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First drive: Peugeot 508 GT. Image by Peugeot.

First drive: Peugeot 508 GT
Doomed to failure or a stroke of genius by the French? Time will tell for the stunning Peugeot 508.


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Peugeot 508 GT

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Peugeot updates its large 508 saloon for its second generation, bringing in lots of tech, striking looks, the company's trademark iCockpit interior... and something of a secret about its physical make-up. The thing is, this type of Gallic luxury hasn't sold well before and things are not looking rosy in the 508's market segment right now, so can the Lion convince us there's a place in the world for this newcomer?

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Peugeot 508 GT PureTech 225
Pricing: 508 from 25,000; GT PureTech 225 from 35,975
Engine: 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: front-wheel drive, eight-speed automatic
Body style: five-door fastback
CO2 emissions: 131g/km (VED 205 first 12 months, then 140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 49.6mpg
Top speed: 155mph
0-62mph: 7.3 seconds
Power: 225hp at 5,500rpm
Torque: 300Nm at 2,500rpm

What's this?

A Peugeot 508 and, before you start, we're well aware that the D-segment saloon section is being crushed under the weight of consumer demand for either SUVs or premium German tin that's supposedly from the class above. And we're also acutely tuned in to the fact that luxurious, range-topping French three-box saloons sell about as well in this country as tickets to a David Hasselhoff concert. So persevering with the 508 might seem like a strange move on Peugeot's part, although its strong line-up of SUVs - the excellent 5008 included - means the brand is covered on that score.

However, while the 508 might look like a natural rival for a Ford Mondeo, Vauxhall Insignia or Volkswagen Passat, it has a trick up its sleeve. Or rather, on its rump. Ahem. You see, the 508 is not a French three-box saloon at all, but actually a fastback. The whole rear of the car is hinged at the top of the rear windscreen, a la Skoda Superb, and thus Peugeot would instead invite you to think of the 508 as an alternative to the premium 'four-door coupe' likes of the Audi A5 Sportback, BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe and Volkswagen Arteon.

A noble aim. And one which makes more sense of the 508's pricing, because it looks dear compared to the Mondeo and Insignia (our test model being all but 36 grand, basic), but good value when held up to the A5, 4 Series and Arteon. Peugeot UK is going to sell the 508 in a five-trim line-up to start, which runs Active, Allure, GT Line, GT and then - in a trend seen across the motoring industry nowadays - a fully-laden, limited-time-only First Edition (essentially a GT with a few extra toys). Engines are 1.5- and 2.0-litre BlueHDi turbodiesels, of 130- (1.5), 160- and 180hp (both 2.0) outputs, while a 1.6-litre PureTech turbocharged petrol can be had with either 180- or 225hp. A six-speed manual is fitted to the 1.5-litre BlueHDi as standard, but as an option there's a new eight-speed EAT8 automatic gearbox, this self-shifting transmission being the standard equipment for every other powerplant in the range.

What we're driving here is a range-topping (forget the First Edition) GT with the 225hp PureTech petrol. This engine and the 180hp 2.0-litre BlueHDi are reserved exclusively for the GT models, with every other variant of 508 using the lesser-powered units. The GT, and the mimicking GT-Line model beneath it, have more aggressive looks than the Active and Allure 508s, as they enjoy bigger wheels, different headlights and LED daytime running lights, altered LED taillights, a chequered grille pattern and dark detailing around the glasshouse/on the door mirrors.

And, thus equipped, the 508 looks superb. Absolutely, and utterly, superb. It has a concept-car-esque air to it, with its angular front and the full-width black-bar rear arrangement, while the integration of its fastback hatch is seamless. What's more, swing open the four main passenger compartment doors and you'll find they're all frameless, which brings to mind the elegance of a coupe. It's as good-looking as anything we've seen in this segment, whichever segment you care to stick it in (D-segment repmobiles or upmarket E-segment four-door coupes/five-door fastbacks). Same inside: iCockpit is not to all tastes, but we love its cutting-edge appearance, its beautiful configurability and the general high-quality materials that Peugeot uses to swathe the main surfaces that surround its show-stopping digital displays.

A pity, then, that we must end this section on a selection of gripes about the interior, both practical and ergonomic. While its 487-litre boot makes it an intelligent everyday choice, the 508 has average rear headroom, so taller people will not want to sit in the back for any significant period of time. Further, the rear bench's plush, padded head restraints couple with that sloping, shallow rear screen to give the driver a laughable amount of visibility in the interior rear-view mirror - 'looking through a letterbox slot' would be being generous in the extreme. We're not huge fans of the EAT8's crooked gear lever nor the paddle shifts that only click on their plasticky ends, which are both kind of subjective matters and therefore entirely inadmissible, but the crazy positioning of the cruise control stalk is unforgiveable. It doesn't matter what your stature is nor where you site that button steering wheel, you cannot see a single switch on that cruise control appendage once installed in the driver's seat, meaning you need to be utterly familiar with what each control does before you set off, as you'll never fathom it on the move. Unless you put a quarter-turn of steering lock on, at which point you can see the cruise controls... but, of course, that sort of steering input is rather suboptimal if you're travelling at motorway speeds in a straight line...

