A delightful curio of frantic performance, striking looks and well-judged everyday manners

There’s something a bit perverse about this facelift of the Peugeot 508 PSE. After all, it is very literally a facelift. There are no changes to the mechanicals of this beefy, plug-in hybrid executive, only stylistic ones - and, let’s be honest, the 508 PSE needed style updates like Google needs more brand awareness. It was really rather stunning.

The good news is that it still is. The whole fascia is new, with ‘three claw’ LED running lights, slimmer headlights and a gloss black grille being chief among the changes. Maybe it’s lost a touch of class with the more overtly aggressive contrast grille, but this is still a stunner and - to our eyes - even better in the SW estate body that we’re testing here.

PEUGEOT 508 PSE Okenite White

The most significant news with this refresh is actually inside the 508, where the dated infotainment system has been replaced with a new 10in touchscreen, complete with new menu layout and high-def graphics. More on that in a bit. 

Performance still comes from a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine and dual electric motors, with the motor up front being integrated into the eight-speed automatic gearbox and the rear motor powering the back axle via reduction gearing. That all adds up to 355bhp and a 0-62mph time of 5.2sec. Usefully faster than any of the big VW executive PHEVs, be it Passat or Arteon. It’s a second faster, even, than the BMW 330e xDrive Touring

So it’s no surprise that there is an inherent brutality to the way the Peugeot 508 goes down the road. It has such a swell of power and torque, and it wants to deliver all of it, all of the time, if you’ll only let it. 

Sure, the 508 is also a doddle to drive moderately – damping, body control and steering all gel well and let you relax and get on with your day in peace if that’s what you wish - even while there’s always a lurking sense of impatience. Like a well-trained dog that walks well on a lead but is permanently quivering in anticipation of the moment it can run full pelt at the horizon.  

And do you know what? The power delivery in the 508 PSE is an endearing kind of lunacy; a restrained rabidness that’s entirely unique from any other PHEV and, frankly, it’s rather brilliant. 

Sure, the 508 isn’t remotely as delicate or tactile to drive as a BMW 330e, yet there’s no doubting the appeal to the scrappy, full-on attitude that comes from a similar school to other delightful nutters like the Ford Focus RS and Nissan GT-R.

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Not only that, but the infotainment system won’t drive you to distraction any more. New i-Connect Advanced software brings a more responsive screen, better graphics and – crucially – a much more logical menu layout with a homepage containing up to 10 configurable shortcuts. It really is a huge improvement over the dated system in the pre-facelift 508, and you get wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, too. 

PEUGEOT 508 PSE Okenite White

The interior still looks great, as well: complete with flashes of ‘Kryptonite’ stitching, it’s modern and classy, albeit a way short of the obvious German rivals for perceived quality. 

There’s plenty of space in the 508 PSE SW to serve as parental taxi, too, including 530 litres of boot space despite the hybrid powertrain. That’s more than the 330e Touring, and the 508 also matches the BMW’s CO2 figures and WLTP pure electric range of 34 miles. 

But (and you knew there was a massive one of those coming…) while the 508 has an undeniable appeal in the way it looks and the way it bludgeons its way down the road, it remains frustratingly difficult to justify. After all, the saloon costs nearly £54k, and the SW over £55k, meaning that, shockingly, a BMW 330e xDrive M Sport Touring is more than £4000 cheaper than this 508 PSE SW, even though it is has better handling, better interior materials, better infotainment… You get the picture. Peugeot has long been moving itself more upmarket, but it may have overestimated itself with this one.

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It's frustrating, because the 508 PSE is such a characterful and fun thing. The theatrical, slightly bonkers, good-looking option that, frankly, you would be advised to avoid in favour of any of the objectively better and cheaper alternatives. It’s the underdog, and we all love one of those.

So, do you know what - if you are theatrical, a bit bonkers, flush with cash and looking for a saloon or estate that’s practical yet anything but boring, then do it. Buy a Peugeot 508 PSE. You’ll love it. You’ll love driving it, you’ll love looking at it, you’ll love living with it, and more than anything, you’ll love the attention and the very fact that it isn’t ‘just’ another 3 Series. 

Just don’t tell us that we didn’t tell you about all of the much more sensible options.

Peugeot 508 pse review 2023 20 static front


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harf 29 June 2023

I won't be going near a PHEV for as long as possible.

Neighbour has a dead Mercedes C350e - 7 years old with just 35k mileage. High voltage battery needs replacing. Car doesn't move without it. Mercedes have quoted £9k to fix it, on a £15k car  with no goodwill contribution from Mercedes.

Seems these environment friendly cars are being designed to just get through the first 3 years of their lives to give low running costs to company and lease buyers - after that they don't give a f**k!

Welcome to the economic write-off, where future cars with minimal mileage and <<10 years old could be written off cos their owners can't afford to repair them. Your £8k car becomes worthless overnight!

streaky 29 June 2023

You're so right - except this applies not just to PHEVs, but all cars more expensive and complicated than a Dacia.  Only yesterday a friend was telling me how he bought a VW Tourag for about £5k.  It almost immediately refused to start and the more they looked into it, the more work was needed.  He has now got a car that owes him £10k but is only worth about £4k.  He feels he has to keep it just to "get his money back" so to speak. 

Cars are far too complicated with too much unreliable and apparently unserviceable electronics on board.  They are designed for ease of assembly rather than ease of repair and servicing, and spares prices are a rip-off.  I always thought that manufacturers jealously guarded their residual values but it looks like they have already gone down the u-bend, judging by how cheap a second hand S Class, say, can be.  They will plummet further when more of the public (gradually) catch on that a second hand "premium" or luxury car, even if sold at a bargain price, shouldn't be touched with a barge pole.  It's no surprise to see pictures of what look like undamaged, perfectly serviceable, rust-free cars stacked up at vehicle recycling centres - they are just too costly to fix.  What a waste of resources and materials!

hairy flaps 1 July 2023

more reason to lease / pcp - get something with a maintenance contract and you'll be paying for fuel only. 

Elendil1066 27 June 2023

I think its a shame the Volvo S60 T8 doesnt get mentioned as much as it should as a fast plug in hybrid, the Polestar tuned version is a 4.4 seconds to 60 car, has a 50 mile electric range and matches the 508 for looks and comfort if possibly not handling.

ianp55 27 June 2023

I really like the latest generation of the 508,it's a fine car both as a saloon or estate it's elegant and understated, but the PSE version puzzles me it's a lot of money for what it is I'd personally rather prefer a 2litre 4x4 version rather than this. A colour choice of black,grey or white with only the grey being standard. At this price point a sunroof should be standard not an £1100 extra