A quick and stylish tow car, but not an especially practical one.
Rear-view camera helps when hitching up
Covering long distances in comfort
Too much pulling power when making a hill start on damp Tarmac
Crosswinds can make themselves felt at speed
Striking to look at and packed with high-tech features, the Peugeot 508 has promise as a tow car. We’re testing the most powerful diesel model in the well-equipped GT spec.
In profile, the 508 looks much like a coupé. Has practicality been sacrificed for style? Is it easy to make the most of the car’s technology? And, most importantly, how well does it tow?
If you think the outside looks striking, wait until you get inside. It's bold, different and distinctive
The 508 BlueHDi 180 has a kerb weight of 1610kg, including 75kg for the driver. That gives an 85% match figure of 1369kg; well within the 1800kg legal towing limit. The maximum nose weight is 75kg – a little lower than some rivals’, but acceptable for a car of this size and weight.
We matched the Peugeot to a Swift Conqueror 480 with a Mass in Running Order of 1304kg and set off on a loop of B-roads, A-roads and motorways.
There’s no substitute for torque when towing, and the 508’s engine has plenty. There’s some 295lb ft from 2000rpm; more than enough for punchy acceleration when towing.
The eight-speed automatic gearbox helps. It rarely dithers, swapping ratios quickly and smoothly. There’s a Sport mode for sharper changes, and paddles behind the steering wheel so the driver can take charge, but we rarely felt the need.
If there’s a time when all that pulling power is too much, it’s when making a hill start. On damp Tarmac we found it hard to avoid a brief moment of wheel spin. Once grip had been restored, however, the 508 quickly towed back up to speed.
On B-roads the Peugeot felt settled and composed. Certainly, it’s more at home on country roads than exposed sections of motorway; from time to time car and caravan were nudged around a little by crosswinds and when overtaking HGVs, but any movement was slight.
Hitching up with the Peugeot proved straightforward. The tow bar is manually retractable ad comes with a 13-pin harness for £800 (the price also includes a stability-control system). A rear-view camera is standard on all but the entry-level model, and helps when you’re hitching up.
We were happy with the Peugeot’s towing ability, but it doesn’t quite match the high-speed security of a VW Passat.
Essentially, the 508 is swift and comfortable. There’s a slightly fidgety ride around town, but it smooths out at higher speeds.
The Sport suspension setting worsens the car’s tendency to fidget, but maintains firm control on country roads. The Comfort option is more forgiving, but at the expense of more vertical movement over dips and crests. As is often the case with this kind of adaptive suspension, we found the Normal setting best most of the time, whether towing or driving solo.
More feedback through the wheel would be nice, but the Peugeot handles neatly and grips the road with conviction.
Without a caravan behind it the Peugeot really shifts, and the engine is smooth and refined. Covering long distances in comfort is one of its strengths.
If you think the outside of the 508 looks striking, wait until you get inside. The design is bold, different and distinctive.
As with all recent Peugeot’s the 508 has an unusually small steering wheel that you look over rather than through to see the instruments. However, we found it hard to achieve a driving position that allowed a clear view without knocking our leg against the wheel when moving from one pedal to another.
In place of a regular speedo and rev counter, the 508 has a customisable digital display. On models that have a night-vision camera (£1300), it can even display images from an infrared camera designed to detect animals or pedestrians beyond the range of the headlights.
All clever stuff, but it’s the more prosaic qualities we look for in a family car that the Peugeot lacks. The slope of the roofline is integral to the coupé-like styling, but it makes it easy to knock your head getting in and out of the back of the car. Rear headroom is tight, and legroom lags behind the likes of the Volkswagen Passat.
On paper, the 508’s 487-litre boot capacity looks reasonable, but there’s a long bumper to lift items across and a long drop into the boot. The rear seats fold but leave a sloping floor.
You can buy a 508 for £25,039, but our high-spec model costs £36,439 – and that’s before you add any options. Fortunately there’s little need to do so with a car that’s so well equipped.
It’s safe as well as luxurious, with a five-star rating from the experts at Euro NCAP.
The official combined figure for the BlueHDi 180 is 60.1mpg. We achieved 26.8mpg on our economy route.
|Maximum Towing Limit
|295 lb ft