Peugeot’s number system collapsed with the addition of a second zero. The repetition of a model designation is an aftershock.
With this new saloon we find the 508 nameplate, hardly hallowed, having a second shot on the bootlid of their newest saloon. It is here by the grace of the market outside the EU. We get this car only because the Chinese want to buy saloons more than Europeans do.
In Europe the middle market saloon trade declines and inevitably the 508 is going to fight with its sister car, the Opel Insignia. I imagine authors at the main automotive periodicals are planning their head-to-head tests at this very moment. I feel that regardless of their verdict these cars’ fates are predestined. The Insignia has a larger market of existing customers and the old 508 saw almost continuous decline. It will be a fight for PSA to keep those customers.
Never mind what it’s like to drive, how does it look? The press have noted its fastback shape and that makes this 508 a hatchback, a format Peugeot has eschewed for their large cars ever since its very founding. As rooflines have become longer they have eaten into the boot’s real estate and it no longer makes sense to try to make a saloon – as Peugeot admitted, the aperture would be too small. Tell that to Honda who are selling a saloon version of the thing they call a Civic. The Mondeo and Insignia also have five-doors.
The front of the 508 has a novel approach to the treatment of the running lights. These look like fangs dangling down from the headlamps. The main achievement of this is to avoid what is becoming a cliché in the little world of front-clips, the over-wrought fog-lamp aperture e.g.
The chess-board grille adds a bit of textural interest and glitter – grille patterns are another area of febrile development at present. This one is calm enough while dodging the standard mode, slats.
At the side we behold a sober overall look but more than a little cheating is going on behind the rear quarterlight: a crinkled panel intended to make the side glass seem longer than it really is. It is not as egregious as the current Insignia; but it’s just over the limit of being acceptable as an accent of the DLO frame.
The image of the side masks somewhat a mid-height arrow-like feature line heading from the rear lamp forward and then turning back and down between the mirror and rather low door handles. Have you noticed they are nearer the ground than you might expect. Speaking of DLOs, will this car have a chrome frame as an option?
In this view those fangs can be seen to do another job: hide the length of the front overhang. Behind them is another feature, with a vertical character. This is designed so as to make the optical corner look further back than it really is.
And around the rear:
The rear may possibly be the most satisfying aspect. It is a dramatic improvement over the outgoing car which had a sad droop due to the way the rear lamps were orientated. If the rear clip is not smaller than the old car, it looks it and I hope the highlights can flow better across the bumper-to-body panel gap.
The new car’s sculpting and graphics express width (which is something the Passat also aims at, as does the Insignia). It is a neater, more tailored car from the rear whereas the previous car looks bloated. The way the shutline relates to the rear lamp cut-out is borrowed from Jaguar and Volvo and is altogether less expedient.
I shall await with interest a chance to see the car in the metal. That might be a little while as sales are frankly expected to be modest, especially in comparison to the 406 which quickly became part of the street furniture and still is. “Output is expected to peak in 2019 at 96,300 units, with 83,000 made in Europe and the rest in China”, declares ANE.
In comparison, PSA sold about 131,650 of the previous generation 508s in 2011, with 115,000 in Europe and the rest in China,” writes ANE. Tellingly, Peugeot sold a total 107,633 of 406 coupés. If anyone has sales totals for the 406 and 407 it would be interesting to see them.