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Some of this week's Letters to AutoSpeed!

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Peugeot PR Man Not Happy

The following email is from Mathew McAuley, Public and Customer Relations Manager, Peugeot Australia. It is in response to our recent test of the Peugeot 407 HDi wagon. Our responses are included in the email.

Well done Julian,

Forgetting I actually work for Peugeot,

Well, that's not the case, is it? You do work for Peugeot.

that is the best hatchet job I have ever seen done on a car that I can recall.

No, the Alfa 166 test was probably similar, I think -

Under the pretense of a review, you have methodically bagged the car, and clearly overstepped the boundary of fair comment in my opinion. A step by step account (with pictures) of your so called shortcomings, punctuated by one paragraph of positives, under the guise of a vehicle review. Marvelous.

I am surprised you are surprised. I canvassed nearly all the points (both positive and negative) made in the article in email communications with you well before publication. Did you expect me to write something different for readers? I don't do that. In fact, you were even offered a chance to comment on the shortcomings that I had identified after driving the car: you refused to do so.

Moreover, you have made one particular statement and published it in the public arena - "obstructing the driver’s vision in what can only be described as a dangerous manner".

It seems to me you are calling our car dangerous, and may I suggest you re-word your assertion immediately or we will take advice on the matter.

I have passed your email on to AutoSpeed management. I also draw your attention to the fact that we have previously used a similar expression in another new car review -

I have a 407 HDi or 407 HDi Touring as a company car - have done since late 2004. Some of the points you go on about subjectively I find hard to fathom if I approach the article from the public's point of view of expecting a reasonable review of a test car:

- A pillar - if you or the 'Peugeot driver' could not see a car then I suggest you or 'they' be more alert. The A pillar of the 407 is no different to many cars on the road

It is no different to other badly designed cars...

and I have never had a problem with it, in the almost 2 years I have been driving one. The expansive windscreen actually allows very good vision, and using one's eyes and moving one's head is a pre-requisite for driving any car I would have thought.

Yes, but we're talking the magnitude of required movement.

- Previously mentioned - the 'black box'. aside from my suggestion above, you may like to measure how far the rear vision mirror comes down the windscreen - 30cm - but that is not the point. The black box sits about 6 or 7cm to the right of the rear vision mirror, depending on it's position. Again, after spending 2 years in the car it does not bother me or anyone else in the slightest.

It bothered me - and I wrote the test - and it bothered two other drivers we had in the car. How it bothers or doesn't bother you is relevent only if you are writing an impartial media review. Are you claiming to do that?

It does not impede frontal vision at all,

Self evidently, rubbish.

and your photo is misleading as you are focusing right on it. Under normal driving conditions you dont actually focus on the black box, you focus primarily forward and when looking to your left front it certainly is not dangerous and may I point out that it meets ADR's.

- Fair comment on the polaroid sunglasses, but the way you go on about the other gauges speaks for itself. Really.

I tender a reader's letter from today:

City: Auckland

Country: New Zealand

Comments: Peugot 407 HDi Touring

I hope Peugeot don't get too miffed with you for this review. It's this kind of honest, practical review that makes Autospeed great (well, that and everything else). I had to pull out my calculator to get the oil temperature gauge increments, after figuring it wasn't 7 or 8 degree increments. Eight and 1/3 degree increments? WTB?

As for the centre console buttons, I found the Ford Mondeo's 12 or so buttons to be annoying, let alone 35. The glaringly obvious question here is why? Being different for the sake of it?(Mercedes Viano seems to have taken this route also).

When will car manufacturers learn that we want to be able to control various aspects of our driving experience in a second or less, and by feel, not by sorting through 35 buttons or a menu to turn on A/C? ABS is useless if you're too busy trying to turn on the A/C to see the 15 ton truck pulling out in front of you.

- Side window switch - again, are you serious? My 10 year old son can angle his body forward ever so slightly and reach it.

If you believe that it's appropriate for someone to have to "angle his body forward" to operate the control, fine. I wrote the test and I don't believe that such an action should be a requirement.

I dont know how far back you had the seat but if you want it that far back then dont go on about not reaching the switch.

Especially in cars with airbags, all road safety authorities recommend having the front passenger seat as far back as possible, so that's how we operate the cars in this household. The 407 is the only car I can remember where this meant passengers could not reach the electric window switch.

In the interest of fair comment I would expect all this things you write about in regard to the 407 be discussed in all your reviews. If it is not too much trouble the passenger could ask the driver to put the window down if they cant be bothered sitting up a little bit to do so. Note the design is also child friendly - in that it is not right on the armrest and cant accidentally be actioned by someone inadvertently leaning on it..that is if the driver hasn't locked the window operation which one can do.

