Wow is the instant reaction when you first catch a glimpse of Peugeot’s striking new 508.
Competing against the most serious competition from the likes of German manufacturers, there was little point in looking reserved, so the French designers were given free rein.
The result is a practical, five-door family car that oozes eye-catching desirability.
In comes low, sleek, coupé styling with sharp side window design, frameless doors and alloy wheels that fill every centimetre of the large wheel arches.
If the exterior is attention-grabbing, then it is more than matched by the interior that uses Peugeot’s iCockpit twin-screen design. Ahead of the driver sits a compact leather-trimmed steering wheel and a 12.3-inch digital instrument panel, while the centre of the dashboard is dominated by a 10-inch touchscreen angled towards the driver.
All this is mounted in a mix of carbon effect and piano black surfaces, combined with quilted leather seating to give a premium feel to the interior.
We’ll come to the technology in more detail a little later, but the flagship model comes equipped with a range of advanced driver assistance systems, including a £1,300 night vision system which uses an infrared camera built into the front grille to detect pedestrians at night and when visibility is reduced.
The car’s underpinnings include one of Peugeot’s ‘modular platforms’, which makes it lighter, more economical and safe. It has the wide track and multi-link suspension from the DS 7 SUV, and the GT version, driven here, like most of the others, has adaptive damping.
There is a choice of petrol and diesel engine and transmission combinations and power on the test car came from a familiar turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol engine developing a brisk 225 horsepower linked to a smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic gearbox.
On the move the 508 feels confident. The steering wheel seems small at first but you quickly settle in and the car feels steady and stable, while happy to plunge into bends with little pitch or roll.
The ride is good too, even on poorer surfaces and makes you realise the advantage a crisp-handling, low-riding five-door has over the less nimble crossovers that are proving so popular.
Wind noise is not a problem, despite the frameless doors and tyre noise too is nicely muted, even with the chunky 19-inchers fitted to the test car so long-distance cruising is a pleasure.
The driver-assistance menu on the car driven here had the full complement of systems including lane-centring and radar cruise control, both of which lend a useful helping hand on longer journeys.
The ten-inch touchscreen, which has cabin-temperature sliders at either side of the screen, has connected TomTom-based navigation and accurate traffic information. Smartphone mirroring for Apple and Android is also standard.
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