The plug-in Peugeot 508 Sport Engineered family wagon offers a different take on the fast estate.
Peugeot is on a push to go premium. It has relaunched its brand identity, with a new look for dealers and a mission statement to become “the best high-end generalists”. Make no mistake, it’s targeting Audi and BMW, and this 508 Peugeot Sport Engineered is the car that the brand is hoping will take it to that point – in price and performance terms, if not sales volume.
Peugeot even references the Audi S4 and BMW M340i as rivals; look at the 508 Peugeot Sport Engineered’s 265kW and 520Nm torque output and you’ll realise the French brand is serious about its aspirational image in the future and the products to achieve this.
However, Peugeot is doing things a little differently, because its Sport Engineered models represent the ultimate expression of performance through electrification, so every PSE product will offer exactly that.
Here, the power and torque don’t stem from something as conventionally appealing as a turbocharged six-cylinder engine, as with its German rivals. Instead, the PSE uses a familiar 1.6-litre PureTech turbo petrol unit in conjunction with a pair of electric motors – one on the front axle and one on the rear – fed by an 11.5kWh battery that gives an all-electric range of 42km.
The combustion engine produces 147kW, the front motor adds 81kW, while the rear electric motor serves up 83kW. Quirks of the system mean a total output of 265kW, but it’s still enough to make this the most powerful Peugeot production road car ever, while an e-EAT8 eight-speed automatic handles the engine and front motor’s power. Select Sport mode and you’ll get the full hit for a 0-100km/h time of 5.2 seconds.
It feels rapid, too, the electric motors not only filling in for, but also seriously boosting the combustion engine while it builds to its optimum revs, delivering an instant hit of acceleration that’s sustained relatively well. However, while it mostly matches its rivals for straight-line performance, it simply can’t match them for the soundtrack.
At a cruise the electric motors help take the load off the engine in the default Hybrid mode, keeping things quiet and refined, but when you ask for everything the PSE has to give, it sounds a little more strained.
The 508 flagship is about more than just acceleration, though. Three-mode adaptive dampers are standard, while the front and rear tracks have been widened by 24mm and 12mm respectively. The springs are 50 per cent stiffer than a regular 508 Hybrid’s, plus there are huge four-piston Alcon brake calipers clamping 380mm discs at the front. The 20-inch alloy wheels are wrapped in grippy Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres, and the transformation over the standard car is quite marked.
In Comfort mode the ride is firm and not always that forgiving, but it’s well controlled, with not much body or wheel movement. It makes the 508 PSE feel stable where its conventional sibling isn’t as reassuring. There is an acceptable level of comfort given the sporting intent, though.
The Sport Engineered’s steering is reminiscent of the 308 GTi’s and therefore the nicest of any of Peugeot’s small-wheel i-Cockpit set-ups currently on sale. It’s still fast and the wheel diameter is small, but the extra weight gives it more solidity and reassurance, plus there’s plenty of grip to command. There is an element of genuine involvement, which is really pleasing to experience – and Peugeot is doing it differently from its competitors.
The plug-in hybrid drivetrain is a huge factor in this. Alongside the claimed 42km electric range is a claimed fuel consumption of around 2L/100km and CO2 emissions as low as 46g/km.
The 11.5kWh battery takes one hour and 45 minutes to charge from a 7.4kW home wallbox, while a three-pin supply will be able to top up the battery from empty to full overnight in seven hours.
This estate is expected to be the more popular of the two bodystyles, and with 530 litres of boot space, it’s easy to see why. It’s practical and there’s a relatively generous amount of legroom for a sporty feeling car.
It’s the same in the front, but the leather and Alcantara seats are nice, even if the driving position is still compromised by the i-Cockpit set-up. In a performance road car like this, it’s an annoyance.
So is the material quality at this price, because in areas the plastics are hard and we’d like more soft finishes to reflect the 508 PSE’s cost. An S-model Audi feels more luxurious when it comes to the textures on offer, as well as the tech.
The PSE features a 12.3-inch digital dash and a 10-inch central touchscreen with bespoke graphics, but the system is a little laggy and the resolution could be sharper.
There are no arguments with the rest of the spec though: a Focal stereo, adaptive cruise, plenty of safety kit, all-round parking sensors with a 360-degree camera, keyless operation, heated massage seats, a powered tailgate and full-LED lights are all included.
It’s the chunky PSE body kit that sets it apart visually, with a deeper front bumper, rear diffuser housing a pair of black chrome exhausts, and lots of ‘Kryptonite’ green detailing inside and out – it looks the part.
The 508 Sport Engineered is Peugeot embracing the future of performance and electrification – and there are real elements of it that work. It’s a strong commitment to its flagship models, with genuine pace done differently and chassis revisions that help round the package into a different take on a practical performance car. It’s a versatile machine loaded with kit that also boasts strong efficiency – its rivals can’t match that. However, it looks pricey in areas, even if it does have exclusivity on its side.