By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS
PEUGEOT is preparing its most complete assault on the Australian family car scene since the heady days of the 1970s 504 with its all-new 508 series.
Available from $36,990 to $52,900 in four-door sedan and wagon guises (with a coupe believed to be in the pipeline), Peugeot claims the newcomer will compete against everything from the Toyota Camry to the Holden Calais, via premium medium players like the Honda Accord Euro and Volkswagen Passat.
Importantly, the French-built 508 also launches the company’s fleet-friendlier pricing, fixed-cost servicing, fresh variant designations and a plethora of low-carbon eco options that will include 2012’s HYbrid4 diesel-electric range.
The upshot is more choice than either the smaller 407 mid-sizer or ageing 607 flagship that it simultaneously replaces.
At 4792mm long, 1853mm wide and riding on a 2817mm wheelbase – an increase of 101mm, 42mm and 92mm respectively over the seven-year old 407 – the 508 is the largest Peugeot ever sold in Australia.
A more cab-forward profile combined with 43mm less front overhang also results in a much roomier rear section – addressing one of the 407’s biggest criticisms.
While front legroom, rear hip space and total headroom figures are down marginally, rear legroom is increased significantly while the sedan’s 497-litre boot is 90 litres bigger.
The 508 shares its platform with the current Citroen C5 and – with more high and ultra-high strength steel in the structure, as well as an aluminium bonnet and more plastic body parts in areas such as the bumper and lower bootlid/tailgate portions – it tips the scales at 1520kg for the diesel sedan and 1540kg for the Touring wagon.
Peugeot claims that is about 100kg lighter than the equivalent Passat and C5.
Nevertheless, a five-star ENCAP crash-test rating was awarded thanks to six airbags and driving aids including stability control, anti-lock brakes, emergency brake assist, electronic brake-force distribution, cornering brake control and traction control.
The 508 also features a hill-hold function, anti-whiplash front seats, door handles that function better in an accident and a front bumper designed to keep a struck pedestrian from falling beneath the wheels.
The big Peugeot is also one of the most aerodynamic, registering a Cd figure of 0.26 (Touring: 0.27) while the 407 managed a 0.29.
Initially only the up-spec and performance diesel 508 models are available at Peugeot’s 40-odd dealerships, beginning with the expected volume-selling Allure 2.0L HDi in sedan ($42,990) and Touring ($45,990).
This is powered by a 2.0-litre twin-cam four-cylinder common-rail turbo-diesel featuring a variable geometry turbo with intercooler and overboost function, a variable swirl air-intake system and a particulate filter to help achieve – like all new Peugeots now sold in Australia – a Euro 5 emissions standard.
Driving the front wheels via a six-speed auto, it develops 120kW of power at 3750rpm and 340Nm of torque at 2000rpm. It sprints from standstill to 100km/h in 9.2 seconds, returns 5.7 litres per 100km and emits 149 grams of carbon-dioxide per kilometre.
Next up is the $52,990 GT sedan – a GT Touring may join the range next year if there is enough call for it – using a 2.2-litre version of the same engine, producing 150kW at 3500rpm and 450Nm at 2000rpm.
The GT is one second quicker to 100km/h at 8.2 seconds, yet also returns 5.7L/100km and spits out just 1g/km more CO2 thanks to a titanium turbo impeller, eight-nozzle Piezo-electric injectors, optimised combustion chambers, reduced friction and re-engineered (and paddle-shift equipped) automatic.
Peugeot claims the GT’s emissions are 33 per cent lower than those of the 2.7-litre 407 SV HDi 150kW/440Nm V6 twin turbo-diesel it replaces.
Interestingly, the 508 GT adopts a variation of the 407’s aluminium drop-link double-wishbone front suspension in lieu of the more conventional MacPherson strut front end found on the rest of the range.
All models employ an independent multi-link rear end, an electro-hydraulic power rack-and-pinion steering system that continually alters its assistance according to road conditions, and four-wheel disc brakes – vented up front and solid in the rear.
In the last quarter of 2011, the cheaper petrol versions arrive, employing a family of engines co-developed with BMW – though not the 147kW 1.6-litre turbo found in the Peugeot RCZ coupe.
