Peugeot 508 Sport Engineered: the long-term test verdict | CAR Magazine

Peugeot 508 Sport Engineered: the long-term test verdict

Published: 18 July 2022 Updated: 18 July 2022

► CAR lives with Peugeot’s hybrid sports car
► New 508 Sport Engineered on our fleet
► The new PHEV promises a lot – does it deliver?

So complex is the 508 PSE’s engineering and character that I haven’t fully explored it heading into this Goodbye. Before I remedy that… last month I reported lumpy running, traced to a rogue spark plug. With all four replaced, it’s now business as usual.
Not that this is your usual Peugeot. It’s both the most powerful roadgoing Peugeot ever, and a plug-in hybrid with a 1.6-litre turbo and one e-motor per axle. That equals 355bhp and up to 26 miles of electric running.

I like the 508’s design and the interior still feels a treat six months on – the materials, quality and avant-garde look are brilliantly French premium, and fabulous massage seats help soothe long trips. At 4778mm long, this is a big car, with generous room in the back, and we never truly filled the 530-litre boot. While stiffer than the regular 508, it’s perfectly comfortable for family duties.

I charged only at home on a domestic socket, and while I managed 22 e-miles in summer, that almost halved in winter.

I suspected my frequent longer journeys would undo the good of shorter emissions-free runs, so I’ve been happy with the 52.0mpg average, this month’s 73.6mpg a highlight (I did the first 865 miles of the month without a charge too).

That frugality is partly because it felt wrong to thrash a plug-in but when I did drive the 508 harder I thought it pretty good – great body control, decently rapid, and impressively poised through tighter twists, where the front end bites hard, and you can enjoy a degree of throttle adjustability as well as a contribution from that rear e-motor. Numb and edgily rapid steering robs driver connection, but the bigger problem is too little configurability – the 508 won’t let you lock in manual mode, soften shocks or disable stability control.

I also find the lag between e-mode and the petrol-electric powertrain kicking in dangerous for overtakes, and it’s difficult to pre-empt that by selecting Sport because the selector is behind the gearlever – it needs a button on the steering wheel. I also find the lack of a normal warm-up procedure troubling – you can cover 20 miles, then bez a cold engine.

So mostly I babied the 508, maximising its range and leaving much potential untapped. A decent car, and one I’ve enjoyed, but not where I’d get my kicks.

By Ben Barry

Logbook: Peugeot 508 SW Sport Engineered

Price £55,795 (as tested £55,795)
Performance 1598cc four-cylinder, twin e-motors, 11.5kWh battery, PHEV, 355bhp, 5.2sec 0-62mph, 155mph
Efficiency 138.9mpg, 73.6mpg (tested), 46g/km C02
Energy cost 8.9p per mile (3.9p with electric charging)
Miles this month 2273
Total miles 10,810

Month 5 living with a 508 Sport Engineered: ready to let rip

Given the 508 PSE is a high-performance car, I expected to describe how its performance felt in Sport mode long before this sixth report. But as it’s a plug-in hybrid it feels perverse to cane it. I charge it for what in summer was about 20 miles of zero-emissions motoring and is now about 12 miles, and clearly there’s a cost saving in that, for planet and wallet. To then drive hard, with the mpg suffering, feels wrong.

So I ventured out on a special spirited research run for this update, and the 508’s much better than I expected. It gets into a sure-footed rhythm through sweeping sequences of quicker corners, with a combination of fantastic body control, resolute grip and energetic performance from the 1.6-litre turbo four and twin e-motors. This 1.9-tonne estate is even pretty dexterous through more technical sections. There’s robust bite at the front, excellent traction as the rear e-axle helps power you from corners, and it’s quite biddable in the way it yaws off-throttle.

Perverse as it is to exploit it so wantonly, the hybrid system definitely makes a contribution when you drive quickly, in terms of urgency and how effectively you can use that performance.

