So comprehensive are Peugeot’s changes that this latest 508 and its big-boned predecessor can barely be described as being related. The rear light bar is borrowed from the brand’s Instinct shooting brake concept, while the LED ‘tusks’ in the front bumper are cutting-edge at this price.
There are frameless doors, chrome exhaust tips and wheels that properly fill their arches, and the silhouette is that of a “two-and-a-half-box fastback”, as design director Gilles Vidal puts it. If you appreciate the look of Audi’s A5 Sportback, your eyes will be drawn to the 508 – and not simply because of the complex rear three-quarter panels that necessitated stamping methods generally the preserve of sports cars.
Despite its D-segment sensibilities, the 508 is conveniently sized, being some 80mm shorter and 51mm lower than before and much smaller of footprint than either the Ford Mondeo or Skoda Superb. The payoff is a tighter turning circle than that of most family hatches, despite the athletic proportions.
The new car is now 70kg lighter on average, partly due to a new steel monocoque but mainly because it’s built on the stiffer EMP2 platform that was developed at colossal expense and is shared with the 3008 and 5008 crossovers. Giving the old PF3 underpinnings the boot also bodes well for handling.
Our test car uses the PSA Group’s 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel, which drives the front wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox. It’s offered with either 161bhp or 174bhp, while a 1.5-litre diesel, available in manual only, will backstop the line-up with 129bhp and CO2 emissions of just 98g/km.
A high proportion of fleet sales means as few as one in 10 508s are expected to drink petrol, but those cars will do so courtesy of a 1.6-litre four-pot turbo with 178bhp or 221bhp. If the range sounds conservative, Peugeot says this platform was designed for versatility and that mild- and plug-in hybrid variants – the latter with an electrically driven rear axle – will arrive next year with no adverse effect on cabin or the admittedly modest boot capacity.
In chassis terms, there are no surprises here. The front axle is suspended by MacPherson struts while the rear uses a multi-link design. Adaptive dampers with modes ranging from Eco to Sport are standard issue on top-of-the-line GT models, but the rank and file make do with a passive set-up. Our GT test car rides on 19in wheels with modest 235/40 tyres at each corner.