How does it drive?

Luckily, back on a brighter note, the Peugeot 508 GT drives almost as good as it looks. Again, it's not without flaws - the 225hp PureTech engine never sounds that thrilling, indeed it comes across a little coarse and nasal as it revs higher and harder, and the traction control purports to be switchable; but as soon as you exceed a certain speed, it turns itself back on. And that speed seems to be about 34mph. So, while it might say GT on its badging and it might do 150mph (where permitted) and it'll run 0-62mph in 7.3 seconds, this 508 is going to frustrate the keenest drivers because of its pervasive electronic nannies.

However, the ESP system is largely unobtrusive and, in other regards, the 508 is a marvel to drive. It has a graceful fluidity to its handling that makes it feel exactly like you might imagine looking at its technical specification and working out from whence it sources its 1.6-litre engine - yes, it's as if you're in a grander, more relaxed 308 GTi. Understeer is minimal and only usefully informative of the car's overall grip levels, turn-in is keen and controlled by some truly lovely steering, the body of the 508 never becomes loose on its adjustable springs and dampers (standard on this GT model), and the drivetrain - while not the most glittering thing in the world - nevertheless doles out some seriously robust performance, while remaining smooth and reactive in equal measure throughout its operating range. In short, get the 508 stoked up and it fair flies down challenging roads, in that typically insouciant Gallic manner that's so adorable. Or, put another way, someone in a reasonably hard-driven Audi S5 Cabriolet, despite having a good 130hp and all-wheel drive traction in reserve, was unable to keep the hard-charging 508 GT at bay.

This is all very wonderful and true to the Peugeot ethos of trying to offer an invigorating chassis to go with all the sensible stuff in life, but the kind of people who buy things like Mondeos, Insignias, Passats, Arteons, 4 Series Gran Coupes, A5 Sportbacks and Superbs tend not to drive like they're the late Colin McRae, who just so happens to be drastically behind schedule. So revel in the fact that the 508 is even more impressive as a refined cruiser. Wind noise, tyre roar, the exertions of the engine - these are all subdued to the point of silence at steady-state driving speeds. And the ride quality is sumptuous in the extreme, especially with the adjustable shock absorbers in their most compliant setting. Aside from that atrocious view out of the rear windscreen, there are no further visibility issues with the 508, the driving position is just so and all of the main controls are beautifully weighted, allowing the careful driver to access the car's velvety manners as easily as they can its sharp chassis.

Overall, this is a fabulous blend of the dynamic and the delightful. It's absolutely leagues apart from the mediocre Mk1 508 and it's certainly up there with the best of its rivals, in all their varied shapes and forms. Even better, there's an SW estate model on the way, too, which should rectify some of the Peugeot's rear space/visibility issues and throw in even more cool points. Can you tell that we're a little bit in love with the 508? You can? Oh. Good.


This is probably the nicest car you'll never see on our roads. Ten out of ten for Peugeot's execution of the new 508, which is only really beset by a handful of minor niggles and irritations, rather than anything cataclysmic. But in the SUV/premium badge-obsessed UK, are buyers really going to take a punt on the Pug? Difficult to say. Peugeot clearly thinks there's a business case in it, because it is bringing its big saloon-type vehicle here when Renault refuses to import the Talisman, for instance. And we really hope against hope that people do cotton on to the 508, because it's a thoroughly likeable, well-sorted machine that genuinely deserves a wide audience.

5 5 5 5 5 Exterior Design

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Interior Ambience

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Comfort

4 4 4 4 4 Driving Dynamics

4 4 4 4 4 Powertrain

Matt Robinson - 28 Jun 2018    - Peugeot road tests
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- 508 images

2018 Peugeot 508 GT. Image by Peugeot.2018 Peugeot 508 GT. Image by Peugeot.2018 Peugeot 508 GT. Image by Peugeot.2018 Peugeot 508 GT. Image by Peugeot.2018 Peugeot 508 GT. Image by Peugeot.

2018 Peugeot 508 GT. Image by Peugeot.2018 Peugeot 508 GT. Image by Peugeot.2018 Peugeot 508 GT. Image by Peugeot.2018 Peugeot 508 GT. Image by Peugeot.2018 Peugeot 508 GT. Image by Peugeot.


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