3.9 out of 5 3.9
Parkers overall rating: 3.9 out of 5 3.9

Peugeot’s return to performance models is far from traditional

Peugeot 508 Peugeot Sport Engineered (21 on) - rated 3.9 out of 5
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At a glance

New price £54,665 - £54,665
Lease from new From £858 p/m View lease deals
Used price £30,390 - £37,850
Used monthly cost From £758 per month
Fuel Economy 138.9 mpg
Road tax cost £510
Insurance group 41 How much is it to insure?
New

PROS

  • PHEV allows for low running costs
  • Impressive performance in Sport mode
  • Comfortable long distance cruiser

CONS

  • Needs a full battery for best experience
  • Expensive to buy privately
  • Battery range is tiny

Peugeot 508 Peugeot Sport Engineered rivals

Written by Lawrence Cheung on

Peugeot may be best known at the moment for its impressive roster of practical and handsome SUVs, but step back in time and the company has considerable pedigree in performance cars – particularly all-time greats such as the 205 GTI.

The 508 Peugeot Sport Engineered (or 508 PSE) marks the beginning of a new direction for fast Peugeots – one that embraces the hybrid and electric future we’re inevitably heading towards, and one where the French firm wants to be deemed as a serious alternative to premium rivals such as Volvo, BMW and Audi.

This performance version is based on the standard 508, and is available as the Fastback you see here (saloon-shaped but with a hatchback boot) or an estate that’s badged SW. Peugeot pitches it as a rival to cars such as the Audi S4, BMW M340i and Volvo S60 Polestar.

It also serves as a flagship for Peugeot, sitting at the top of the 508 range as the most powerful and expensive car the company’s ever sold by some margin. At the time of writing, you’ll be looking at more than £50,000 for this 360hp plug-in hybrid.

With 20-inch alloy wheels, lowered sports suspension and some subtle aerodynamic additions, this helps the 508 PSE stand out. It’s available in a trio of monochrome paint colours, but all are accented with the same acid green hue, called Kryptonite.

This review covers the 508 Sport Engineered in its Fastback and SW forms. You can read our reviews of those cars in their standard forms here:

Peugeot 508 review
Peugeot 508 SW review

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Charging and range 

The key appeal of a plug-in hybrid performance car is that when you need to use your vehicle for less glamorous pursuits – school runs, supermarket trips, or even a traffic-laden daily commute  noise-free electric motoring is just a button-press away.

Peugeot claims the 508 Sport Engineered will cover 26 miles on battery power alone, which is at the lower end of what we’d consider useful. In the real world, that’s likely to be around 20 miles, and that seems like you’re starting on the back foot when you consider the Volvo S60 Polestar and BMW 330e will easily cover 30 miles before needing to be plugged in.

Charging the 508’s small battery is comparatively quick, though. A standard three-pin domestic socket will give you a full charge in seven hours, so plugging in overnight is easily done. The 508 also supports 7kW charging from a home wallbox or public charger, where a full charge takes less than two hours.

Your charging habits will very much affect your fuel economy, which according to official tests is a scarcely-believable 139mpg or so. Clearly, the more you charge and use electric power, the less petrol you’ll burn.

Make the most of the 508 PSE’s ample performance and fuel economy will tumble. We’ve seen just over 30mpg after a 160-mile day of mixed roads that made full use of the performance available, starting with a fully-charged battery and topping up halfway through the day. As a plug-in hybrid, this isn’t exactly impressive, but not a bad result considering the performance on offer.

On a more typical day with a mixture of motorway cruising, town driving and country roads, we saw 44mpg in Hybrid mode, dropping down to mid- to high-30s if we used the e-Save function. This allows you to charge the battery on the go, with individual settings for you to have a minimum reserve of six, 12- or 26 miles. This is best treated as a backup and for emergency use, though, as it really chomps through petrol.

What’s it like inside?

The 508 PSE’s interior remains, as with the standard 508, an acquired taste. That’s due in the main part to its unusual layout – one that Peugeot terms ‘i-Cockpit’.

By shrinking the steering wheel and raising the dials over the top of it, the 508 PSE forces you to adopt a driving position that for some will feel as though the wheel’s in their lap. It takes some getting used to, and it’s often taller drivers who report the most concerns. A test drive is essential to ensure you get on with this arrangement, but don’t be afraid to play around with the driving position.

The Sport Engineered tweaks have given the 508 some rather lovely massaging sports seats, which are set lower than the standard items and really hug your body well, supporting you in the corners. Grippy Alcantara upholstery helps here too, though it would be nice if this extended to the steering wheel which is shod in the same slightly slippery leather as the regular car.

