Brand association has to be one of the most Pavlovian things in modern society, especially in the case of Peugeot where the general perception surrounding the brand (expensive parts and servicing, meteoric depreciation and so-so styling) may have been valid in the past, but is now somewhat ill-deserved – the company’s new 508 saloon is a prime example of what is a good car potentially hampered by association…
The 508 ushers in a new design language for the French marque, and it has to be said that it’s a considerable improvement over the somewhat bulbous, manta ray-mouthed designs that have characterised the firm’s offerings over the last few years. Sharper lines, a raised bonnet accentuating stronger shoulders and a combination of neater headlamps with LED elements and “lion claw-mark” brakelamps give the car an imposing but not garish air.
The interior is similarly tasteful, with an uncluttered facia featuring swathes of soft-touch trim and simple yet appealing details such as the twin chromed dials in the binnacle. Some facets are a bit fiddly, however. In order to keep the facia as clutter-free as possible, Peugeot has hidden the adjustment controls for the heads-up display (an optional extra on some Allure and all Active-spec models) in a rather awkward fold-out panel to the right to the steering column a-la Lexus GS but that’s pretty much the only black mark against the cabin. The Peugeot 508’s long wheelbase ensures that there is plenty of rear passenger room and bootspace sits at an impressive 473 dm3.
Peugeot has always had a knack of bolting together some of the most creamy-smooth diesel engines out there, and the 2,2-litre turbocharged unit in the range-topping GT is no exception. This unit provides plenty of shove for the big saloon, but when mated with the six-speed automatic transmission it delivers its peak outputs of 150 kW and 450 N.m of torque with almost Gallic nonchalance – not lazy (the seemingly incongruous paddle-shifters actually work quite well, but they do revert back to auto mode a little too quickly) but in an effortless manner.
The GT model features a double-wishbone front suspension (MacPhersons on lesser models) complemented by a multi-link rear setup. It’s a surprisingly well-balanced combination that, when combined with light but reasonably responsive steering, lends the car a pleasant agility in tight corners while soaking up bumps with little drama.
So, we’ve got a stylish, well equipped (see specs attached to the DOCUMENTS section above the images), well built and competent package – all of the things people look for in a large saloon, right? Well, almost … the main problem is the public’s attitude towards the Peugeot name. A legacy of so-so customer service and parts/service costs has left an indelible mark, but the brand’s local arm is working hard to rectify the situation. If it can achieve this, models such as the 508 and the stylish new 208 could well win favour with a wide audience…
508 Active 1,6 Petrol THP R283 700
508 Active 2,0 HDi R303 200
508 Allure 1,6 THP Auto R306 700
508 Allure 1,6 THP Auto with sat-nav R323 700
508 GT 2,2 HDi Auto R409 900