A stylish and stable tow car, although not the roomiest estate on the market.
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Excellent pulling power; lots of headroom in rear of cabin; good road control at speed
Limited boot space for an estate car; not as comfortable as other comparable estate cars
The 508 SW is the estate version of the Peugeot 508. We’re testing the 2.0-litre diesel automatic in GT Line specification, priced at £33,680.
But, beneath the sharp styling, is the 508 SW practical enough to take on the likes of the Škoda Superb Estate? Does the Peugeot drive well and – most importantly – does it make a good tow car?
When we headed onto the motorway, the Peugeot continued to impress, holding 60mph with no sign of strain
The 508 SW offers a choice of petrol and diesel engines, and a plug-in petrol-electric hybrid. We’re testing the 2.0 BlueHDI 160 diesel. All cars with this engine have an eight-speed automatic gearbox.
With a kerbweight of 1575kg (including 75kg for the driver not included in Peugeot’s published kerbweight), the 508 SW’s heft is in line with our expectations for a diesel estate car of this size.
The 85% match figure is 1339kg, well inside the legal towing limit of 1800kg. We matched the Peugeot to a Swift Fairway Platinum 480 with a MiRO of 1282kg, and set off on our regular test route.
Straight away we could appreciate the Blue HDI engine’s 295lb ft of torque. The 508 easily pulled the Swift up to speed, although there was sometimes a moment’s hesitation from the gearbox before changing down a gear when accelerating hard.
On country roads, the Peugeot felt stable and secure, and with so much pulling power to rely on, it was simple enough to hold speed on undulating roads.
You can have too much of a good thing when it comes to torque and front-wheel drive. However, despite wet and miserable weather, the Peugeot handled the hill-start well. The electronic parking brake held car and caravan securely and released without allowing the car to roll back, and after a brief moment of wheelspin, the Peugeot towed to the top of the hill without fuss.
Leaving our country road route behind, we headed out onto the motorway. The Peugeot continued to impress, holding 60mph with no sign of strain. Aside from a couple of slight wobbles when following HGVs, the 508 SW towed straight and true. We’d be confident and relaxed towing long distances with the Peugeot.
The 508 SW drives well, but it’s not quite as engaging as a Mazda 6 Estate, nor as comfortable as a Škoda Superb Estate.
The steering is light but responsive in the normal setting. Switching to sport mode at the press of a button adds some weight to the steering, and sharpens the responses of the accelerator and gearbox.
Even so, the 508 is better at playing high-speed express than cross-country sprinter. It handles well enough, but it’s not the sort of vehicle that is going to encourage you to take the long way home.
The Peugeot is at its best on A-roads and motorways. The high-speed ride is firm, but composed and comfortable. Apart from some road noise from the big tyres, the cabin remains quiet and serene.
Around town, the ride doesn’t feel as supple, and the car can be caught out by sharp bumps. But it is far from harsh and we’d happily live with it for the sake of such control at speed – both when towing and in solo driving. With no van to pull, the 2.0-litre engine allows the 508 to really shift, and the gearbox swaps ratios smoothly.
Estates should be roomy, especially in the boot. In isolation, the 508 SW looks like a spacious load-hauler, with a wide boot opening and a large, square space for bags. However, if luggage room is top priority, the Peugeot’s 530-litre boot is dwarfed by the Škoda Superb Estate’s 600 litres.
However, it’s easy to make the most of the space the Peugeot offers. The tailgate opens and closes at the push of a button (a £400 upgrade) and there’s only a tiny load lip to lift items over.
The rear seats split and fold 60/40 and are lowered using levers on either side of the tailgate. There’s no step to the floor with the back seats folded, and only a very slight slope. The rear of the cabin provides plenty of headroom, but legroom is modest for a car of this size.
However, we’re pleased to see air vents between the front seats and a couple of USB ports for charging devices on the move.
Those in the front have plenty of room. The car’s small steering wheel seems odd at first, but it’s something you quickly become used to. However, we found the infotainment system fiddly, and the USB ports are rather awkwardly positioned.
The 508 SW range starts from £27,630 for a petrol-powered car in Allure specification. Our GT Line diesel costs £33,680, although research by What Car? suggests that sizeable discounts of close to £4000 are available.
Equipment includes a space-saver spare wheel, 18-inch alloys, smartphone charging plate, dual-zone climate control and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The official combined economy is 42.2-51.1mpg, and we achieved an impressive 29mpg while towing.
Safety equipment includes autonomous emergency braking, and Euro NCAP has awarded the 508 the top score of five stars.