The 407's front is dominated by a gaping maw the like of which has not been seen since Jonah commented on surprisingly heavy swell conditions. As with all the best Peugeots of yore, the lines are elegant, sleek and fluid. The windscreen is steeply raked back, giving a very sporting appearance. A Coupe version is available and aside from the four-door saloon, there's also the 407SW estate which is, if anything, even better looking. With its canted back C-pillar, the SW looks impossibly fast - an automotive Exocet amid a sea of lumbering trebuchets.
Peugeot are keen to stress that the 407 is their very first car to feature double wishbone front suspension, which may not mean a great deal to many but in essence sums up the French company's commitment to handling excellence. Many cars these days have so-called 'multilink' rear suspension systems, but most persevere with a simple strut front set up. In offering a more sophisticated front suspension system on this car, Peugeot raised the bar again.
Peugeot have set something of a precedent to follow with some very good previous Euro NCAP crash test results but the 407 again took them a big step forward. Active safety in the form of brake discs with a diameter of up to 330mm and next-generation ESP stability control which is standard on every model. As well as marshalling the anti-skid function, ESP also acts as a controller for the anti lock braking system, the emergency brake assist and the electronic brakeforce distribution to each individual wheel. The chassis itself incorporates not only the highest level of torsional rigidity ever seen on a Peugeot saloon - as you might expect - but it also features a device known as an impactor that anchors the engine to the subframe and prevents it being shunted into the passenger cell in the event of a crash. Pedestrian protection is a major design criterion these days and the 407 features foam padded bumper bars and a bonnet that deforms to absorb shock, the top of the engine a good distance below that sweeping bonnet line. Up to nine air bags could be specified by new buyers - twin fronts, side, curtain and steering column units offer optimum protection.
The cabin is neat and everything seems to work very nicely but there isn't a great deal of showroom 'wow factor' to it. Sophisticated multiplexed electronics allowed for a huge amount of individual customisation for buyers when specifying their 407s, with such features as rear view mirrors linked to reverse gear, parking sensors, self-imposed speed limiters, low tyre pressure monitors and variable cruise control systems all capable of being fitted quickly and, just as importantly, at very modest expense.
Peugeot have really upped their game when it comes to build quality and there are aspects of the 407 that would put many premium rivals to shame. The mechanicals are largely tried and tested units and the interior trim is hardwearing. The good news for used buyers is that the 407 doesn't attract the sort of buyer who tends to flog their car to death, instead attracting a more genteel clientele. Sophisticated traction control helps preserve front tyre life on more powerful models. No significant problems have yet raised their heads but insist on a properly stamped up service book and if in doubt opt for an HPI check.
(Based on a 2004 407 2.0) A new exhaust will set you back about £475, while a replacement headlamp should be around £165. A new clutch is about £155. As for front brake pads, expect to pay about £45 front and £40 rear.
Four petrol engines and three diesel units are offered, the diesels including a particulate emission filter, those with manual gearboxes compliant with Euro4 standards, thus neatly sidestepping the three per cent benefit in kind surcharge. These HDi diesels consist of a 1.6-litre unit that cranks out 110bhp and 240Nm of torque (260Nm of temporary 'overboost') and a 2.0-litre powerplant that develops 136bhp and 320Nm of torque (340Nm on overboost). Through a strategic link with Ford, Peugeot also offer a gutsy 2.7-litre V6 HDi engine which is by far the most desirable pick for most customers.
Petrol buyers are well catered for with a range that opens with a 16-valve 1.8-litre unit with 117bhp, mated to a five-speed manual gearbox. Step up to the 2.0-litre engine and you'll have access to 136bhp and the choice of either a conventional five-speed manual 'box or a four-speed automatic 'autoadaptive' gearbox with Porsche's Tiptronic System control. If you do fancy the automatic gearbox, the 160bhp 2.2-litre engine is probably a better candidate, although if you prefer a manual gearbox, this model boasts a six-speeder. The range-topping 211bhp 3.0-litre V6 also offers the choice between the six-speed manual and the automatic and features variable valve timing (VVT) to ensure that power and torque are evenly distributed across a wide rev range.
Although the 407 does corner tidily, it's a big car and never feels particularly comfortable when taken by the scruff of the neck. The weight issue becomes noticeable if you opt for one of the entry-level engines, so our advice would be to consider sacrificing a trim level or two from your budget in favour of a bigger engine.
As a used buy, there's a lot to like about Peugeot's 407. A car that works a lot better in the metal than in many pictures, it's slightly undervalued by the trade and you should be able to pick up a low mileage example with a hefty percentage of its new value wiped out. The 2.2-litre petrol engine and the 3.0-litre diesel units are the pick of the range although the 3.0-litre petrol is an attractive choice if you can stomach the fuel bills.