Peugeot 406 Coupe (1997)

The close partnership between French car maker Peugeot and famous Italian design house Pininfarina produced many beautiful cars in the 1980s and 1990s, including 205 Cabriolet, 306 Cabriolet, 405 and 605. However, the definitive design must be 406 Coupe, which was also the last product of their collaboration before Peugeot strengthening its own design capability. History will remember this car as one of the Pininfarina's best efforts, and to many it could be even a contender of the most beautiful car ever made – something in the same breath as Jaguar E-type, Lamborghini Miura and Ferrari 308GTB!

The 406 Coupe stunned the world with its premiere at Paris motor show in 1996. Never before and after we had seen a coupe with such a perfect proportion. Its streamline body shell was unusually clean, thanks to ultra-slim headlamps, a minimalist fascia and a gently flowing waist line. There were no sharp crease lines, twisted surfaces or angular window perimeters. Every curve flows smoothly and meets another surface with harmony. The size of its front and rear overhang in relation to the wheelbase complied with golden ratio. The angles of its windshield and fastback were just about perfect – any faster or slower angles would worsen the marvelous aesthetic. Best of all design elements was the fastback, where the rear window recessed slightly between the C-pillars, effectively turning the latter into a pair of subtle flying buttresses. This arrangement added visual lightness to the rear view while preserving a sleek side profile. Brilliant!

Even more brilliant was the fact that such a beautiful proportion did not come at the expense of interior space and usability. The 406 Coupe was renowned for offering genuine accommodation for 4 adults by means of individual seats. Headroom and legroom at the back were a little bit tighter than those offered on the 406 sedan, but they could shame some 4-door sedans, such as the contemporary BMW 3-Series and Audi A4! It also got a proper size luggage compartment. Admittedly, the interior did not look as good as the exterior, because it had to share the same dashboard and console with the 406 sedan to save cost. Minor enhancements like chromed rims on main instruments and aluminum gear knob had limited visual effect. Fortunately, the leather upholstery and sporty-looking Recaro leather seats saved the game, especially if ordered with rose-red leather.

The leather upholstery and the Pininfarina logo at the body sides served to remind you that the car was built by Pininfarina at its factory in Turin. Based on the floorpan and mechanicals of 406 sedan, Pininfarina added its own body shell and some bespoke components. Its MacPherson strut front suspensions came straight from the sedan, but the rear multi-link suspensions got new forged aluminum lateral control arms to extend the rear track by 36 mm. Stiffer springs and dampers lowered its ride height by 12 mm to improve handling. A 2-mode electronic adaptive damping was optional while Brembo front brakes came standard on powerful models. The transversely mounted powertrain was pure 406 item, including 135 hp 2-liter 16V four-pot, 194 hp 3-liter 24V V6, 5-speed manual and 4-speed automatic transmission. The V6 could propel the front-wheel-drive coupe from rest to 60 mph in 7.4 seconds and all the way to a claimed 146 mph. Later on, the engine range expanded to 160 hp 2.2 petrol and 136 hp 2.2 HDi (which was the first diesel coupe on the market), while the V6 was enhanced to 210 hp thanks to re-engineering by Porsche.

On the road, the 406 Coupe was more about refinement than excitement. Its V6 excelled in smoothness and mid-range punch, the tall gearing helped cruising refinement while the ride was supple on B-roads. However, its chassis dynamics was still good enough to beat the contemporary Mercedes CLK and ran neck to neck with BMW 328i Coupe E36 (if not the later E46), thanks to the sounded basis of 406 sedan. It steered responsively and accurately, cornered flatly, resisted understeer strongly and stopped quickly. On the downside, the ZF Servotronic power steering felt light and numb, whereas the French V6 was nowhere as sweet revving or sounding as Alfa V6. It wasn't the best driver's car, but as a comfortable 4-seater coupe it was unquestionably the best of its time, especially with that unrivaled beauty.


Peugeot 406 Coupe 3.0
Year of production
1997-2004 (all models)
No. produced
107,633 units (all models)
Front-engined, Fwd
Size (L / W / H / WB)
4615 / 1780 / 1352 / 2700 mm
V6, dohc, 4v/cyl.
2946 cc
194 hp
197 lbft
F: strut; R:multi-link
1464 kg
Top speed
141 mph*
0-60 mph
7.4 sec*
0-100 mph
19.3 sec*
* Tested by Autocar

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