Engine options, speed, acceleration and refinement

There are two sides to the 508 PSE’s performance. One of those sides is illustrated by the 5.7sec 0-60mph time the car recorded during testing, which is some way off the claimed 5.2sec to 62mph, which in turn is behind the competition.

The BMW M340i xDrive Touring, Mercedes- AMG C43 Estate, Audi S4 Avant and Volvo V60 Polestar Engineered all dip below the five-second mark, thereby putting daylight between their performance level and that of the quicker front-driven hot hatches. By our reckoning, the Peugeot is only as quick off the mark as sub-£35,000 athletes such as the Honda Civic Type R and Ford Focus ST. For £55,000 and the promise of not one power source on tap but three, plus four- wheel drive, owners of the 508 PSE might reasonably expect more.

You can carry plenty of speed into, through and out of corners, all the while enjoying a blend of keen control and forgiving pliancy not usually associated with 1.9-tonne cars.

Compounding this shortfall in straight-line performance is the nature of the eight-speed gearbox. It shifts reasonably effectively, though hardly with lightning speed, yet offers the driver little in the way of control. You cannot, for example, lock it into ‘manual’ mode, and even if you do elicit an upshift or downshift yourself, you’ll get that shift, but almost immediately thereafter the gearbox will resort to executing its own strategy. It’s therefore best to let the PSE do what it wants to do in this regard, treating it as you would any purely automatic car.

It must also be said that the pedal for the special Alcon brakes is woolly in feel, low on communication and during emergency-stop testing went fully to the floor by default. The brakes are at least highly effective, bringing the 508 PSE to a standstill from high speeds with absolutely minimal drama, and without delay.

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But here’s the other side of the coin: the hottest Peugeot on sale is also effortlessly and enjoyably quick in the real world. The trick is to treat the driveline like it is purely electric, with a single-speed gearbox, because that’s how it can feel.

Of the two, the rear electric motor is naturally preferred, but it is then joined by the front motor if your right foot demands it, and their combined efforts give the 508 PSE an immediate jolt of propulsive force and ‘torque fill’ the lull that the gearbox creates while it locates the right gear. The manner in which the various driveline elements dip in and out of service is also impressively finessed, leaving the driver with an intuitive, responsive and appreciably potent – if somewhat aloof – powertrain at their disposal.