DCSIMG

GOING ITS OWN WAY




Car Picture

Published on Thursday 23 October 2014 20:56

Ten Second Review

Peugeot has decided that diesel/electric hybrid motoring should be offered right across the market. And since their system incorporates four driven wheels, they've used it not only in their 3008 Crossover model but also built it into their 508 Estate to create this, the RXH version, a rather unique and go-almost-anywhere eco-conscious all-wheel drive family estate rather in the style of Audi's allroad. It brings hybrid power to an all-new audience and shows just how affordable to run a car like this can be.


Background

It seems like only yesterday that any rugged-looking family vehicle with 4WD was automatically seen as being bad for the environment. And pretty bad for your tax return too, thanks to prodigious weight and thirst. So what are we to make of this, Peugeot's 508 RXH? It's a hefty 1.9-tonne family estate with SUV styling cues and go almost-anywhere 4WD. Yet at the same time, diesel/electric Hybrid4 power delivers running costs that are almost supermini-small.
There's a price to pay for having your cake and eating it of course. Which would be hard to justify if what we had was simply a green-tinged piece of SUV propaganda. But that's not what this is. Instead, in this car, we've future motoring strategy made showroom reality, the combustion engine in its most frugal diesel form matched with electric propulsion. Such is Peugeot's logical Hybrid4 approach, developed to be cleverly modular so it can be simply bolted onto the rear of anything they make, in this case the well received Mondeo-sized 508 Estate.
Electric power pushing the back wheels and diesel drive at the front offers the extra benefit of 4WD capability, emphasised in this model by a higher ride height and SUV-style bodywork. Enough to create in this RXH estate something of an Audi allroad-style alternative to plusher compact SUVs. A lifestyle car with a bit of life in it. Capable, yet careful. Hi-tech, yet highly practical. That's the promise. Let's see how it stacks up.


Driving Experience

At the wheel, there's little of the ground-breaking technology on display. Your passengers won't even notice the almost imperceptible change in engine note as you pick up speed or pass the city limits and the 163bhp HDi diesel engine driving the front wheels seamlessly cuts in to assist the 37bhp AC electric motor that powers those at the rear, making this, in theory at least, a four wheel drive machine. Like virtually all hybrids, this one comes only with an automatic gearbox, with a set of steering wheel-mounted gearshift paddles should you wish to take control yourself. This is PSA's 6-speed EGS system, as already used in e-HDi models across Peugeot's line-up, It's a jerky set-up in those cars - but less so here, thanks to the way the electric motor fills in the gaps in the diesel engine's power delivery.
Ah yes, the power delivery. With a combined output of 200bhp and a combined 450Nm of torque, 200Nm of it from the electric motor, that facilitates a towing capacity of up to 1,100kg, you'll be expecting this RXH to be pretty rapid. But if you are, then you're failing to take account of the 200kg weight penalty that comes with all the batteries and everything else required for hybrid motoring. That's equivalent to the weight of a couple of extra passengers and it explains why this car is effectively no faster than an ordinarily 508 2.0 HDi diesel variant with 50bhp less: rest to sixty takes 9.5s on the way to 132mph.
You'll need to be in 'Sport' mode with its quick gear shifts and active 4WD to be going this quickly, this one of four driving settings available via the circular controller. There are three other driving modes - 'Auto', '4WD' and electric-only 'ZEV' (Zero Emissions Vehicle). Select 4WD and a wider track both front and rear and various underbody protection measures also play their part in making sure that unmade tracks, rutted farm roads and snowy slopes will all be within your compass, especially with a set of winter tyres fitted. But the Serengeti you'll need to leave to Ranulph Fiennes.


