The Peugeot 508 PSE (Peugeot Sport Engineered) looks to restore Peugeot's sports saloon glory and remind the likes of BMW M and Mercedes-AMG that the French brand has more rally stage and Le Mans wins than either of them. The 508 PSE certainly has the looks, but can it back them up, mechanically?
In the metal
Peugeot has not been here for a long, long time. There were V6-engined versions of the old 406 and 407, but they were lazy cruisers, not pukka sports saloons. Likewise the previous 508 RXH hybrid had a bit of punch to it, but it certainly wasn't designed to be sporty. In fact, you have to go all the way back to the 1992 Peugeot 405 Mi16 (and what a fabulous thing THAT was) to find the last proper, sporting, Peugeot saloon.
Well, Peugeot is certainly trying to make up for lost time. Taking the already-handsome 508 fastback as a starting point, this PSE model looks appropriately glowering. The grey paintwork is enlivened by some acid-green flashes dotted around the place - the imprimatur of Peugeot Sport Engineered. PSE is not a name that yet rings with enthusiasts, but it will, soon. It's PSE that's working on the dramatic 9X8 Le Mans Hypercar racer - that's the one that does without a rear wing, so great is the downforce generated by its bodywork.
Actually, the 508 PSE pays a kind of homage to that Le Mans car. There is no outré Cosworth-style rear wing stuck onto the boot lid, but instead some subtle winglets and barge boards mounted down low, at the extremities of the bumpers and the rear wheelarches. It's a subtle-but-effective look for the 508 PSE. The badge, incidentally, with those three angled, acid-green stripes, is meant to look as if the Peugeot lion itself has clawed at the surface of the car, revealing the paint below.
Inside, there are not that many major differences from the standard 508. You get the expected repeats of the three-bar badge, some more splashes of that distinctive acid-green colour scheme and a set of delightful suede-faced bucket seats (complete with a massage function) in the front. The rest, from the carbon-fibre strips to the small hexagonal wheel, to the impressive digital instruments and the rather less impressive central touchscreen (too fiddly by half) are as per the standard 508, and mostly none the worse for it.
Space in the back is surprisingly good (and the rear seat occupants actually get as many USB slots as those in the front) and the boot, at 467 litres, is acceptable.
The 508 PSE gets a plug-in hybrid powertrain built around Peugeot's familiar 1.6 THP turbo four-cylinder petrol engine. Added to the 200hp of petrol power are a brace of electric motors (80kW at the front, and 83kW at the back) and an 11.5kWh battery pack. All four wheels are driven (the rears through electric power alone) and there's an eight-speed automatic gearbox. You get 355hp and 520Nm - impressive outputs, both while Peugeot can also claim 41km of electric-only running, and a trim 46g/km CO2 figure.
I don't care what Peugeot pays its Sport Engineered engineers; they deserve a raise. The 508 PSE displays a fluency and fluidity that is rare at any level, in any brand. The way this thing covers ground is hugely impressive, not just for the fact that it's fast (5.2 seconds for 0-100km/h is good, if not exceptional) but for the manner in which it does it.
Once you get the 508 PSE off the motorway (where it cruises in good comfort, aside from a slight lack of support from those bucket seats on long journeys) and on to a twisty road, the first thing you'll notice is the way the front end bites into corners. For a car with a 1,875kg kerb weight, the 508 PSE turns in with almost ridiculous alacrity, and not only that, it can somehow find more grip and traction to stick to the line of an unexpectedly tightening apex. On the switchback roads of West Cork, it displayed an astonishing level of agility for what is actually a big, heavy family car.
Normally this would be the point where we'd moan about how much Peugeot has had to stiffen up the suspension to achieve that kind of agility, ruining the ride quality in the process.
In fact, even in Sport mode, the adaptive suspension resists thud-and-bang with remarkable restraint. Yes, a truly awful surface will cause the suspension to buck and heave, but you have to be on genuinely dreadful roads for that to be the case. On anything even approaching a smooth surface, the 508 PSE rides astonishingly well for a focused sports machine like this. The only downside is a touch too much tyre rumble on coarse tarmac, but really, the PSE boys and girls have found genuine refinement to mix with the sporting prowess.
It's quick, too - with 520Nm and two instant-torque electric motors, the 508 PSE launches eagerly off the line, and that combo of front-end bite and the ability to absorb mid-corner bumps means you can keep up incredibly good, and composed, pace cross-country.
The downside, of course, is thirst. Keep the 508 PSE charged up, and you should see at least 30km of that notional 41km range on electric power without difficulty. Longer journeys take their toll, though, and while our average of 6.5 litres per 100km perhaps isn't too bad, it's also not that great when measured against the official figure.
What you get for your money
In general, the Peugeot 508 - in its standard forms - represents solid value for money, and with Peugeot regularly topping reliability surveys these days, looks set fair for long-term ownership.
The 508 PSE on the face of it, at €68,000, looks like staggeringly bad value and you'd think that the Peugeot badge would struggle more than a little to justify that lofty price tag. Indeed, it does, but there are nuances to observe.
Consider the BMW M340i, which is slightly more expensive, much less-well equipped as standard, and can't run on electric-only power. Yes, it has better perceived cabin quality than the Peugeot, but is it necessarily a better car?
While you work out the man-maths of all that, you can at least revel in the 508 PSE's near-endless standard equipment list. Alcantara and leather seats, ten-inch touchscreen, massaging seats, 20-inch alloy wheels, adaptive headlights, radar-guided cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, lane-keeping steering, a wonderful Focal hi-fi system and even infra-red night vision are all fitted. Pricey it may be, but the 508 comes fully stocked.
That chunky price tag is doubtless going to prove a hurdle too high for many to climb over, and drawing buyers at this level away from their default German choices is difficult in the extreme. The Peugeot 508 PSE makes all the right moves, though. It is exceptionally good to drive, gorgeous to look at and only slightly compromised in terms of its economy and electric range. Maybe one day the PSE name will be spoken of in the same manner as GTI...