Road test: Peugeot 508 HYbrid4

Peugeot’s current grande saloon, the 508, is one of the more attractive vehicles on its fleet. We reviewed the 1.6 e-HDi model here at Motor Writer last February and enjoyed the ride, fit and finish, interior space and economy. Exterior design is smart and carries the current Peugeot tapir-like nose design.

Like most reviewers, we didn’t like the automated manual gearbox which lets the car down. It’s almost acceptable if you live in The Fens, but changing up a gear takes so long, the car actually slows down when on a moderate incline.

Not quite a simple as the raw numbers

Eager to try Peugeot’s most sophisticated drive train, the diesel-electric hybrid solution, we can now enjoy 200bhp, 500Nm torque and all-wheel-drive. Sounds great on paper but it’s not quite as simple as the raw numbers. The 200bhp is made-up of 163 plus 37 from the electric motor. The all-wheel-drive is achieved with diesel to the front and electric to the rear.

I have to say, my heart sank as I spotted this model has the same automated manual ‘box but with the motor effectively filling in the gaps in power delivery when the rods and levers are being moved, it’s pretty seamless. It’s still not as slick as a dual clutch or as gentle as a lazy torque converter but mostly acceptable here.  The advantage, of course, is that it achieves the key sub-100g/km of CO2.  The one thing to remember is there’s no ‘park’ position like a full auto, so application of the electronic parking brake is a must.

I like the four-wheel-drive capability and it did help the car off some sodden grass (where many two-wheel-drive cars merely spun their wheels). Given the wet weather, it also helped gaining traction on a couple of wet traffic light get-aways.

The only option was to switch to sport mode…

When reviewing cars, it’s important they are thrown into everyday use – something we aim to do at Motor Writer. Everyday use in winter means frosty windows on some mornings and deluges on others, both generating misted windows – a bit of a problem here. When crawling through traffic, the hybrid mechanism maximises use of the electric motor and reduces ancillary power load where possible, including the dehumidifier. Each morning, the only option was to switch to ‘sport’ mode to encourage as much diesel engine use as possible, thereby keeping the cabin windows clear (and increasing fuel consumption).

Going back to ‘sport’ mode, this is where the 508 HYbrid4 starts to make sense from a driver-involvement perspective. It is more eager to charge the battery (and to a fuller level) in preparation for any spirited driving. It also adds the 37 to the 163 bhp to give the greatest shove forwards. This isn’t a bad shove – it is both torquey and immediate with the motor helping but there’s about two tonnes all-up to heave, so the needle graces 60mph after about 9 seconds.  Of note is the absence of rev counter, replaced by an economy gauge.

In summary, there are some good bits and less good bits. To get the most out of the drive train demands a little extra thought about the appropriate drive mode (sport often being the sensible choice, not necessarily just for swifter progress). The cabin is spacious, refined and comfortable but I’d be tempted to choose a fully manual turbodiesel engine and enjoy all that’s pleasing about the 508. The hybrid adds four-wheel-drive and just 95g/km of CO2 but the cost is an extra £8,500 list price (over Allure specification) and a couple of hundred kilogrammes in weight.

Peugeot 508 HYbrid4, tested costs £31,450. The 508 range starts at £18,450

Power: 163 bhp (3,850 rpm) + 37 bhp (electric motor), torque: 300 Nm (1,700 rpm) + 200 (electric motor), emissions: 95g/km CO2 (band A), 0-60 mph: 9.0 secs.

Motor Writer rating: ●●●○○

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