“How much?!” That’s been the general reaction when I’ve told friends that the Peugeot 508 SW I’m running would set them back the thick end of £26,000 were they to buy one themselves. They think that’s pretty expensive, and despite my general enthusiasm for the car, I’m inclined to agree.
So I was intrigued to find out what another £7,500 would get me with the new flagship Peugeot 508 RXH model.
The four-wheel-drive hybrid has the same 2.0-litre diesel engine powering the front wheels as my car – albeit in 163bhp tune – allied to an electric motor which drives the rear wheels and produces the equivalent of 37bhp, for a total of 200bhp. But at £33,695, it also has an extremely ambitious price tag.
Standing side by side, the differences are clear. Grey body cladding, a ride height raised by 50mm and distinctive ‘lion’s claw’ daytime running lights ensure the RXH stands out from the standard model, but it’s debatable whether it’s any more attractive.
I, for one, prefer the simple but classy lines of our car, particularly in its purposeful black paint. Less is more in this comparison.
On the road, there are obvious differences between the pair, too. While our 508 provides little to get excited about, it’s refined, particularly at speed, and the combination of a diesel engine and manual gearbox makes for smooth, comfortable progress.
Splash out £33,695 and you’ll be able to impress your mates with an array of settings to customise the drive and the hi-tech glitz of diesel-electric power and four-wheel drive. But I doubt you’ll enjoy driving it very much – I didn’t.
Press the throttle in Auto and 4WD modes and there’s often a delay before the RXH’S engine kicks in, while the automated manual gearbox takes too long to select the correct gear. Frustrating sums it up best.
Yes, there are some benefits to the hybrid. The cabin is more plush, sat-nav is standard – our Allure trim 508 doesn’t have it – and 4WD offers a degree of off-road capability that will be useful to some.
But the drive apart, there are other niggles, not least reduced boot space due to the electric battery being stored under the floor, and the lack of a spare wheel – which is always a particular bugbear for me.
You also can’t get medium wave on the radio, as it’s been disabled due to poor sound quality caused by the regeneration of electricity in cables around the car, although Peugeot claims that this will be addressed.
And while the numbers are good – fuel economy is a claimed 68.9mpg and it emits 107g/km – I’d argue the most significant one is £33,695, which really is an awful lot to pay for a clever but compromised Peugeot.
So my vote goes to our 508 SW, although it’s not without its idiosyncrasies. Regular readers will know I’ve suffered a series of electric gremlins, including sporadic warnings that it couldn’t detect my keyfob, despite the engine firing up perfectly, and the date reverting back to 2007 on the dash display.
The latest is an issue with the fob – occasionally it fails to lock the car, and will only do so if the unlock button is pressed first, despite the fact the car is already unlocked.
Together, they’ve taken the sheen off the 508 a little and eroded my confidence – I have a constant apprehension that there may be more serious problems lying in store. That’s disappointing, because the 508 does the basics well.
It’s decent to drive, well appointed and spacious. If you want a big Peugeot, it makes more sense than the RXH – although it would benefit from a price cut, too.
“The electrical glitches on our car suggest Peugeot is still struggling with reliability issues. It’s no surprise that readers voted the brand into a lowly 28th out of 30 in our 2012 Driver Power satisfaction survey.”
Owen Mildenhall, Senior road tester
“Once upon a time, Peugeot was famous for its comfortable and refined big cars. These values have been rediscovered for the handsome 508.”
pajbse, via www.autoexpress.co.uk