Over the last four decades Peugeot has made good use of the GTI badge – three revered letters that have graced everything from the 205 to the Mk2 308. But in late 2020, the famous moniker reserved for performance flagship models was ditched in favour of Peugeot Sport Engineered.
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WHAT IS SPORT ENGINEERED?
A new sub-brand created to help Peugeot, in its own words, become the “best high-end generalists”, whatever that means. More specifically, it wants to be regarded as a genuine alternative to Mercedes, Audi and BMW. What better way to kick things off then than by launching the most powerful – and expensive – production car that blends petrol and electrification to achieve the desired goal? The swoopy 508 Fastback – fancy speak for saloon – and larger 508 Station Wagon – curvy estate – are the first to undergo this interesting transformation, with further cars expected to follow behind. With the Station Wagon predicted to be the big-seller, accounting for 60% of total sales going by Peugeot UK’s calculations, it is the car we decided to jump into and put under the spotlight.
WHAT MAKES THE 508 ‘SE’ SO SPECIAL?
Many reasons, but chief amongst them is the fact some of the sharpest minds working on the 9X8 – a radically styled, hybrid-powered hypercar that makes its Le Mans 24 Hours debut in the summer of 2022 – have had a hand in the 508 Sport Engineered. Before we take a closer look at the styling and key mechanical parts, it is worth exploring the changes you cannot see but which turn a good car into a damn good one. The front and rear tracks have been widened by 24mm and 12mm respectively, with the springs at each corner 50% stiffer over non-Sport Engineered variants. And peaking behind those gorgeous 20-inch rims are dinner plate-sized discs clamped by four-piston brake calipers developed by UK specialist Alcon – although the set-up could do with some added bite.
THE STYLING IS CRAZY
We think so, too! Available in either ‘Selenium Grey’, ‘Pearl Nera Black’ or ‘Pearl White’ paint colours, the bodywork is adorned with Sport Engineered monograms on the nose, the flanks and the bootlid. These ‘Kryptonite’ green logos are repeated on the vertical blades that sprout from the front and rear bumpers and also the side skirts, and while their aerodynamic properties are questionable, they look pretty cool nonetheless. A carbon fibre look-a-like radiator grille, aggressively shaped front bumper, gloss black rear diffuser and twin exhausts that are treated to a special coating intended to resist the effects of typical road grime and stone chips also debut. And similar to regular versions of the 508, the latest LED technology is widely used for the headlights, tail-lamps, tusk-like DRLs and wing mirror indicators.
IT’S A CLASSY CABIN
Barring a panoramic glass sunroof, every conceivable creature comfort comes as standard on the 508 Sport Engineered, from the 10-inch multimedia screen with sat-nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, to an eight-speaker FOCAL stereo system, a wireless charging pad for smartphones, and automatic dual zone climate control. Getting comfortable in the heated Alcantara and nappa leather trimmed sports seats is dead easy, yet some are going to find their view of the configurable 12.3-inch digital dash obscured by Peugeot’s small ‘i-Cockpit’ steering wheel. Not even rake and reach adjustment can cure this and in a performance car, that is a big annoyance. Apart from garnishes of green stitching, the cabin is a mirror image of non-Sport Engineered SWs which is no bad thing as build and material quality are top notch. Being an estate it’s exceptionally practical whether the back seats are up (530-litres) or down. Space in the rear for passengers is so-so, especially if the driver and front seat passenger have long legs.
IT GOES AS WELL AS IT LOOKS
Power comes from one of two sources depending on the mode you select, but being a driver-focussed car, most owners are going to select ‘Sport’ as the 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol (197bhp) joins forces with a front electric motor (108bhp) and the rear axle’s 111bhp e-motor. Quirks of the system mean a total output of 355bhp. Pick up is urgent from a standing start with the dual electric motors filling in for the petrol engine as it builds towards optimum revs. The dash to 62mph takes little more than five seconds and it feels every bit as quick as the numbers suggest.
If we have one criticism of the 8-speed transmission it’s that it likes to hold on to gears in ‘Sport’ and that can disrupt the relative calm that exists inside. The best solution is to reach for the column-mounted flappy paddles. Straight-line performance impresses and stiffer springs, adaptive dampers and thicker anti-roll bars in tandem with a long wheelbase and the four-wheel-drive system imbue confidence as you hurry along a twisty country road. We just wish that as you enjoy the moment there was an equally enjoyable soundtrack. For everyday driving ‘Comfort’ is a decent compromise as the adaptive suspension slackens up a touch to become more settled. The ride retains a firm edge, though – a reminder that you are at the controls of the sportiest 508 on sale today.
PROS & CONS
+ Exclusivity is guaranteed
+ Strong, useable performance
+ Loses none of its practicality
– Expensive for a Peugeot
– Firm springs hurt the ride
– Styling won’t suit everyone
CHARGING: In ‘Electric’ mode a 26-mile round trip is possible on a full charge of the onboard 11.5kWh battery at speeds up to 86mph. Using a household 13-amp socket takes a depleted battery to full in seven hours, four hours if you have a 16-amp supply and less than half that when connected to a 32 amp charger. Regenerative braking varies by mode, with the highest level achieved when ‘Sport’ is chosen.
STYLING: Peugeot is pretty proud of the fact staff from its Peugeot Sport division shared their technical know-how when it came to the 508 Sport Engineered. It is marked out by three special paint colours, an aggressively designed body kit featuring aero ducting and 20-inch bi-tone alloy wheels. The lowered suspension has been thoroughly reworked with new springs, dampers and roll-bars added to the mix.
INTERIOR: Changes between regular versions of the 508 and Sport Engineered models are few, save for seats upholstered in suede cloth and leather, and a monogram on the bottom of the steering wheel. Fit and finish is close to the levels of Audi and BMW and buyers won’t be disappointed by the volume of technology, safety kit and convenience features such as a 360-degree camera and keyless stop/go.
PRACTICALITY: 508 Sport Engineered ownership promises the best of both worlds because it’s a family wagon and a fast one at that. Raising the powered tailgate reveals a flat-floored 530-litre boot with no lip for straightforward packing and unpacking. This rises to 1,780-litres when the seats in the back are lowered which is done by pulling on levers on both sides of the car at the base of the D-pillars.
Price: £55,795 (as tested)
Engine: 1.6-litre, 4cyl turbo petrol plus 2 e-motors
Power/torque: 355bhp/384lb ft
Transmission: 8-speed automatic, e-four-wheel drive
0-62mph: 5.2 seconds
Top speed: 155mph