There are frustrations, though, mainly in the lack of configurability – Sport defaults to super-firm dampers, which while not always inappropriately stiff, do usually make me crave more compliance on a B-road. It’s a similar story with the auto gearbox, where I can never select full manual mode, so I end up in a muddle of gears, often with the software kicking down where I’d hold the ratio. You also can’t disable stability control to properly experiment with the rear axle. In some ways there aren’t enough modes, yet in others there are too many – why are Hybrid and Comfort separate modes, for instance? Why even have a 4×4 mode, just make it work when there’s low grip. I reckon you need only three modes: Electric, Hybrid/Comfort and Sport.

By Ben Barry

Logbook: Peugeot 508 SW Sport Engineered

Price £55,795 (£55,795 as tested
Performance 1598cc four-cyl, twin e-motors, 11.5kWh battery, PHEV, 355bhp, 5.2sec 0-62mph, 155mph
Efficiency 138.9mpg (official), 42.6.8mpg (tested), 46g/km C02
Energy cost 15.0p per mile
Miles this month 277
Total miles 8537

Month 4 living with a 508 Sport Engineered: doors to manual

Worse things in the world than a drink that takes forever to arrive at your table, but it’s frustrating when it’d be faster (if forbidden) to fetch it yourself. The 508’s keyless-entry tech would be a terrible waiter, because there’s something laggy and wrong with the driver’s side: pull the handle, the mirrors swing out, but then the door won’t budge, so you pull again, the mirrors swing in and the doors lock. It can take 20 seconds to get in – always annoying considering the whole point is convenience, and potentially dangerous if you’re standing in traffic/needing the sanctuary of your car in a dodgy area. The passenger side’s fine.

By Ben Barry

Logbook: Peugeot 508 SW Sport Engineered

Price £55,795 (£55,795 as tested)
Performance 1598cc four-cyl, twin e-motors, 11.5kWh battery, PHEV, 355bhp, 5.2sec 0-62mph, 155mph
Efficiency 138.9mpg (official), 51.8mpg (tested), 46g/km C02
Energy cost 12.0p per mile
Miles this month 1296
Total miles 8260

Month 3 living with a 508 Sport Engineered: all in a day’s work

Make a clean start
120-mile round trip from Rutland to near Tamworth in the 508 Sport Engineered to drive and photograph a Porsche 911. Overnight home-charge has the 11.5kWh battery topped – officially enough for 26 zero-emissions miles on the official WLTP cycle before petrol kicks in.

Start your engines
I’ve squeezed 21 electric miles out of the 508 before, but today it’s mid-teens and almost empty after a cross-country jaunt to the morning queue in Melton Mowbray. I’ll be way off the official 138.9mpg today, but at least we’re emissions-free through town.

It’s sport engineered
Decent cross-country route spoiled by HGV-based tailbacks, but selecting Sport takes me past a queue like I’ve lit the afterburners – you’d guess at more than a 355bhp powertrain towing 1895kg. Always feels wrong thrashing a plug-in hybrid that’s out of charge, though.

And relax
Two complaints with Sport mode: you can’t lock auto gears in manual, and the suspension defaults to super-stiff. At least standard massage seats soothe the latter. Double-push a button and it’s like an over-friendly puss without the claws padding your back.

Dream two-car garage?
A chance to drive a gorgeous air-cooled 993 from Avantgarde Classics. Porsche fans struggled with the switch from air to water cooling 20 years ago, but there’s a high chance of 993 owners daily-driving a PHEV or EV today.

Man at work
Officially the estate’s 530-litre boot is a modest 43 litres larger than a saloon’s. But photographer Ali Cusick couldn’t shoot from a saloon so easily, plus the SW has aluminium rails to harness him to. Probably not what the estate car’s designers had in mind, admittedly.

By Ben Barry

Logbook: Peugeot 508 SW Sport Engineered

Price £55,795 (£55,795 as tested)
Performance 1598cc four-cyl, twin e-motors, 11.5kWh battery, PHEV, 355bhp, 5.2sec 0-62mph, 155mph
Efficiency 138.9mpg (official), 56.9mpg (tested), 46g/km C02
Energy cost 14.2p per mile
Miles this month 1599
Total miles 6964

Month 2 living with a 508 Sport Engineered: calculator overtime

We hit a snag when I discovered the 508 doesn’t have a three-pin charge cable as standard, just one for wallboxes and public chargers, and I don’t have a wallbox at home. That would’ve been essential for an EV, but didn’t seem necessary for a plug-in – I was charging the small battery overnight, so whether it took two hours or seven to reach its capacity didn’t matter.

