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The Warsaw Voice » Society » August 29, 2012
Car Review: Peugeot 508 RXH
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The Here, There and Everywhere Hybrid
August 29, 2012   
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The stylish body line, the spacious and richly furnished interior, and the innovative hybrid 4WD are what makes the Peugeot 508 RXH stand out.

You might find this hard to believe but France was actually the birthplace of the hybrid vehicle—back in the 19th century. The first hybrid was manufactured by Compagnie Parisienne des Voitures Électriques in 1897-1907. The company, though, took little or no care of its brainchild. As a result, a car powered by an internal combustion engine assisted by an electric motor was patented by an American—Henry Piper—in 1905. The unwieldy vehicle managed to hit a top speed of 40 kph in 10 seconds—not exactly earth shattering. Performances like this were never going to revolutionize the automotive industry. The hybrid blueprints were quietly filed away once it additionally became obvious that internal combustion engines had a significantly longer range and were cheaper and simpler to manufacture. Ecological concerns were not even a blip on the radar back then.

Those first hybrid vehicle designs, though, were not completely forgotten; they simply went into suspended animation until Toyota started looking into the feasibility of hybrid vehicles 100 years later. The upshot was the unveiling of the Toyota Prius—the world’s first mass-produced hybrid vehicle—in 1997.

The Japanese might have been first off the blocks with a car powered by an internal combustion engine and an electric motor working in tandem but the French came back and designed and built a diesel-electric hybrid—and put it into mass production. The models released last year by PSA (Peugeot and Citroën SA), viz. the Citroën DS5 and the Peugeot 508 RXH, are the first in the world to come equipped with the company’s proprietary HYbrid4 diesel-electric powertrain system. This couples a HDI common-rail diesel engine with an electric motor.

The Peugeot hybrid is based on the 508 station wagon (SW), although its extra electric motor and batteries make it significantly heavier (1,770 kg). The body is also 5 cm higher (with 18.5 cm headroom), and the plastic covers on the inner wheel arches, side sills, mudguards and bumpers suggest that the 508 RXH might not be averse to a spot of off-road driving occasionally.

The elegance and spaciousness of the interior are exactly the same as the SW version. It is only pure utility considerations that force the Hybrid to bow down before the SW. The trunk is only 400l—compared with the SW’s 518l—and for that we can thank the batteries stored underneath. At first blush, the dashboard is the same as the other 508 models. It is different though. Instead of the tachometer we usually find in front of the driver, there is a dial showing the working of the electric motor. Another can be found on the console between the seats. The small knob that controls the HYbrid4 powertrain can be found next to the small gear shift.

The most important and innovative features of the car are tucked away under its stylish body. The 2l Common Rail turbodiesel engine under the hood packs 163 p.s. and has a maximum torque of 300 Nm that kicks in at 1,750 rpm. The MCP six-speed electronically controlled automated gearbox drives the front wheels. The diesel engine works in conjunction with an electric motor located above the rear axle, along with its batteries. The electric motor packs 37 p.s. and has a maximum torque of 200 Nm at 1,290 rpm. This drives the rear wheels. The Peugeot 508 RXH can be a front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, or 4WD depending on the preference of the driver. You select the drive you want by means of a round knob next to the gear shift in the central tunnel. There are four modes on the knob: Auto, Sport, 4WD and ZEV. Auto automatically adapts itself to the type of trip being made, Sport changes gears faster and the electric motor lends its torque to support the diesel engine when accelerating, 4WD drives both axles by getting both power sources to work together, and ZEV (Zero Emission Vehicle) powers the rear wheels by only running the electric motor. The car can travel at 60 kph in this mode without making any noise. The range, however, is around 4 km and the batteries need to be recharged.

Greater fuel economy and lower exhaust emissions are the biggest pluses of this type of power. Average fuel consumption, according to the technical specifications, is 4l/100 km, and CO2 emissions are just 107 g/km. The car can accelerate to 100 kph in 8.8 s and has a maximum speed of 218 kph. All this in a car that is 482 cm long, that is quite spacious, and that comes with all the standard comfort and safety features, including a complete set of airbags, an ESP system, a full electric package, a radio/CD/MP3 sound system, automatic air conditioning, parking sensors, heated seats, cruise control, and USB/AUX/Bluetooth connections.

The Peugeot 508 RXH is a very versatile model. It can safely handle snowy, slippery and wet surfaces, and can venture into fairly difficult terrain should the need arise. For most people though, it is above all an ecological vehicle. The hybrid power source was built on the idea of a turbodiesel engine and an electric motor working in tandem to not only save and store energy but to cut down on exhaust emissions. And what could be better than saving energy and protecting the environment?
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