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Review: Peugeot's 500bhp hot hatch, the 308 R Hybrid
The 308 R Hybrid concept is as powerful as hot hatches get. TG gets its mitts on it
What the heck is this?
It’s the Peugeot 308 R Hybrid. Officially a concept for now, it’s near-as-dammit a 500bhp hot hatchback.
As the name suggests, its power is made by combining petrol and electric power. And unsurprisingly, given such potency, it’s four-wheel drive, too.
Give me more numbers.
The combined total is 494bhp, when the 268bhp 1.6-litre petrol turbo (like you’ll find in a 308 GTI) is giving its all alongside the two 114bhp electric motors.
There’s one on each axle, the front motor’s main role being to generate power to keep the battery topped up, while the rear motor boosts agility in corners, plus traction under acceleration.
So most of the R Hybrid’s power drives the front axle, and it’s only really a 494bhp car when you engage launch control. Otherwise, the front motor keeps most of its power for battery regeneration and you’re left with a 394bhp hot hatch.
Still hardly shabby, and more power than the bonkers new Ford Focus RS…
It’s fast, then?
With launch control engaged and every last horsepower used, this car will hit 60mph in under four seconds. It feels that fast, too. The incongruity of lunging so quickly towards the horizon in a sensible hatchback is every bit as eye watering as even quicker launches in Atoms and GT-Rs.
The top speed is limited to 155mph, effectively pitching this Peugeot into the same echelon as AMG Mercs, M Division BMWs and RS Audis. Fitting, really: Peugeot’s big cheeses quote the latter as possible rivals for a production 308 R Hybrid.
And how does it drive?
Very well, particularly when you consider we were testing a development car and not a showroom product. As such we were limited to the circuit, but in truth, that’s the most comfortable place to drive an invaluable prototype with more torque than a Ferrari F12tdf.
Despite weighing 1,480kg, it feels very agile, the spread of power between both axles allowing it to feel very wieldy. It’s a feeling helped by the weeny steering wheel, which is a transfer from the 208 GTI and 308 GTI, and which is nicely reactive and very intuitive once you’ve spent a minute or two acclimatising to its size.
The Focus RS slides. Does this?
While the R Hybrid is very grippy and inspires lots of confidence, it will also indulge a bit of frivolity too: lift off the throttle into a corner like you might in a classic French hot hatchback and it will act in a similarly (albeit less scarily) oversteery manner.
But that’s not the only talking point. The gearbox is worth a mention, too. It’s a six-speed robotised manual, operating through two pedals and paddleshifters. As you change up a gear, the electric motors fill the very brief interruption in torque, so you get completely seamless gearchanges, something even the smartest twin-clutch gearboxes don’t offer.
It feels odd, to be honest; very effective for creating an aura of relentless acceleration, but it’ll take some getting used to for those of us who enjoy changing gear as part of interacting with a car. No French hot hatch has ever built speed so effortlessly…
So are they making it?
Production would be via a limited run to boost Peugeot’s image, if not its coffers. Don’t expect much change from a hypothetical £50,000 for one, and even then, profit margins for Peugeot would likely be slim to non-existent.
It’s still ‘if’ rather than ‘when’, officially, but we’ll be mightily disappointed if it doesn’t make it to production. It’s been in development for 18 months, after all.
Read the full story in issue 277 of Top Gear Magazine, on sale now