Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
In July 1987
Peugeot unveiled ten versions of the 405 simultaneously for the 1988
model year, with sales on the European continent beginning before Christmas, and sales in the UK beginning in March. Deliveries began in October 1987
for the sedan, and May 1988
for the wagon. No coupe was ever offered to the public, unlike the 504 and later 406, as only two examples of the purpose-built 405 Turbo-16 (not to be confused with 405 T16) were made.
The 405 was available as a 4-door only. Four-cylinder petrol engines included 65, 92, 110, 125, and 160 hp (48, 69, 82, 93, and 119 kW) units. A 1.8-litre diesel engine, with or without a turbo (70 and 90 hp (52 and 67 kW)) was added to the range during 1988
as was the 5-door wagon. Its launch came a year after the demise of the Talbot
marque on passenger cars, with the Alpine (originally a Chrysler Europe product) being the last 405-sized car from Talbot.
The slightly smaller Peugeot 305
was discontinued from the Peugeot range soon after the 405's launch, with the larger 505 being axed a while later, with Peugeot's new range-topping model after 1989
being the 605. The 405 was the last Peugeot vehicle sold in the United States, on sale between 1988
and 1991, including the Mi16 model. The 405 was a popular model in Thailand, following the success of the Peugeot 505
after the Government of Thailand cancelled a restriction on CBU car imports in the late 1980s.
, 500,000 vehicles had been produced, and the 1 millionth 405 left the Sochaux factory the next year. A minor facelift in 1991 included a change in transmission
with the BE1 replaced by the BE3 and updates to the dashboard, steering wheel, and soundproofing. In 1993, a revised 405, referred to as the Phase 2 model, was introduced featuring a new rear design with new rear lights and boot design, and a revised interior with a new dashboard.
The turbocharged, 16v, 4WD 405 T16 (Left Hand Drive only) was also introduced. The 405's replacement, the 406, was introduced in 1995, and the 405 saloon was discontinued in Europe, whilst the estate continued on sale in Europe until 1997. About 2.5 million vehicles were sold worldwide.
The Peugeot 405 In Australia
The 405 was Peugeot's mid size world car and in Australia was marketed on Peugeot's relatively upmarket status as an alternative to a variety of European and Japanese prestige cars. Three trim and specification levels were offered on Australian 405s, two luxury oriented versions and the high performance Mi16 detailed below. The bog-standard models were reasonably well equipped with fuel injection, power steering, electric front windows, central locking, adjustable steering column, four wheel disc brakes, automatic climate control, anti-theft radio, tinted glass, height adjustable drivers' seat and cloth trim as standard.
Mechanically, the 405 offered plenty of sophistication for the money with an all-alloy engine and independent suspension. At the front, the Peugeot used an interesting upside down MacPherson strut arrangement in company with lower wishbones, coil springs and a stabiliser bar. The rear end was supported by transverse torsion bars acting on trailing arms and a stabiliser bar. Steering was rack and pinion with 3.1 turns from lock to lock. Braking was by disc all-round - the fronts ventilated for maximum performance. The Mi16 featured an advanced Bendix ABS anti-lock system which had pressure sensitivity and was developed jointly by Bendix and Peugeot. The system featured a fail-safe facility and actually had the ability to determine what had gone wrong and then to decide whether the failure warranted shutting down the ABS side of things. Braking reverted to normal power assisted mode in the event of a complete failure.
With its long wheelbase the 405 offered plenty of interior space in terms of a small-medium size car. In fact, passenger room was almost the equal of the bigger bodied 505 despite much shorter overall length. Power for the standard car came from a single overhead camshaft four cylinder which utilised alloy construction for both head and block. Displacing 1905cc, the engine was under-square in the typically French way with bore and stroke of 83mm X 88mm. Compression ratio was a subtle 8.35:1 and the unit is good for 79.7kW at 5500rpm. Torque peaked at 163Nm at 4250rpm.
Fuel injection was standard across the range, in this case the celebrated Bosch Motronic system with full electronic operation and on board trouble shooting. Australian buyers had a choice of two transmissions, a conventional five speed manual gearbox or a four speed automatic driving through the front wheels. The manual transmission was overdriven on both fourth and fifth gears while the auto featured a progressive lock-up torque converter. The converter locked up to the tune of 60 per cent in third and completely in fourth. The Mi16 had a rather more radical specification under the bonnet with a 108kW version of the same engine. Below the deck, the engines were all but identical, but the Mi16 had a twin cam cylinder head incorporating the then latest four-valve technology. That impressive - for a 1900cc -power output was producing at a resounding 6500rpm with peak torque of 174Nm arriving at 5000rpm. All up weight of the standard models was 1140kg for the automatic and 1120kg for the manual. The only options were leather upholstery, electric sunroof, electric rear windows, rear head restraints and a centre arm rest.