Design and Build

As one of the most expensive and up-market Peugeot models ever built, this 508 RXH needs to look the part. It does. But under all this frippery, you've a shape that isn't much different to that of any ordinary well specified 508 estate. Well, it is the same from the B-pillars forwards - and that's what makes this design so darned clever.
Here, you keep everything standard at the front end of the car, with an ordinary off-the-shelf engine conventionally driving the front wheels. Then at the back, you simply replace the normal rear axle with one that packages in an electric motor, driving the rear wheels. Front and rear communicate electronically depending on the traction needed and power switches seamlessly between engine and battery as required. A brilliantly straightforward solution that enables Peugeot and its partner Citroen to bolt hybrid technology into just about any model they make.
We're also told that the packaging issues have been carefully thought through to ensure that the hybrid system's nickel-metal hydride batteries mounted above the rear axle don't eat too greatly into luggage space. Except that they do - a bit. Raise the rear hatch and you'll find that luggage capacity falls from the 512-litres you get in an ordinary 508 estate to 423-litres in this car. You do though get a useful 11-litres of extra compartmentalised storage capacity under the boot floor. If that's not enough, then you can use these side wall-mounted levers to flatten the 60/40-split rear bench, at which point total carriage capacity is revealed at 1439-litres - down from 1598-litres in the standard car.


Market and Model

So, let's assume you've done your homework, you've been through the comparison process and you've made the ownership sums add up into purchase of this 508 RXH. That won't have been too easy given an asking price of around £34,000, so what you won't want to have to do is to then spend and extra fortune on the options list. Fortunately, the standard kit list on this car is comprehensive enough to make that reasonably unnecessary. So you can expect to find 18-inch alloy wheels, a huge panoramic glass roof, auto headlamps and wipers, half-leather trim, cruise control, powered and heated front seats with electric lumbar support, hill start assist, electrically folding mirrors, parking sensors, automatic bi-zone air conditioning, an auto dimming rear view mirror, Bluetooth compatibility for your mobile 'phone, Peugeot's 'Connect' sat nav system and a head-up display that projects key information onto the bottom of the windscreen so that you don't have to take your eyes off the road.
Safety-wise, there are twin, front, side and curtain airbags, along with the usual electronic assistance for braking, traction and stability control to try and ensure that you'll never have to use them. If all should fail and you have an accident, then there's the peace of mind of Peugeot's clever Connect SOS & Assistance system. Via this, you can summon emergency assistance services who'll already know where you are from the car's GPS signal. Should you be incapacitated, the car will itself automatically seek assistance.


Cost of Ownership

Although other diesel electric models in the Peugeot range will doubtless attract more buyers, the 508 RXH is a tantalising glimpse of what can be achieved. Its emissions are rated at 107g/km which is a fantastic figure for a car this big and powerful. Aided by a stop/start system that cuts the engine when you don't need it when you're waiting at the lights or stuck in urban traffic, fuel economy is rated at 68.9mpg on the combined cycle but it's worth remembering that in full electric mode it can operate silently with zero tailpipe local emissions.
Let me be more specific here. Benefit-in-kind for this model is rated at just 12%, an unheard of figure for such a large, powerful luxurious estate car. Nor will this RXH incur the government's usual 3% diesel surcharge applicable to conventional diesel rivals. As a result, under current company car tax law, this car will cost a typical owner around half the amount in annual tax that they'd pay for a conventional rival, say a diesel-powered Ford Mondeo estate. Companies buying this vehicle benefit from lower Employer National Insurance contributions alongside an allowance for the company to offset 100% (Write-down Allowance) of the list price in the first year against taxable profits. Small wonder that up to 80% or more of sales of this Peugeot will be to business buyers. These people will also appreciate affordably priced servicing and insurance that's relatively low cost (group 33) for a 200bhp estate car.


Summary

Peugeot has decided that diesel/electric hybrid motoring should be offered right across the market. And since their system incorporates four driven wheels, they've used it not only in their 3008 Crossover model but also built it into their 508 Estate to create this, the RXH version, a rather unique and go-almost-anywhere eco-conscious all-wheel drive family estate rather in the style of Audi's allroad. It brings hybrid power to an all-new audience and shows just how affordable to run a car like this can be.
All right, so this 508 RXH is hardly inexpensive - but then, the cleverest technology rarely is. And the premium this hi-tech demands over the cost of an ordinary medium range all-wheel drive estate is no more than you'd pay to get a more prestigious badge on your enamelled keyfob. If you can afford to fund such a premium, this is a cleverer way of spending your money, not least because you'll get much of your investment back in lower tax demands and more frugal running costs. You'd be forgiven for doubting that 4WD and eco-friendly motoring could ever go together. This car proves it possible. Which makes it a game changer - and a very clever one indeed.



Used Car Search

in association with Motors logo

Please enter a Postcode

 

Back to the top of the page