The last three new models launched by Peugeot – the 3008, the 5008 and the RCZ coupé – have been very well received, and this bodes well for the latest model.
With mainly subtle, elegant styling, it makes the heavy-handed 407 it replaces seem like a Gerald Scarfe caricature of what a Peugeot should look like.
The shorter front overhang combined with a longer rear passenger compartment gives the 508 a far better proportioned look than its predecessor.
Its interior is more spacious with higher quality materials than the 407, and it needed to offer this premium car feel to compete with most other cars in the sector.
However, Peugeot sees an opportunity for the 508 as it’s new from the ground up, and the other recent new model introductions in the class, such as the Ford Mondeo and Volkswagen Passat, are not.
New to the range is a revised 1.6-litre HDi engine which is available with e-HDi technology.
It’s an advanced stop-start system combined with an electronic sequential transmission.
It means the engine is off for longer than many stop-start systems as it will cut out below 5mph just before the car comes to rest and stay off while the driver keeps the car stopped with the brake pedal.
There are other new engines – a normally-aspirated 120bhp 1.6-litre, and a 156bhp turbocharged version, both manual versions with CO2 emissions below 150g/km, along with a revised 2.0-litre diesel.
The 2.0 HDi produces 140bhp in manual form, while customers choosing the six-speed automatic version are given 163bhp.
There are five equipment grades, including a fleet-targeted SR model.
Entry-level Access models come with daytime running lights, air conditioning, CD/radio and USB socket, and steel wheels with plastic trims. SR models add Peugeot Connect SOS, leather-covered steering wheel, navigation with Bluetooth connectivity, dual-zone air conditioning and 16-inch alloys.
Active is the next step up with Allure and GT completing the line-up.
The GT model is available only with a new 2.2-litre 204bhp diesel engine with a six-speed automatic transmission.
Remarkably, this engine in the saloon produces CO2 emissions of 150g/km (SW: 154g/km) and includes LED daytime running lights, a colour head-up display, leather trim and xenon headlamps.
Performance is effortless from both engines, and refinement and comfort are exceptional.
The 1.6 e-HDi is also one of the best applications of an electronic-shift manual, with far smoother gearchanges than encountered when these systems first appeared around a dozen years ago.
This type of gearbox also results in better consistency in economy and performance compared to a conventional manual.
Although it only produces 112bhp, performance feels pretty comfortable on the open road.
The 2.0 HDi is much more responsive, however, and its CO2 emissions of 125g/km (for the saloon) at only 1g/km higher than for the 1.6 HDi without the e-HDi technology makes it even more attractive.
And in the tradition of these large Peugeot saloons and estates, going back to the 405, it’s actually quite fun to drive on twisty roads, too.
For driving appeal, it’s a tough call to choose between this and the Mondeo, but it easily has the edge on the Passat and the Vauxhall Insignia.
The 508 provides some of the elegance that Peugeot has lost in recent years. The best large Peugeot in a very long time is also one of the best in its class.