The executive choice

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Text and photos by Eric Tipan

Choosing the right compact executive sedan can be painstakingly hard.

Do you go for great fuel mileage or performance that puts a smile on your face?

Fuel-efficiency is awesome but — and this is where we get a little profound — does it stir your emotions and make you want to keep on driving?

If you’re looking for a higher caste automobile and you want better performance without a quantum leap in fuel expenses, read on as I tell you about this big cat whose bite is definitely better than its bark, the Peugeot 508 2.0L HDi Allure.

FRENCH STYLING

There’s no mistaking the 508 for anything other than a large family car. Its sleek nose is accentuated by lines on both sides of the hood that draw your attention to the understated grille and the brand’s famous lion logo.

The crowning glory of the façade is the 508’s stunning full LED headlamps that look just as good as its performance. Brighter and more energy-efficient than Xenon and halogen lamps, these adjust depending on the driving conditions. Set it to ‘Auto’ and if the vehicle is travelling at less than 40 kph, the beam lights up the inside of an oncoming corner for increased visibility.

Move along the sides and you’ll notice bulbous shoulders that extend to the base of the C-pillar to give emphasis to the wrap-around taillights. The overall shape actually reminds me of executive sedans circa 2006-2011, but with Peugeot’s modern and unique twist to make it standout.

LET THE BIG CAT LOOSE

Under the hood is Groupe PSA’s (Peugeot, Citroen, DS Automobiles) 2.0L HDi (high-pressure direct injection) diesel engine with 163 horsepower and 300 Nm of torque, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with manual mode that can be accessed using the paddle shifters right behind the leather-wrapped steering wheel.

Normal mode feels lively enough and already brings an ample amount of power for common overtaking scenarios. As the default setting, it comes with the perfect combination of fuel economy and performance. Eco mode makes the 508 feel a tad sluggish and slow to react, so unless you’re running on fumes, best to leave the door open for this option. Now if it’s excitement you seek, switch it on to Sport mode and by the aural cue alone, you’ll feel — rather hear — tones almost like that of a V6. To prep the engine, it automatically gets to the lower gear, thus the gurgling sound, making the response to throttle input much more instantaneous and abrupt.

Peugeot’s long heritage in racing could be one of the reasons for the 508’s real-feel steering. It doesn’t do much to mask what the road gives you, a little less comfort and more stark reality to make sure you’re making the right decisions behind the wheel.

COMFORT AND CLASS

Inside is a mix of high-tech and luxury. There’s a bunch of buttons and dials to deal with at first and it took a lot of my willpower to curb curiosity on the fly. The leather seats are highly comfortable, electronically adjustable, and even have lumbar support for those long hours in traffic.

It comes with an awesome-sounding JBL Hi-Fi kit nine-speaker audio setup controlled by a seven-inch touchscreen that doubles as a backup monitor. Peugeot will do well to use a better camera though, because the current one has very little low light sensitivity, making it hard to discern dark corners in basement parking slots.

There’s Bluetooth and USB connection, but what’s sorely lacking are little cubbyholes for gadgets and mobile devices in front.

Peugeot responded to complaints regarding the small trunk size of its predecessor, the 407, making the 508’s considerably bigger although it seems to have taken away some space from the cabin. Don’t get me wrong. It is not cramped but I expected just a bit more legroom based on the 508’s dimensions.

BEST FEATURE?

It has everything, sure, but tack in performance and efficiency, beginning with the confident stride each time the accelerator is stroked. This, from an engine undersized in its category putting out a solid 9-km/L in combined city and highway driving.

The swanky interior, modern amenities, large trunk, high-end performance and impressive range do come with a P2.190-million price tag.

You’re used to making tough decisions at work, so get it right for yourself as well. Pick a vehicle that won’t punish you for harnessing every bit of its potential. Make the executive choice and get yourself behind the wheel of the Peugeot 508 2.0L HDi Allure.

Originally posted by Manila Bulletin