The long-awaited return of the elegant French sedan
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.