The French sedan, now nearly dead, was once an elegant four-door car with a spacious trunk. The French had the loving word there sedan in front of. They were modest family cars in their stylish restraint. The driver was the Francophile father of three promising children in the spacious backseat, who now probably drive Volvo.
The German opposites of Ford and Opel stood out to the French nobility like wooden blocks. From a sociocultural perspective, the sedan separated the goats from the sheep. The CDA accountant who devoured the Bible and the Grote Oosthoek encyclopedia drove an Opel; in a sedan Joop den Uyl, who knew his Ter Braak and Du Perron by heart.
The most beautiful saloons were from Peugeot. The elderly will remember the 505 and 605, the 405 and 406, sleek but generous family cars with which the Dutch could go to France in a civilized manner, one with the culture of desire. Loud marketing campaigns were alien to the brand. Peugeot calmly put the evolutionary dots on the i. The 406 was a better car than the 405.
Then came the draft, both technically and aesthetically. My theory is that the up-and-coming design madness of Peugeot led to an acute style crisis, leading it to turn previously reluctantly served features inside out. The chic simplicity turned into forced extravagance, the French idiosyncrasy became parody. The contrived, unbalanced 406 successor 407 was no better car than its predecessor. The lifeless 508, which succeeded the 407, was no better design than the 407. Diagnosis afterwards: twice Peugeot has magnified its introverted charms in vain, twice it failed. Has it learned a lesson?
That was the intention. You don’t know what happened in the boardrooms of the PSA group, but it is certain that everyone shouted in unison: we are now building a 508 to remember. We’re going to do a deed.
There he is. In Monte-Carlo of course, home of the brave. A Peugeot man gives a 508 lecture in front of a large screen in a darkened room. He says: we studied the morphology of the car for six months. Morphology: the study of form and construction. Is he referring to the Peugeot grammar? No, he means a style that ensures that no one confuses the product with a VW Passat or Ford Mondeo. He means: we now have the jewel that no one has.
So they fell into the peacock trap for the third time. Only this time it ended well with the form. The 508 is a beautiful, coupé-like car with the most beautiful ass of all the large mid-sized cars on the market. I can understand those filthy fat exhaust pipes. The public is no longer Joop den Uyl, it is the leaseman, who is chasing BMW and Volvo, who likes to see his 508 look as little as possible on a Peugeot. By the way, this is no longer a sedan, but a five-door in sedan disguise; in place of the boot lid is a fifth door that hinges at the roofline. You can hope that the three teenagers in the back seat are not taking growth hormones. It’s awful cramped there. Even I can barely sit upright with my six feet. Peugeot will say: if you want a really big car, you will only buy one of our SUVs, the 3008 or 5008. But why a family car that is only in appearance?
For the attention. This is the umpteenth smart sports sedan. The driving characteristics must of course match that. Peugeot says he can go fast. I’m going to try it out in the mountains above Nice out of sheer corniness. That’s where his true nature comes out brilliantly. What an incredibly good driving car this is with that silly little steering wheel and its adaptive chassis. Man, what a joy. Only: for whom?
37,000 euros costs the cheapest 508 with a diesel that no one wants anymore and without adaptive damping; the entry-level version with a petrol engine is already well over forty. You have a BMW 3-series for that, on the market since 2015 and not quite armpit fresh anymore, but it is the benchmark in its class and the real premium sedan that the Peugeot is not, although it would have all the qualities. He must first prove that in the SUV era that will be his last hour after all. Anyone who allows themselves to be persuaded to that adventure is taking an expensive gamble.