Peugeot 508 RXH review
by David Finlay (17 May 2012)
The Peugeot 508 RXH is trying to be so many different things at once that it's hard to know which bit to describe first. As good a starting point as any is its status - in the company's opinion, at least - as a premium semi-off-road estate rivalling the Audi A6 allroad and Volvo XC70.
It may be stretching things to suggest that a Audi or Volvo enthusiast of long standing will suddenly declare, "To hell with this, I'm going to buy a Peugeot," but that's another story. The RXH at least follows the basic principle of the allroad and XC70 in that it's essentially a 508 SW estate with greater ride height, and therefore greater ground clearance, and therefore in turn greater off-road potential.
Does this make it a Discovery-beater? No. Will it be sufficient for most owners? Very probably.
Four-wheel drive is essential for this kind of car, of course, and although the RXH doesn't have four-wheel drive in the conventional sense it does use the HYbrid4 powertrain. (In fact it's not available with anything else, and according to current plans it never will be.)
HYbrid4, as you may know, consists of a 163bhp turbo diesel engine driving the front wheels and an electric motor with a maximum output of 37bhp driving the rears, and although there's no mechanical link between the two axles you do get the important effect of power being applied at both ends of the car.
For one reason or another, this is not a remotely serious off-road drivetrain, but then again it was never meant to be. Once more, it's likely to be good enough for the sort of thing most people would attempt in an RXH, though I'm pretty sure there are situations in which this car would get stuck and an allroad or XC70 wouldn't.
HYbrid4 also allows Peugeot to quote a total power output of 200bhp, which sounds impressive until you realise that a lot of that is taken up in hauling the system around. Other, less powerful 508s are considerably quicker. This is also, with the single exception of the HYbrid4 saloon due to go on sale in July, the most economical 508 on the EU test, at 68.9mpg, and officially the one with the lowest CO2 emissions, at 107g/km.
But the weight issue applies here too, as does the variable nature of hybrid cars. The EU test involves hardly any performance work, and the RXH will be able to go through a lot of it using only the electric motor. If you're operating on battery power for a similar proportion of your driving time, you may well achieve something like 68.9mpg, but you probably won't be, because reasonable acceleration requires you to work the engine quite hard. It would be unwise, therefore, to base projected running costs on anything like the official level of fuel economy.
The 107g/km figure is more significant, not because that's what the car will actually emit but because it's taxed as if it did. Vehicle Excise Duty is therefore £20 per year, Benefit In Kind taxation is set at 12%, and there's a 100% Capital Write-Down Allowance in year one, though not for much longer as the CO2 threshold for this will soon be reduced to 95g/km.
Actually buying the car in the first place is quite costly, since the price has been set at £33,695. For that you get a car which is certainly roomy enough for passengers (luggage space is only moderate for a car of this size at 423 litres) and reasonably comfortable, if occasionally cumbersome, on the road.
The biggest problem for me is the steering, which is so light that you could almost swear something had become unattached, though I realise that some people might like it that way. It's equally possible that you'll think more of the huge, revcounter-sized "eco" dial on the instrument panel more than I do.
Like all HYbrid4 models, this one has the electronically-controlled manual gearbox which has been widely reviled. To be fair, Peugeot has worked hard at smoothing out the changes, and with more success than any other manufacturer could reasonably claim, but it's still not ideal and I don't think it ever will be.