The 508 breathes an air of class and luxury to a corner of the French automaker’s line-up that it, strangely, had been lacking. It marked a change in how they named their cars too as it sits at the top of Peugeot’s saloon range and, since its 2011 debut, simultaneously replaced the similarly-sized 407 and larger 607.
Indeed, both cars are actually quite similar under the skin, though the 508 is slightly larger as to be more of a middle ground between 407 607, the lineage to which Peugeot had axed entirely (phased out in 2008).
Its place in the larger expanse of things is rightfully judged based on how well it can compete with cars like the Ford Mondeo, Mazda6, Honda Accord, Skoda Superb and Volkswagen Passat - offering decent luxury, refinement, and interior space at a more accessible price.
It’s clear that Peugeot focused on creating a viable rival to the BMWs and Audis of the world when conceiving a new flagship sedan and successor to the somewhat lacklustre 407. Gone were the usual, often ungainly design cues we had previous associated with the brand, and here was a more mature, even Germanic entrant that felt several shades more upmarket on the inside and out than before.
More impressively, despite obviously being tuned more towards comfort, it still kept a fair amount of engagement behind the wheel and, if paired to the right engine and a sufficiently light right foot, can be quite frugal as well as spritely.
It’s available in Australia with a range of turbocharged four-cylinder petrol or diesel engines and is spread over three grades: Active, Allure, and GT, though only the latter two can be had as a Touring (wagon).
“…the French manufacturer gave its Mondeo rival a rather eye-catching facelift in 2014 to help it compete against the likes of the Skoda Octavia and VW Passat.” - AutoExpress
Peugeot’s new face, objectively, benefits from markedly improved genetics. Starting with the 508, this has mushroomed to a string of good looking, if a little conservative, Pugs such as 308, 208, and 3008.
Like its predecessor, the sedan here also incorporates a more sloping roofline that has also shown up in the exteriors of some key competitors. After a 2015 facelift, the 508 gained a stepped front fascia and other quite minor exterior flourishes that adds slightly more drama to the 2011 original, setting up a look that is now more consistent as some newer models are launched.
Even so, the base design was mature and well-rounded, not really needing that refresh though welcome it was. There is a touch of that French flair that did set it apart from more familiar rivals, but certainly a carefully considered reduction over their most recent cars of the time.
In addition, 17-inch wheels do come as standard on the base Active, though the more expensive Allure and GT receive 18- and 19-inchers respectively. Should you choose the Touring body style, the sleek profile gets even better as a bonus on top of the added practicality.
The headlamps on the top-spec GT are full LED that’s adjusts the height of their beam as well as being able to swivel with the wheel to illuminate the corner as you go around, though both features can be optioned on the mid-spec Allure. Tail lights are LED as standard, however.
Engine and Drivetrain
“All models use a new lightweight design of Aisin six-speed automatic transmission with steering wheel mounted paddle shifters.” - CarsGuide
In total, three engine choices are given to the prospective 508 owner, indeed spread neatly over those aforementioned trio of grades - Active, Allure, and GT - and, as you would expect, increasing in power and torque the higher it is up the ladder. All engines are mated to their 6-speed EAT6 torque converter automatic transmission with standard paddle shifters.
The Active gets a 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder e-THP motor derived from the Prince engine series that's found across the gamut of current Peugeot vehicles. It has a decent 121kW but with a car as large as the 508 (at least 1,400kg), the 240Nm figure will matter more.
Luckily, all that twist is delivered at a very early at 1,400rpm, but some have noted it being a little breathless as it climbs the rev range. The sprint to 100km/h arrives in a respectable 8.9 seconds, making it the quickest of the bunch despite being the entry-level offering. Keep a mindful watch on how much you prod the throttle, though, and Peugeot says a 5.8-litre/100km consumption figure is technically achievable.
Moving on, the first of the two remaining engines is a diesel (and so is the final one, by the way), a 2.0-litre turbo four in the mid-spec Allure outputs 120kW and a beefy 340Nm for a 9.2-second dash to 100km/h and can return a claimed 5.4-litres/100km.
Lastly, the 508 GT’s engine is taken from the more efficient BlueHDi line, but shares many similarities with the Allure’s four pot diesel. It burns the same fuel, for one, and even shares the same cubic capacity as well as bore and stroke. It is more powerful with 133kW and 400Nm, but doesn’t accelerate any quicker at 9.2 seconds. It is, however, more frugal as it’s purported to sip as little as 4.4-litres per 100km.
Though the sole petrol engine is technically the most eager to build speed, highways are where the two diesels' ample reserves of torque make their presence known as this is when the 1.6-litre e-THP motor is at its most vulnerable, having exhausted its low-end boost.
“The range-topping GT models get luxuries such as a Nappa leather upholstery, massaging driver's seat and a head-up display as standard.” - Autocar
Against peers such as the Ford Mondeo and Mazda6, the big Pug scores well on having an airy and practical cabin. This is helped, no doubt, by a surprising level of material quality, build, and refinement on the road.
It’s comfortable, feels luxurious, and is refreshingly void of any overtly superfluous design decisions. There’s a pragmatism to the dash layout but does exude a clean, even elegant aesthetic. Any notion of interior fit and finish being a hit/miss affair in their previous efforts are swiftly quashed here.
