It may not be 'premium', but this new GT matches anything from Audi, BMW or Mercedes
Sunday 30 January 2011
We have become obsessed with brands. Think back, if you can, three decades. "Foreign" cars were still relatively rare in the UK.
Audi was just another mainstream car-maker on a par with Opel. Mercedes-Benzes were stark and expensive – it was the engineering you were paying for, not the glitz – and a Peugeot, that most solid, most durable and conservative of French cars, was an acceptable alternative which was also more comfortable.
Today, there's this notion of "premium" branding. Certain parts of society are simply unable to contemplate driving anything which isn't German, a Jaguar, a Land Rover or a Volvo. Such is the power of a name and reputation, hard won and easily lost. Such too is the power of marketing, to keep the winners winning.
Illustrated before you is a Peugeot 508. Some of our premiumophiles will stop reading now. But if they look into the 508, they will see a cabin as discreet, as tasteful, as suffused in quality, precision and tactile satisfaction as any Audi, BMW or Mercedes. And none of these has instruments as pure, discreet and redolent of engineering precision as the 508's. And from the outside? It is hard to make a roomy saloon with front-wheel drive and full safety regulation compliance look truly elegant. Within these constraints, the 508 is quite a good looker, assertive but understated, modern but not ephemeral. It comes across as expensive and precisely engineered.
The 508 (from £18,150 to £29,975) replaces both the 407 and the 607. Its mechanical make-up is vigorously eco-modern, with no petrol engine larger than 1.6 litres and three frugal diesels. The smallest, a 112bhp 1.6, can be had in e-HDi form in which the rated CO2 production is just 109g/km.
This one has an "automated manual" gearbox, old technology compared with the double-clutch systems of its rivals, slower and surge-prone in its shifts. This is the most frugal 508, but in 2012 a hybrid 508 will arrive with rear wheels powered by an electric motor and a sub-100g CO2 rating.
The most driver-indulging 508, however, is the GT with a 204bhp, 2.2-litre turbodiesel. It's a quick, muscular and very smooth engine, linked to a six-speed automatic transmission. Best, though, is the way this 508 reprises both the easy suppleness of past Peugeot saloons and their precision and balance when aimed at a series of interesting bends. The 508 shows that the company is rediscovering what once made its cars so pleasing to drive. This GT's poise and accuracy are helped by its double-wishbone front suspension. Other 508s use cheaper, simpler MacPherson struts. Why two systems? To save money, essentially, but Peugeot also justifies the move by claiming that the struts offer a more absorbent ride. Not true, unfortunately; the 2.0-litre, 140bhp turbodiesel model, likely to be the biggest seller, is quite harsh and fidgety over bumps and its engine is noisier. I do, however, like the turbocharged version of the petrol 1.6 with its 156bhp; light in the nose and properly supple in its suspension.
These new 508s are desirable cars which make a nonsense of the "premium" obsession. More than that, the GT in particular is as good as the much-praised Ford Mondeo in its driving dynamics and it stands comparison with a BMW or a Mercedes. Don't believe me? Then try one.
Life & Style blogs
Who is Teresa Fidalgo? Debunking the fake ghost story that's got Instagram spooked
The 10 Best Scotch Whiskies
Scottish salmon sales leap as Asia develops a taste
Grim second life of the 'breastaurant': The oft-loathed sector is booming in the States thanks to Hooters, Twin Peaks and Tilted Kilt
Health: When masturbation can be fatal: The practice of auto-erotic asphyxia is often concealed by a coroner's verdict. Monique Roffey looks at a lethal taboo
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
Immigrants make UK racist, says Ukip councillor Trevor Shonk
BBC director Danny Cohen: Rising UK antisemitism makes me feel more uncomfortable than ever
Katie Hopkins speaks out on childhood obesity: 'Parents of fat children should be prosecuted for child cruelty'
- 1 The political parties aren't all the same – which means 2015 will be a 'big-choice' election
- 2 President of Argentina adopts Jewish godson to 'stop him turning into a werewolf'
- 3 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
- 4 The 'Black Museum': After 150 years, public set to see exhibits from police’s grisly crime museum
- 5 Naomi Wolf reacts to Isis 'conspiracy theories' critism after she questions whether beheading videos are real
Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...
£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...
£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...
£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...