Interior highlights are in the same Kryptonite acid green as those outside, and look fantastic. It’s a little annoying that the accent lights around the cupholders and doors are still an electric blue, though…

Another frustration is that the 508 isn’t equipped with Peugeot’s latest digital dial pack as found on the 208 hatchback and 2008 crossover. It’s understandable, as the standard 508 won’t get this upgrade until its mid-life facelift, but it is a little annoying that the brand’s flagship car doesn’t have as up-to-date a system as one of its smallest models.

Everything else inside is similar to the standard car, which means you get adequate space up front but a very tight back seat in terms of leg and head-room. The boot is large, though, relatively unsullied by the hybrid additions and accessed through a huge, wide-opening tailgate.

What’s it like to drive?

The 508 Sport Engineered is the most powerful production car Peugeot has ever built. It uses a 200hp 1.6-litre petrol engine up front, as well as an electric motor on each axle. This gives the car a total of 360hp, mostly sent via an eight-speed automatic gearbox to the front wheels while the electric rear motor endows it with four-wheel drive when needed.

At the start of every journey the 508 PSE defaults into electric mode, and like most of its kin there’s really very little to dislike about it. The two electric motors have plenty of power (front: 110hp, rear: 113hp), as well as the instantaneous response and silent operation of all electric cars. Most plug-in hybrids make do with just a single electric motor and can feel quite lethargic in full electric mode, whereas the 508 PSE feels adequately sufficient.

There are four other driving modes – Comfort, Hybrid, Sport and 4WD. It’s Comfort and Sport you’ll probably be using most of the time as these are very well-judged for regular driving when you need to and having some fun when you can.

Of course, the 508 Sport Engineered’s real appeal is to be found in Sport mode. The combined power output is best sampled here, especially from low speeds, as the 508 leaps off the line, sprinting from 0-62mph in just 5.2 seconds and going on to a top speed of 155mph. It’s not quite so urgent in the mid-range but you have plenty of effortless performance, provided the battery has enough charge.

The switch between power sources is mostly seamless, with little of the jerkiness you get in a Volvo S60 Polestar on the move. The systems can still trip over themselves in stop-start traffic, though, depending on the modes you’re using, leading to a clunky experience as they struggle to decide whether to keep the petrol engine running or not.

Once the battery is depleted and the petrol engine solely propels all this weight, there’s a distinct lull in performance, especially if you decide to charge the battery in e-Save mode at the same time. The engine also gets rather vocal if revved out.

Handling

The standard 508 already feels agile when compared to its rivals and this PSE model retains some of the agility rather well, despite the added weight. Adaptive dampers and wider tracks (the distance between the two wheels on each axle) plus upgraded brakes and tyres all look very impressive on paper.

There’s more than enough shove to make the most of that chassis, but it’s best sampled when stringing fast sweeping corners together. With quick, effortless steering and a degree of compliance from the chassis, it shows the engineers didn’t just stick some rock-hard suspension on it and call it a day. Body control is well contained for such a large car, and there’s plenty of grip – but put the boot in and it can be a little playful too.

Introduce a few slower, tighter corners and a few weaknesses start to show. The steering is too light to be involving, even in Sport mode, with very little indication of grip levels, and you can find yourself realigning the vehicle’s position under heavy braking.

As a result, the 508 PSE can be fun, if somewhat limiting, and it’s a little hard to ignore rivals that are ultimately more polished in day-to-day driving.

The 508 PSE is otherwise remarkably relaxing to drive, aided by a ride that, while firm, is very well-judged for the UK’s pockmarked tarmac. Only in the firmest Sport mode will you notice thumps being sent into the cabin.

What will it cost to run?

There’s no getting away from the fact the Peugeot 508 Sport Engineered is a pricey car. With a starting price of more than £53,000 (over £55,000 for the SW estate variant) and finance plans likely to be correspondingly juicy, this is going to be a really tough sell for private buyers.

As a company car it makes a lot more sense, thanks to very favourable rates for plug-in hybrids. With CO2 output of 46g/km, it sits in the 13% BIK band. That means a yearly bill of £1,402 for 20% tax payers.

It’s also worth noting Peugeot includes loads of equipment – the only real options are two shades of paint and a panoramic glass roof. Spec a BMW 330e up to a similar level and you won’t see much difference in price.

As for day-to-day running costs, fuel economy will depend on your charging behaviour as mentioned earlier. The low first year tax figure gives way to a hefty supplement for the following five years, due to the car’s list price.

Read on for our verdict…

Peugeot 508 Peugeot Sport Engineered rivals

Other Peugeot 508 models: