When the covers were removed at the Geneva motor show in March last year revealing a second-generation 508 that wasn’t going down the same conservative look of the predecessor, we were excited. Peugeot had brought the saloon back to life with a striking new design and with the intention of shaking up the D-segment not just via the handsome aesthetics but also a plethora of luxury features and tech. Now, we’ve driven the newbie — in the top of the range GT-Line guise — and it has not disappointed.

The radical new saloon, re-imagined from top to bottom, has evolved into a five-door fastback with a drop in height to give it the aerodynamic lines of a coupé and it has adopted a sportier stance too. Up front, the nose is dominated by a prominent grille replete with the iconic Peugeot lion and flanked by LED headlights while around the back the new LED taillights (with the ‘lion claws’ design) have been framed in a glossy black strip. It sure looks the part on the outside while the interior replicates the good work by packing premium materials such as Nappa leather alongside some cutting-edge technology which includes the latest evolution of its trademark Peugeot i-Cockpit. Now entering its third generation, this includes a compact steering wheel (flat top and bottom), a HD touch-screen and a head-up display with a 10in digital screen but a special mention must go to the eight-pocket pneumatic massage system built into the front seats. With five different programmes, it helps to keep those longer commutes from becoming tiresome and uncomfortable. Below the central touch-screen are seven ‘piano key’ toggle switches to operate the main i-Cockpit features and they add a bit of character to the smart cabin which also gets a wide-opening panoramic roof and several sockets for charging portable devices. Driver assistance features include Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Positioning Assist, Latest-generation Active Safety Brake, Lane Keeping Assist, Driver Attention Alert, High Beam Assist, Speed Limit recognition, Extended traffic sign recognition, Active Blind Spot Monitoring system and Visiopark 2 (360 degree vision). There’s ample room up front but in the rear, that fastback limits headroom a little for those above average height however, legroom isn’t an issue.

 

Photos: Stefan Lindeque

As for performance, the PureTech 1.6-litre turbo engine — mated to a six-speed automatic gearbox — produces 165 horses along with 240Nm of twist and thanks to a lively chassis (with adaptive damping) the 508 feels lithe and confident, changing direction eagerly with good feedback provided by the electric steering.

The new 508 is a job well done especially in terms of refinement, making it a genuine challenger to established rivals such as the Nissan Altima, Chevrolet Malibu and Honda Accord. Not quite a new leader in class, but it more than holds its own in the challenging segment.