IF you lash out on a new car, you want to feel a bit special driving it. It’s a right almost.
Trouble is that a fair few family saloons look just like one another, feel almost the same ...and certainly lack that exclusive feel-good factor.
To some extent, it’s not surprising that there’s a generic sameness about appearance – designers of family cars especially have to satisfy a number of practical parameters as well as fulfil all the demanding safety requirements.
But every so often, a model appears that’s both safe and practical yet possesses a visual quality that makes it special with capital ‘S’.
The car I’m thinking about is the Peugeot 508 which replaces the 407 – it also has the role of filling the gap left by the larger unlamented 607. So, sizewise it’s mid-way between the two saloons.
Like its predecessors it is a conventional four-door booted, five-seater. Where it stands out is in terms of styling and road presence. From the bold, aggressive nose to the high, purposeful tail it looks strong, fluent and obviously upmarket.
The range spans £18,000 to £28,000 and I drove the flagship 2.2 HDi GT which wears a price tag of £28,750, so it’s up there with the top Mondeos and a cluster of Audi A4s, C-Class, and 3-Series BMWs. Rarified air for a Peugeot, but an environment that the new model feels totally comfortable in.
Power comes from a 201bhp, 2.2-litre four cylinder diesel engine which is actually lighter, and more economical than the V6 it replaces.
New suspension design and refinements including full leather trim lift the 508 into a class above. Adding to the luxury feel, is an acoustic windscreen and dampers on the front axle to cut out vibration, making the interior whisper-quiet.
The car’s abundant torque – 332lb at 2,000rpm – means progress is swift. It mates well with the six-speed automatic gearbox (there’s no manual in this version).
Against the clock, the GT polishes off 62mph in 8.3 seconds and goes on to a claimed 144mph. In actual terms, it feels a tad faster that the stats thanks to the ever-ready source of power and its unflustered delivery.
Despite the pace, the GT is frugality epitomised. With an emissions figure of just 150g/km it manages an official average of 49.6mpg.
Real life driving results in around the 40mpg-mark which is still unusually good for a fast, luxury saloon.
The downside of the new car is that over poor road surfaces the double-wishbone front suspension can get caught out a bit and occasionally becomes a bit ‘crashy’ when the wheels hit a bump, which contrasts with the general air of refinement.
Offsetting this, is the sharp steering which turns in quickly and accurately – just like Peugeot's sporty RCZ coupe.
The cabin is both tasteful and spacious and the switchgear is much better positioned than that of the old 407.
The leather, electronically operated front seats are well-shaped and supremely comfortable. sat nav, parking sensors, Bluetooth and climate control are all standard items.
Great to look at, and just as good to drive the 508’s numbers really add up.
Peugeot 508 2.2 HDI GT
Mechanical: 201bhp, 2,179cc, 4cyl diesel engine driving front wheels via 6-speed automatic gearbox