This French station wagon has the athletic looks down, but can this be backed up with drivability?
Once a staple in the new car market, the humble station wagon has since fallen victim to the gargantuan rise in popularity of the SUV, leaving many of the long roof sedans to be put out to pasture.
The Peugeot 508 GT Sportswagon is a success story in some ways because of this, carrying its breathtaking looks and quirkiness well into the SUV era.
In Australia, the 508 Sportswagon is sold in just the GT trim, missing out on the option of plug-in power like the regular 508 Fastback gets. It is powered by a turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol engine that sends power exclusively to the front wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission.
With this in mind, does the Peugeot 508 GT Sportswagon offer the same as the more traditional luxury brands at this price point, or is it a hopeful proposition in an age where high-riding wagons reign supreme?
In Australia, Peugeot’s 508 GT range consists of three vehicles; the Fastback, the Fastback PHEV, and the Sportswagon.
The line-up starts with the Fastback at $63,431 before on-road costs, the Sportswagon sits in the middle at $65,657 before on-road costs, and then there’s a significant jump to the PHEV at the top of the range, starting from $81,610 before on-road costs.
At that price point, the Peugeot competes loosely with the likes of the Volkswagen Passat 206TSI R-Line wagon ($67,690) and pumped up wagons like the Citroen C5 X Shine ($57,670) and Volvo V60 Cross Country ($68,490).
Standard kit is almost identical between the three variants, with the turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol engine and the eight-speed automatic transmission shared by all. The differing factor when it comes to the PHEV is an 81kW electric motor sitting on the front axle, which is connected to an 11.8kWh battery.
The same goes for the inside of the 508 GT, where nappa leather is standard, as is the carbon-fibre-effect panelling across the dash. All three models also share the 10.0-inch infotainment display, 12.3-inch digital cluster, and wireless phone charger beneath the centre console.
In terms of options, the list is short, and quite expensive. Metallic paint will add $690 to the bill, and premium paint (like the shade of red that our test car wore) will set buyers back an extra $1050. On the inside, the panoramic sunroof is the only option on the table, and will add $2500 to the bottom line.
With its 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine under the bonnet, the 508 GT Sportswagon makes 165kW and 300Nm. This is sent through an eight-speed automatic transmission to the front wheels, and Peugeot claims that it will hit 100km/h in 8.1 seconds.
During independent testing, we found that it will actually do it in just 7.6-seconds, which is significantly faster than the claim.
This is only slightly down on the PHEV version, which did it in 7.5-seconds. Though this acceleration is hardly thrilling, and doesn’t live up to the ‘Sport’ part of the Sportswagon name, it’s adequate for a family-friendly station wagon.
The eight-speed automatic feels like a perfect fit with the turbocharged engine, and offers an extremely smooth drive through the ratios. Though a dual-clutch unit might offer a more dynamic drive at the limit, the everyday ease of use with this automatic is a compromise well worth it in my eyes.
Refinement is another area where this engine excels as it rarely feels out of its depth. It’s reasonably quiet, and power delivery is linear through the rev range. Engine noise is barely translated through to the cabin, and this doesn’t seem to change in Sport mode.
Speaking of drive modes, the 508 GT keeps things simple with just three to choose from; Normal, Eco and Sport. Changes in the powertrain are minimal between modes, but the adaptive dampers that the 508 GT sits on means there’s a noticeable difference in ride between them.
As far as ride quality goes, Peugeot has managed to hit the nail on the head with the 508 GT Sportswagon. In Normal and Eco modes, the ride is remarkably smooth, with little interruption from the road surface being transferred into the cabin.
Though the adaptive dampers stiffen up and remove some body roll in Sport mode, the weight of the wagon is still evident in the corners. This is likely down to a suspension calibration that leans more towards comfort than it does performance, but also was a bit of a disappointment to discover.
Steering is another element that noticeably changes through driving modes. In normal driving conditions, the electric power steering system is soft, and the ratio has a nice urgency about it. Switching to sport mode ups the firmness, but add anything in the way of road feedback.
This is one of my main issues with the 508 GT Sportswagon, as the vagueness of the steering really takes away from the competency of the powertrain when driving hard.
