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Peugeot 508 plays catch-up

Let's face it: Peugeot's facelifted 508 gets a new grille that includes the return of the lion badge to front and centre.

A mild makeover gives ageing Peugeot 508 more modern moves – but is it enough?


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28 Sep 2014


PEUGEOT’S middle-aged midsized 508 is attempting to shake its invisible middle-of-the-road image with a substantial makeover that includes a fresher appearance, more technology and improved drivetrain efficiency.

The French company has yet to divulge pricing, although we hear local importer Sime Darby is aiming to maintain the $36,990 opening gambit that the series has had since its mid-2011 introduction in Australia, even though spec levels will rise on the facelift that is expected to go on sale in the first quarter of next year.

The new-to-508 features include blind-spot monitor and reversing camera, while a large central touchscreen with improved multimedia connectivity from the 208 and second-generation 308 small car bring the newcomer up to date.

To help it look more modern on the outside, Peugeot’s designers have elongated and squared off the nose with a bluffer front end, smaller headlights, a more upright grille and a different bumper, while the tail-lights gain a more horizontal look matched to a new rear boot lid and bumper area.

Interestingly, the rectangular grille sees the return of the marque’s famous lion logo to the centre, connecting the 2011 508 with its 1979 505 and 1968 504 predecessors. Conversely, upper-spec models such as the GT will gain segment-first all-LED headlights that dramatically improve scope and penetration.

Significant under-the-skin modifications have been made as well, although none to the electric-assisted rack and pinion steering, multi-link rear suspension or either of the two front suspensions on offer depending on model (MacPherson on lower grades and a more complex double wishbone arrangement on the flagship GT).

“We did not change the steering or suspension because there was no need,” a Peugeot spokesman told GoAuto at the 508 Series II launch in Spain last week.

“The previous 508 had achieved the perfect balance that customers want.” This is a worrying situation, for a range-topping GT sedan we tested nearly three years ago disappointed us with its persistently rattly steering rack, choppy ride (on 18-inch wheels/tyres, admittedly) and underwhelming handling.

Only a test on Australian roads will reveal if the firm is deluded or not.

Things have moved forward on the 508 drivetrain front, however, thanks to the introduction of a slew of newly Euro-6 rated engine options that Peugeot hopes will open up its midsizer’s appeal.

Key to the company’s plans to keep the all-new Ford Mondeo and Volkswagen Passat at bay is a heavily modified small-displacement direct-injection four-cylinder turbo petrol engine known as the 1598cc 1.6-litre THP 165 (for brake horsepower measurement).

With efficiency a top priority, it averages an impressive 5.8 litres per 100km and 134 grams per kilometre of carbon dioxide emissions on the European cycle – the upshot of a heavily modified and Aisin-supplied six-speed torque converter automatic transmission dubbed the EAT6. No manual gearbox will be offered.

Power and torque maximums for the 1.6L THP 165 are 121kW at 6000rpm and 240Nm at 1400rpm respectively, to help the 1410kg four-door sedan hit 100km/h from standstill in 8.9 seconds, on the way to a 210km/h top speed.

While these figures might sound pedestrian in this day and age, they only tell half the story, for the 508 THP 165 is a rapid and flexible performer (after a moment’s hesitation), building up speed quickly and unobtrusively all the way to the rev limiter’s red-line cut out.

This is quite a surprising revelation, because the 508 is almost as large as a Holden Commodore and beats it for boot space.

Our test car on the beautifully slick roads of Mallorca was the SW Touring wagon with two adults and luggage on board, yet it never felt wanting or gutless.

The Peugeot is also an able and involving handler, carving up corners with a huge amount of grip and composure, without compromising the supple ride (on 215/55 R17 tyres) that came to be one of the best things about the 508 we had been driving.

However, despite displaying towering handling and braking traits, the steering feels a bit too light and remote for keener drivers who might want to connect with their car.

Nonetheless, the THP 164 EAT6 petrol ought to be the range bestseller, usurping the HDi diesel units that Sime Darby has yet to confirm for Australia.

Three diesel automatics are currently available to be cherry picked for Australia – a carryover 120kW/340Nm 1997cc 2.0L HDi 160 Euro-5 that can race to 100km/h in 6.6s and return 5.4L/100km and 140g/km and 150kW/450Nm 2.2L HDi 200 that slashes the 0-100km/h time to 5.2s while actually using 0.1L/100km less fuel on the Euro cycle (both retain the old six-speed auto), to the new 133kW/400Nm 2.0L BlueHDi 180 with EAT6 auto that returns a 5.6s dash time to 100km/h, 4.4L/100km and just 116g/km.

Unfortunately, we had no access to any of the HDi automatic models, just a satisfyingly smooth yet punchy 110kW/310Nm 2.0L BlueHDi 150 with a six-speed manual that felt lively and strong throughout the gears. Sadly, we are unlikely to see this powertrain combo on the 508.

Aside from the helpfully intuitive and easy-to-operate touchscreen interface and always-handy reverse camera imagery it relays, there is to the 2015 facelift.

The seats hold and support with ease the dashboard look and feel is on a par with the best of the midsize sedan/wagon set (especially in the opulent SW Feline wagon, with its sober yet appealing textures, tasteful leather trim and multitude of standard kit.

Only occasional road-noise intrusion and the odd glimpse of a slightly ill fitted and/or overly-plasticky lower-cabin trim panel undermined the car-maker’s lofty aspirations for its struggling midsizer.

So should you wait for the new car?Despite all of the advances made, the 508 remains a curiously anodyne experience, coming across and terrifically competent in most areas without shining in any.

The outgoing Mondeo and Passat were better overall propositions, we felt, and their respective replacements due soon are set to raise standards in dynamics, quality, efficiency, refinement and driver appeal. Needless to say, the Peugeot will have a tough time.

Our initial experience suggests that – good as the facelifted 508 is – the changes may not be enough to keep the car or its potential target group near or at the top of the segment.

Still, the latest 508 feels significantly better than before and is not as dull or boring as before. Don’t dismiss it so easily this time.

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