1999 Peugeot 406…The smooth operator

1999 Peugeot 406…The smooth operator

August is the month of heroes in Zimbabwe. We will look at some models that can easily be bestowed hero’s status in the local motoring industry. Peugeot is one of them. Models that come to mind are the 404, 504, 306 and 406. I have fond memories of all of them. The 404 and 504 reminds me of my days at University of Zimbabwe in the 80s and early 90s. It was our mode of transport. The 306 reminds me of my days as a junior manager.  Today we look at the 406, a car I wouldn’t mind owning again but without its electrical problems. It drove better than the Mercedes W202 C200 and the BMW E46 318i. Being a motoring enthusiast, I owned all 3 makes back then.

Pity the Peugeot brand is no longer represented meaningfully in Zimbabwe.

The face lifted 406 sedan was introduced in 1999. I had just joined a leading life assurer as marketing manager and was given one as my company car. It was a case of natural progression, from a 306 at my former employer to a better and roomier ride, the 406. There were less than 5 in Zimbabwe back then. I got hooked to Peugeots and at one time I got to know them like a bush mechanic knows something about every other car.

The face lifted 406 changed in many aspects. It became safer, stronger and faster, resulting in a better performance. On the exterior, the 406 got a new look with more pronounced ribs, smooth glass headlights and a new honeycomb grill, the rear lights changed colour to all red with a strip of the cars colour in the middle. Motoring journalists praised this change and declared the face lifted 406 to be one of the best-looking cars if not the best-looking car in its segment. It became the car of choice for senior management, with junior management having the 306 shoved down their throats.

The interior had been totally redesigned to create comfort and space as well as a new look. This included a higher level of equipment such as automatic digital climate control/air conditioning on most models but the most basic, a digital display showing what doors were open, and reporting any problems such as handbrake on, trip computer, radio and external temperature. A more extensive use of wooden trim, better quality plastics, including soft touch plastics, in addition to that most models received electrically folding mirrors, with automatic headlights and wipers. On the top of the range “Executive” model’s equipment was very generous with this model getting a 10 speaker JBL sound system, electrically adjusted and heated leather seats, with a memory position for the seats and mirrors, headlight washer jets, a rear sun blind, thicker carpeting, lights in the sun visors, and ambient lighting. 406 ended production in 2004.

I remember I could propel it to about 170km/hour and it would bear-hug the highway in a commanding but silent manner. One day on my way to Masvingo, I was stopped by the cops and one of them asked me if I had taken my driving lessons from Air Zim. I was flying. And oh yes Air Zim used to fly back then. In Taxi the 406 had a modified 3.0 V6 capable of tremendous speed and a pop-out front and rear spoiler. Taxi is a French action comedy movie from 1998 written and produced by Luc Besson and the first of a series of four. The main protagonists are Daniel Morales (Samy Naceri), a Badass Driver from Marseilles who quits his job as the city’s fastest pizza delivery boy to become the city’s fastest taxi driver, and Emilien Coutant-Kerbalec (Frédéric Diefenthal), an eager but ditzy cop who has been trying and failing to get a driver’s license for a long time—he only manages to get Daniel’s license after the latter drove him through Marseilles at 217km/h, not knowing that the man on the backseat of his tuned Peugeot 406 is a cop. They end up as a team chasing a German gang of bank robbers because Daniel knows more about fast cars than Emilien and can drive him around, and because he needs his license back. I used to be a movie junkie.

A Peugeot 406 also featured heavily in the 1998 action film Ronin, which is noted for its car chase scenes. The car was driven in the final car chase throughout the streets of Paris by the main protagonists, Robert de Niro and Jean Reno.The 406-coupe featured in the French movie Le Boulet (2002), in which the coupé is the main vehicle in a police chase through Paris.

With a fuel consumption of 9.1 litres/100km, Acceleration of 0 to 100 km/h in 11.0 seconds, a maximum top speed of 203 km/h, a curb weight of, the 406 2.0 16v has a naturally-aspirated Inline 4-cylinder engine, petrol motor. 20 years ago, this was a very fast car indeed.

This engine produces a maximum power of 133 bhp – 99 kW at 5500 rpm and a maximum torque of 180 Nm at 4200 rpm. The power is transmitted to the road by the front wheel drive with a 5 speed Manual gearbox. It easily outperformed competition. An advantage of the soft throttle made the SV very easy to drive smoothly in low speed traffic. In fact, performance was smooth right through the rev range. Interior noise level checks showed the six-cylinder model to be measurably quieter than the ‘four’.

About chassis details responsible for road holding, handling behaviour and ride comfort, the 406 has Independent, McPherson, coil springs, anti-roll bar front suspension and Quadra-Link, coil springs, anti-roll bar rear suspension. That explains its comfort back then. It was ahead of its time.

The 406 had a thicker rear anti-roll bar and stiffer springs front and rear, yet retained the ST’s exceptional ability to soak up bumps and rough roads and, at the same time, provided handling that was incredibly sure-footed and precise. Most motoring enthusiasts believe that nobody does suspensions better than the French. The 406 set an example for other manufacturers with its compliant and very effective suspension design that was completely unfazed by varying road surfaces or mid-corners bumps. It was a smooth operator. Its braking system seemed smoother and more progressive, without sacrificing any its powerful maximum braking capabilities.


One of the smoothest and most comfortable cars even at high speeds, comfy interior, hugs the road easily


They knew me on a first name basis at the local Peugeot dealership because of electrical challenges the car encountered


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