A friend in the village commented: “I knew it was you behind me, as I recognised those ‘Dame Edna’ headlights.” Based on this observation, it would be safe to assume that the Peugeot 508 SW stands out – even in the dark. I’m not sure Peugeot will appreciate the reference to the Australian comedian, but the 508 SW has standout qualities in abundance. From the way the front and rear lights flash when you lock and unlock the doors, to the gorgeous ‘shooting brake’ styling, you’re not going to lose this Peugeot in a car park. Even if it’s parked between two oversized SUVs.
Standing out used to matter in the executive car segment. Company car drivers would run a particular car on the strength of its badge, and what it looked like at Membury Services or South Mimms. Back in the day, the 405 and 406 gave Peugeot a strong foothold in the fleet sector, offering BMW-levels of driver appeal, low running costs and smart styling. The 508 ticks the styling box, but what about the way it drives? In truth, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. To say it flatters to deceive might be a little unfair, but the driving experience is unable to match the promise of the styling.
The engine and transmission aren’t helpful in this regard. Everything has been configured to reduce emissions – and there’s no problem with that – but it makes for a frustrating driving experience. On a flat road, it’s perfectly fine. The 1.5-litre diesel engine has little trouble keeping up with traffic, but show it a hill and things start to go awry. This isn’t a problem if you live in Lincolnshire or the Netherlands, but it becomes troublesome in Devon. It feels way off the pace on hills, which is a particular issue when attempting to join a fast A-road. It’s not slow, it’s just lethargic. It’s clear that the eight-speed transmission has been told to hold back. Ask it to break out of its comfort zone and it’ll ignore the demands of your right foot before remembering who’s boss. Occasionally it will select a couple of cogs before it decides which is the best one to use.
Two things help to improve the driving experience (aside from ensuring the heated seats are always on). First, never select Eco mode, which gives the impression that the car is permanently driving through treacle. Secondly, disengage the lane departure warning system. I’m sure it’s fine on motorways, but on rural roads it’s like a nagging passenger, constantly adjusting the steering to what it believes is the right line. Overtake a cyclist on what is little more than a single-track road, and it’ll do its best to reduce the gap you’ve left. The driving experience is so much better without it.
Sorry if things sound a bit negative this month. It must be said that the 508 SW is a wonderful car to ‘own’, but more on this next month.
Date arrived 17th December 2019
Fuel economy 52.4-62.0 (WLTP combined) 41.8mpg (on test)
The front and rear lights look fantastic.
The lane departure warning system is useless on rural roads.