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Classic Test Drive: 1991 Peugeot 505 Turbo SW8 Estate

Redusernab July 27, 2012 Featured, Used Car Reviews 20 Comments

[Jay Ramey is the owner of . Previously, we’ve featured his coverage of the 2012 Citroen Rendezvous, and the 2012 German Car Day at the Lars Museum. Now he’s back with a used-car-review of the 1991 Peugeot 505 Turbo SW8 Estate. Enjoy! — ]

A few months back I had some light yard work to do that clearly required the use of a pickup truck. But since that was too obvious and because one of my friends operates a Peugeot rental business, I opted for something a little more interesting and was able to secure the use of a 1991 Peugeot 505 Turbo SW8 wagon for the day. This wagon has 216K miles on it, and spent half of its life on the mean streets of NYC before settling in New England, arguably a Peugeot 505 wagon’s natural habitat.

The example seen here is the US-only SW8 trim level, which, as some of you probably know, stood for Station Wagon, with the number 8 denoting the passenger capacity rather than the number of cylinders. (I dare one of you, by the way). Made between 1979 and 1992, the Peugeot 505 was a tremendously popular car, with production taking place in nine countries. The North American market 505s all came from France’s Sochaux plant, and were encumbered with the usual DOT modifications which were not especially becoming.

The 505 wagons were a somewhat popular alternative to the foreign and domestic station wagons available at the time, at least regionally, and in SW8 trim they offered tremendous cargo capacity. The 505′s main foreign competitors in North America were arguably the Volvo 740 and 940 estates, the Mercedes-Benz W124 estate, and to a lesser extent the BMW E34 estate. In the early 1990s the 505s retailed for around $16K, which is not a lot of money for a turbo station wagon, even in 1990s money.

Even though this is a 21 year old daily driver, I was immediately impressed with how solid the car felt. The automatic transmission shifted very smoothly, and the brakes felt sharp and confident. The steering was precise, with the body exhibiting minimal roll. The interior was miraculously free of rattles, with only major potholes causing a few creaks from the dash. Not bad for a 21 year old station wagon. Power in this Turbo version came from a 2155cc turbocharged 4-cylinder good for around 160bhp, with a surprisingly quick 0-60 time of around 8 seconds. North America was the only region where the wagons were offered in turbo form, and sadly the V6 never made it into any version of the 505 wagon in any market.

These cars love highway cruising, and with the turbo engine it’s not too long before I-can’t-believe-I’m-going-this-fast numbers appear on the speedo. The 505 feels very well composed at highway speeds, which is something I’ve encountered only among German cars of the period. It’s also surprisingly quick on its feet, despite requiring quite a few turns of the steering. Road and wind noise is moderate by modern standards, but much quieter than many of its contemporaries. I’ve driven a slew of Volvo wagons of the same vintage but half the mileage at highway speeds, and could barely hear my own thoughts over the vibrations, creaks, and road noise. By comparison the Volvos were ponderous, nose-heavy, and the suspensions felt crashy. The interiors of the Volvos were substantial, but this came at the cost of any semblance of handling. By comparison, the cabin in the 505 is wide and comfortable, though it could use tilt and telescoping steering as well as a center console armrest.

The SW8 version, of course, features 3rd row seating, which tends to cramp versatility a bit when it comes to hauling large items. However, other versions of the 505 wagon without the 3rd row seating have 79.1 cubic feet of cargo room with the back seats folded down, which is 13 cubic feet more than a 2001 Cherokee with the seats folded down, and can carry just over 1,300 pounds. Maintenance for the 505 is clearly an issue now, which is why only a few dozen of these are still around for each state in which Peugeots were sold (California being the notable exception). Connecticut had a total of 10 Peugeot dealers, very few of which will touch the cars now. The 505s didn’t quite have the survival rate of Volvos, but then again, they didn’t sell in comparable numbers in the US to begin with.

