As far as D-Segment sedans go, the Peugeot 508 is one of the left-field choices. It's the lone French offering (and brand) in the country, the range is solely comprised of diesels and, as far as looks go, distinct and a bit of a standout. Perhaps the best way to describe the 508 is an executive sedan that pleases the eccentric. Even the name is 'out there' for Filipino standards.
Being a D-Segment sedan, the 508 can't be too quirky but, at the same time, being French, it's can't be too conventional. The challenge of the 508 is this: can it please both the non conformist and the conventional folk?
Starting off with its exterior, the 508 is rather daring for the D-Segment. Swooping lines, complemented by gentle curves, are the order for the day in this sedan. The rear in particular is one of my favorite views in this car, particularly at night with its distinct LED pattern. That's not to say the front end isn't as good. Following its refresh last year, the fascia has been given the new family look which was kicked off by the 308 with a more angular set of headlights, a chiseled grill and a mildly reshaped hood.
While it does stand out from its contemporaries, it's rather conservative by French standards as the pre-update model had a more rakish front end. Still, I find it a good looking car from any angle. One particular feature I was fond of was the 508's trunk release button. Simply press the '0' in 508 and, presto, it pops open. It's one feature I wish was on every Peugeot in the market and, needless to say, the feature baffled security guards, car wash attendants and my friends.
Inside, Peugeot got rid of the rather confusing scroll wheel setup in favor of an easier to use touchscreen. Ergonomics still aren't as intuitive as a Japanese equivalent with a buttons all over the center console. “But its French!” say the Francophiles, and speaking of things that are not as intuitive, the start button is on the left side, so is the electronic parking brake. Also, Peugeot needs a little more work on their cupholders. Whereas the 308's were small, the ones in the 508 were in an odd place, right by the touchscreen. Also, thin bottles slide through it. An annoyance for some but perhaps its Peugeot's way of saying that the 508 is a car that doesn't follow convention.
Ergonomic quirks aside, the 508 has a well built interior with soft touch materials throughout the cabin and touch points that feel high quality. The touchscreen is easy to use and wide door pockets make it easier to store items. As a bonus, it has quad-zone automatic climate control, one of the few cars to offer it in its segment. As for room, it's generous with loads of leg, knee and foot room for all occupants. Other neat features in the 508 are full LED headlights with automatic function, automatic windshield wipers and power seats for both front occupants.
The 508 you see here is the Allure model meaning it's powered by a 2.0 liter HDI turbodiesel which puts out 163 PS and 340 Nm of torque. Unlike the 308, doesn't come with a Stop & Start feature. You can count on Peugeot to build diesel engines as they have been doing so for over half a century now. They were also among the first to put diesel motors in passenger cars, eventually gaining mainstream acceptance in its home country.
Out on the road, the 508 offers something a lot of modern cars don't: feedback. Behind the wheel, the 508 offers bags of steering feel and was rather refreshing after driving cars with electronic power steering. Despite its size, it feels nimble and maneuverable, as if it were one size class smaller. Granted, the motor doesn't provide the most exciting note but the handling of this car more than makes up for it.
Is it a fun steer? Surprisingly, yes. The feel and feedback the car gives is confidence inspiring. A byproduct of all that feedback is a more engaging drive. Drive the 508 on backroads like I did and you may find yourself sporting a small grin. A fun executive car may sound like an oxymoron but the 508 is a rather nice example of one. This is an executive sedan for the man, or woman, who enjoys driving.
Of course, not everyone will take the long way home just to experience the 508's fine handling. Most of the time, these cars will be seen sitting in traffic and running around the pockmarked roads city. The ride is on the firm side at lower speeds but not back breaking stiff. It improves once you're cruising over 30 km/h and the pliant damping shines through, even with road imperfections. Maybe that's why the French drive over cobblestone roads at a brisk pace.
Out on the highway and the 508 is exactly what you expect from a car of this size. It's plush, quiet and comfortable. Wind noise is at a minimum and the wave torque from the 2.0 HDI makes overtaking as simple as a small squeeze on the throttle. The LED headlights provided good illumination, allowing me to see way ahead in NLEX's dark sections and the cornering lights was a useful aid while exiting the highway. Maybe it's the European roots but the 508 was very much at home on the highway.
I drove the 508 over a variety of roads, from metropolitan to provincial. Over the course of 443 kilometers, the car ate up half a tank, averaging 12.0 kilometers per liter of fuel throughout the test. In the city, it uses up 8.5 kilometers per liter of diesel while averaging just 17 km/h. It's on the highway is where the HDI shines, rating 20.4 kilometers per liter at an average of 92 km/h. If one were to base it on the car's fuel range meter, the 508 can run over 800 kilometers on one tank. Try that in a spark plug equipped equivalent.
To sum up, the 508 Allure 2.0 HDI boasts of traits that can please both the sensible and the eccentric. Those looking for more 'personality' in their cars will like the 508 with its quirks and unusual touches. If anything, the flaws are what gives the 508 more character and, for me at least, makes it more endearing. It's far from boring too given that it drives well. Having tested the 308 SW, it's good to know that the driving experience isn't neutered in the larger 508.
However, it's not all about 'soul' and 'emotion' in this car as it has traits that will satisfy the sensible half of our brain. It's comfortable, loaded with features and, most importantly, efficient. At Php 2,190,000, its value proposition works both ways. Priced higher than than the Japanese competition, the 508 is either too expensive for a big sedan or affordable for its premium proposition as it is the most affordable way into European D-Segment sedan ownership.
The 508 is the type of car that you have to try out first before you make any verdict on it. It may seem like just another humdrum big sedan but for reasons I can't explain, it just gets under your skin. You get down from the car with the feeling that you've just driven something something unique. It's a car that refuses to conform to the norms of its class, as it wants to tell the world, I dance to a beat of a different drum.
For those who believe that a car is an extension of our personalities, then the 508's unique proposition is enough of a reason some to a pay premium over other cars in its class.