Remembering the underdogs: the 1996 Peugeot 406 Coupe

Published: 24 February 2015

► Remembering the Peugeot 406 Coupe
► Did it justify its underdog status?
► Ben Whitworth remembers the slinky Pug

When Peugeot unveiled its slinky 406 Coupé at the 1996 Paris motor show, the rumour powering the mill at a very brisk pace indeed ran like this: Pininfarina’s seductive coupe was originally pitched at Ferrari as a more affordable four-seater GT. Maranello, however, sniffily dismissed Lorenzo Ramaciotti’s offering, and the piqued design studio offered it instead to long-term client Peugeot, knowing that the French car maker would put the car into mass production, each one a visible reminder of Ferrari’s rash refusal.

And being a rumour, it was probably a load of cobblers, but there’s no denying that the 406 Coupé is easily the most desirable looking Pug of the last 30 years.

While it shared the 406 saloon’s front-drive floorplan, and borrowed much of its leather-clad interior architecture to cleverly keep a lid on costs, it wore bespoke sheetmetal and lordy, didn't it wear it well.

Peugeot 406 Coupé: the spec

It made its debut with two petrol engines, a 135bhp 2.0-litre four-pot and a 194bhp 3.0-litre V6. The smooth and muscular six-cylinder engine was the one to go for, dishing up almost enough burbling performance to match the car’s looks.

But unlike its contemporary rivals – the Alfa GTV, Fiat Coupé and Nissan 200SX were all fresh on the two-door scene – the Peugeot wasn’t a tyre-smoking snorter. It was softly sprung, the gearshift action was politely vague and the steering was relaxed, so in typically Gallic style it responded best to a languid and laidback driving style.

It was a modern day smoke-around car – cool to look at, cooler to be in – and still glance-twice good-looking.

Ferrari’s loss was Peugeot’s gain. If you believe in rumours.

Does the Peugeot 406 Coupé deserve its underdog status? Let us know in the comments below.

By Ben Whitworth

Contributing editor, sartorial over-achiever, HANS device shirt collars