The Peugeot 508 receives a subtle mid-life facelift, but the big French offering remains under-appreciated
The Peugeot 508 has received a mid-life update, gaining punchier or more frugal engines, a simplified instrument fascia and revised styling.
Having morphed over the years through its 4- and 5-series mid-size models (think 404 and 504), Peugeot launched this iteration - in mid-2011.
The update has given the handsome but conservative exterior a more refined, masculine air.
The bonnet has been elongated, with the most notable changes the headlights and grille. The lights are tweaked to offer better cornering vision and the daytime-running lights (DRLs) have been moved downwards and reshaped to represent the claw of the Peugeot lion.
Top-of-the-range versions - GT and Allure - also score full LED headlights, DRLs, indicators and fog-lights, but the entry level version makes do with halogens.
Slowly but surely, badges across the French car manufacturers line-up are being removed from the bonnet and placed prominently within the grille. For the 508 it has special significance, being a nod to its predecessor, the 504.
No changes have been made to the shape of the side of the car, but the rear has been tweaked to include LED tail-lights that have been made to lay flatter on the horizontal plane, and there’s a bit more attitude to the shape by way of stronger lines.
Overall length has been increased by 38mm for the sedan and wagon (Tourer, in Pug speak), with 16mm of that in the front overhang and 22mm in the rear. This, however, is all cosmetic, as the boot volume remains the same, and so do the interior dimensions.
Peugeot has pitched this update as something of a move upmarket, and the new 508 certainly has an executive sedan feel to it. The interior upgrades include new trims and some technological and ergonomic improvements.
A colour heads-up display shows digital speed and navigation directions, while safety updates include blind-spot monitoring and a reverse-view camera - both welcome additions - as well as "Open&Go" keyless entry and start, an electric parking brake, automatic headlight dipping, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, tyre inflation monitoring, front and rear parking sensors and quad-zone automatic air conditioning.
The 7.0-inch display is now a touchscreen, doing away with the clunky dial used before, which also rids the console of many of the buttons used in the current car. The result is a more functional system with greater ease of use for things such as navigation and radio.
Pairing a phone still takes a bit of time, but with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, USB port and 12-volt input, the requisite bases are all covered.
Peugeot has responded to customer demand for a better storage option for a phone by installing a slide compartment where the control dial used to be. This, however, took up space where cup-holders could be installed. As a result, the old push and release plastic holders remain, detracting from the overall premium feel of the cabin.
The French brand has not made any changes to the way the car drives, though new engines have appeared across the range. However, engine specifications for the Australian market are still being determined ahead of the arrival of the new 508 sedan and wagon in the first quarter of 2015.
The current 508 range in Australia includes a choice of three engines – the 1.6 turbo-petrol and two HDi diesels, a 120kW 2.0-litre and 150kW 2.2-litre.
The updated 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine (currently seen in the entry-level Active and mid-spec Allure) sees a bit more power than before, 123kW compared to the outgoing model’s 115kW/240Nm. This can be paired to either a six-speed manual or the company’s new EAT6 six-speed automatic transmission — though only the auto will come here.
Diesel engine options include a 112kW 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder paired to a six-speed manual with emissions of only 109g/km (equating to fuel use of about 4.1 litres per 100 kilometres), and a more powerful 134kW version of the same engine fitted to the EAT6 six-speed auto. The 2.2-litre HDi specific to the GT continues with 150kW.
Peugeot also manufactures a diesel hybrid drivetrain and a high-riding RXH version of the 508 Touring, but we won’t be seeing those options locally.
The launch drive day involved a trek with loads of steep hills and tight hairpin bends, over which our test cars felt quite composed and refined in the best French tradition.
We experienced a bit of road noise through urban areas, but on the open road it wasn't as noticeably intrusive.
However, the turning circle of the 508 leaves a lot to be desired - it’s quite wide and requires plenty of arm-work, and can make it difficult to navigate tighter corners.
Hill climbs also highlighted the diesel’s turbo lag down low in the rev-range, but once up into the mid-range there's a sweet spot where progress becomes more manageable. The six-speed auto wasn't intrusive and the shifts were fairly smooth - this was particularly nice to note, as cog-swapping is not always a strength for Peugeot models.
While the changes are largely centred around cosmetic tweaks and improvements to the car's technology and functionality inside the cabin, the 508 remains a relatively smooth drive and retains its executive sedan vibe.
That said, the 508 has never hit any big sales heights in Australia, partly because it sits in the tough-fought mid-size category but is priced more like a large car. The current 508 line-up kicks off from $36,990 and tops out at $59,790 for the GT Touring.
With competitor models such as the repositioned Skoda Superb - not to mention the homegrown Holden Commodore and new-look Ford Falcon - offering plenty of value, we're intrigued to see if there will be any changes to its pricing and packaging when the new model arrives in early stages of next year.