Quick and comfortable
THE Peugeot make has always been renowned for durability and comfortable strength, and had a perfect showcase in the 1960s when the East African Safari was the domain of essentially showroom models. Class and outright wins on the event established the reputation, but the advent of World Championship regulations has long since put paid to normal production cars. In the meantime Peugeot has been overlooked in the sporting journals, but is now making amends rapidly by launching GTI and Turbo versions of the 505, and by preparing a rally programme for the hot baby, the 205. As yet the 505 Turbo is not available in Britain due, we understand, to problems with the right-hand-drive conversion, but the 505 GTI is a very satisfactory model to be getting on with. At the launch we thought it might be a mild contender to the BMW 5-series, but after a week with the Peugeot we conclude that it’s one rung lower on the performance ladder, though still quick enough to satisfy the French company’s traditional clientele on the lookout for a quicker family car.
Size, price and comfort are the three selling features of the Peugeot 505 GTI. At 15 feet in length, and with a nine foot wheelbase, the 505 is a genuine five-seat saloon with a truly massive luggage compartment, driven through the rear wheels by a 2.2-litre, 125 bhp four-cylinder engine. With a top speed of 112 mph (achieved at 4,980 rpm in fifth gear) and a 0-60 mph acceleration time of 10 sec the GTI is adequately fast for today’s road conditions, and our overall fuel consumption of 25.88 mpg reflected the progress made with the Bosch LE jetronic fuel injection system.
As we remarked in the announcement article, the 505 GTI is very highly equipped indeed for its £9,595 selling price. The basic package includes four-wheel disc brakes with a servo, power-assisted rack and pinion steering, alloy wheels equipped with Michelin TRX tyres, superbly comfortable seating with height adjustment on the driver’s side, a five-speed gearbox, a limited slip differential, metallic paint, tinted glass, electrically operated windows, an electric sunroof, central locking, twin exterior mirrors (manually adjusted), and a nice Philips 741 stereo radio / cassette with four speakers and an electrically operated aerial. Providing the car itself is commendable, and we are sure that it is, that represents amazingly good value. The styling is by Pininfarina, rather square, three-boxy and dated maybe by modern standards, and it’s no surprise to find that the Cx drag coefficient does not get a mention, despite the addition of a vestigial air dam matched by a small spoiler lip on the bootlid. The Italian Pininfarina styling house has long been associated with Peugeot, back to the days when the 404 and the Austin A55 looked likes peas out of a pod, but in the meantime the French company has continued to develop handsome, rather than stylish cars appealing to the same type of customer while Austin completely lost its way in the medium car sector, which just goes to show that a family concern is more likely to keep continuity going. The all alloy engine is a development of the familiar 2-litre, the bore remaining at 88 mm while the bore has been taken out to 89 mm to arrive at a 2,165 cc capacity. With the compression raised to 9.8:1 the power is up to 125 bhp at 5,750 rpm, the torque to an impressive 139 lb / ft at 4,250 rpm. The German injection system incorporates a shutoff on overrun, the system being very similar to that on the new Audi 200 Turbo and injection models, and that is clearly good for the overall economy figure, better than 25 mpg from a car weighing 1,235 kg at the kerb (2,723 lb). On the road the 505 GTI feels brisk rather than high-performing, the engine seeming to have a heavy flywheel which rules out rapid gearchanges except in an emergency. The power has a “soft” feel about it, or perhaps well subdued would be a better description, yet the car certainly covers the ground well and 100 mph feels an all-day cruising speed if you get the chance. The GTI has its fully independent suspension lowered by an inch, with front and rear anti-roll bars fitted, and carries the penalty of a joggly ride at low speed, accentuated probably by the wide; aggressively treaded Michelin tyres. Away from built-up areas the Peugeot copes very well with inferior road surfaces, as you would expect of a French family car, but we were surprised to find that the car has a fair degree of roll in medium speed corners . . . perhaps more than we expected from the specification. In normal driving there is no hint of the ZF limited slip diff, which has a low slip factor to help out on really slippery surfaces.
The softly cushioned, velour covered seats are shaped for the driver and passenger and keep the occupants firmly in place when the GTI is driven enthusiastically, and the only minor criticism is that the seat-backs have coarse adjustment which did not allow us to find quite the right angle. It should go without saying that there is ample leg and headroom in the rear, with enough width to seat three adults comfortably.
The steering is nicely weighted, and precise with 3½ turns from lock to lock, and the all-disc brake system stops the car well from high speeds with a degree of nose dipping. The gearbox feels nice, too, though there is a trace of gear whine audible to the occupants, and the headlights are impressive with a good range on main beam. and a manual adjustment control on the dash to raise or lower the dipped beam.
The range of the Peugeot is impressive, the 15.4 gallon fuel tank allowing at least 350 miles between refuelling stops, more perhaps if you keep a watchful eye on the “Econoscope” which is three little lights set in the rev-counter, green for economical driving, amber, and red which shows under acceleration — all quite meaningless, but it amuses the children.
Dated it may be, but the Peugeot 505 GTI will probably achieve its objective keeping customers loyal to the marque, lf they were considering buying a more sporty model next time round. It acquits itself well in give-and-take situations, but its real forte is long, fast journeys with a family on board. At its price, the GTI represents a verv good purchase. — M. L.C.