The long-awaited re­turn of the el­e­gant French sedan

Wheels (Australia) - - Contents - ANDY EN­RIGHT

Ye olde French val­ues out to take on the New World

IT’S ODD to think of a new car launch as the end of some­thing, but this feels just that. In its lat­est 508, Peu­geot has de­liv­ered – in con­cept at least – a broadly con­ven­tional petrol-pow­ered sedan and es­tate with no elec­tric tech, no high-rid­ing all-wheeldrive ver­sion and no vogu­ish ‘life­style’ frip­pery. Shorn of pre­tence, the 508 stands or falls on its sub­stance, which is just as well, be­cause be­neath the slinky styling is a ve­hi­cle that’s re­fresh­ingly long on good old-fash­ioned tal­ent.

The sedan ver­sion we tested is both lower and longer than its bloated pre­de­ces­sor and its light too, the EMP2 chas­sis help­ing shave 70kg model-for-model off the kerb weight, the sedans weigh­ing in at 1420kg. That’s less than a Ford Fo­cus 1.5-litre hatch, so it’s no great sur­prise that the Pug feels perky and ag­ile. Power comes cour­tesy of a 1.6-litre turbo four, driv­ing the front wheels through an eight-speed Aisin au­to­matic trans­mis­sion. This petrol pow­er­plant is of­fered in two dis­crete out­puts, 133kw/250nm for the en­try-level ver­sions and 169kw/300nm for the range­top­ping GT ver­sion, which also scores adap­tive dampers.

The GT also gets big­ger brakes be­hind its 19-inch al­loys, leather and Al­can­tara in­te­rior trim, wood fas­cia fil­lets, adap­tive cruise, and an elec­tric tail­gate. Switch on the cruise and lane keep as­sist, crank up the cat’s paw mas­sage seats, set the 515-watt stereo to your favourite playlist via smart­phone mir­ror­ing and wire­less charg­ing and you have a car that de­mol­ishes long-dis­tance high­way trips, a qual­ity that cer­tainly won’t be lost in trans­la­tion when the car ar­rives on these shores in the sec­ond half of 2019. Re­fine­ment is good with some muted bumpthump from the sus­pen­sion and mi­nor wind rus­tle around the door mir­rors.

Switch the drive mode se­lec­tor into Sport and the 508 does a pass­able im­pres­sion of a 308 GTI, this map sharp­en­ing the throt­tle, steer­ing, gear­box and adap­tive damp­ing. On test­ing alpine roads, the 508 dis­played de­cent damp­ing even in Sport, with a mighty front end that locks onto a line and doesn’t want to let go, the front 235/40ZR19 Pi­lot Sports key­ing doggedly into the tar­mac, aided by a well-cal­i­brated trac­tion con­trol tune. Body con­trol is best in class, and the steer­ing is al­most Fer­rar­i­alert de­spite the tiny wheel tak­ing three turns lock to lock.

It’s not all good news though. The res­o­lu­tion for the sur­round view cam­eras is poor, the man­ual mode for the trans­mis­sion is now buried in an on-screen menu rather than atop the gear se­lec­tor and the adap­tive cruise func­tions lo­cated be­hind the steer­ing wheel re­quire Braille to op­er­ate. Ac­com­mo­da­tion is ac­cept­able

for such a sleek-look­ing car. The frame­less doors have freed up 6cm of ad­di­tional glasshouse, al­low­ing the de­sign­ers to create a high-waisted coupe-like pro­file. Head­room is a lit­tle com­pro­mised in the rear, but there’s no short­age of legroom from the 2793mm wheel­base. The boot‘s a de­cent size too, with 487 litres and fold­flat rear seats open­ing up 1537 litres when dropped.

The suc­cess of the 508 here de­pends al­most en­tirely upon pric­ing. Pitch­ing the tal­ented 508 within a cooee of the en­try-level ver­sions of the BMW 3 Se­ries, the Audi A4 and the Mercedes C-class will do it lit­tle favour, de­spite it be­ing an ob­jec­tively bet­ter car than any of these base­ment-spec slug­gards. Hang­ing your hat on ob­jec­tiv­ity seems al­most as quaint a con­cept as sell­ing sedans and wag­ons in a mar­ket that’s turned its back on them. The ef­fer­ves­cent and wholly charm­ing 508 more than de­serves a fair go.

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