took hold within Automobiles Peugeot. A profound cultural shift which saw a gradual jettisoning of not only the marque’s highly regarded engineering principles but also its reputation for dignified styling. Their long-standing association with carrozzeria Pininfarina was unravelling. PSA President, Jacques Calvet, believed to have been irked by the attention Patrick le Quément’s Billancourt studios were receiving, pressed Peugeot Style Centre chief, Gérard Welter for more visual excitement; a move which saw Welter poach rising star Murat Günak from Mercedes-Benz in 1994. Continue reading “Lion of Beauty – 1997 Peugeot 406 Coupé”
Opel’s slow walk into the history books, to join Panhard and Saab, has begun. It occurred just as I came to understand what Opel was about.
You can read the technical details here. The important and ominous part is this: “Tavares told his board that PSA would redevelop the core Opel lineup with its own technologies to achieve rapid savings, according to people with knowledge of the matter” (from AN Europe).
While I was reviewing the last generation Opel Astra, I noted that the description of the mechanicals differed little from its peers. So, you might say, where is the great loss? Even if you don’t care for Opel, its absorption into the PSA combine will reduce meaningful competition among the most important classes of cars.
PSA may purchase Opel. This story has been bubbling for a while and it has bubbled some more, like the sinister upwellings on the surface of a lava pool.
The Guardian has reported that PSA would expect rapid savings were they to buy Opel. “Carlos Tavares, the chief executive of PSA, which owns Peugeot, Citroën and DS, said on Thursday morning that adding GM’s German Opel and British Vauxhall brands would attract new customers and generate substantial cost savings. An outline agreement is expected to be announced as soon as next week, before the Geneva motor show starts on 6 March”, wrote the formerly Mancunian paper.
It might look like a stretched Peugeot 308 to you, but this was the finest PSA concept in years.
I’m somewhat amazed I’ve made it so far with this series. I’d expected hoards of irate Citroënistes burning effigies of me for having the nerve to make these (admittedly loose) connections, so either I’m on the right track or I should spend more time looking skywards for falling anvils.
Admittedly, night had fallen and the surrounding city-centre lights could have been confusing. And the vehicle wore dark paint. These might not be ideal studio conditions. Yet, my experience of the new Peugeot 3008 provided grounds to remember never to Continue reading “Re-Appraisal”
As Mr Editor Kearne said in his introduction to this month’s theme, compromise is inevitable in the motor industry. The trick is knowing where to apply it and where to not.
Ask any industry accountant and they will tell you that making cars and making money aren’t natural bedfellows. Margins are often small, the customer base fickle and, with relatively long development and production runs, like an oil tanker, once committed you don’t change direction easily. Of course there are exceptions, companies who through a combination of prudence, intelligence, excellence or maybe just fashion, are able to make a healthy profit, year after year, and even swallow up a few of the lacklustre performers in one or more of the above categories whilst they do. Continue reading “Theme : Compromise – The Crucial Balance”
The Peugeot 309 is, I feel, a European equivalent of the kind of anonymous car GM and Ford made in the 1970sand 1980s What is there like it today?
What makes the 309 such an oddity is that it should have been a Talbot but had to use Peugeot components and ended as a Peugeot anyway. Its development team had roots in the Rootes group and Simca: British and French. The stylists in Coventry and engineers at the former Simca centre at Poissy were forced to Continue reading “What is Today’s 309?”
Before I get to my discoveries, let’s take a quick look at the background to the 604’s development. [A longer discussion can be found here]. The French know the period from 1945 to 1975 as “les trentes glorieuses” or “the glorious thirty”. The rising economic tide seemed to lift all boats: the average French worker’s salary rose 170% during that time. Customers could afford more. At precisely the end of this period, the beginning of a protracted malaise, Peugeot launched their interpretation of the large, luxury car: the V6-powered, rear-drive 604. Many know the car as “the French Mercedes”, being as it is a clear response to Benz’s W-114 of 1968. Peugeot wanted to offer increasingly affluent customers a domestic product other than the beautiful but unorthodox Citroen DS which, in 1975, had reached two decades in production. Things didn’t work out for Peugeot and today most know the 604 only for being a bit of a glorious failure, despite the car receiving glowing reviews for its ability to Continue reading “1975 Peugeot 604 Road Test”