The 508 gets all grown up
It's swapped French elan for Teutonic solidness, but what this new model loses in bumptiousness it makes up for in drive quality, writes Campbell Spray
It was probably a bit indulgent to be giving her a lift but it was her last full week in school and my 19 years' or so engagement with the primary and secondary system is fast coming to an end.
Perhaps it was fitting, so, that it was in this car I was giving her a lift, as it marks a distinct transition for the French manufacturer. It is the most German of its models and sacrifices a certain French élan for Teutonic solidness and almost boringness. It is an excellent car that really takes the fight to the VW Passat, Toyota Avensis and Ford Mondeo. In many ways it is so much better value than all of them and makes a very good case for getting conquests from the premium sector.
However, I miss the barracuda-like jaw of its predecessor which to a would-be ex-playboy like me was in many ways more stylish and aesthetically pleasing. I used to love driving it through the night -- especially the coupe version -- listening to love songs and pretending to be out on the prowl and somebody else entirely. But obviously this was not the case for my daughter who put me in my place and thought the new 508 one of the best cars we have driven in recent times.
That it just fitted into our garage was of little consequence to her. This was a good car to be seen in and didn't have the bumptiousness of some of the offerings in which I turn up. Although prices start at €24,850, I was driving the 2.0 HDi 140bhp Allure model which had an option pack of head-up display and a JBL hifi system as an extra for €1,000. The sound was good but the head-up display, from a mirror device that pops up along the dashboard between wheel and windscreen, is less so and nowhere near as good as those we have seen from BMW and others.
Yet for €32,550 this was an impressive car with masses of space, front and rear, and very positive driving characteristics. The diesel was a bit gruff at first but really came into its own on the open road. Despite its very high spec, the car still fits easily into the B band (€156) for road tax. However, there is also an Ecomatique version in the A band and, at the other end, a 163bhp Automatic in the C band.
The 508 confidently replaces both the 407 and 607. An extremely attractive estate version has also been launched and many international commentators say it is the pick of the bunch. The 508 SW is a great car to be smitten with. Prices start at €28,800, but the 2.0 litre 140bhp diesel at €30,600 is really the one to go for.
Overall, the 508 comes across as an extremely well-built car with massive attention to detail. The company claims it is its best car ever. I do think it has played down its natural flair too much but Peugeot really does know its game well and this fine driving car will be a great success.
I would go for the higher-powered diesel and the Allure spec but forget about the heads-up unless the company throws it in. So it's goodbye shark and hello corporate car park: the 508 was crowned Best New Car of 2011 by Fleet World magazine last week.