This is the new Peugeot 508, a large family car that’s designed to be a rival for everything from the Vauxhall Insignia and Ford Mondeo to the likes of the VW Passat and BMW 3 Series.
Unveiled ahead of a public debut at next month’s Geneva Motor Show, the new 508 takes a more radical approach than the conservative vehicle it replaces.
It’s now a five-door ‘fastback’, with a more aggressive roofline that tapers down to an extremely complex rear three-quarter panel, which has multiple pinch points as it incorporates not only parts of a scalloped ‘shoulder’ that runs from the front door, but also an extra blister over the rear wheelarch.
The idea, Peugeot’s team claims, is to give the 508 more emotional appeal in a class where mainstream offerings, such as this car’s predecessor as well as the Renault Laguna, Citroen C5, Mondeo and Insignia, have all suffered at the hands of premium models like the 3 Series, Mercedes C-Class and Audi A4.
The front of the new 508 draws heavily on the Instinct concept that was first shown at last year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. There are distinctive vertical strips of daytime running lights at either side of the car (they’ll be LEDs on most models, but clear plastic on lower-end versions).
Interestingly, Peugeot has also elected to put the ‘508’ badge on the leading edge of the bonnet – a nod, we’re told, to the classic 504, the car’s spiritual predecessor that was launched 50 years ago.
Inside, the 508 really tries hard to stand apart from its mainstream rivals – and to give BMW and Mercedes a run for their money on perceived quality.
There are plenty of soft-touch fabrics, double stitching and grained finishes on the dashboard, plus some neat ‘piano key’ switches that sit below a central widescreen infotainment display. The vehicle features the latest evolution of Peugeot’s i-Cockpit, with a fully digital instrument panel that’s accessed by looking over the steering wheel instead of through it.
The new car will be offered with a range of six petrol and diesel engine/gearbox combinations, with power outputs ranging from 128bhp (likely to be the entry-level diesel) up to 222bhp (a highly tuned 1.6-litre petrol).
Around five percent of the outgoing 508 sales featured petrol power, but privately, PSA sources admit that this mix could increase to as much as a quarter with the new generation, thanks to Europe’s current backlash against diesel.
This 508 makes the jump from PSA’s relatively old PF3 platform to its latest EMP2 chassis architecture – so by the end of 2019, the 508 will be get a plug-in petrol-electric hybrid edition, with a power output to match the most potent conventional powertrain.
The car’s platform will allow Peugeot engineers to place the batteries below the rear seats, so the PHEV shouldn’t suffer from any reduction in boot capacity. And the system will incorporate a 50bhp electric motor and have sufficient capacity to run for about 30 miles on electricity alone.
The boot itself is respectable for the class – although the swooping roofline and short rear overhang mean that it won’t bother the Skoda Superb for outright capacity. The Peugeot manages 487 litres, in fact – nearly 150 litres less than the Czech offering – but the 508 is more in line with the likes of the 3 Series (480 litres) and the recently launched Insignia Grand Sport (490).
For those after greater practicality from their 508, Peugeot does have plans to launch an SW estate version of the car. It’s likely to go on sale in late autumn, a few months after the regular hatch reaches showrooms this summer.
There will also be a saloon version with a longer wheelbase for China, but there are no plans for that edition of the car to be sold outside of that region