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Sporty Peugeots are back (?)

In the past, Peugeot made some inspired and fun cars. What comes to mind are Peugeot‘s fine hot hatches like the 205 GTi and 208 GTi, as well as the more recent RCZ-R. Sadly the time of those cars is long gone. But Peugeot has made the efforts to put style as their #1 priority. While most Peugeots of today might lack some sportiness, they look really good! Especially the new 508, a mid-size car offered in sedan or estate form. And now there might be a renaissance; the all-new Peugeot 508 Peugeot Sport Engineered (or 508 PSE). A brand new plug-in hybrid!

The new 508 PSE is the most powerful road-going Peugeot ever made, producing 360 horsepower and 520nm of torque. It's also very quick, completing the sprint to 100km/h in 5.2 seconds. Sounds very promising. But what's behind all the power? A 1.6l turbocharged four-cylinder engine coupled with two electric motors. The combustion engine makes 200 horsepower and each electric motor (one at the front- and one at the rear axle) do the rest. This gives the 508 PSE the feeling of immediacy, because of the two powerful electric motors that produce instant torque. If only it was so easy. Sadly, they haven't exactly changed the combustion engine and gearbox to suit the new hybrid layout. They all work together but not in perfect harmony. It feels quick but the two components could be synchronized even better. With a gearbox that is as slow and unengaging as one can be, the 508 PSE lacks some drama. Also, the little 1.6l turbo-four doesn't sound very exciting; there is an option for "Sport-Sound" but this doesn't change anything on the exhaust. It's all fakery being played through the internal speakers.

It feels like the 508 PSE is a hybrid that scores more points on the electric side of things. In pure electric mode, the two motors can split power between the axles and thus give you AWD. Note, that the combustion engine only powers the front wheels. An amusing noise can be heard from the two motors as if it was whirring away. The claimed range is around 45km, which isn't a lot. But in comparison to other car manufacturers, the claim is real. Charging is limited to only 7kW so a charge from empty to full will take you overnight.

What Peugeot has done though is make you feel special inside the 508 PSE. It looks stunning from the inside and outside. Peugeot Sport Engineered has given the 508 new kryptonite accents. These can be seen on the front splitter, performance brakes, and the seats. Unlike some other manufacturers, the kryptonite accents are used sparingly. Others use their performance color and badge on every panel and every surface. The performance badge consists of three kryptonite stripes, as in the shape left behind by a lion's claw. It's only used four times, on the hood, two times on both front fenders, and once on the steering wheel. We think this is an awesome touch to differentiate the 508 PSE from other models. The large brakes and sharp edges show the onlooker that this 508 has something special to it. We especially love the 508 PSE in estate (or SW) form. It looks like something that could take on a BMW 330e or Volvo V60 T6 Recharge, the 508 PSE's closest rivals. In the rear, there are (real!) twin exhaust pipes that don't sound all that loud, but for a plug-in hybrid, it's very impressive that there are visible exhausts in the first place. All around the car, you'll find fins for better aerodynamic efficiency and in the rear a sort-off diffusor.

The interior is laid out with sporty but comfortable bucket seats and wood inlets in the dashboard. How about that?! No carbon fiber here. Peugeot has also decided to finish the pedals in aluminum and to give the whole cabin a premium feel. But like with all Peugeot, the driving position is controversial. Unlike in regular cars, Peugeot provides an extremely small steering wheel that is mounted low down, to see the instrument cluster. When considering any Peugeot, test drive it and see if this layout works for you. It works for us but it is something to get used to.

Finally, the dynamic driving experience. Is it something to take on other performance hybrids? Maybe not. While a lot of modifications have been done, it doesn't differentiate itself dynamically from other cars in its class. The whole experience is dominated by straight-line performance. As mentioned, it is quick, but nothing special in the corners. The lack of engagement of the gearbox and mismatch of both powertrains means that the 508 PSE can not compete dynamically. Little has been done to make the 508 PSE corner well due to the large weight of the hybrid components. It could've been so much more!

We think that Peugeot's new step into a performance-oriented brand was a missed opportunity. Although a sporty hybrid estate/sedan is welcomed, we expected more. There is still a lot to wish for and we hope that the PSE brand can inspire more engaging and thrilling cars in the future.


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