Remember when driving a car with lashings of wood, leather and chrome meant only one thing – you’d arrived!
Proudly piloting the flagship of the range, the alluring glitter of chrome, heady aroma of leather and magnificence of real tree wood all conspired to give a real sense of occasion at the wheel.
Is that why people of a certain age still go misty eyed remembering models like the Wolseley 6/110, Ford’s Zodiac or something impossibly exotic like a Lancia 2000? I do as I remember being collected for Cubs in said Wolseley, sliding around on the leather back seat, marveling at the smell, silence and sophistication – very different than our Hillman Minx!
How times have changed – and while wood, leather and chrome still have their place; many luxury -or as many manufacturers call them ‘executive’ – cars today boast a dazzling array of technology, leading neatly to my driving impressions of Peugeot’s 508 GT. At over £30,000 it’s an expensive proposition – but for those with a clientele who want to feel pampered and special, and drivers who want to make a positive first impression, it’s well worth a closer look.
There was a time when driving a Peugeot made a statement about you. Back in the seventies, its models were something of a rarity in the UK with the 504 in particular one of the first diesel engined cars which made sense for curious UK drivers. Peugeot’s big cars, too, have always been rather special with the 604 and 605 ranges among my personal favourites.
Its rapid growth in the last twenty five years means Peugeot’s much more ‘mainstream’ now, the 205 and 405 expanding its UK offering in the mid eighties and laying the foundations for the successful company we know today.
The 508 is its executive offering and one of the more sophisticated models in the large car market, the model’s distinctive design language identifying it as something out of the ordinary; that ‘Grand Tourer’ moniker’s definitely not out of place.
Any flagship represents the very best a manufacturer has to offer and in the 508’s case words like ‘bespoke’ and ‘exclusive’ are entirely appropriate. As the pinnacle of its UK range, it boasts a staggering amount of kit with any leather and chrome used discretely and tastefully. And this svelte machine has a few clever twists, too – mind you at £30,150 you were expecting that, weren’t you?
Let’s start on the outside where the 508 impresses with its styling which Peugeot claims raises the bar with a ‘streamlined, prestigious and dynamic’ appearance. The grille treatment in particular gives a clue to the latent elegance of the car – it’s in the ‘floating’ style now adopted by the company for all its latest models with eye-catching LED headlamps giving that extra touch of class. Three ‘claws’ in the rear lamps are another distinctive trademark – and there’s more; open the door, take a seat and prepare to be impressed – the GT has a cabin to savour.
Chrome is reserved for the door pulls, instrument panel dials, gear knob and is tastefully applied to the centre console, while Nappa leather’s used on the electrically adjustable and heated seats. And the luxury I was mentioning? How about keyless entry, quad zone air conditioning and a smart head up instrument display that’s a boon for long distance drivers. And there’s more – the GT also boasts an electric parking brake, remote tyre pressure monitoring, front and rear parking aids, cruise control, and JBL hi fi. The icing on the cake’s a comforting lumbar massage function for the driver on his heated front seat; protecting it all is a state of the art security system.
It’s under the bonnet where the 508GT comes into its own; start up and there’s a muted ‘thrum’ from the 200 bhp 2.1 litre engine that hooks up to a smooth six speed automatic gearbox; no manual’s available. Overall fuel economy is up to an amazing 49mpg with a vast touring range and arduous city driving helped by the auto stop/start that engages automatically at in heavy traffic.
The overall impression is of refinement, calm efficiency and, correct, luxury – this big Peugeot will be appreciated by those drivers who concentrate on long journeys with one or more passengers; suffice to say I was very impressed by the GT.
The good news is that there’ll be some great deals on the current range soon after a new face lifted version was announced recently.
Any bad news?
Well, make the most of cars like the 508 while they last – our luxury/executive market’s changing fast and while places like China can’t get enough of big European style cars, it looks like the end of the road for some big cars in the UK, those without a fancy German name plate have seen their sales nose-diving in recent years as customers are much more choosy.
Peugeot, like its mid market rivals, will no doubt rise to the challenge; it’s developed a range of thrifty and refined new petrol and diesel engines and is blazing a trail with hybrid power, while an innovative new range of ‘air injection’ engines have just been unveiled, too. Whether they have the luxury of time on their side, though, is another matter…