Peugeot 508 GT is opulent but priceyComment on this story
You don't go to Italy to eat sushi for the same reason that you wouldn't visit Japan for the pasta or Sweden for the Tequila.
Same applies to cars. You don't buy American if you want something economical or German if you seek something that's both well-equipped and affordable. You don't buy Chinese if you want, well, anything and I'm pretty sure that the French brands are not at the top of your mind when you're after a luxury sedan.
When it comes to cars, the French do small and chic and in modern times they've never really had anything big on the premium car radar - which has very much been German territory for the last few decades.
Not that anything's ever going to stop them from trying and here we see the latest attempt in the form of Peugeot's new 508.
It's a very clean and elegant-looking sedan, particularly in GT form as featured here, with its five-spoke, 18-inch alloy wheels. The front end is easily its nicest aspect, even if it rouses a few Audi R8 epiphanies, and the car is as classy as a Lexus from the side. Sadly they seem to have run head-first into a deadline with the rear end. Peugeot boasts that the boot lid blends flushly into the bumper, which houses the number plate, but what they ended up with was an upper section that's so bland that they literally had to insert a chrome strip to break the monotony.
It is a fine looking car otherwise and the premium vibe continues inside, where the materials are of a high standard and you find some high-end features like a standard (on the GT) big-screen navigation system and a colour head-up display. The leather seats are also comfortable and supportive.
In fact the entire driving experience equates to opulence - it's incredibly quiet inside, the car has a cushy ride quality, the six-speed autobox swops cogs smoothly and it all makes the daily grind of commuting a very serene experience.
At least until you have to turn into a busy street, which can be downright scary in this Peugeot. At Reef altitudes, turbo lag is a problem in this car - it literally dawdles off the line no matter how hard you flatten the pedal.
Granted, there is an abundance of power at your disposal once the revs are up past 2000rpm and the turbo's spooling, its 2.2-litre turbodiesel motor pushing 150kW at 3500rpm and 450Nm at 2000rpm.
Handling is also very decent, thanks to a drop-link dual wishbone front suspension that's fitted exclusively to this flagship GT model. Like the rest of the range, it also has a fully independent multi-link rear axle.
As you'd expect from a car in this league, the 508 will fare well as a family car. Besides the long list of luxury features, including four-zone climate control, it has acres of rear legroom. Just hope those teens don't grow too tall as there's only enough rear headroom to comfortably accommodate an average-height adult.
If you can live with the turbo lag, the 508 GT is a very elegant, comfortable and pleasant sedan that proves the French are fast catching up in the luxury sedan game. Yet the GT is simply too steeply priced for what it offers. Go for the R289 900 1.6 THP if you want the best value in the range. In fact you can get a Jaguar XF, minus a few features, for less than R50 000 more than what the GT costs.
Peugeot 508 2.2 HDi GT (150kW) - R418 900
Audi A4 2.0 TDI AT (130kW) - R368 500
BMW 320d AT (135kW) - R390 500
Citroën C5 HDi 160 Exclusive (120kW) - R382 100
Honda Accord 2.2i-DTEC Exec AT (110kW) - R412 900
Jaguar XF 2.2D Luxury (140kW) - R466 100
Mercedes C250 CDI Elegance (150kW) - R483 500
Volvo S60 D5 Essential (158kW) - R428 800