THE PEUGEOT 505 Turbo inspires a kind of giddiness that borders on the illegal. It moves so smoothly, accelerates so well, that it seduces you into speed.
It is a road car -- with rear-wheel drive and a 2.2-liter, 4-cylinder engine that its maker bills as "the most powerful Peugeot engine offered in America." A soupy superlative, perhaps, but the car is fast, and very stable on turns.
Its five-speed manual transmission rewards attentive drivers with trouble-free movement from gear to gear. I tend to overclutch, to stay on the clutch too long, in first. This car repeatedly forgave that incompetence.
Outstanding complaint(s): The paint. The Peugeot people have some catching up to do.
Japanese and American automakers have perfected a base-coat-clear- coat technique that gives their paint jobs a de luster. The paint on this car was wanting, both in luster and thoroughness. Some hidden areas, such as the underside of the hood, were thinly sprayed. The paint texture there was bubbly.
Also, the underside of the hood had no heat shield. The hood covers a turbo-charged engine. Turbos get very hot; and heat has a way of doing things to paint.
One more thing: That cheap vinyl ceiling cover has to go, Peugeot. It doesn't match the supple leather seats and deep pile carpeting inside the car. 'Twas like finding polyester sheets in an otherwise elegantly appointed boudoir.
Outstanding praise: The main instrument cluster and ancillary center-console controls. All things just where you want them to be. Lighted push-buttons with "international symbols" to indicate functions. Auto buffs sneer at this stuff. But we who often jump into a new car without reading the owner's manual like the idea of dealing with the obvious. Thanks, Peugeot.
Head-turning-quotient: This model has the so-called "European look" down pat -- a straight, highbrow, we're-upper-income exterior. But the wide-eyed front end and the nutty little rear-deck spoiler drew observer reactions ranging from unprintable derision to nonstop praise.
Sound system: The test model was equipped with an AM/FM stereo cassette player by A.R.A. Manufacturing Co. of Grand Prairie, Tex. The A.R.A. is a fine piece of work. The sound is full and distinct even with windows down and power sunroof back.
Good find: Automakers have been trying to build cars that ride like luxury sedans and still handle -- respond to driver actions -- like precision racers. Most have come up with "neither-nors." But the 505 Turbo comes very close to meeting the sports luxury ideal.
Mileage: This model comes with an 18-gallon tank that was nearly empty after 320 miles of lightly loaded (car with driver only) travel on Arlington and District of Columbia streets and on I-66. Speed averaged 35 mph in town, 60 on I-66. The air conditioner was in use most of the time. Unleaded premium or regular only.
Turbo note: Turbochargers operate off exhaust system gases that turn a turbine. The turbine drives a compressor, which pumps clean air into engine cylinders at high pressure -- often five to 10 times higher than pressure in non-turbo engines. The aim is to get big power from small engines by mixing more fuel and air, which allows the fuel to burn more completely. The better the burn, the bigger the boost.
All of this creates lots of heat and engine wear. You who buy turbos should give in and read the owner's manual. It could save you some headaches.
505 Turbo price as tested: $18,150 -- includes power-assisted four-wheel disc brakes; cruise control; full complement of analog gauges; power-assisted rack-and- pinion steering; four-wheel-independent suspension; centrally controlled power door locks and power windows.