Diesel-electric hybrid offers all-road ability, space and low company car tax

What is it?

Peugeot is poised to launch its £33,695 Peugeot 508 RXH hybrid estate crossover that looks certain to become the new darling of Britain’s business user-choosers. The company’s marketing men estimate that as many as 90 per cent of their new RXH diesel estates will find homes with business buyers after the model arrives this May because, under current company car tax law, the car will cost an ‘owner’ about £1600 in tax annually, whereas a Ford Mondeo estate of similar power and performance would set you back around £3400.

It’s all because the RXH’s diesel-electric Hybrid4 system – a 161bhp front-drive diesel engine electronically linked to a 37bhp electrically driven rear axle – emits a mere 107g/km of CO2, according to official figures, a level that attracts much lower benefit-in-kind tax than equivalent conventional models.

What’s it like?

However, the Hybrid4 system isn’t all good news. When we tested the same powertrain recently in a 3008, we were disappointed in particular by its unresponsive six-speed automated manual gearbox and its inability to get close to the official combined fuel consumption figure. A conventional diesel auto, we felt, would have been better.

However, in the 508 RXH, the new-tech powertrain makes considerably more sense because the impressive all-wheel drive traction works well with the RXH’s ‘soft road’ equipment – ride height raised by 50mm, wider tracks front and rear and underbody protection measures – to deliver a car that’s effective on rough tracks and in mud and snow.

The gearbox hesitation is there, and remains annoying, especially when you try to accelerate as briskly as normal 197bhp diesel autos can do. However, you eventually learn to defeat the problem by selecting Sport and permanently locking the diesel engine and electric motor together (which harms economy), or limiting the effect by manually selecting a lower gear, via the left-hand steering column paddle, before putting your foot down. It’s not perfect, but it works.

Despite the raised ride height, the car corners neatly and securely, although the firm spring rates (so far tried only in France) may be problematic in the UK. This is one car that we need to sample urgently on Britain’s typically rutted roads and which, we suspect, Peugeot should have tested more in this country.

On the other hand, UK-based company car buyers paying city car levels of tax for a well equipped and spacious wagon may find that they don’t care at all.

Peugeot 508 RXH

Price: £33,695; 0-62mph: 8.8sec; Top speed: 132mph; Economy: 68.9mpg (combined); CO2: 107g/km; Kerb weight: 1525kg; Engine: 4 cyls, 1997cc, turbodiesel, plus electric motor; Power: 161bhp plus 36bhp; Torque: 148lb ft plus 111lb ft; Gearbox: 6-spd automated manual

Steve Cropley

Steve Cropley Autocar
Title: Editor-in-chief

Steve Cropley is the oldest of Autocar’s editorial team, or the most experienced if you want to be polite about it. He joined over 30 years ago, and has driven many cars and interviewed many people in half a century in the business. 

Cropley, who regards himself as the magazine’s “long stop”, has seen many changes since Autocar was a print-only affair, but claims that in such a fast moving environment he has little appetite for looking back. 

He has been surprised and delighted by the generous reception afforded the My Week In Cars podcast he makes with long suffering colleague Matt Prior, and calls it the most enjoyable part of his working week.

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newdevonian 13 March 2012

Re: Peugeot 508 RXH

newdevonian wrote:
the "raison d'etre" for a big French long range cruiser
Thinking through this point further. People don't buy large French cars because the Germans currently have the market. The French trying to compete at making German style cars is bound to fail. I think there are sufficient people in this country, who have grown to dislike the type of ride which is chiefly characterised by Audi and others, who would like a French car, providing its USP was a gliding ride, obviously together with good build quality.

newdevonian 13 March 2012

Re: Peugeot 508 RXH

It's a shame, because the "raison d'etre" for a big French long range cruiser is that it should waft over pave and chaussee deforme with impunity. The old Citroen DS's and the 2CV had it right. Sorry, my keyboard doesn't have e acute.

Safari 10 March 2012

Re: Peugeot 508 RXH

Think it looks good - not too showy.

Shame about the ride quality - however I cannot understand why Autocar think Peugeot should test their cars more in the UK - Why? I doubt Britain is their biggest market any more by any stretch as we are dominated by German cars now