The seats are leather, though it must be noted that the base Active gets a cloth/leather blend while the range-topping GT receives more supple Nappa leather upholstery - and are very comfortable and supportive, and yields a relatively good driving position. The dials beyond the instrument cluster are very clear and classy with their metallic surrounds. In fact, the satin metal accents are scattered throughout, along with piano black bits, and does elevate even the 508 Active into proper premium territory for interior ambiance and feel.
Rear passengers shouldn’t have any complaints with a good amount of legroom and headroom even for taller occupants. It’s not class leading, but it is more than adequate. The boot measures 497-litres with the seats left in place or 1,533-litres when folded. The Touring, though, has 612 litres with the seats up and an expansive 1,817-litres with them down. Again, more than enough for most people, but not class leading.
Behind The Wheel
“…firm without being uncomfortable and feels reasonably composed and stable when tipped into a fast, tightening corner. On faster, undulating roads it maintains a steady serenity reminiscent of far pricier products.” - Top Gear
Peugeots have earned their right to be boastful about their cars having a certain lustre to their driving experience, and though some may criticise their former attempts about being more inert than predecessors during their handling heyday, the 508 returns to form.
It’s certainly not a corner-muncher, but given that the car is meant to be a refined cruiser - which it is - can tackle bends with plenty of poise. Given rivals are all equally driven by their two front wheels, the differences in handling come down to subtleties. The Ford Mondeo now values supple comfort more than it does being a larger sedan version of the Focus, leaving the Mazda6 to edge them both in terms of sheer driving involvement.
Mind you, the both the Skoda Superb and Volkswagen Passat also offer a strong mix of cosseting ride and an agile chassis, and the 508 is most definitely on par with these latter two, despite being a little older than either.
The 508 GT, especially, has garnered praise for its dynamics. Deservedly so, due to its notable suspension upgrades over the Active and Allure, using double wishbones at the front instead of the MacPherson array. All cars get a multi-link rear axle setup and a hybrid electro-hydraulic power steering system which should deliver more feedback through the wheel over the fully electric racks very commonly used nowadays.
Even during more mundane driving situations, any owner can appreciate the well-judged, if somewhat too elevated, seating position and visibility, particularly so with the Touring. Even on longer stints, the 508’s remarkably hushed cabin adds a larger sense of calmness to the proceedings.
Safety and Technology
“As the base model, the 508 Active misses out on the JBL premium sound system, but its standard eight-speaker setup was more than up to the task.” - CarAdvice
Beginning with Renault Laguna back in the early 00s, French cars were among the first to continually be awarded the 5-star Euro NCAP safety rating. In 2011, when the 508 first made Australian landfall, ANCAP too gave it full marks with it scoring close to maximum points in occupant protection.
Dual frontal, side, and curtain airbags are standard in all variants, so is a reversing camera and cruise control. Keyless entry, hill start assist, and blind spot monitoring, however, are only given to the Allure and GT.
There’s also a head-up display, quad-zone climate control, and tyre pressure monitoring that’s reserved for the top-spec GT, though all 508s receive the centrally placed 7-inch touchscreen infotainment unit with satellite navigation. It’s not the most intuitive or quickest interface out there, but well within reasonable limits. Competitors have introduced support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto gain back ground on their own in-house infotainment interfaces, and it's time Peugeot stepped up to do likewise. Audio can be piped in through Bluetooth via an 8-speaker audio system.
There’s plenty to like with the 508. As a package, it’s the best large car the marque has arguably ever offered and deserves a spot alongside the younger line-up within the brand’s ranks after pioneering this more austere incarnation of the Peugeot brand.
Indeed, its follow-ons - the 308, 208, 3008 - owe their existence and greater success over their respective predecessors thanks to path trodden first by the 508. It has near-class-leading levels of ride comfort and on-road refinement, impressive build quality and dynamics, as well as a much-improved design that’s still distinctive on the road.
Objectively, though, the 508 is a very accomplished car, and minor embellishments only highlight the uniform weaknesses across all cars in this space, which aren't all that evident.
Matched with some strong and fuel-efficient engines and plusses in practicality, there’s little in the way to deny it a spot on any buyers shortlist. Residuals, though, pose a hurdle for the 508, especially given its tough competition and the relatively minuscule price differences over the long term, all told.
AutoExpress - 3/5 - “…the 508 is a good-looking alternative that is very nicely finished inside, highly efficient, and well equipped for the money….It’s one of the most relaxed and comfortable cars in its class too, although it’s not as much fun to drive as the Ford.”
CarsGuide - 4/5 - “While it is essentially a cruiser the 508 retains the traditional Peugeot ride and handling qualities so it's still an enjoyable car to drive especially when the Sport option is activated to tighten up the suspension, steering and transmission.”
Top Gear - 6/10 - “A decent saloon from Peugeot and something to challenge the Mondeo on company car lists”
CarAdvice - 8/10 - “…it proved itself to be a capable, comfortable and economical daily driver, whether you spend your time in the urban jungle, or covering big distances on the open road.”
Autocar - 4/5 - “Does it set fire to the class, though? Not quite. For all its excellence, there are still areas where its rivals narrowly pip it. A Ford Mondeo is more engaging, a Volkswagen Passat is a more relaxing distance companion and a Skoda Superb more accommodating.”