► 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.