Modern Looks and Traditional Values Expertly Blended
Peugeot saloons have never been bad-looking. The 406 saloon was a decent enough attempt, selling large numbers in the UK particularly in the fleet market, and obviously led to the Pininfarina-designed 406 Coupe which hardly anyone will dispute as being a beautiful car. It was replaced by the streamlined, rakish 407 saloon, SW and coupe range, with their gaping ‘basking shark’ front grilles and sleek, sporty lines, which heralded a more daring edge to Peugeot’s design philosophy. And in the background, parallel to both the 406 and 407, there was another Peugeot saloon knocking around – the ‘executive class’ 607. Never heard of it? We’ll forgive you, as it certainly didn’t sell that well in the UK, with the majority driven by the fleet market. It’s a bit of a shame, as the 607 offered a hugely capacious, comfortable and well-specified package for sensible money, but owing to its non-premium badge, folk tended to look elsewhere.
The 508 is Peugeot’s latest effort, which replaces both the 407 and the 607 in one go. The Mondeo, Insignia and Passat have long dominated the largest chunk of the UK fleet market, whilst the A4, C-Class and 3-Series have dominated the more premium end of the compact executive arena. Upstarts like the Kia Optima, as well as Skoda’s Superb also joined the fleet market fray. Not wanting to forever lose its grip in a market which was once its forte, Peugeot unleashed the 508 to claw back fleet buyers, and hopefully pick up a good few private buyers along the way.
Peugeot make it clear in their literature that their focus for the 508 is on “quality, purity and efficiency”. Although the resulting car isn’t as stretched-out and sporty as the concept drawings, I still absolutely love the styling of the 508 from every angle. It looks especially handsome in lighter colours, which show off the single ‘floating’ grille more prominently. The pearlescent white paintwork (£655 option) worn by this press car really enhances the car’s design nicely. So do the 19” alloy wheels (again an option at £255 and worth every penny in my view), which give an extra sporting edge to the already attention-drawing 508. The proportions of the 508 saloon are just right, making it appear balanced no matter which way you look at it. As an overall design, the 508 appears fluid and elegant. Peugeot have hidden all appendages such as aerials, windscreen washer jets and the like, so that the 508 saloon’s contours flow smoothly without interruption. Chrome window surrounds and a high waistline create a striking and sophisticated side profile. The lion is integrated slightly more discretely on the 508 compared to the 407 and I really like the ‘PEUGEOT’ lettering sat between it and the grille. The mean-looking headlights, indicators and fog lamps are all tastefully integrated into the front-end of the 508 and little details like the ‘Xenon & LED Lighting Technology’ label inside the headlight enclosures, along with the front splitter, reinforce the level of detail Peugeot have gone to in creating the 508 GT. Admittedly the side profile of the 508 is more on the ordinary side, but this fits in well in comparison to its rivals, particularly the more sombre stalwarts of the market. The rear of the 508 GT saloon works well too in my view. The boot sits perfectly flush to the bumper, the three ‘claw marks’ rows of LED lights are modern and stylish and the metallic exhaust holes add to its sporty design, as does the chrome-edged rear diffuser.
Externally, then, the 508 looks every bit as good as the equivalent ‘sport spec’ Mondeo, Insignia or the like. I even reckon its looks are on a par with many of the German crowd, not only those from the compact executive sector but also the latest A6 and 5-Series, which are beginning to respectively look far too homogenised. So yes, well done Peugeot – the 508 does have the appearance of a high quality, classy executive saloon car. What’s more, the design of the 508 ticks the practicality box too, in that the shorter front overhang and longer rear overhang result in increased boot space. The 508 is lighter than the 407 whilst offering generous proportions akin to the 607, so is indeed an effective replacement for them both.
Even the best places on earth can be spoilt or have the edge taken off them by a poor entranceway, but little details and finishing touches ensure the 508 is a car you’ll be proud to walk up to and step in to. No need to faff around finding the key, as Peugeot’s ‘Open and Go’ keyless entry system takes care of that. I couldn’t find anywhere to slot the key, though, which would’ve been handy. The puddle lights were very welcome during the damp and gloomy week in which I tested the 508 and at first glance on opening the solid driver’s door, the interior certainly looked the part. In fact, it looked every bit as luxurious and highly specified and appointed as the interior of a Passat, Superb or even an A6.
Finding a suitable driving position is made easy by the multi-adjustable seat controls. The passenger seat is also electrically adjustable, which is another welcome feature not always seen in similar cars. Both seats are heated, too, and the driver’s seat even came with a lumbar massage function, turned on by a button located nearish the gear shifter. The leather isn’t just any old leather – it’s full grain Nappa, meaning the finish is nice and soft with a high quality feeling. I found the seats themselves a bit on the firm side at first, even with lumbar support set to the minimum, but I did get used to them.