Peugeot 405 Mi16
The Peugeot 405 Mi16 may have had its faults - the headroom was lacking, the gearbox could be a little temperamental, and the ergonomics weren't perfect - but the way it drove was enough to gladden the heart of any motoring enthusiast with even an ounce of sporting blood in their veins. Road testers found it difficult to decide whether the 405's greatness was due to the engine's performance or the chassis' handling. The numbers at the end of the 405 Mi16's tag referred to the quantity of valves funnelling petrol into and out of the four under-square cylinders of the alloy block. The engine's 1905cc capacity didn't get a run in the nomenclature, nor did the two belt-driven camshafts nestled atop the head, but the Motronic-brained injection (and ignition) certainly got a mention and that 'M' leant heavily on motorsport connotations.
The 405 Mi16's power-plant was designed as a road-going successor to the XU9T engine that, with the help of a turbocharger
, powered Peugeots to wins in two World Rally Championships and the last three Paris-Dakar events in a row. That didn't necessarily mean it was a carbon copy but little touches like pent-roof combustion chambers with central plugs, siamesed inlet ports, and eight individual exhaust ports coupled to a free flowing 8-2-1 tubular manifold hinted that more than some of the race research had rubbed off.
Horsepower peaked at 108kW at a heady 6500rpm while maximum torque wasn't too much lower in the rev range with 174Nm at 5000rpm. This was not a 'peaky' engine however, and while the 56.7kW per litre specific output figure didn't exactly set new industry standards, what the figures failed to indicate was the flexibility and broad spread of usable power the Mi16's engine possessed. Wind it up through the rev range off idle and the Mi16 engine would pull happily from 1500rpm on. Down low and through the mid range it would feel more like a two-litre TX5, but as the tacho needle crossed the 4500rpm mark the stable doors start to open and the ponies come tumbling out in a rev building rush that would last until you were bouncing off the rev limiter.
The Peugeot 405 Mi16 had a definite power band and the close ratio (high first gear) let you make good use of it dropping the revs from 7000rpm back to 5000rpm with each shift for maximum performance. It was, however, almost equally happy tooling around in fifth at urban cruising speeds and with ample torque available from 3000rpm the driver could comfortably choose whether relaxed cruising or frenetic shifting was the order of the day. Owners have told us, however, that it was always tempting to play with the power, not only because it was delivered in such a visceral lump, but because of the exhaust note which built from a throaty burble in the mid-range to a awesome growl as the needle topped 6500rpm.
Peugeot 405 Mi16 Performance
The Peugeot 405 Mi16 was good for the 0-100km/h in 9.2 seconds and a standing 400 metre figure of around 16.3 seconds. Theoretically the Mi16 was capable of bettering the 220km/h mark flat out, and with fifth gear making maximum use of the available power and torque cruising at 200km/h was only a question of finding the right road. Fast enough then, but handling had been a bit of hit-and-miss with French cars. But in the case of the 405, the handling was very VERY good. There was little oversteer unless you were using the handbrake or backing off when you shouldn't have been, but the understeer that so many believed was inherent (and excessive) in front-drivers would also elude you.
The Mi16 loved to turn in and turn in hard. All you had to do is make sure you were in the right gear to make best use of the power, hurl into the corner, dab the brakes, turn the wheel and dial on the throttle and you were through. Unless your entry speeds were grossly optimistic the Mi16 kept neutral to the point where it almost began to defy the laws of comfort, and though the controls were light there was still plenty of feel from the power assisted steering. The Mi16's brakes were equipped with third generation ABS the Mi16 stopped extremely well for a 1160kg car, but though braking was progressive the pedal had a slightly 'spongy' feel to it. Road testers could bring the car to a halt from 100 km/h in a respectable 43 metres - although some did complain that the ABS' actuation was a little harsh.
Behind the Wheel
The Mi16 was based on a very good foundation - hidden beneath the spoilers and side skirts was a very well thought out medium-size sedan. There was plenty of front legroom and width was also quite good, but headroom was not all that good and, with the front seats being mounted high, and with the optional electric sunroof fitted, 6 foot drivers would have found the headroom restricted. It was just as bad in the rear seats too, and if the driver had their seat slid back and reclined to avoid hitting their head rear seat passengers not only had to contend with bugger-all headroom, but bugger-all legroom too. To be fair though, the 405 was on par with pretty much any of the competition with regards to interior space. If the designers had allowed lower settings for the front seats a lot of the criticism could have been avoided.
The interior was nicely laid out and attractively styled though a little plastic looking. There was a 'luxury pack' option which included leather upholstery giving a more upmarket ambience. Unfortunately the leather allowed you to slide around in the seats a little but with deep side bolsters they provided adequate location and proved comfortable over long distances. The dash was well laid out with large speedo
and easily read ancillary gauges. Lights and wipers were operated by two column mounted stalks, and as usual with European cars the indicators were on the left side. The horn button was also mounted on the left-hand indicator stalk rather than, more sensibly, on the wheel boss. Heat, air and in-car entertainment was all housed in the centre of the dash within easy reach, and besides being easily operable all worked with efficiency and without fuss.
Less efficient was the gear change which was biased towards the left-hand side: ideal for the European market but not for right-hand-drive cars. Despite the few shortcomings the inside of the 405 was a pleasant enough environment to live with - it was relatively quiet and wind noise wasn't a problem at regular cruising speeds, and even when working in the 5000-7000rpm range engine noise wasn't particularly intrusive - the engine was also very smooth right across the rev range. Build quality was also good.