CAR (UK)

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.

- By Phil McNa­mara Cars · Consumer Goods · Peugeot S.A. · Audi · Aufrecht Melcher Grossaspach · Mercedes-Benz · Europe · BMW · European Union · Volkswagen · Volkswagen · Fiesta · Ford Motor Company · Dakar · Toyota Motor Corporation · Toyota · PSA Peugeot Citroen S.A. · Audi S4 · BMW Motorrad · BMW M

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.’

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L750R con­cept from Gran Turismo pro­vides some hy­per­car in­spi­ra­tion
Petrol-elec­tric 508 will be first to re­ceive Peu­geot Sport treat­ment L750R con­cept from Gran Turismo pro­vides some hy­per­car in­spi­ra­tion
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