What is it?
Peugeot's new large saloon and estate, the 508 straddles (and replaces) Peugeot's 407 and 607 models. Peugeot claiming the 508 offers interior space to match the 607, but within smaller exterior dimensions, and that although it is 10cm longer than the 407, that it weighs an average of 35Kg less.
In addition to the two bodystyles the 508 comes with two alternative suspension configurations. Most models use a MacPherson Strut at the front, with a multi-link arrangement at the rear. However our introduction to the 508 comes by way of the range topping GT model, which not only features a new 2.2-litre 201bhp diesel (more efficient and lighter than the 2.7-litre V6 it replaces) but also double-wishbone front suspension.
What's it like?
Before any considerations on the way the 508 drives, the most obvious change over its predecessor, is a newfound sense of maturity. The exterior styling has lost some of the quirkiness of the 407, and potentially is a little more bland as a consequence, but the interior is an unqualified step forward. Comfortable spacious and noticeably more upmarket. Clearly this GT model represents the 508 in its best light, with full leather trim and full colour information screens, but in the design, arrangement and action of the main switchgear the 508 is class-leading.
As is overall refinement. Helped by a standard fit acoustic windscreen and dampers on the front axle to reduce engine vibration, the 508's cabin is remarkably hushed, in terms of wind, road and engine noise. Other engines in the range, which include two 1.6-litre petrols, and several diesels including an e-HDi version with stop-start and emissions of 109g/km, may be more vocal, but this 2.2-litre is impressively quiet.
There is however no choice of gearbox with this engine, a six-speed automatic mandatory. Although this remains a conventional torque converter auto, it is not embarrassed by rivals' dual-clutch systems. While the shifts are not quite as instantaneous they're still quick enough, and for slow speed manoeuvres a torque converter is still superior.
In drive the gearbox relies on the engine's plentiful supply of torque (332lbft from 2000rm) to minimise interruptions, in Sport it is keener to slip down a gear or two, but still less frenetic than some alternatives. And in either mode the result is encouragingly rapid progress. Peugeot claim 0-62mph in 8.2sec, fast enough to elevate the 508 GT beyond the mainstream pack.
While the 508 GT works well as a comfortable quiet cruiser, it also rewards those who want press on. Although Peugeot's engineers considered fitting the 508 with a fully electric steering system, they judged the loss of feel not worth the efficiency gains. An increasingly unusual decision, but one, as enthusiasts, we should be thankful for.
Because although the 508 is a large car (longer than both Mondeo and Passat) it is an easy car to place, its steering quick but precise and intuitive. There's also decent grip from the standard 235/45R18 tyres (19” wheels are optional) and a better balance than most front drive rivals.