508 vs S60 vs STINGER

IF SEDANS ARE A DY­ING BREED, NO-ONE TOLD THIS TRIO OF HOPE­FULS. HERE WE PITCH THE RE­BORN PEU­GEOT 508 GT AGAINST THE NEW VOLVO S60 T5 AND FINE KIA STINGER GT-LINE

Wheels (Australia) - - CONTENTS - WORDS BY­RON MATHIOUDAK­IS PHO­TOS NATHAN JA­COBS

Peu­geot’s pretty lift­back gets pitched in with some heavy hit­ters

If noth­ing else, the mod­ern mid-sized sedan mar­ket is no longer mun­dane

EVO­LU­TION, bi­ol­o­gist Charles Dar­win first pro­posed, is key to sur­vival. Either adapt to change, or die.

With hatches, SUVs and, lately, dual-cabs squeez­ing medium and larger sedans in­ex­tri­ca­bly to­wards obliv­ion, cre­at­ing yet an­other Camry clone no­body wants no longer cuts it.

Peu­geot fi­nally gets it with the lat­est 508 – a front-drive mid-sizer so ut­terly dif­fer­ent from its dowdy, un­der­per­form­ing pre­de­ces­sor that surely a new name is de­served. Shorter by

42mm, 53mm lower and lighter than the 2011 orig­i­nal no­body re­mem­bers, it breaks con­ven­tion with a far sleeker sil­hou­ette, frame­less doors, a tail­gate and a fiercely bold in­te­rior. A switch to the com­pany’s light­weight tech-heavy EMP2 plat­form en­hances the makeover’s cred.

In­evitably there is a price to pay for such progress. From $53,990 be­fore on-road costs, the 508 GT Fast­back rises some $10K over the Volk­swa­gen Pas­sat 132TSI Com­fort­line that the old bus bum­bled behind, but is also a sim­i­lar amount un­der the pop­u­lar Mercedes C200, plac­ing it in a sort of ‘pre­mi­ume­con­omy’ no-man’s land. Is Peu­geot de­luded, or is it an Audi A5 Sport­back from Sochaux?

We’ll see, but in the mean­time, the French fast­back is chock­full of fea­tures, with few op­tions, to help over­come sticker shock, in­clud­ing stop/go adap­tive cruise, auto park­ing, adap­tive dampers, Nappa leather, mas­sag­ing electric front seats with heat­ing, and a ges­ture-ac­ti­vated tail­gate. Strangely, though, no rear cross-traf­fic alert. And the en­gine’s a down­sized 165kW 1.6-litre turbo.

Brand spank­ing, too, is the Volvo S60, now in its third generation and also gun­ning to re­verse a long-term sales de­cline. For decades, from the Ama­zon and 240 to the 850 and S70 that came be­fore, the so-called Swedish Holden was all about the sedan, so it’s no sur­prise that the now Amer­i­can-made (and fo­cused) se­ries is stick­ing with con­ven­tion. This time around, it echoes the styling of the larger S90 (al­beit with a kinked hip to keep things in­ter­est­ing), and adopts enough up­scale XC60 tech (sharing the scal­able SPA un­der­pin­nings in­clud­ing its Haldex­sup­plied all-wheel-drive sys­tem) to give the for­mal four-door some pre­mium cache. Ours is the en­try T5 AWD Mo­men­tum, start­ing from a keen $54,990; an Audi A4 qu­at­tro equiv­a­lent is north of $70K. And while this S60 misses most of the 508 GT’s afore­men­tioned kit, there’s AWD, Volvo’s lead­ing safety en­gi­neer­ing ethos, a 400cc-larger en­gine and a posh badge. We’re not talk­ing mere trin­kets here.

Based on the Gen­e­sis-range plat­form and shared with the mar­que’s new G70 (Hyundai’s BMW 3 Se­ries chaser), the like­able Kia Stinger, too, sports a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four. A coura­geous state­ment for an econ­omy-car brand, the Stinger evolves the Amer­i­can rear-drive sedan tem­plate that formed the back­bone of our now-de­ceased car-man­u­fac­tur­ing in­dus­try, and so is the clos­est thing we have to a Holden VF Com­modore suc­ces­sor. Com­plete with the choice of six-cylin­der power. Why more Aussies haven’t em­braced this lauded low-slung lift­back is a mys­tery.

Ex­cept we’ve cho­sen the GT-Line from $56,290 with its 182kW turbo 2.0L rather than the ham­mer­ing 272kW 3.3-litre twin-turbo V6, though there are cheaper ‘S’ ver­sions of both (in $47K 200S and $50K 330S flavours). How­ever, they lose the GT-Line’s vented/ heated front seats, toasty steer­ing wheel, head-up dis­play and stan­dard sun­roof, as well as the 508-match­ing adap­tive dampers, blindspot de­tec­tion (BSD), front sen­sors, 360-de­gree cam­era, auto high beams, front bending LEDs, driver’s mem­ory seat func­tion, high-end au­dio, smart­phone charg­ing and more, mak­ing the jump to GT-Line worth­while. BSD ex­cepted, al­most all of these items cost ex­tra in the en­try-level S60.

A trio of four-pot tur­bos, then, but with their eight-speed torque­con­verter au­tos dif­fer­ing on which wheels to drive. If noth­ing else, the mod­ern mid-sized sedan mar­ket is no longer mun­dane.

