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V.I.S.I.T. – Peugeot 405 S in Manhattan

Jay Ramey December 17, 2012 V.I.S.I.T. - Vehicles I Saw In Traffic 27 Comments

pug 1

It’s probably a stretch to say that the Peugeot 405 has become a rare sight on our roads, since it wasn’t exactly abundant on our roads to begin with. Rather, it was arguably Peugeot’s late and somewhat halfhearted attempt to transition dwindling numbers of Peugeot buyers on to a new model. The 405 S above was seen on the not-particularly-mean streets of midtown Manhattan not too long ago.

Sold for four short years stateside, the 405 came in sedan and wagon form, with a severely reduced range of engines compared to other markets. We got the 1.9 liter DL, S and Mi16 versions of Peugeot’s four cylinder engine, while the UK got a dozen 405s with cool trim names like Hunter, Quasar, and Executive (okay, Quasar is probably not a cool trim name). Not to mention Europe got a ton of different turbodiesels. That’s right, that’s what we were denied on this side of the pond. Add to that the entire range of Pug 205s.

pug 2

Some of you will remember Jason Cammisa’s excellent and very exuberant article on the 405 Mi16 in last year’s Automobile Magazine. And indeed, the Mi16 was a pretty impressive performer, producing 150bhp and sitting on a wonderfully sorted chassis. It often seems like most surviving Peugeot 405s in America are Mi16s, cared for by dedicated enthusiasts, but as the blue example seen here proves there are still some base-spec 405s used as year round daily drivers. And that’s an even cooler thing to see.

pug 3

The 405 left our shores as abruptly as it had appeared. American Peugeot buyers in the 1980s mostly purchased 505s, which were large cars by anyone’s standards. Buyers often cross shopped these with Volvo 700 and 900 series cars, which weren’t especially tiny or light themselves. So the 405 had little chance of filling the 505’s shoes, and Peugeot chose not to send the 605 stateside, perhaps sensing that the days of large French sedans on American roads were numbered.

Several years after Peugeot left the US market, they were still eying a comeback as they had left a pretty large dealer network, though mostly on the two coasts. Connecticut alone had 10 Peugeot dealers, in an area the size of, well, Connecticut. New Jersey topped the list with a whopping 19 dealerships. Most other states had one or two, usually as part of a random import franchise that typically included Renaults and Volvos. In 1996 a friend of mine had the opportunity to try a Peugeot 406 sedan demo that Peugeot had provided to a number of former dealerships that still serviced Peugeots, though he wasn’t particularly impressed with it.

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The 405s, however, disappeared pretty quickly, especially the wagons which sold in laughably small numbers. In fact, I have only ever seen one Peugeot 405 wagon stateside, and not exactly in the wild.

  • Vavon

    Peugeot actually asked Heuliez to develop a 405 coupé for the American market.
    In the end, the plan was deemed too costly and was axed…
    Seeing the resut, it was probbly for the best!
    <img src="http://www.autowp.ru/pictures/heuliez_peugeot/405_coupe_concept_by/autowp.ru_peugeot_405_coupe_concept_by_heuliez_1.jpg&quot; width=500>
    <img src="http://www.autowp.ru/pictures/heuliez_peugeot/405_coupe_concept_by/autowp.ru_peugeot_405_coupe_concept_by_heuliez_2.jpg&quot; width=500>

    • Jay

      Quite attractive, but wrong for our market I would think. I mean, remember how well the 504 Coupe and Convertible sold on our shores?

    • Never seen this. Thanks!

    • Kogashiwa

      Reminds me somehow of a Maserati Biturbo.

    • duurtlang_

      Its replacement, the 406, did get a coupe. And what a coupe that was. But I might be biased. I wonder how well that would've fared in the US, had it been available.

  • FrankTheCat

    I actually see a white 405 Mi6 around my town all the time. Appears to be daily driven, too.

  • wisc47

    What are you talking about? Quasar is a totally rad name.
    <img src="http://endgametime.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/325_quasara2.jpg"&gt;

  • Van_Sarockin

    They were nice cars, but not the sturdiest. But it was sales and support that did in the brand in the US. It's amazing that a 405 can survive till this day on the streets of NYC, in any condition at all. A nice clean design, that had no shot at prying folks out of their Oldsmobiiles.

  • Perc

    What's with the yellowed headlights? It seems to be really common on US versions of European cars that are slightly too new to have sealed beams, like this 405 and the 900 series Volvos. You never see yellowing like this on cars with Euro-spec glass headlights.

    Did the NHTSA require the use of some special kind of plastic rather than glass or something?

    • FrankTheCat

      my girlfriend's '97 saab 900 has glass headlight lenses.

    • TurboBrick

      They're plastic, all of them are. Once you drive the car off the lot the headlamps look like sh*t in about 4 years and the only thing you can do about it is to sand them down for the time being or replace them. It's a combination of UV and crap flying at them. Look at any "New Edge" Mustang closely and you'll see the headlamp is all hazy but there's a small strip on top of the lens that's right under the hood that's always perfectly clear.

      Volvo 760/960 and 940 turbos are the only ones I can think off the top of my head that have real glass lenses, and even those have plastic lenses for the inboard foglamps. Did GM C-bodies have glass lenses once they ditched the sealed beams?

      • Frere P.

        I daily drive a '92 405. The headlight lenses on mine (not a US market car) are not plastic and they are perfectly clear. I am not the original owner, of course, so maybe they are aftermarket.

      • I don't know if the late '80s C-bodies had glass headlamps, but the two GM A-bodies I owned had them (a '94 Olds and a '95 Buick). My '05 C-body has plastic.

  • The 405 is a decent-looking Eurosedan, but I've never been excited about them.

    I know I might unleash a Peugeot Jihad in saying so, but I honestly have been indifferent about all Peugeots since the 505. They've mostly been competent but plain FWD cars that are matched or exceeded by VW and Asian and domestic competitors.

    I also know someone's going to play the 205 Rallye card, and I concede that car's awesomeness.

    • Vavon

      I'm not playing today!

  • Jibduh

    I'll play!

    <img src="http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/854/405twincam.jpg/ ">
    not just one, but two cams!

    She'll be back to DD duty once I replace the sparking ignition coil