Boasting a raft of cutting-edge technologies and a proprietary diesel-electric drive, Peugeot is not only keen to position its new 508 RXH as their top-of-the-line prestige model, but also a rolling showcase of the brand’s green innovation.
The new Peugeot 508 RXH, based on the 508 Touring, hails itself as the flagship ride in the Peugeot range and offers an advanced hybrid powertrain along with all-terrain capability and an increased ride height.
PSA Peugeot Citroen has been at the forefront of engine efficiency for years and is credited as the first passenger car company to make the all-important diesel particulate filter (removes soot from a diesel exhaust) as a standard fitment on passenger cars.
That was over two decades ago and well ahead of Euro5 regulations at the time.
The diesel-electric drivetrain in the Peugeot 508 RXH combines a 2.0-litre direct injection diesel engine to turn the front wheels with a small electric motor at the rear of the car.
Together, the two power sources produce a maximum of 147kW and 450Nm - that’s sufficient to propel the Peugeot 508 RXH along at a reasonably brisk pace.
More important is the car’s ultra-low fuel consumption - only 4.2L/100km (claimed) and emissions of just 107g/km. Not bad for car of this size with a kerb weight of over 1770 kilograms.
Provided there’s sufficient battery power in reserve, the 508 RXH can also run entirely on its electric motor, but only for a distance of around four kilometres before the diesel motor kicks in to recharge the battery.
Also key to Peugeot’s market resurgence, is styling. It’s the brand’s number one buying trigger and the 508 RXH gets plenty of it.
With its raised ride height (up by 50mm), wider track (by 40mm), and protective cladding, there’s no missing it on the road. It’s a noticeably tougher look than the standard 508 Touring.
The giveaway feature though, is the 508 RHX’s bespoke LED daytime running lights (inspired by a lion’s claw) on each side of the floating grille.
There’s only one trim available for the 508 RXH, so understandably, Peugeot has crammed every conceivable bit of kit into the car, including a seven-inch screen, satellite navigation, head-up display, JBL hi-fi system, electric park brake, xenon headlamps, partial leather seats and full-length panoramic glass roof.
There’s soft touch material everywhere inside the Peugeot 508 RXH, as well as plenty of brushed aluminium and piano black trim, for a thoroughly premium look and feel. This is a cut above anything from Japan and on-par with one or two of the German marques.
In keeping with the electric power source on the 508 RXH is the copper-coloured trim on the dashboard and console which - although we get the synergy, might be a tad overdone. The theme is continued with the stitching on the upholstery, adding a slightly sporty touch to the superbly comfortable seats.
It’s roomy, too, as you would expect of a large wagon. There’s plenty of head and legroom, but boot space is compromised (less than 89-litres) by the raised height of the floor which houses the electric motor.
Towing capacity is also reduced to 1100kg (enough for a jet ski) but rules out caravans and the like, due to the constraints of the electric motor.
Technophiles will love the 508 RXH - there are multiple systems at play inside here, but it makes for a slightly complicated cockpit, which requires some extra ‘getting to know’ time.
The larger of the two rotary dials on the console controls the four drive modes: Auto, Sport, ZEV and 4WD.
In ‘Auto’ position, the six-speed EGC (electronic gear control) manual transmission operates in much the same way a regular automatic gearbox does, seamlessly controlling the diesel and electric motors for the best possible fuel efficiency.
Selecting the ‘Sport’ setting increases shift speed and engages both the diesel and electric powertrains for maximum power at any given time.
In four-wheel drive mode, the electric motor drives the rear wheels and the front axle is driven by the HDI diesel engine.
The ‘ZEV’ - (Zero Emission Vehicle) setting allows for 100 per cent electric drive at speeds up to 64km/h, with maximum power of 27kW. The short range available in this mode restricts its use to highly localised areas.
CarAdvice was part of a small contingent of Australian media in the UK this week to drive the Peugeot 508 RXH in some typically miserable English weather.
Like all electric hybrids – hitting the starter button produces nothing more than a light show on the instrument panel, with an occasional electronic hum, or two.
Accelerating with some urgency to join the fast moving B-road traffic on the outskirts of Manchester induces plenty of torque-driven pace, but not without a harsh sounding diesel engine note. While it’s suitably muffled inside the cabin, it’s just not as refined as we would have expected for a flagship model.
Left in ‘Auto’ mode, the sequential manual transmission is also a bit of a disappointment, shifting far slower than both a dual clutch and even a standard automatic transmission. There’s a noticeable lurch felt between each upshift, too. The electric motor tries to bridge the torque gap between shifts with additional thrust, but the pause is still annoyingly evident.
Peugeot says the trade-off with the 508 RXH is it’s significant savings in fuel consumption – something we didn’t get a chance to properly test on this drive program.
Fortunately, Peugeot’s 508 RXH is equipped with paddle shifters, which go a long way to enhancing the driving experience, especially with the ‘Sport’ mode engaged.
The drive program also afforded us a unique opportunity to test the ZEV in the unique surroundings of Manor House Stables, which houses Manchester United striker, Wayne Rooney’s horse, Switcharooney. We drove all three-test cars through the stables without the horses flinching a hair on their mane.
We then lined up beside the horses on a thoroughly wet and slippery grass field for a chance to test the extra traction available using 4WD on the Peugeot 508 RXH under hard acceleration and then matching the horses speed at full gallop.
In reality, this is a torque-on-demand system that is employed by most SUVs these days and in this case there was absolutely no loss of traction in the less than perfect conditions.
Riding on standard 18-inch alloy wheels shod with 245/45 low profile tyres, the ride on board the 508 RHX is surprisingly good. Regardless of the quality of the road surface we covered (and they varied tremendously), this is a car that provides a high level of comfort without compromising the handling.
There’s better communication through the steering wheel than other Peugeots of late and it’s nicely weighted on the straight-ahead.
The increased weight and the taller ride height means there’s more of a tendency for the car lean on turn in, but you can still throw it around on the more twisty sections and the roadholding skews more sporty than stately in its behaviour.
However, while overall performance is more than adequate, it’s not going to be one of the 508 RXH’s key selling drivers. This is a technology-rich car with an exceptional talent for ultra-low fuel consumption.
There are significant tax advantages to running Peugeot’s flagship car in the UK, greater than those that exist in many other countries including Australia that make the 508 RXH an attractive purchase.
Nonetheless, Peugeot Australia is keen to bring the car to Australia and is currently working towards that goal. Expect the price to be around $60,000, if and when the Peugeot 508 RXH arrives here.