Officially unveiled at the Paris Auto Show in October 2016, the second generation Peugeot 3008 then gave me mixed feelings that were swiftly brushed off by its win of the 2017 European Car of the Year trophy. Since, the 3008 could almost be singled out as the sole responsible for returning the PSA Group to profitability – and above archenemy Renault in market value for the first time since 2009, leaping from one sales success to another. It climbed to #4 at home in France as early as January 2017, peaking at #2 in May 2018, nabbed the outright best-seller spot in Spain in September 2018 and cracked the European Top 10 three times, in February, July and September 2018 when it became the continent’s best-selling SUV outright. Adding its 7-seater twin the 5008 to the sales equation uncovers even more impressive sales feats, such as the unofficial #1 spot at home in France during 5 of the past 10 months (as of end October).
Here at BSCB we always endeavour to test drive the best-selling cars around the world to try and uncover the real reasons behind their success, and choosing the 3008 for a week-long spin in both France and Spain, the two countries where it has been the most successful so far, was therefore a no-brainer. This test drive took place at the height of European summer during the last week of July, braving the tourist crowds in what are the two most visited countries in the world: France with 82.6 million annual visitors and Spain with 75.6 million. A courageous feat indeed, which will take us from Paris towards the French Atlantic Coast, wine country near Bordeaux, the French and Spanish Basque regions, Navarre, Cataluña, Central France and back to Paris. It’s in the Poissy PSA factory west of Paris that I take delivery of a 3008 Allure BlueHDi 130 6-speed manual in Magnetic Blue valued at 34.350€ (US$39.200). After Mikey the Tesla Model X, Natasha the Toyota C-HR, Omar the Toyota Prado and Pasha the Toyota Land Cruiser, we need a male name starting in Q as this is a crossover, which has a masculine gender in my native tongue, French. I can never stray too far from these ingrained perceptions even though I have been living in Australia for over 15 years now… The 3008 is French, we are in France, so Quentin it is.
Before we get into the thick of the start of our French exploration, let’s record my very first impressions as I take the wheel of Peugeot’s best-seller. First an incredible surprise: the GPS features on the map the price of diesel (as this is a diesel model) in every nearby petrol station. I hadn’t heard of – let alone driven – any car offering this service before and was certainly not expecting it. It’s simply a game-changer and instantly creates a human-machine complicity where the 3008 ensures you always pick the cheapest price for petrol, a hot topic in France as diesel prices have increased a whopping 25% since the start of the year. The digital, personalised dashboard is very impressive and genuinely transports you into the premium universe: I had a hard time convincing myself that I wasn’t in an Audi, which says a lot about Peugeot’s stunning progress with the 3008. The surprisingly small steering wheel fast becomes second nature and makes you feel like you’re driving a Formula 1 car, quite a feat for an SUV! The experience is so intoxicating that getting back to traditional steering wheels afterwards feels like driving agricultural machinery… My automotive journalist friends told me I’d be bluffed, and even though I had never been a fan of French cars I have to admit: I am bluffed by the 3008 indeed.
There are negatives though – no car is perfect! – and pretty dumbfounding ones at that, especially given all the attention paid making the 3008 a truly sophisticated experience. The driver’s seat being manually adjusted with a unsightly metallic bar does feel like 1988 all over again, at a time when even 5.000€ Chinese cars offer electric seats. Unforgivable in my opinion. But the most frustrating feature of this new gen 3008 has to be the cruise control wand, completely hidden from view behind the steering wheel whereas it should be in plain sight on the wheel like on the Volvo XC40 which we will test drive shortly. What does it mean in real life? Simply that on the highway – basically the only time you actually do need the cruise control feature – the only way to get a look at and understand the intricate options the wand offers is to turn the wheel 90 degrees (yeah, can’t do that) or to stop and look at it. Even then, you will always be blind when manipulating as there is no way to catch a sight of it from a driving position. The actual words on my voice memo for that day were: “I don’t understand how they have managed to f&!@ this up so much”. Couldn’t have said it better. I still love you very much Quentin, but you now have some very precise pointers for your mid-cycle upgrade.
Our first stop for the day is 200km / 125mi south-west of Paris in the Loire Valley to admire the Cheverny Castle, located only 18km / 11mi from the legendary Chambord Castle. According to the Lonely Planet, this is “perhaps the Loire’s most elegantly proportioned château, the perfect blend of symmetry, geometry and aesthetic order” as well some of the most sumptuously furnished rooms anywhere in the Loire valley. Built in 1624 by Jacques Hurault, the château and the domain that surrounded it before its construction have been almost continuously owned by the same family since the second half of the 14th century, that’s over 600 years! Although I concur on all of the above compliments, the main reason I wanted to visit Cheverny is because it is the model (bar the two outward aisles) for the famed Château de Moulinsart (or Marlinspike Hall) in the Adventures of Tintin of which I am an absolute fan since childhood. According to Tintin’s Belgian author Hergé and as explained in The Red Rackham’s Treasure, the castle was built by an ancestor of Captain Haddock, the Chevalier François de Hadoque, a ship-of-the-line captain in the French Navy under King Louis XIV… I must say I much prefer the castle’s fictitious origins…
Full Report below.