You notice all these changes at once. Not always individually, but in the general manner of the car, which is more precise, assured and meatier than that of any regular 508. That’s quite nice to feel in a big Peugeot. Some intent.
This also remains a comfortable and interesting cabin. One that, with a few bespoke touches and the superb low-slung, ribcage-cupping sports seats, adopts the sporting atmosphere with ease, but for one enormous failure.
Peugeot’s quirky i-Cockpit, in which the dainty steering wheel sits low and invites to view the digital instrument binnacle over the top of the rim, might work in perched-up city cars and SUVs, but when you actually want to sit as low as possible, it’s a disaster. At 6ft 1in (not an unusual height), there are times when I can’t even read the dials, and that gets tiring, not to mention hazardous.
But you learn to live with that, and on the move you’ll then spend your time in one of Electric, Comfort, Hybrid or Sport mode, all selected via the toggle switch on the transmission tunnel. Electric locks the powertrain into almost-silent operation, and the 508 PSE works serenely well as an EV, albeit with only faint levels of regenerative braking. It’s calm and responsive, with the rear motor doing the lion’s share of the work.
Run out of charge or select any of the other modes and the engine can come into play. It’s an unromantic unit: too gruff and monotone, not £55,000’s worth; and at low speeds, the car sometimes can’t decide which of its powertrain elements to engage, meaning you get the odd driveline hiccup or shuffle. At trundling speeds, the ride quality sometimes also flirts with being brittle. Not to the point that it irritates, and things smooth out to startlingly good effect at pace, but you’re certainly reminded of those manhole-cover 20in wheels and the spring rates, which are 50% higher than those of the regular 508.
These elements pay dividends when you properly drive the 508 PSE, though, because it’s a brilliantly effective cross-country bruiser.
Put your foot down in Sport and the motors punch you forward before the engine is belatedly matched with the correct gear. With all three power sources involved, the car then feels quick, although not startlingly so. What’s quite unusual – and frankly suits the Peugeot well – is the vague single-speed feel of the driveline. You never get involved with the flimsy paddleshifters because this ’box simply isn’t precise enough to reward your efforts, but there’s rarely any need to tee up the engine with a downshift or two anyway, because the motors fill the void.