Ob­vi­ously, the Peu­geot has its work cut out, with just 1598cc.

Its BMW co-de­vel­oped Prince en­gine just doesn’t have the cu­bic inches so feted by Aussies. How­ever, what it lacks in size is made

up for in smarts, since at 1430kg the 508 weighs hun­dreds of ki­los less than the Stinger at 1731kg and the S60 at 1802kg, an ad­van­tage it ably ex­ploits.

Ea­ger off the mark with the least amount of lag, and punchy through the gears thanks to a tight set of ra­tios from the Toy­ota­sup­plied auto ’box, the sweet-spin­ning 1.6T feels – and sounds – up to the task of tak­ing on the 2.0Ts, gain­ing speed rapidly and re­act­ing to throt­tle in­puts with in­stant, siz­zling con­vic­tion. We even eclipsed Peu­geot man­u­fac­turer PSA’s 0-100km/h claim by 0.4sec, the GT’s 7.7sec re­flect­ing the car’s mus­cu­lar flex­i­bil­ity. And while a sec­ond shy of the soar­ing S60, in the cru­cial 80-120km/h the 508 was just 0.2sec off and pulled ahead of the Kia. Only ap­proach­ing 140km/h does the Pug’s lim­ited ca­pac­ity show, the French sedan fall­ing behind both ri­vals by some mar­gin. Oth­er­wise, the lively 508 siz­zles and sprints with sur­pris­ing vigour, yet is also com­mend­ably muted and re­fined as re­quired. Go France!

The 300kg-plus porkier Stinger demands a de­ter­mined pedal prod to hus­tle – and finds no as­sis­tance from the auto’s lack­lus­tre tune. It’s also com­par­a­tively vo­cal in Sport, due to a fake ex­haust res­o­nance dron­ing away. How­ever, once the tacho rises past 3000rpm, the 2.0T re­ally hits its stride, re­act­ing to the right foot with­out de­lay. Of its five driv­ing modes – snoozy Eco, lan­guid Com­fort, driver-adap­tive Smart, owner-con­fig­urable Cus­tom and ‘Okay, I’m on!’ Sport – only the lat­ter is up for a fang. Re­mem­ber, though, that the twin-turbo V6 for for­ays into the 5.0sec sphere is but a tick-box away.

If the 508 is brisk and the Kia cruisy quick, then the S60’s per­for­mance is hun­gri­est across the spec­trum, its tur­bine-like power de­liv­ery reel­ing in the scenery with ef­fort­less ease, even from low revs. Not the most melodic of en­gines, the T5 nev­er­the­less offers im­me­di­ate, im­pres­sive re­sponses, com­ing across down­right ra­pa­cious in Dynamic mode, no doubt aided by the ea­ger and slick auto gear­box. Quite an achieve­ment given the Volvo’s nearly 400kg weight dis­ad­van­tage over the Peu­geot.

Ours was sad­dled with the fewest kilo­me­tres of the three cars on test, so fell short of Volvo’s 6.4sec claim to 100km/h by 0.3sec, but a few more clicks should fix that, mean­ing the fig­ures should match the stir­ring seat-of-the-pants feel that’s pal­pa­bly ev­i­dent the mo­ment you set off in the Gothen­burg hot rod.

Though all three de­liver a broadly sim­i­lar per­for­mance ex­pe­ri­ence, the Peu­geot’s ef­fi­ciency is rev­e­la­tory, re­turn­ing eas­ily the low­est fuel con­sump­tion. A nod to the 508’s su­per­model diet: achiev­ing an 8.9L/100km average against the S60’s 10.1L and the GT’s 10.7L while be­ing thrashed is quite the ac­com­plish­ment.

Here’s an­other. Keen driv­ers will also likely revel in the Pug’s nim­ble dy­nam­ics, with those EMP2 un­der­pin­nings and the newly fea­tured adap­tive dampers en­abling the 508 to bring a wider band­width of ca­pa­bil­ity to ex­plore and en­joy.

Let’s start in Sport mode. Sharp, fluid and full of feel, the steer­ing pro­vides the type of fast, flow­ing han­dling that you can re­ally con­nect with on a favourite rib­bon of road, backed up by a neu­tral cor­ner­ing at­ti­tude dis­play­ing min­i­mal un­der­steer. No doubt qual­ity Miche­lin Pi­lot rub­ber helps with grip and con­trol here. A real livewire, then, the GT offers a pain­less step­ping stone from hot hatch to fam­ily hack should life dic­tate.

Con­versely, while a level of firm­ness re­mains in ev­ery­day Nor­mal mode, Com­fort in­tro­duces a level of plush­ness clas­sic French car own­ers would ap­pre­ci­ate – as well as as­so­ci­ated body­roll through tighter turns. Great for iso­lat­ing your­self from the rough and tum­ble of de­cay­ing ur­ban roads. That’s the rich ta­pes­try of choice the 508 offers; hav­ing your cake and eat­ing it too. Ger­many, take note.

Af­ter the Peu­geot, the Volvo feels markedly de­tached. The steer­ing is light and easy, with­out both­er­ing to in­volve the driver with in­for­ma­tion over­load, while the han­dling re­mains ac­cu­rate and as­sured in most sce­nar­ios, turn­ing in smoothly if a lit­tle wide

Above left: Stinger’s rear seat ac­com­mo­dates three adults more in the­ory than real­ity

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