Executive fleet saloons have got to try to make their drivers feel special and the Peugeot’s use of tasteful white interior lights which fade out when turned off, red needles and secondary gauges which light up and fade away and the boot button hidden inside the ‘0’ in 508 all contribute to it feeling like a polished car.
In terms of the controls and buttons, the leather steering wheel, gear selector, climate control and audio buttons all felt of a high quality, as did the buttons located around Peugeot’s iDrive-like rotary knob for controlling the sat nav and other functions. As well as being convenient having buttons for the sat nav, audio system and Bluetooth telephone found on the steering wheel, dashboard and also surrounding the rotary control to the left of the driver’s seat, it certainly does make the 508’s interior feel and look a real tech-fest.If you’re put off by the myriad of buttons on offer, fear not – you don’t need to use them all if you don’t want to.
I was a little disappointed not to find a DAB digital radio installed, but once I’d inserted a favourite CD and turned up the volume, I was bowled over by the hugely impressive JBL hi-fi system (£310 option) with its 10 speakers and 500W surround-sound amplifier. Even when I cranked challengingly bassy or otherwise acoustically demanding CDs right up, the sound quality never seemed to fail, with no noticeable distortion. The best ICE systems I had listened to this year up to the arrival of the 508 were the Infinity system fitted to the Kia Optima and the Premium Sound System in the Volvo. I didn’t think the JBL system in the 508 would be as good, but it was. The Bluetooth telephone system paired with my phone on the first attempt and the quad-zone automatic air conditioning system worked very efficiently indeed, if a little on the noisy side at times. I didn’t find the sat nav to be as easy as other manufacturers’ systems to get the hang of or in terms of features, and the colour Heads-Up Display (HUD) is all very well and good and does make driving a little safer, but it’s not as cool as BMW’s HUD. In the Peugeot, a little plastic screen rises up out of the dash, onto which various data is displayed in full-colour. I had it switched off most of the time, but some may like it. An electronic parking brake comes as standard with the automatic gearbox and is no more difficult to get used to than ones fitted to other makes.
The 508 is the first car I’ve driven in which the central storage compartment between the front seats opens sideways, which is fine if you’re the driver, but not so convenient if you’re in the passenger seat. Considering that most of the controls have a nice soft-touch feel to them, the central storage compartment sounded and felt a bit cheap and there are some other harsh and flimsy plastic components dotted around the place, which slightly take the cherry off the interior’s otherwise well-made proverbial cake. It’s a shame the carpet trim didn’t extend all the way up to the seatbelt sockets, too. I do love the tasteful use of red ambient lighting through the cabin, though, and the generous space in the front is carried on in the back, where there is again plenty of leg, head and shoulder-room – so the 508 is more than capable of carrying four or maybe even five adults around in comfort. Unfortunately for Peugeot, Monsieur Hollande the new President has chosen a Citroen DS5, but the 508 is definitely worth considering should he fancy a change. Staying with the rear seats, the central armrest reveals two cupholders and a handy hatch to access the boot. It’s just a shame the nets on the back of the front seats aren’t as substantial as the door pockets in many other cars in this class.
It’s a practical car, too. The boot has a whopping 545 litres available with the rear seats up and 1,581 litres if you fold the rear seats flat. Boot space in the 508 is therefore slightly more than in the Mondeo and quite a bit more than in a Passat, but not as much as the Skoda Superb’s boot which still wins in a Tardis-like way. For Peugeotphiles out there, the 508’s boot is 16% larger than the 407’s. The boot is opened in a rather cool way on the 508, by pressing the zero in the middle of the ‘508’ badge on the rear-end.Peugeot have also included a compartmentalised space under the boot floor, plus some bag hooks and other useful features to enhance practicality further.
Behind the wheel
Pressing the stop-start button for the first time, the sound of the 2.2-litre, 204bhp HDi diesel engine didn’t penetrate into the cabin noticeably, so Peugeot’s soundproofing efforts with the injection system and other components have paid off. Excusing the slightly odd sound the engine makes (almost like a car on which the exhaust is just starting to ‘blow’) when you listen to it from outside the car, this 150g/km-of-CO2-emitting diesel block is a very nice engine to get used to. I do admit, I prefer automatic gearboxes which allow the shifter to be moved backwards and forwards more fluidly, whereas the 508 has a gated gearbox involving a good deal of shifter-wiggling. On the move, though, the 6-speed gearbox is marvellous and proved very smooth indeed. It’s a standard torque converter gearbox made by Aisin, rather than a fancy double-clutch ‘box used by other manufacturers – but despite it not thinking ahead and preselecting gears, I couldn’t really fault it. In both stop-start traffic and on the open road, I really admired the automatic gearbox in the 508. You’ve got three options as to how you use it – normal automatic mode, using the paddle shiftsbehind the steering wheel, or pushing the shifter over into manual mode.
