Hot Peugeot road and race cars for the EV age
Peugeot enters a new decade with a clean-slate performance-car plan. EV hot hatches, punchy hybrids and that Le Mans hypercar – it’s all happening.
Electrification will unlock the firepower for the next generation of Peugeot hot hatches, performance cars and even hypercars, vows brand chief Jean-Philippe Imparato. This bold statement of intent will become reality in 2020, with the roll-out of electrified Peugeot Sport road cars and intense development of the company’s Le Mans endurance-racing hypercar.
It’s not long before Christmas, and Peugeot’s expressive leader is detailing his world view to CAR at a Provence hotel. The big question: is electrification the sole route to performance Peugeots in future?
‘There is absolutely no alternative. Absolutely not,’ fires back the 53-year-old executive vice-president. ‘If you chose any other alternative, my friend, you are making a trade-off between pollution and profit, between health and being compliant.
‘Are you ready to explain to the world: “I have a car that is producing 300g/km of CO2 because I have two guys willing to pay [for] that at £300,000, and I will allow them to do that by throwing to the market two or three or 10 more EVs in order to finance their right to pollute?” I’m not sure you will be successful.
‘But at the same time you can have fun…’
Flagship 508, the first electrified performance Peugeot
Peugeot’s first electrified performance model will be an overhauled 508, previewed as the Peugeot Sport Engineered concept at 2019’s Geneva motor show. Think of it as a new take on second-tier performance saloons such as the Audi S4 and Mercedes-AMG C43.
Engineers from Peugeot’s racing division modified the chassis with bigger brakes and a lower and stiffer suspension, and fitted a new drag-reducing bodykit in the model line’s distinctive grey and ‘Kryptonite’ green colour scheme.
This hot 508 concept runs a 200hp version of the 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine, working in tandem with an electric motor to turn the front wheels. The rear axle is also ⊲
electrified, giving all-wheel-drive capability – and Peugeot Sport engineers the chance to tune torque delivery for a reardrive bias. Imparato confirms the production car will have 355bhp but – crucially – CO2 emissions below 50g/km, due to its ability to run on electric power alone.
And this is the crux of why future hot Peugeots must use electrification to boost performance: the company, like all car makers operating in Europe, must ensure the average emissions of all the cars it sells from 2020 don’t exceed 95g/km. A hard task for the likes of BMW’s M Division or AMG, with some of their cars emitting around 220g/km of CO2.
‘Everybody is fighting to understand how they will compensate their big thermic cars with the big litres, how they reconcile their sporty line because they cannot afford that [level of CO2],’ muses Imparato. ‘I have absolutely no risk not to be compliant on day one. If you’re not compliant day one, you are in big sh*t.’
Indeed – the EU’s fines are outlandishly huge. If Peugeot missed its target by just 1g/km, for example, it would face a fine in excess of €85 million. And that’s why volume car makers must embrace electrification in multiple ways, engineering pure EVs with zero emissions and hybridising performance cars to lower their fleet’s CO2 average.
What next from Peugeot Sport?
It’s not BMW M, Audi Sport or Volkswagen R that’s the first brand to lay out a unified, electrified vision across road and track, it’s Peugeot.
Imparato leans forward to reveal what’s on his smartphone – an artist’s impression of the Peugeot hypercar due to compete at Le Mans 2022, which appears part-LMP1 racer, part Batmobile. He continues flicking through what looks to be an internal presentation for Peugeot Sport’s plans; the 3008, 208 and the aforementioned
508 all present, their hot versions either confirmed or with seemingly-logical business cases.
GTI may be dormant, but Imparato is determined enthusiasts can still have exciting, performance Peugeots, with a twist. Peugeot is already offering the Hybrid4 drivetrain in the 3008, detuned to 297bhp, but it will inevitably be extended to the go-faster, 355bhp version, offering a more ecological alternative to the high-performance, solely-combustion-engined crossovers from the VW Group, the Cupra Ateca and VW T-Roc R.
Any successor to the 208 GTI will be a very different beast however. ‘If I offer a B-segment performance car it will be full EV, that’s obvious,’ says Imparato.
The electric 208 is already the punchiest and fastest model in the line-up, but its 8.1sec sprint to 62mph lags the benchmark Ford Fiesta ST’s by 1.6sec. Peugeot Sport will be walking a tightrope to boost performance without compromising range, and upsizing the 50kWh battery pack will have significant cost, weight and potentially packaging implications.
One thing’s for sure, Peugeot will be retiring its GTI badge for these performance models. ‘GTI is nonsense for me!’ insists the brand’s boss. ‘There is one way to say it simply: 208 Peugeot Sport. 308 Peugeot Sport. 508 Peugeot Sport. Something like that.’ By the time you read this, the board should have taken the naming decision.
Also resolved is whether a Sport version of the next 308 hatchback, arriving in 2021, will be hybrid or pure EV. But Imparato won’t be drawn. The last 308 used Peugeot’s EMP platform, which is conceived for hybrid drivetrains; the smaller CMP platform offers pure electric solutions. Whether the latest
‘GTI is nonsense for me! There is one way to say it simply: Peugeot Sport’ JEAN PHILIPPE IMPARATO
EMP2 platform becomes pure electric in due course remains to be seen, but Imparato hints that C-segment drivers’ higher mileages may swing the balance towards hybrid.
New dawn, new motorsport plans
The Peugeot Sport racing division will be tasked with engineering the performance models. This team is also working on Peugeot’s return to some form of motorsport; its World Endurance Championship re-entry will offset the brand pulling out of Dakar and World Rallycross. Those decisions were taken in 2018, as an instant response to the EU imposing dramatically tighter new-car emissions limits from 2030.
‘How can we explain we are putting money in only-thermic motorsport, that’s completely inconsistent with how the business will have to change in the coming months?’ asks Imparato. ‘So I said we will not invest any more in motorsport until the budget is reasonable: €200m, with 400 guys working on the engine, are we mad?’
That was the cost of LMP1 prototype racing, but the new Hypercar class – where homologated road cars such as Aston’s Valkyrie will compete with a Toyota prototype racer and now Peugeot – should cost a quarter of that. ‘I will not tell you the level, but it becomes completely human,’ ventures Imparato.
‘[WEC can be] electrified based on plug-in hybrid, thermic petrol and KERS. So it becomes consistent with my neo-performance line. We will show that there is a common cross-message and it gives us a possibility to work on the reliability of the plug-in hybrid technology.
‘Peugeot Sport means high performance, low emission, new sensation,’ he concludes. ‘If we don’t find a way around that, there is no future because nobody can [afford] to put on stage only thermic cars, nobody.
‘But I want my fun – below 50g/km,’ says Imparato. ‘The solution is electrified, that’s it.’