NOT so long ago, a good friend and I drove down to Galway. It's a great road from Dublin now and we felt all the more comfortable because it was cold and miserable outside.
We only too well remembered the travails of negotiating clogged, busy towns before the motorway.
We talked about everything under the (hidden) sun; I'd say there wasn't a second's silence. To be honest, it was only when we got to the outskirts of the City of the Tribes that we fully re-focused our attention on the car.
It was the heavily revised Peugeot 508 saloon (there's a fine estate/SW too). I felt a bit guilty. We had driven it previously, examined it closely before we left, compared and contrasted it with competitors and so on.
But in the course of the drive, well, we talked about everything except the car.
It was only afterwards it struck me that while we had extensively touched, tapped and talked about it before taking off that day, we more or less took it for granted for the entire journey. That can be a good or bad sign.
I had the 2-litre 140bhp version for a few days recently and, again, it provided the backdrop rather than the focus of comings and goings, chats, shopping, collecting daughters from the airport, skipping down the country etc.
And yet, I can remember making subliminal notes of little things in the course of my drives.
And little things add up these days where technical differentiation can be minimal and tiny touches here and there make all the difference. For example, I think the cabin in my test car (yes, it was way up the spec scale but increasingly that's what people are buying) is as good, if not better, than most now. A big improvement on the old one.
I liked the way they cleaned up the dash, instrumentation. Much easier to work with now; more intuitive, less distracting.
I liked the seats and the feel of the cabin. And if you can find me a better 2-litre diesel, I want to sample it.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying it's a great; indeed it is not. It has its faults and drawbacks like the rest of them. I wanted more bite in the steering and handling, for example. And I think the start push-button is madly placed at the end of the dash - a really poor decision. And don't get me started on the blinking electric handbrake.But I think it is now one of those cars that has come from being moderately decent, to where it makes its case through being of a consistent standard across the board.
I think the Volkswagen Passat is a prime example of that; I choose it as the best in this class due to the absence of an outstanding blemish rather than an outstanding attribute.
So for the 508, to begin to get into that sort of territory is, in itself, an achievement. Frankly, it needs to, because there is savage competition and no second chances (despite it being a revised model).
That's especially true when you remember that, up to now anyway, the 508 would be some distance from being the first name on most people's shopping list for a large family/fleet car.
I suggest the Passat (Volkswagen) and Mondeo (Ford) would be far more likely starting points. That's understandable too; they are, and for some time have been, giants of the genre. Nearly everything else trails them. Incidentally, I've no doubt the Passat has a nudge on the Mondeo as far as its cabin and overall feel is concerned; the Mondeo is a better, crisper driver.
But the Peugeot looks so well now with the cabin in my Allure (Level 3 spec) managing to convey a sense of 'upmarket' I haven't seen before from the marque at this level.
So, I'm absolving myself and my loquacious fellow traveller from all blame on that trip to and from Galway.
I'm going to blame it on the car and say nothing much annoyed us enough to break from one of the great gossip journeys of recent times.
Peugeot 508 saloon, 2.0 HDi Allure (140bhp, 4.6l/100kmh, road tax €200). Equipment on test car included auto bi-zone air con, leather trim, cruise control/speed limiter, several airbags, full-size spare wheel, rear-parking aid, electric lumbar support on driver's seat, DAB radio, CD player with MP3, 8GB jukebox, Bluetooth, 7-in multifunction touchscreen, satnav, electric steering
Price of test car: €31,945. Range starts at €26,750 for 1.6-litre diesel (115bhp). Five-year warranty
Remember: Delivery and related charges are extra.
I'm convinced some people drive 'blind' for the first 100-200 metres after starting off in the mornings. And it's the most dangerous time. Ever watch harassed suburban mums tear down the estate road late for work/school and still putting on the seatbelt? Concentrating on everything except the driving and the road? Frightening.