Its hard to believe, but family saloons like the Peugeot 508 are now niche vehicles. Most of its previous customers have either downsized to smaller vehicles, moved laterally into chunky crossovers, or upgraded to junior executive cars like the BMW 3-Series.
With a near thirty-grand price tag the Peugeot 508 GT finds itself deep within German executive territory, but with much greater firepower than youd get from a BMW or Audi of equivalent price. Is it enough to sway buyers?
Its a handsome beast, the 508 GT. We cant help seeing similarities to an old late-1990s Pininfarina concept called the Nautilus, designed at the time as a possible executive car for Peugeot. Its as if Peugeots designers found pictures of the Nautilus lying around in a dusty drawer and decided to finally put it into production. Its a credit to the concepts modern lines that a similar design works so well even a decade later.
Even if Peugeots designers didnt look to the Nautilus for inspiration, theyve still done a good job. The 508s shape has none of the complexity of some rivals, but is less likely to date as a result. The wheels are simple, there are few superfluous details, and there are just enough chrome touches to denote a higher-specification model without it looking chintzy.
At the same time, it isnt the most interesting of vehicles, even in GT trim. If youre spending nearly thirty grand on a car you may be looking for either status or great design, and on these two fronts the 508 may struggle.
Like the exterior, the interior is restrained. Its also, in common with many other Peugeots of recent years, a well-made and nicely furnished space. With the exception of a few plastics out of your immediate line of sight, most surfaces feel of high quality and those that particularly matter, like the steering wheel and gear selector, are swathed in soft, smooth leather. While it never quite feels up to the standards of some of the more established brands like Mercedes or BMW in this price bracket, you wont feel short-changed either.
Its fairly easy on the eye, too. The dials are simple and concise, and the layout ergonomically sound. Theres a metallic finish to several surfaces and a piano black finish to several others. The satnav screen is easy to see, but we found the myriad buttons and controls quite confusing to use – Peugeot still needs to work on its user interface for such systems if its to bother offering them.
The leather seats look great and prove comfortable whether youre in the front or back, with plenty of space whichever pew you select – and the boot is massive too. Electric adjustment, heating and a massage function are all welcome for the drivers seat.
We had no issues with visibility, with the view fore and aft not hampered to any great degree by the A and C pillars.
Yorkshire is home to some excellent roads, but also some atrocious surfaces. Its an ideal place to put cars through their paces, and the 508 handled everything with aplomb. Our first few days with the car were compromised by the recent snowy weather, but on each occasion careful driving was enough to get around without sliding everywhere, even if relatively wide tyres arent ideal for such conditions. The automatic gearboxs snow mode, which starts the car in third, proved a painless way of moving off on particularly slipperly surfaces.
On drier roads, there was even less to dislike. The car grips well and steers accurately, GT models actually getting more sophisticated suspension than other 508s. Theres not a great deal of feel, but the weight of the steering feels good and it feels suitably direct. The GT is easy to hustle along at rapid speeds, even if you can occasionally feel the cars hefty 1,736 kg mass moving around. The brakes are strong and easy to modulate.
The ride quality can occasionally be a bit lumpy, but its generally well-controlled. Only the worst pot holes really upset its composure, and weve certainly experienced worse vehicles on our test routes.
Again, most deficiencies are largely related to its price – it lines the 508 alongside the might of BMW and Mercedes, cars which the 508 cant really compete with dynamically.
Perhaps the 508s greatest asset is its engine. 2.2 litres in capacity and 204-horses strong, its powerful, refined and responsive. In fact, wed go as far as to compare it to the 2.2 diesel
found in Jaguars XF
– while weve not driven the two back-to-back, we cant recall any area in which it loses out to the Jaguar.
Its automatic gearbox isnt quite as good as the Jag however. By the standards of Peugeots automated manuals its a paragon of smoothness, but shifts are still a little jerky. They improve with speed, and under hard acceleration changes are impressively quick, but when ambling around theyre a long way from imperceptible.
Officially, 62 mph can be reached in 8.2 seconds, and top speed is 145 mph – so you wont be shown up in the company car park.
Value for money
Weve alluded to it above, but it can be expressed more clearly here: With an on-the-road price of 29,050 and a few hundred quids worth of options, the 508 GT finds itself deep into Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz moolah.
While the example of each certainly wont match the Peugeot on performance or equipment – only a BMW 316d is within reach at this money, for example – those badges can count for an awful lot, and pricing crossover such as this is exactly why the 508s market sector is struggling. You can offer all the equipment you want, but brand is much harder to compete with.
Next to such rivals, the 508 does look good value – its better-specified and quicker. Its not as economical as some, though – an official combined 49.5 mpg is healthy enough, but figures in the high 30s were the norm during our test. Mid forties (and above) are possible on long, relaxed motorway cruises though, which is what the Peugeot is designed for.
Road tax is relatively easy to stomach, at 135 per year. Drivers of that 316d are only paying 30 a year, though
The 508 GT is an easy car to appreciate, but a harder one to make a legitimate case for. It does most of what youd want from a car of its type, and with the 2.2-litre diesel engine its entertaining enough to drive, but for a car aimed largely at fleet buyers its priced close to several cars which would prove much cheaper to run.
Buyers and company users who do plump for the Pug will no doubt be happy with their decision, and the engine and kit go some way to making up for the lack of kudos and higher emissions – but perhaps the most sensible 508 purchase can be found lower down the price lists.
What the press think
Reviews for the 508 have generally been positive. Its not the largest car in its class (the Skoda Superb
is) nor the most fun (the Ford Mondeo
scores here), but its broad talents cover most bases. Some complain about the ride quality, others comment on the slightly bland looks, and a few on the GTs expense. The smart interior and enjoyable handling win plenty of fans, though.
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