There’s no denying that the 508 GT Sportswagon is a competent package on the road, but I’m doubtful as to whether or not it deserves the “GT” and “Sports” monikers.
Sure, it looks the part and has an adequate amount of power and torque to push it along in a spirited fashion, but the so-so steering is a bit of a dealbreaker for me.
It’s clear that Peugeot was aiming for a premium look with the interior of the wagon, and from a purely aesthetic standpoint it was achieved.
The standard nappa leather seats and generous helping of soft touch materials make the cabin a nice place to be, and this is topped off by Peugeot’s futuristic-looking infotainment and digital cluster systems.
I found the strange soft-touch carbon-fibre-look material to be particularly curious as it defeats the whole purpose of a carbon-fibre panel, whilst also keeping the premium feeling alive.
One area that lets it down is the amount of piano black panelling that’s used across the centre console and dash, as while it looks good on a new car, it wouldn’t be long until the scratches appear.
A 10-inch touchscreen infotainment system sits in the centre of the dash, and can be controlled either via the screen, or the piano keys that sit beneath it.
I found the standard operating system to be particularly confusing, and it didn’t seem to get any easier to use throughout the week I was driving it.
Though it comes standard with satellite navigation, I found that Apple CarPlay was far easier to use, though it requires a USB connection, as does Android Auto.
The 12.3-inch digital cluster that sits above the steering wheel is far easier to use, and prioritises the speed readout no matter which drive mode the car is in.
As far as amenities go across the front row, it gets a USB A port in the little cubby underneath the centre console, and drivers will also find a wireless phone charger down there.
As is the case with a lot of European vehicles in modern times, traditional buttons have been replaced with touch panel for the climate controls, which makes them hard to use whilst on the move.
Thankfully the multifunction steering wheel has retained old fashioned buttons, but it isn’t completely free of issue, either.
Driver comfort is a tricky one with this 508 GT Sportswagon, as the powered nappa leather seats are incredibly comfortable, but the strange small steering wheel impedes a decent driving position.
Though it isn’t the first Peugeot that I have driven with this oval-shaped steering wheel, I found it rather annoying in the fact that it was either sitting too low on my knees, or too high, and blocking elements of the digital cluster.
In the second row, space is reasonably generous, and head and leg room shouldn’t be an issue for most. Due to the low-slung roof of the Sportswagon, rear seat passengers will have to dip their head below the roof lip to get in, but space opens up again once inside.
As usual, the centre seat isn’t wide, and you’ll likely struggle to get three adults across the second row. Foot space in the middle seat is also impeded by a raised transmission tunnel, which is strange considering all the 508s offered in Australia are exclusively front-wheel drive.
When it comes to cargo space, the 508 GT Sportswagon gets 13 extra litres over its Fastback counterpart with the seats in place at 530 litres, and this is extended to 1780 litres when the seats are folded. It’s also worth noting that beneath the boot sits a space saver spare wheel.
Peugeot’s full safety suite is standard across the 508 range in Australia, so the Sportswagon gets adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring and more.
In the scheme of safety systems, I find Peugeot’s suite to be particularly non-intrusive and easy to use.
The 508 was awarded a five-star ANCAP rating back in 2018, which has been carried through to this model.
Peugeot claims a combined fuel economy figure of 5.5l/100km for the Sportswagon, and this seems like a tough target to hit, considering 8.4l/100km was the best we could manage. Pair this with the fact that it runs on 95 octane and the costs will add up.
In terms of servicing, Peugeot offers a capped price plan with the Sportswagon that covers it for five years or 100,000km and costs $2400.
Service intervals are every 12 months or 20,000km, which is an impressive figure considering the small size of the engine.
On the warranty front, the 508 is covered by Peugeot’s five year/unlimited kilometre plan.
As a whole, the Peugeot 508 GT Sportswagon is a well-rounded family wagon that will feel premium to most.
Though confusing at first, I can imagine that the interior tech will make more sense over the long term to most owners, but I can’t see that small steering wheel getting any easier to live with.
As far as driving dynamics go, the 508 GT is a fantastic machine in normal conditions, with enough power and torque to make it feel somewhat sporty.
Pushing it into a corner-filled backroad will unveil its vague steering feel and lacklustre handling, which feels like it misses the mark.
Variant tested GT
Key specs (as tested)
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