ITALIAN designed and exhibiting French flair, the Peugeot 605 turned heads with its streamlined styling and under-stated elegance. The 605 SV 3.0 is a deceptive vehicle - at a glance, it can be mistaken for the smaller 405, but sit in the driver's seat and it feels like a big car. Large expanses of glass dominate from any angle and the rear resembles Alfa Romeo's 164, which is not surprising, as both came from the drawing board of famed Italian stylist Pininfarina. conspicuously and the subtle front/rear air dams and side skirts lend an aggressive air to the overall look. Below the pleasing lines are abundant safety features. A welded subframe rigidifies the front part of the substructure and the manufacturer notes the doors have been designed to resist frontal impact without suffering deformation that would prevent them opening. Peugeot boasts some of the most advanced techniques in the industry to combat body corrosion and produce high quality painted surfaces. The zinc pre-coating, galvanisation and a seven-stage paint application process all go on behind the scenes, but what is evident is a rich, flawless surface on all body panels that suggests a high degree of attention to the procedure. The cabin of the Peugeot 605 is where it scores highly as an executive sedan, surrounding its occupants with impressive comfort and luxury. The test car featured optional leather seats, which are available in either light tan or black. All four are plush, yet supportive and in the front are adjusted at the touch of an electric switch. A comfortable, full-size leather armrest folds down in both front and rear. Wooden inlays on the glove-box, centre console and door panels, a four-spoke leather sports steering wheel, optional electric sunroof and illuminated vanity mirrors all conspire to give the interior a distinctly ''upwardly mobile'' look to suit the executive role. The electronic air-conditioning, available as an option, is fully automatic and the digital controls make it user-friendly, with adjustments to temperature immediately felt in front and rear. The standard multiple-speaker stereo cassette system is thoughtfully concealed behind a touch-open door which not only tidies up the dash, but keeps it from the eyes of the snatch-and-run crowd as well. Sitting transversally in close quarters under the bonnet of the 605 SV 3.0 is the 2,975cc V6 powerplant which transfers 170 brake horsepower to the front wheels through a four-speed automatic transmission. Built of lightweight alloy, the engine is fittedwith an engine-management computer and a diagnostic system, which Peugeot says accords easier maintenance. One interesting feature of the 605 is the use of electronically controlled shock absorbers on its four-wheel independent system. In theory, this allows the damping system to pass, in a split second, from the flexibility of a large saloon to the solidity of a sports sedan. Underway, the 605 gives the secure feel of a big car. Forward visibility is good over the short, sloping bonnet, however, and this inspires confidence when manoeuvring in and out of traffic, and in crowded parking garages. Little noise makes its way into the cabin and the engine is smooth in its delivery of power which, if not spectacular, is adequate to move the big sedan briskly in and out of traffic and propel it effortlessly down the freeway. Around city streets, more responsive performance can be had by manually shifting the gearbox. Hard cornering is perhaps not the 605's specialty, where its bulk makes itself known, but there is surprisingly little body lean and the steering remains precise through various stages of minor understeer. There is a sports setting for the damping systemalthough the difference cannot be sensed in any meaningful way. Ambling along at a more casual ''sight-seeing'' pace, the drivetrain on the test car exhibited some annoying backlash when alternately easing up and re-applying throttle. At odds with all other aspects of the car, the transition was not particularly smooth. The tendency disappeared at higher speeds. Peugeot offers ABS braking on the 605, and after several panic stop simulations at various speeds, it was evident it works very well. The releasing and applying of the brakes in response to the sensing units could be felt, but each time the car was drawnsmartly to a straight-line stop. Featuring stylishly good looks and a luxurious interior, the Peugeot 605 SV 3.0, available at Hongkong's Lion Motors for a base price of $372,000, is worthy French fare on the executive car menu.