A well-balanced, RWD gap-filler
Peugeot chose May and Marseilles to launch a new rear wheel drive saloon (something of a rarity these days!) which goes on sale in Europe as of now to fill the gap between the large 604 and long-lived 504. Called the 505 and powered by a choice of three four-cylinder engines (one a diesel), the 505 range sells for the equivalent of £4,917-5,882 in France at present.
Sales are scheduled to start in Britain from October onward.
At first sight the new Peugeot is confusingly like the more recent 305 series and adds to the confusion by offering two quite different 2-litre petrol engines. On examination, and after some enjoyable miles behind the wheel, the writer came to understand the logic behind the car, and its choice of RWD in an age when we are told even larger saloons will increasingly adopt FWD.
The slant-headlamp exterior lines were drawn in 1977, well before the merger that made Peugeot the parent of the largest combine in Europe. The interior is by a former BMW designer. and this shows up in the door-pull/armrests and a very practical cloth seat trim that looks as though it came from a purveyor of rather trendy sports jackets.
In principle the 505 shares much with the 604: where fitted, the five-speed gearbox is the same. The aluminium-cased differential sits within a trailing arm i.r.s. layout, bolted on to a large crossmember that also picks up the long coil spring/telescopic dampers mounted vertically at either end. The front struts mount on to a simple triangulated lower wishbone: both front and rear are served by anti-roll bars.
I was delighted to see disc brakes were fitted all round but a little puzzled to find the steering described as “classical.” A little further reading revealed the presence of a rack and pinion, with power assistance on all British models, which is just as well as the non-assisted set up demands turns lock-to-lock instead of 3 1/2.
We drove the 110 b.h.p. fuel Injection models in five-speed manual and three-speed ZF form only. These use the same alloy s.o.h.c. engine as is found in the Renault 20 TS (a Peugeot-Renault co-partnership at Douvrin, where they also make the V6 used by Renault, Peugeot and Volvo), but considerably cheered by Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection, some efficient-looking exhaust manifolding, and a 9.2:1 .cr.
The alloy engine, used in the 505 STI and TI models, has a belt driven overhead camshaft and is installed at a 12 degree slant from vertical. By contrast the Peugeot 2-litre engine with a single twin choke carburettor is installed at 45 degrees and features an iron block. Power output for this modestly tuned unit (8.8:1 cr) is 96 b.h.p. at 5,200 r.p.m. Torque maximum for the iron block engine, used in 505 GR and SR derivatives only and mated to a four-speed gearbox, is rated at 16.4 kg.m on 3.000 r.p.m. while the Douvrin alloy block unit is quoted at 17.4 kg.m on 4,000 r.p.m.
Although you can easily tell the difference between the Peugeot 2-litre engine and the Douvrin alloy-2-litre externally – the TI and STI injection models having very attractive alloy “ram pipes” on the inlet side apart from the differences we have already noted – the inside story is rather different. Both have an 88 mm. bore, the Peugeot has an 81 mm. stroke while the Douvrin four has an extra 1 mm. in the stroke: the capacities are 1,971 c.c. and 1,995 c.c., the Douvrin power plant slightly the bigger.
Incidentally this alloy 2-litre is also seen in Formula Three, where Alain Prost currently leads the European Championship in a Martini with a Gordini-Renault modified version of the powerplant.
Our road impressions must be limited to the top of the range injection models, beginning with the 505 STI in manual transmission form.
Peugeot have provided an excellent, large cabin for the size and suspension layout, but there were those who felt even better results could have been obtained with FWD. I asked one of the senior engineers why Peugeot had stuck to RWD and he said, “It is traditional for a big Peugeot; it is better for the balance of a big car and it is more rugged for sales in Africa.”
Despite my early morning resolution to drive very slowly and circumspectly on this, my first Peugeot overseas trip, I soon found the car bowling along at a steady 180 km/h, about 5 km/h more than the maker’s claim and the right side of 110 mph. Since my companion and I could talk happily at this speed, I was quite impressed.
Turning on to the equivalent of B-roads and driving with more enthusiasm the STI proved to have a fine compromise between a comfortable, absorbent, ride and a comparatively roll free (by Gallic standards) cornering. All models share 5J steel wheels, shod with 175 x Kleber V12 or Michelin XAS radials. ‘Our’ cars had Michelins and could corner almost to the limit without a whisper of protest from the tyres.
“Efficiency, but not excitement”, was my overall impression after the morning run. Acceleration from 0-62 m.p.h. occupies a little under 11 sec., according to the maker’s claims, but it is delivered so smoothly by the injection unit that the car feels slower than it really is, a great compliment to the enginers.
Also highly effective are the disc brakes and power steering. The interior is not inspired, there are strong traces of Japanese plastic scroll work around the automatic gearlever, but the seats are comfortable and the ventilation coped well.
The three-speed ZF model was tried mainly under motorway conditions and proved to have a very smooth change and only a slightly lower top speed than the manual.
In short I thought the 505 an unusually well balanced car. Looking at my specification sheet I see that the good balance is in spite of having 240 lb. more over the front than the rear. — J.W.