- Julian, I have three children (aged 10, 8 and 4 when we got our first 407) and through 2 summers I can report no cut fingers, despite countless use of these blinds by the children. Why not applaud the car for having them as an integrated feature - I know our customers do - rather than focus on what must have been an unfortunate accident.

Because the cut fingers happened. I cannot think of another car I have ever driven that has injured an occupant when using an interior "feature".

- glove box - not a lot of room granted but just proves the point I am making.

What point? That the car has clearly inferior interior design aspects?

- Child seat - again, mentioning bigger and cheaper cars - not sure I understand. Your child seat positions the kid's legs right at the edge of the seat - what do you expect?

No, I think you miss the point. In the Peugeot the child is positioned so far forward they can easily kick the back of the front seat. That doesn't happen in many other cars of a similar external size to the 407. In other words, the rear seat is close to the front seat - rear room is poor.

To make a point of this simply adds to the perception that this is not a fair minded review at all.

Pardon? It is an excellent example of a real-world issue that many families would be interested in.

- Fan control - cant say I find it overly challenging, certainly wouldn't write a whole paragraph on it unless I was looking to go on with a theme.

- Comparing and criticizing the 407 in regards to the Prius? Again, I really dont understand the connection here,

I think it's pretty clear but I'll spell it out. Both cars: targeting families. Both cars: targeting economy. Both cars: similar pricing. Both cars: excellent crash testing results. Both cars: similar performance. Interior passenger space: similar (but I'd suggest the Prius is roomier).

other than you wanted an example to make the car look bad. With a combined cycle of 7.2 in a large automatic wagon, it is a very economical car.

The trade-off over the 406 is a bigger, safer and better equipped package - still with great fuel economy.

Sure it is bigger and safer, but it has FAR worse economy than the 406. That's the point that was being made, and it's not one you deny.

Julian, a member of the general public should feel let down after reading the review, as they certainly do not get receive a comprehensive overview of the car - rather your commentary narrows in on your perceived shortcomings of the car without any balance what so ever.

See the above email. It's typical of the ones we get after publishing a review of this sort. [And after this was written, some emails critical of our stance were also received - we'll publish all emails next week.]

With your penchant for using 'offending' pictures of the car perhaps you would like to publish shots of the damage you inflicted to the car, or the condition in which it was returned?

Yes, and we have an upcoming article that does just that. [See]

I am very disappointed and disheartened by your approach.

Why? It is completely consistent with what I told City Peugeot; it is completely consistent with what I told you in emails. I don't write one thing for one audience and another thing for another audience.

My only consolation is the fact you are so far away from the mainstream opinion of your colleagues, and that readers can make up their own minds as to the veracity of claims in a review such as this.

That's exactly right and it's something for which I am grateful.

Please keep I mind this is a professional review of your review, and not at all personal.

Out of interest, Mathew, what are your journalistic and engineering qualifications and experience for making this appraisal?

I look forward to your review of the 307 Touring HDi.

The 307 diesel wagon is a vastly better car than the 407, and the review reflects its far better qualities amongst its competition. Again, what I say to you (and to City Peugeot - although they didn't ask this time) is exactly what I write.

Mathew, before writing the review I spent many hours carefully considering every aspect of the test (and also the subsequent article that shows the damage caused during my testing). A test like that is not something I do flippantly and it is not something I do without realising the potential commercial impact.

I think the 407 is a heavily flawed car.

In the 8 years of AutoSpeed, our judgements (especially in the contentious tests like the STi Subaru and the Alfa 166) have been well backed by manufacturer changes in subsequent model updates, long-term resale value, etc.

I stand by every word of the test and I am proud that AutoSpeed had the guts to publish it.

The fact that clearly we will receive no more press cars from Peugeot is something I can live with: unlike most automotive journalists, I don't have an advertising department to answer to, I don't have a boss who will be angered by losing press cars from Puegeot (or Subaru or Alfa) and - for that matter - I am not even hugely disadvantaged by having no press cars whatsoever to drive.

It's amazing what removing all vested interest constraints can do in the way of enhancing unabashed and devastating candour.


Mathew McAuley

Public and Customer Relations Manager, Sime Darby Automobiles Australia Pty Ltd

Running In?

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I'd be interested to know AutoSpeed’s take on the theories of 'running in' a new car. My personal experience is that during the first 2000km or so, I take the engine to the rev limiter at least once a week (I do about 400km weekly). The theory being that I get a bit more wear in the engine and it loosens up the internals. This theory has no basis on fact but I find it works and I feel it reduces fuel consumption.

