Whereas we traditionally test drive best-selling vehicles, we’ll make an exception this time with the Peugeot 408. Since its launch in July 2022, it has sold just 6,448 units in France, well below its competitor the Renault Arkana. (even though Peugeot calls the 408 a cross berline vs. a SUV coupe for the Arkana). In 4 months spent travelling around Europe I haven’t seen one 408 around. So we’re going to investigate why the 408 has failed to live up to its sales expectations. The model we’ll be driving is the PHEV 180 GT priced at 49,500€ (US$52,300). And we may have already found one of the issues with the 408 as this price is much higher than the Arkana’s most expensive variant, the E-Tech Full Hybrid 145 Esprit Alpine at 37,600€.
At first sight, the exterior design is aggressive and the car looks massive. It shares its headlights, taillights, and dashboard design with the third-generation 308, which was developed alongside it. It is 4,687 mm long vs. 4,750 mm for the 508 sedan and 4,545 mm for the Arkana. The silhouette is a bit confusing as it doesn’t fit any standard shape and is rather a mix of sedan, crossover and hatch, but the relatively low height (1,478 mm) gives off a rather sporty vibe, as does the imposing width (1,848 mm). These measurements are to be compared with a height of 1,576 mm and a width of 1,820 mm for the Arkana.
Standard equipment is plethoric for this GT variant, including traffic sign recognition, frameless rear mirror, semi-autonomous drive (level 2), line assist, adaptive cruise control with stop & go function, driver sport pack including stitching, hands free access and engine start, front and rear parking assist, electric back door with hands free access, and more… Sliding into the cockpit, first impressions are excellent. The i-Cockpit with 3D instrument panel we’ve last seen on the 208 is still impressive, the green stitching across the dash, seats and steering wheel is also present. Sitting is very comfortable with enveloping seats. The cabin feels light thanks to the sunroof.
Mummelsee In Freudenstadt Flamenküche in Freiburg am Breisgau Konstanz
This time we are headed from Paris towards the Black Forest in southeastern Germany. Our first stop is Baden Baden, famous for its curative waters. A quick stroll in town then we take the direction of the Black Forest proper through the Schwarzwaldhochstrasse (the Black Forest High Road), starting with the spectacular Geroldsauer Wasserfälle and ending with the Mummelsee, a glacial cirque lake amidst the forest. Legend says an underwater king and nymphs dwell in its depths. Next is Freudenstadt, sporting the largest square in Germany (216m by 219m) where a huge beer under the shade awaits. We then reach Konstanz on the northwestern shore of the eponymous lake. Highlights include a majestic church (pictured).
Meersburg Burg Hohenzollern Tübingen
Across Lake Konstanz is Meersburg. Its fortress, the Altes Schloss, was founded by Merovingian king Dagobert I in the 7th century. It is among Germany’s oldest. The bishops of Konstanz used it as a summer residence between 1268 and 1803. 136 km northwest and a lot more spectacular is the Burg Hohenzollern, dominating the surrounding valley from its high point. It is a neo-Gothic castle dating from 1867 and the ancestral seat of the Hohenzollern family, the first and last monarchical rulers of the short-lived second German Empire (1871-1918). Just half an hour north is Tübingen, a charming city with cobbled lanes, half-timbered houses and a 16th century turreted castle (all pictured above).
It’s time for an update on how the Peugeot 408 drives. The car is very dynamic and responsive despite a relatively heavy weight (1,706 kg), I would even go as far as saying it drives sporty, through a smooth 8AT gearbox. The most satisfying news is the finally intuitive cruise control commands, now on the steering wheel instead of an obscure wand hidden behind the wheel. Front obstacle warning is overzealous but the GPS directions are much less intrusive than the 3008 I tested a few years back (the 208’s media unit was inoperative). One negative note on the GPS is the fact there are almost constant warnings of traffic jams nearby that are not on our itinerary, so quite annoying in the long run. Call me old fashioned but with no USB port I was forced to charge my phone through induction and this merely kept it at the current level of charge. A nice touch is the Peugeot logo projected on the ground when closing the door (pictured above).
What about the car landscape in this part of Germany? What surprised me the most as this isn’t accounted for in current German car sales statistics is very high prevalence of station wagons. Audis, Mercedes, BMWs and Skodas (and the Peugeot 308) are almost exclusively present in station wagon format, with sedans barely ever seen.
To finish on a high yet unrelated note, I show you the highlights of the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart I had the pleasure of visiting (the Mercedes Museum was closed). Note the museum also includes vehicles created by Ferdinand Porsche before
Lohner-Porsche “Semper Vivus” (1900) Porsche 64 (1939) Porsche Typ 360 Cisitalia (1947)Porsche 356 Coupé “Ferdinand” (1950) Porsche-Diesel Super L 318 Schnittmodell (1960) Porsche 908/02 Spyder (1969)Porsche 959 Paris-Dakar (1986)
It is now time for our review of the Peugeot 408. Judging by the amount of positives vs. negatives I would say the main impediment to the 408 success is, as we predicted at the start of this article, its lofty price.
Aggressive exterior design
Refined and sophisticated interior
leg space in the back seats
Smooth 8AT gearbox
Driver seat returns to memorised position at each start
No USB port, induction charging not effective
Some driving aids are overzealous (front obstacle warning for example)
Some GPS bugs such as wrong traffic jam warning