AT one point in the latest 508’s press blurb, Peugeot refers to it as a ‘5 Series’ model … a subtle hint or wishful thinking?
Out next February, the three-year old midsizer has undergone a facelift to help keep it competitive against ever-younger rivals in an increasingly shrinking class. But with Peugeot prattling on about blind spot monitors and a reverse camera as ‘fresh’ highlights, the ageing front-driver is merely playing catch-up with the Volkswagen Passat, Ford Mondeo, Mazda 6, Opel/Holden Insignia and Skoda Octavia.
Can’t spot the changes? The makeover includes a more upright front end, smaller headlights (all-LED on higher grades), different tail-lights, reshaped bumpers, and – a sign of things to come, we’re told – a more formal grille centring the lion as king. Where it belongs.
Meanwhile the newcomer’s dash boasts a much larger monitor that’s now touchscreen, with improved multimedia connectivity and a soupcon of trim and material upgrades.
It’s all about being blingier, really. After all, of the 370,000 previous 508s built, 36 percent found Chinese homes.
This is not to say the modifications aren’t worthwhile.
Top of the list is a lighter and more responsive six-speed auto, courtesy of Japan’s Aisin; dubbed EAT6, it will be the mainstay gearbox when the 508 surfaces in February with revised versions of the continuing all-turbo powerplants.
While the 2.0-litre and 2.2L HDi turbodiesels dominated in the outgoing edition, Peugeot reckons the newly Euro-6-rated 1.6L THP 165 – with Stop and Start for a 6.5L/100km fuel consumption claim – will represent the biggest conquest opportunity for 508.
Related to the previous-gen Mini’s Prince unit, the revamped four-pot turbo punches well above its size category … provided the revs stay in the 4000rpm-plus sweet spot. Below that, you’ll need to flex that right foot frequently for urgent acceleration needs. Once that turbo is spinning, however, the Peugeot feels far from undernourished – reflected in its official 210km/h top-speed.
Spain’s roads in late September are warm, dry and slicker than a boy bands’ collective quiff, and in this environment the mainstream 508 – fitted with MacPherson-type struts up front and a multi-link rear end – corners with a confident and well-balanced attitude, backed up by light yet alert steering responses, superb suspension suppleness on the 215/55 R17 rubber as tested, and a very willing set of stoppers.
Only an artificial feel from the helm lets the dynamic side down.
Rather surprisingly, Peugeot says there was no need to fettle with the steering or suspension for the facelift – a questionable move, for the heavier 2.2L HDi GT sedan tested on 18-inch tyres back in 2011 over less-than-complementary Aussie roads exposed copious steering rack rattle to match a jittery ride. And that was the model fitted with the more-sophisticated double-wishbone front-end.
Clearly what works in Spain might turn out to be a pain around the roads of Castlemaine.
On the subject of diesels, Peugeot is remaining coy about which engines are on their way.
Our money is on the 120kW/340Nm 2.0L and GT’s 150kW/450Nm 2.2L HDi units continuing from before, though the new EAT6 auto in combination with the re-engineered 133kW/400Nm 2.0L BlueHDi 180 turbodiesel may become the 508 eco vanguard, since it ushers in an exceptionally low consumption claim of around 4.4L/100km. Watch this space.
Everything else is as before – the spacious and practical cabin as sampled in the mid-range Allure and Euro-only Feline luxury variants have held up especially well in terms of design and utility, while benefitting enormously by the user-interface updates central to the new model’s appeal.
Pricing will be key to the 508 reversing a 50 per cent sales slide this year. Importers Sime Darby promise significant spec increases, which should assist the circa-$37K Active 1.6 THP auto opener against its formidable opponents.
But with the all-new Mondeo and Passat – long-standing dynamic and quality benchmarks respectively – expected to keep pushing out boundaries, is a mild makeover enough to keep buyers interested?
The 508 is competent at most things but commanding in none, as well as a tad too dull for a brand that once brought us the 504 and 505. While far from being a French Toyota Camry, referring to it as your ‘5 Series’ is a bit rich, Peugeot.
Model: Peugeot 508 1.6 THP 165
Engine: 1598cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v turbo
Max power: 121kW @ 6000rpm
Max torque: 240Nm @ 1400rpm
Transmission: 6-speed auto
Kerb weight: 1410kg
0-100km/h: 8.9sec (EU version)
Price: From $37,000 (est.)
On sale: February 2015