My previous new car was a Magna Sport sedan (auto) that I applied this theory to and, after 2000km, I took it to the limiter more regularly. During my weekly commute I averaged about 10.5 litres per 100km, with the trip to work being on the freeway and one-third of the trip home through some back roads.

I recently traded the sedan for a wagon version of the Sport that had about 7000km on it (also an auto). Now I rarely get below 13 litres per 100km although, admittedly, my wife now drives it and generally only on short trips. But when I drive it, I revert back to my 'running in' theory. My point being that the wagon hasn't been 'run in' using my theory and is consequently getting higher fuel consumption.

My father manages to buy a new HSV or SS of some type every year and also subscribes to this theory. He manages to get around 11 to 13 litres per 100km in city driving. He has used this theory on every car he has owned and swears it works. Obviously, all cars need to be serviced and maintained properly - not just driven into the ground - although the both of us have only ever followed the factory recommended servicing schedules.

As I said earlier, this theory has not been tested as such but just relies on experiences over a period of time. I was just wondering about whether or not anybody at AutoSpeed had similar or opposite experiences on the matter considering these times of high fuel prices?

Darren Roles

There are lots of theories on running in an engine. We’d suggest it’s simply best to do exactly as suggested by the manufacturer – nobody else knows more about running-in their engines!

Audi Speed

Excellent website! I rally an Audi quattro fitted with a RS2 engine and I am very interested in the work Julian did on his S4 (basically same engine as RS2) a few years ago. Are there any before and after test results in actual driving time when the boost control valves were fitted (ie 0-60 times, in-gear acceleration, etc)?

United Kingdom

The Audi S4 received mods to the air intake and boost pressure. See Eliminating Negative Boost - Part 5, The Audi's DIY Boost Control - Part 1 and The Audi's DIY Boost Control - Part 2. We don’t have any before and after measurements but there was a definite improvement and the real-world feel was markedly improved.

Flare Finding

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Any idea where you can obtain a 'universal wheel arch flare' as used on Brett's lovely little Corolla (Circuit Corolla)? They look like just what I'm after for my project. So far I've had no luck searching the net.

Ross Goddard

Dayton Data

Re the article about fitting the VDO Dayton The MS5000 VDO Dayton Nav System - Part 1 ... Does the author specify the cable colours for connection to the cars wiring loom, or is it possible to contact him for the info?

Colin Palmer
United Kingdom

If you ask nicely, VDO will make this info available!

Measuring AFRs

I was just wondering if you have done any reviews on wide-band O2 meters. I was looking at getting one to enable me to tune my Holden VL turbo (on petrol) and my HZ 350 Chev (on LPG) at home. I'm considering installing your Digital Fuel Adjusters on the VL, but would like to tune it myself - without expensive dyno runs! I did a search and couldn't find anything. If not, could you recommend one? Also, have you considered making a wideband O2 sensor kit? Keep up the good work!

Steven Colverd

We are yet to find an affordable and effective wide-band AFR measuring device. However, for related reading, see Real World Air/Fuel Ratio Tuning .

Crown Me

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I have been driving second-hand Toyota Crowns continuously since 1970 so I was interested in your report about the Crown you had just purchased (Driving Emotion) - how are you going with it? I am a semi-retired panel beater and I currently own three Crowns - an '81 MS112 (I'm currently driving it), an '85 MS123 that I'm putting gas on and repainting (I will keep this one and eventually sell the '81) and another '85 MS123 for a parts car. I've modified the RHR quarter panel/wheel arch to take the spare wheel so that I can fit a 68 litre ‘donut’ gas tank into the original spare-wheel well, which I have deepened to take the extra depth of the gas tank. I need a LH taillight (or lens) for the '81 MS112 and I have had difficulty getting one second-hand or aftermarket. Can you suggest a website to start looking, or some other source?

Frank Davis

Our Japanese import supercharged Crown has been sold. Can any readers help out with a source for the taillight?

Looking for an All-Rounder

Can you give me a few cars that you would recommend me viewing? I am looking at maybe a Honda Euro Luxury or Mazda 6 Luxury. Can you recommend any other cars in this class (approx outlay $45,000)? I am after an excellent all-round car for my wife and myself - age bracket 45-50. Thank you.


Other good all-rounders to check out are the Holden Vectra, Hyundai Sonata V6, Nissan Maxima, Saab 9-3, VW Passat, Volvo S40 and Subaru Liberty. The new Civic is also worth a look and, if you’re happy with something bigger, there’s a lot of value in the current range of Aussie sixes.

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