The petrol-powered 508s bound for Australia will be the $36,990 Active sedan, $39,490 Allure sedan and $42,490 Allure Touring versions, all using the 1.6-litre twin-cam direct-injection twin-scroll turbo four-pot.
Featuring a variable valve timing system on the intake camshaft, it produces 115kW at 5800rpm, 240Nm at 1400-4000rpm and will achieve a 0-100km/h time of 9.2s, 7.1L/100km and 165g/km.
Arriving in November will be the first of the eco engines in the form of the 1.6L e-HDi EGC in Active specification at $37,490, making it the cheapest 508 diesel.
With idle-stop technology and a six-speed clutchless automated manual gearbox Peugeot dubs EGC, this 1.6-litre single-cam 8-valve intercooled turbo-diesel produces 82kW at 3600rpm and 285Nm at 1750rpm, and averages 4.4L/100km and 115g/km while moseying to 100km/h in 11.9s.
As previously revealed by GoAuto, a further planet-friendly 508 follows later in 2012 (after the 3008 HYbrid4 due early next year) in the form of a diesel-electric, all-wheel drive 508 RXH Touring HYbrid4.
Using a raised wagon body in the Subaru Outback tradition, boasting electric drive in each rear wheel and combining a 120kW 2.0L diesel up front with a 28kW electric motor, the 450Nm combined performance is comparable to the GT but CO2 emissions fall below 100g/km while fuel consumption will average 4.2L/100km.
A two-door coupe is also in the works, though Peugeot will not confirm its production date or Australian arrival.
The base Active sedans include 17-inch alloys with a full-sized spare wheel, dual-zone climate control air-conditioning, partial leather seat trim, rain-sensing wipers, auto headlights, rear parking sensors, Bluetooth, USB connectivity and a cruise control system with speed-limiter.
Moving up to the Allure (sedan and wagon) brings full leather trim with electric front seat adjustment, rear-seat four-zone climate control, front parking sensors with available space measurement and keyless entry with push-button start. Choosing the wagon also adds a massive glass roof as well as a remote-control rear-seat release mechanism.
The GT sedan loses the full-sized spare for a space-saver item and gets its own brand of partial-leather trim while gaining 18-inch alloys, a colour head-up display unit, directional bi-Xenon high-intensity discharge headlights with an adaptive main beam, tyre-pressure monitoring and an alarm system.
Key options include metallic paint ($800), satellite navigation ($1500 – or $2200 on the Allure if the HUD unit is specified), bigger alloys (18-inch: $500, 19-inch: $600), sunroof ($1000) and Nappa leather upholstery with memory seats on GT ($2900).
Addressing concerns that European cars cost more to run, Peugeot says it has selected more common wheel and tyre sizes, making replacement rubber more affordable.
Additionally, the 508 introduces Peugeot’s ‘Assured Service Plan’ that sees scheduled servicing – that is, at 20,000km/12months, 40,000km/24months and 60,000 km/36months – cost $330 per visit or $990 in total. It includes all labour, parts and consumables.
The warranty period remains at three-years/100,000km.
Peugeot has set a target of 1000 annual sales, which it says is “extremely conservative” given the 2000-plus annual volume the 407 achieved early in its career.
Peugeot expects the Allure to take the lion’s share (75 per cent) of sales, followed by the GT and Active at about 15 and 10 per cent respectively. The Touring, meanwhile, should account for between 30 and 50 per cent of all orders.
Peugeot is targeting the VW Passat, saying the 125TDI Highline costs $1000 more than the 508 2.0L HDi Allure yet does not offer its fixed-cost servicing, four-zone climate control, keyless entry and start or interior space.
Other 508 rivals include the Camry/Aurion, Ford Mondeo, Mazda6, Accord Euro, Subaru Liberty/Outback, Renault Latitude, Hyundai i45 and i40 wagon, Kia Optima, VE Commodore, Ford Falcon, Skoda Superb and Nissan Maxima.
The last ‘5’ series model sold in Australia was the 505, available from 1980 until 1993.