As the 505 aged, sales for Peugeot in the states continued to decline, and with no large sedan and wagon combo to replace the 505 range Peugeot eventually called it quits in the summer of 1991, with a couple hundred holdovers sold as 1992 models in the fall of 1991. The Peugeot 405 could not sustain enough sales to warrant staying in the market, and the absence of other models (most importantly the 205) ensured that it was game over for the last French manufacturer in the states

The owner of this 505 had the opportunity to test drive a Peugeot 406 sedan (THAT’S right!) in 1996, when Peugeot brought a few of them to the US for former dealerships to test the waters, and he came away unimpressed. I doubt the 405 and 406 estates could have picked up the sales slack after the departure of the 505, as SUVs and AWD wagons began to dominate the market in the 1990s. The automotive market in the US had fundamentally shifted between the time that the 505 arrived and the time it left, leaving large RWD wagons behind..

(And yes, I was kidding about the Peugeot rental business, several people already reached out about that).

  • Xedicon

    I can see it now… Ditch the roof rack, clean up the sheet metal (remove plastic crap), lower a bit, rims, and a "boring" LS swap (I know but it's cheap!) with a manual and some sweet twin pipes out the back, mmm!

    • Stu_Rock

      Not going to happen without serious fab work. The LS will destroy the U-joint inside the torque tube on the first launch. They could barely hold up to the turbo 2.2, and it's my guess that's why the PRV V6 was never used in the wagon.

      • Xedicon

        I just want to dream!!! Nah nah nah nah nah I can't hear you!!!

        I know you're right though, still it would be neat. 🙂

        • Stu_Rock

          Interestingly, the sedans don't have a U-joint, so they're supposedly more rugged. Instead of the wagon's live axle, they have a trailing-arm independent rear with a chassis-mounted differential.

  • Stu_Rock

    Great feature–I love these cars (as many of you know). Here's my sedan:
    ; width="500" height="375" alt="505_sticker">

    Since the Turbo SW8 was not sold in France, there were actually a handful of Peugeot wagon enthusiasts there who reimported them back.

    • POLAЯ

      A co-worker of mine rocked one of those years ago. She was a fantastic little runabout


    <img src=";

    AMC Eagle that fucker out!

    • Stu_Rock

      A Dangel!
      <img src="; width=360>
      <img src="; width="360/">
      <img src="; width="480/">

      • POLAЯ

        Ooooh, that makes my Dangeler tickle.

      • FuzzyPlushroom

        I like the angle of that Dangel.

  • This is Post of the Week. Thanks Jay!

    • Jay

      Thanks Jim, glad you liked it. There's even more French awesomeness coming soon.

  • MrHowser

    I would patronize a Peugeot rental service.

  • 505 Coupe and Cabriolet:

    • Jay

      By the way, what museum is that, do you know? I've seen those photos before, and as neat as those two examples look, I don't think there would have been a huge market for either – the 505 was strictly a working car in most parts of the world, our side of the pond included.

      A guy know sold his 505 a couple years back cause he was tired of having to search for parts for weeks on end, replaced it with a Citroen CX as a car for yardwork etc (yes, you've read that correctly). Funny thing is, the 505 lasted on craigslist for literally hours before it was sold, with the buyer immediately driving it to the Port of NJ and putting it on a cargo ship bound for Africa, as they're used as taxicabs there.

      • I think they're at the Musee Peugeot in Sochaux.

        Jay, would you please email me at milhousevanh at geemail? Thanks.

  • My LeMons team has grown to love Pujo! our 1988 505 Turbo S. It's a sturdy car with incredible manners. I continue to be amazed that it has survived 4 LeMons races, and is ready for more.

    <img src="; width="600">
    Photo Credit: Murilee "The Saucy Minx" Martin

    Edit: Image fail!

  • m4ff3w

    <img src=";
    I want a 505 turbo

  • Vavon

    Peugeot 505s were always great to race… As the Americans learned us!!!
    [ 2TQpgdgPTog ]

  • Mark Andruchiw

    Good Day Bret Podson On your 505 Lemons Race Car . Where do you race in, what race grouping does the 505 fit under Lemons,Nasa,Scca,what type of Race Prep Mods / engine upgrades that you have done? Do you run 15 in or the 390mm rims and what tires? The resaon I ask I have 5 505 's turbo's and I would like to convet 1 to a club racer . If you can give me some info/ or picture's it would be very much appretioned. Thank's alot Mark Andruchiw