Despite its kerb weight, the 508 PSE comes alive when you show it an interesting road. What’s striking is the manner in which the car’s deft body control (both vertically and laterally) never spills over into outright force, and with it harshness. This Peugeot really does breathe with the road in the fashion of the French greats of yesteryear, and often seems impervious to becoming in any way flustered, which breeds confidence.

It’s a confidence the steering builds on. This electrically assisted set-up remains vaguely synthetic in feel, and the nature of its variable-speed gearing can at times make it an inconsistent companion. However, in the main, it transmits the ebb and flow of grip well and exhibits a lovely sense of precision and finesse on turn-in.

The 508's chassis demonstrates good balance through wide, fast corners, with the rear motor providing neutrality

That extra track width at the front axle, courtesy of longer wishbones, and the increased negative camber: you can feel it, and enjoy it. The 508 PSE loves nothing more than to be flicked into bends on a trailing brake, where it’ll show the kind of agility and rotational energy normally observed in the better-sorted front-driven hot hatches. It then pays to get back into the throttle early and engage that rear electric motor, which neutralises the car and helps provide drive out of the bends.

The 508 PSE also benefits from the regular model’s relatively narrow width, which makes it easy to place on the road and work this malleable, playful chassis without feeling the white lines are getting too close.

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Of course, there is another side to the 508 PSE’s handling: that of the more laid-back, GT-type sports car. It adopts this role well, flowing with balance and poise when you can’t be so committed in your driving, or simply don’t want to be. This chassis generates substantial grip and carries speed effortlessly.

Indeed, it’s difficult to find a road on which this car doesn’t, at least to some degree, impress you with its ability and spirit.

Peruse the literature for the 508 PSE and you’ll find there’s no mention of track testing, or any such activity. It should therefore come as no surprise that the car feels ill-suited to circuit work, despite the general excellence of its handling.

Sure, the car demonstrates fine body control on the Hill Route at Millbrook Proving Ground, and the nose is quick to respond to steering inputs, inspiring a great deal of confidence. Grip levels are also very high, although not so great that the car cannot be rotated on the way into bends (although any tail-happy, power-on antics are nipped in the bud by an ESP system that cannot be switched off).

What frustrates are the brakes, which are powerful enough but imprecise and uncommunicative in their feel. The inability to take manual control of the powertrain is also in stark contrast to the precise nature of this car’s German rivals.

Comfort and isolation

One glance at the PSE’s 20in alloy wheels, and its pavement-hugging stance, and you’d be forgiven for thinking Peugeot had sacrificed ride comfort at the altar of body control and kerb appeal. Certainly, for something with at least half an eye on refinement and premium-ness, it looks an uncompromising thing.

However, appearances can be deceptive, and the reality is that little troubles the 508 PSE as it rolls along at sedate speeds, and only when the road surface becomes truly evil is an ever-so-slight brittleness to be detected.

In general, it’s one of the finest-riding machines in the class, able to connect with the road, and permit only minimal vertical suspension movements, but never labouring progress. Comfort mode, in which the dampers resort to their most relaxed setting, simply isn’t necessary nine times out of 10.

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The car’s EV mode also makes for serene progress, particularly at town speeds, where the responsive throttle and smooth, quiet running of the driveline feel natural.