Peugeot quote a combined fuel economy of 49.6mpg from the 204bhp GT version of the 508 saloon, which has an impressive 0-60mph time of 8.2 seconds and is quoted as being able to hit 139mph! I drove the 508 GT quite spiritedly during my week with it, encompassing plenty of hills, traffic jams and motorway sprints, and managed to average 42mpg which isn’t half bad and shows what an efficient engine it is. Pressing the Sport button does sharpen the car’s responses up slightly, the engine sounding a bit more aggressive and with a keener throttle response along with altered gear ratios. VED is £135 per year.
The GT model is differentiated by its suspension, which Peugeot has become known for over the years. The GT features a drop link dual wishbone front axle. Skipping the mechanical details, you’ll be keen to know whether it makes a difference – and it does. The 508 handles very well. It will spend most of its life on motorways being used as a fleet car, but if you do venture down B-roads, you can be confident it will tackle the twists and turns very well, with reduced role, very good stability and a very capable overall manner. Drive the 508 down a cobbled street and it’s a different matter, inevitably – but this is partly down to the gorgeous 19” Capella alloys, which look awesome but do make the ride a bit firmer than on smaller rims. So overall, the 508 isn’t perhaps quite as good in the handling stakes as the class-leading Ford Mondeo, but it’s very close.
Dipping wing mirrors and front and rear parking sensors aid manoeuvring, but visibility out of the back is a little impaired at times due to the way the back of the car drops away. The Pug 508 is also a safe car, with ESP, Anti-Skid Reduction, Emergency Brake Assist, Electronic Brake Force Distribution and Cornering Brake Assist, along with Hill Assist and automatic headlights which also angle away from oncoming cars. Airbags, ISOFIX rear seats and Peugeot Connect SOS for pinpointing the car in an emergency, are also part of the GT’s spec.
The Lion King?
In GT guise the Peugeot 508 saloon looks fantastic, blending sport and premium very well indeed. It has a very nice, well-built interior which certainly provides a great air of sophistication all but for those who scrutinise very deeply. The ride and handling will definitely put the wind up established rivals like the Mondeo and while it’s not quite as practical as the Superb, it again comes very close. The 2.2-litre diesel engine mated with the 6-speed automatic gearbox make for an effective pairing and for fleet and private buyers alike, the 508 should prove frugal, comfortable and fairly stimulating. It’s got plenty of toys including a very impressive sound system, so will satisfy all the tech-heads out there. This top-spec GT model costs £29,050, which may sound like a lot, but if you price up a Mondeo or Passat with a very similar engine and specification and you’ll find they come out slightly higher. The Peugeot 508 saloon therefore makes a very strong argument and is definitely worth driving before you place your order on a similar saloon.
© Oliver Hammond
Motoring Writer, Road Test Reviewer & Car Consultant
Specification of the Peugeot 508 HDi 200 GT saloon tested in this review
Engine: 2,179cc, 4-cylinder diesel
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Max Output: 204bhp
Max Torque 450Nm
Top Speed: 139mph
0-60mph: 8.2 seconds
Combined fuel economy: 49.6mpg
Fuel tank capacity: 72 litres
Tax Band: I for indigo
CO2 Emissions: 150g/km
Gross Weight: 2,155kg
Max Towing Weight (braked): 1,875kg
Boot capacity: 545 litres (rear seats up), 1,581 litres (rear seats down, brimmed to the roof)
Dimensions: 4,792m long, 2,068mm wide including mirrors, 1,456mm high
Standard Specification includes (but not limited to):
Cruise Control with Speed Limiter
Leather steering wheel
Peugeot Connect SOS and Assistance
Peugeot Connect Navigation (RT6) with Bluetooth
Colour Head Up Display
Nappa full grain leather trim
Xenon Directional Headlamps with Peugeot Smartbeam Assistance and Headlamp Washers
LED Daytime Running Lights
Rear Parking Aid
Peugeot Open and Go System (Keyless Entry with Start/Stop Button)
Automatic Electric Parking Brake with Hill Assist
Electric Folding Door Mirrors
Electrically Adjustable and Heated Front Seats
Electrochrome Rearview Mirror
Cruise Control with Speed Limiter
Anti-Lock Braking (ABS), Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBFD), Emergency Braking Assistance (EBA)
Curtain Airbags for Front and Rear Windows
Driver and Front Passenger Front and Side Airbags
Electronic Stability Programme and Traction Control (ESP and ASR), Dynamic Stability Control (CBC)
Remote Control Central Locking with Deadlocks
Electric lumbar adjustment of driver seat
Tyre pressure sensors
Electrohydraulic power assisted steering
One-touch electric front and rear windows
Peugeot Connect USB Box
Automatic quad-zone air conditioning
Automatic headlamps and wipers
Options fitted to this press vehicle:
JBL Hi-Fi £310
Pearlescent white paintwork £655
19” Capella alloy wheels £255