Clever 508 is really simple
THERE'S a neat trick performed by the diesel-electric hybrid version of Peugeot's attractive 508 estate, writes Tony Lewis.
If the car is locked and it's warm outside, the windows open automatically by anything from a couple of inches to about one-third when you click the remote key to unlock the car.
It allows that initial blast of warm air – accentuated by the car's full-length sunroof (or panoramic roof as Peugeot calls it) – to escape, helping the car to cool quicker and save energy because the air conditioning won't have to work so hard when you start the engine.
And energy saving is what the 508RXH is all about. It uses a 2.0-litre, 163bhp diesel engine with an electronically-controlled six-speed sequential manual gearbox. This engine drives the front wheel. There's an electric motor, mounted in the rear axle, which provides a constant power of 27bhp and a peak power of 37bhp. The electric motor also drives the rear wheels to provide four-wheel drive with up to 40 per cent of the torque going to the rear wheels if needed to improve grip.
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This means muddy tracks, towing over grassy fields or snow over Dartmoor shouldn't present too much of a problem.
There are four driving modes, controlled by a selector on the centre console. The auto mode allows electronics to control everything; even the parking brake is electronic. It will also switch you into electric only driving mode at speeds below 40mph.
You can select zero emission mode when you want, so long as the batteries are more than 50 per cent charged; this will allow you to drive on electric power alone for up to 2.5 miles. There's also a four-wheel drive mode and a sport mode that allows faster gear changes and higher engine speeds.
It all sounds complicated but in truth the 508RXH is simple to use. Leave everything in auto and all you have to worry about is driving.
As a long-legged and comfortable motorway cruiser with plenty of room for luggage, the 508RXH is admirable.
It is also efficient – I averaged 46mpg over some 400 miles of mixed motorway and town driving. That could easily have been more than 50mpg with a slightly lighter right foot, a feat I did achieve on a couple of 20-mile round trips. The official combined cycle fuel economy is 68mpg and CO2 emissions are a tax-busting 107g/km. Benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax is 12 per cent and company buyers can write down 100 per cent of the list price in the first year.
The RXH is slightly bigger than the standard 508 estate, sitting on a 40mm wider track and height is increased by 50mm. This makes it an even more impressive car to look at.
Because the nickel metal hydride batteries for the electric motor are under the rear luggage stowage area, there is no spare wheel so the RXH comes with a puncture repair kit.
It also comes with such useful delights as a head-up display, parking aids and all manner of gizmos to make life inside a little more pleasant.
But if doesn't get AM on the radio because of interference from the electric motor – and there's nowhere convenient to keep the key (it's keyless start) unless you keep it in your pocket all the time. One day, nearly all cars will have some sort of electric-assist as a way of cutting emissions. If they all work as seamlessly as the RXH it's a future we can look forward to.
The RXH costs £33,695 or there's a higher spec Limited Edition at £36,000.
â Tony Lewis is consultant editor at headlineauto.co.uk