The Peugeot 508 RXH Diesel Electric Hybrid is a bit different than your ‘normal’ car. There is a lot of clever technology happening out of sight and it takes a bit of getting used to initially..
On the motorway it is very good, the suspension is soft and it will cruise along smoothly and peacefully. For a big car (and the 508 is very big) the steering is surprisingly responsive and it can manoeuvre quickly should the need arise.
The Peugeot 508 RXH shares its 163bhp, 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine / 37bhp electric motor set up with the 3008 Hybrid 4, and it’s also found in the Citroën DS5. It has an ‘automated-manual’ gearbox, while the electric motor adds momentum to smooth lunges and surges caused by the ‘automatic’ gear changes, and it works well too.
The brakes are sensible, personally I found them just a bit sharp at the top of the pedal but not too much. For those in need of more excitement, the paddle gear shift and ‘sport’ mode gives more interaction and feedback, something a more ‘hands-on’ driver could feel a tad distanced from otherwise. There is also a 4-wheel drive mode suitable for tougher terrain or towing.
Select Zev mode (electric only) from the circular dial and the car will drive along for a couple of miles using purely electric power. After that it will automatically switch back to ‘Auto’ and run from the diesel engine again. The change is very subtle and you will only notice it has gone back by the increase of noise.
While this is all very good, it’s not really very effective unless you have a very short journey, and one where you can only go very slowly.
Visually, the exterior of the 508 succeeds in being both elegant and sophisticated. Usually that means boring, but this car has a confident stance, and I especially like the front LED ‘lions claw’ day time running lights and floating grille.
Inside, the dashboard and cockpit area is slightly overwhelming, it seems like there is LOTS of buttons to play with. In addition to the usual (and in addition to the hazard warning) there is also a big red button that says ‘SOS’ on it. I pressed it but nothing seemed to happen. Not yet anyway.
The main media screen has ultra-futuristic graphics to show you the power distribution from the electric motor and the Hybrid engine, the sort of thing you see on Star Trek when the force field shields around the USS Enterprise are low.
There is also a heads-up type display – be warned, the hideaway drawer that contains the buttons to adjust it are right under the handbrake on the right side of the steering wheel. If you do it while you are driving, make sure you pull the right one.
I’m sat in the back writing this and there is tons of space, the leather seats are firm and comfortable, there are a air-con switches and lights above the rear windows should I need to check the share prices on my way home, for the seasoned back-seat driver there is all-round executive level sophistication.
Overhead, the 508 has plenty of room too, the huge panoramic glass roof that can be hidden when it gets too hot is lovely, it opens the car up to the outside world while keeping the rain out.
The drivers seat has a wonderful massage function built in, and it’s very relaxing, even if there is only one of them. If your front passenger has a stiff back too, well, they’ll just have to buy their own car.
As far as the future of motoring is concerned, the 508 hybrid is not the holy grail, long term solution and that particular car could be some way off. While the technology is impressive, there are good tax incentives for a businesses choosing a ‘greener vehicle’ and this benefit will play a big part in the success of the car. The total BIK tax payable (at 40%) on a 508 RXH is £135 per month, comparable with an Audi A4 Allroad TDI 170 which is £260 (ie a big difference).
Fuel consumption is extremely good, 69mpg (combined), so too are the emissions which are very low. When not in 100% electric mode (when they are zero) the co2 emissions are just 107 g/km. It also has a five star NCAP safety rating, and it feels safe too, the doors are thick and there are multiple front and side airbags.
It has a few irritating niggles, there is no ‘park’ position on the gear selector, the handbrake will dis-engage automatically when you start off, but won’t engage when you stop on a hill, also in electric mode I found myself having to switch it off and on trying to work out if it was off or on. Also for something that is used relatively infrequently the ‘drive mode’ selector could have been more discreet. Because of its size it can also be fiddly to park, even with the front and rear sensors.
Realistically the extra expense of buying a hybrid at the moment (up to £10,000 more) is going to be difficult to justify for the average Joe, but the 508 is an extremely well built car, from a quality manufacturer. Companies looking for a financially viable, ‘green’ friendly vehicle for their employees should take a look, everyone else might just want to hang on a bit longer.
Peugeot 508 RXH 508 RXH from £33,695
Top Speed: 132 mph
0-62mph (100km/h): 9.5 seconds
Performance: Combined: 68.9 mpg Extra Urban: 67.3 mpg Urban Fuel: 70.6 mpg
CO2 Exhaust Emissions 107 g/km
Cubic Capacity: 1997cc 4 Cylinders
Power: 163@3850 bhp/rpm
Insurance Group: 33
VED – Vehicle Excise Duty: 1st year £0.00 / 2nd year onwards £20.00
For more info visit www.peugeot.co.uk