There is no question that the D-segment market in Malaysia is dominated by the Big Three of Japan. Many other makes have tried to steal their thunder but Malaysians are a lot that always seem to prefer what the Land of the Rising Sun has to offer. With the introduction of the 508 range, Peugeot is the latest in line to challenge the hierarchy but instead of going directly against what the likes of Honda, Nissan and Toyota have to offer, it is giving prospective buyers a completely new perspective as to how they can spend their cash rather than providing the market with yet another similar alternative. The traditional approach which has successfully earned the Japanese a huge share of the D-segment market is to offer two petrol engine options usually starting with a two litre model. Peugeot however seems to have ignored the rules because with the 508, we are offered a 1.6 litre turbocharged petrol variant and interestingly, a 2.2 litre diesel. Now the latter, called the 508GT, is the one that stands out of the crowd and after testing the car, all of its 204 horses and 450Nm of torque under its belt, it is safe to say that the French are definitely getting serious.
At the press of a button, the car will come to life with the unmistakeable roar of a diesel powerplant. The sound, typical of any vehicle that runs on diesel, may be considered a racket to some but this is merely secondary because the class-leading torque that the turbocharged HDi engine produces is immediately noticeable once behind the wheel. While the car can cruise at slow speeds with ease, a heavier touch on the pedal produces an exciting rush of torque resulting in impressive acceleration which justifies Peugeot’s claim that the car can do 0-100km/h in 8.4 seconds. Driving the car at speed is also an involving experience thanks to its nicely weighted electro-hydraulic steering and six-speed auto gearbox which shifts between gears almost unnoticeably to the average driver unless gears are shifted manually via paddle shifters or if Sport mode is engaged. Apart from generating a fun amount of torque to tinker with, the diesel engine also speaks volumes in terms of fuel efficiency. After a day’s worth of testing under not-very-economical driving conditions on a variety of roads amounting to roughly a hundred kilometres, there was barely any difference noticeable on the fuel gauge. If the numbers on the brochure are to be believed, the car’s 72 litre tank will deliver up to 1,200km worth of mileage – that’s like travelling from Johor to Penang and back, all on a single tank!
Despite the impressive way in which the car behaves on the road, the 508GT was not conceived as a high-performance vehicle to begin with. In fact, differentiating it from the standard 508 is not an easy task. Apart from its twin tailpipes, 19-inch wheels and an almost invisible GT emblem hidden within a chamber of its front grille, the rest of the car is identical to the 1.6L variant, meaning that it does look the part for an executive sedan more so than it does for a sports saloon. For a car that costs just under RM200k, the 508GT boasts a rather luxurious interior which is very spacious as well. The eight-way electric leather seats look and feel expensive, providing lots of comfort and support while the interior trim is made up of soft touch plastic comparable to that used in higher end continental makes. At first glance, the dashboard and the steering wheel look like a bombardment of buttons but surprisingly, the technology inside the car is easy to acclimatise with, including the car’s infotainment system that can be interfaced with using an i-Drive-like knob. Sitting in the driver’s seat, the only complaint about the 508GT is that vision is not great towards the sides and rear of the car which may make parking and manoeuvring through tight spaces a tad more difficult. Front and rear sensors do aid a little though.
On a whole, the 508GT is a very well rounded car which fits into the D-segment nicely in all key areas while boasting impressive performance for a car of that category. Granted, all of this comes at a cost as the car’s premium price tag of RM199,888 eclipses most of its competitors meaning that it will not be as common a sight on local roads as compared to the Accords and Camrys we are so accustomed to. However, the price of having the GT badge on the car is validated by the fact that it definitely drives like a performance vehicle and those wanting something cheaper and tamer on the straights can opt for the 1.6L THP version instead. It is increasingly apparent that the Peugeot brand is growing slowly in Malaysia since the last couple of years and in the 508GT, we are served a not-so-gentle reminder that the French can definitely make a good car, and they can make it their way. -Daryl Loy