Peugeot invented the emotional support bubble 20 years ago | Top Gear
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BBC TopGear

Peugeot invented the emotional support bubble 20 years ago

You could get through anything with a crazy roadster like the 607 Feline concept

  • What is this?

    This is the Peugeot 607 Feline concept, a delightful surprise waiting for attendees at the Geneva motor show in 2000.

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  • Why is it grinning at me?

    Maybe it’s just pleased to see you. Actually, this is what Peugeots all looked like 20 years ago, the mindless gurning grilles that paved the way for the likes of BMW to turn up to 11, framed by ginormo headlights that looked like they should have been able to challenge the sun for sheer lumens. 

  • What was the point of the 607 Feline concept?

    A very good question. Unlike most concepts, which are revealed before a car is actually launched in order to tantalise you with an exotic attractive car that never turns out to be as stylish in production practice, the 607 Feline concept was launched after the 607 went on sale. Maybe the designers were running late because of the millennium bug or something and they decided to show the car off anyway. 

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  • What was under the bonnet?

    The 607 Feline concept got the French firm’s ES engine, a 2,946cc V6 petrol originally co-developed with Renault that got a makeover from Porsche in 2000 to boost it to 204bhp. Fancy. In this installation it was mounted longitudinally behind the five-speed manual gearbox in order to get the extreme wheel-at-each-corner look that gives the car its impressively sporty stance. Maybe it even looks a little… cat-like. Actually, no it doesn’t. 

  • What was it like inside?

    The interior of the 607 Feline concept was remorselessly red, festooned with leather, yet enticingly minimalist by today’s standards. It didn’t even need a huge screen to do away with the widgets and knobs. The frameless windscreen would have been an engineering nightmare on a production car, but must have made for a delightful panoramic view from the driver’s seat. 

  • But wait, how were you supposed to get in?

    The 607 Feline concept didn’t have any traditional doors – a delight for engineers who would cheerfully do without such frivolities in order to maximise chassis stiffness. That does of course pose an issue with the whole ‘getting in and out’ thing, a problem solved by the bodywork disappearing along the sides of the cabin, the windscreen moving 50cm forward over the bonnet and the rear window moving 12.5cm backwards over the rear deck, making the cabin look straight out of the 1960s Batman series. 

  • Any other exciting details?

    Buckle up, fact fans. The coolest thing about the 607 Feline concept was that the body structure was made from a single piece of carbon fibre. Double A-strut suspension up front and a flexible cross-member at the rear were meant to underline the car’s driving credentials – the engine and rear axle were bolted directly to the tub, too. Bodywork and brakes were also made of carbon, making it fairly likely that the 607 Feline concept was the result of a strange bet to see how many different types of carbon fibre you could fit on a single car. Those gigantic headlights were directional, with fibre optic cables lighting up movable prisms as the driver turned the wheel. The pedals and steering wheel were adjustable for the driver, and there were even compartments to put your shoes in underneath the seat cushions if you wanted to keep the upholstery clean.

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  • Why didn’t the 607 Feline go into production?

    French carmakers have long persisted with their expensive giant limos and weird sportscars, but no one ever seems to buy them. The closest you could get to the two-seat 607 concept was the RCZ, a smaller, less ambitious but actually quite fun roadster that was on sale from 2009 to 2015 (and Top Gear’s Coupe of the Year in 2010, no less). A larger, sportier Peugeot? It seems like it was a big fat non merci. A shame – the company’s concepts have promised fun near-supercars for nearly 50 years without ever delivering. The 607 Feline concept done properly would have been a support bubble we could all have depended on in these troublesome times.

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