I’ve got the three-pin charger now, but running purely on petrol for the first 865 miles was an interesting experiment – I averaged 27mpg. I’ve done two petrol fills since I started plugging in overnight. Driving on rural roads with some urban school-run work, that gives me a pure electric range in the low to mid 20s (officially it’s 26 miles, so pretty close), which has boosted mpg to 52.0mpg. I have two regular 25-mile commutes, so I’ll just about get there on e-power, but there’s no charger at the other end, and for some jobs I’ll often go further, meaning any zero-missions mileage is balanced by 27mpg or so.

So the official 138.9mpg is a distant dream, but if I can get the average in the 50s I’ll be happy.

By Ben Barry

Logbook: Peugeot 508 SW Sport Engineered

Price £55,795 (as tested £55,795)
Performance 1598cc four-cylinder, twin e-motors, 11.5kWh battery, PHEV, 355bhp, 5.2sec 0-62mph, 155mph
Efficiency 138.9mpg (official), 34.7mpg (tested), 46g/km C02
Energy cost 18.8p per mile
Miles this month 1603
Total miles 5365

Month 1 living with a 508 Sport Engineered: hello and welcome

This should be interesting. I remain a big fan of the recently departed 308 GTI hot hatch produced by Peugeot Sport, and I’ve also been impressed by the current 508. My new long-term test car basically rolls the two together – it’s a 508 produced by Peugeot Sport – and adds in a plug-in hybrid electric drivetrain. While I’ve tested EVs and plug-ins previously, I’ve never run one long-term.

Peugeot 508 Peugeot Sport Engineered is the official mouthful, and it’s history’s most powerful Peugeot production car with 355bhp and 384lb ft. The chassis gets wider tracks front and rear, and a more focused suspension tune, plus there are 20-inch alloys wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres and 380mm brake discs with four-piston calipers at the front, so there’s plenty of driver-focused kit.

508pse interior

But plug-in hybrid tech means this high-performance car can officially run for 26 miles and hit up to 86mph with no exhaust emissions (though it won’t do both simultaneously), as well as return 138.9mpg and 46g/km CO2, meaning just £10 for the first year’s road tax.

The 508 PSE combines a 1.6-litre 197bhp petrol four-cylinder engine with a 108bhp electric motor on the front axle, and a 111bhp electric motor driving the rear axle for part-time all-wheel drive (as is usual, the combined peak is less than all the power sources simply added together). There’s an eight-speed auto gearbox, and the electric motors are juiced by an 11.8kWh lithium-ion battery.

You can get a saloon or the SW estate we’re running, which looks pleasingly sleek and has the same 530 litres of boot space as the non-hybrid car. The price is a punchy £55,795, but standard kit is strong with a 10-inch touchscreen, Focal audio, nappa and alcantara trim, and our car’s attractive Selinium Grey paint. There are no options on our test car, and very few available.

508pse badge

A plug-in suits me better than a full EV currently – I live in the rural East Midlands and do a lot of small trips interspersed with much longer runs. But I’m also suspicious that plug-in hybrids are better at reducing company car driver benefit-in-kind taxes (13 per cent for this car) than the actual CO2 emissions they purport to tackle, and I’m intrigued to see if the good work done by the battery on short trips might be undone by lugging the extra weight around when it’s depleted on longer trips. Open mind and all that, though, and I hope to be proved wrong.

By Ben Barry

Logbook: Peugeot 508 SW Sport Engineered

Price £55,795
Performance 1598cc four-cylinder, twin e-motors, 355bhp, 5.2sec 0-62mph, 155mph
Efficiency 138.9mpg (official), n/a mpg (tested), 46g/km CO2
Energy cost n/a p per mile
Miles this month 0
Total miles 3762

By Ben Barry

Contributing editor, sideways merchant, tyre disintegrator