Auto blogFri, 04 Jul 2014 17:00:00 EST
It would be all too easy to write off Peugeot Sport these days. The French automaker's competition division, once run by FIA president Jean Todt (before he was head of Ferrari), hasn't competed in Formula One in 14 years, in the World Rally Championship in nearly a decade, and shut down its Le Mans Prototype program - the only one to really challenge Audi in the modern era - two years ago.
Peugeot is still racing, though - it's just selecting individual events instead of entire seasons in one series or another. It conquered Pikes Peak last year with Sébastien Loeb and posted the top time at the Goodwood Festival of Speed with the same car and driver just last weekend. And next year, it will take on the famously grueling Dakar Rally with the 2008 DKR.
The French outfit announced the new off-road racer in March and revealed it in April, but it kept the key technical details a secret until now. As development progresses, Peugeot has revealed that the 2008 DKR packs a twin-turbodiesel V6 mounted amidships and driving 340 horsepower to only two wheels (presumably the rear ones) instead of all four.
Heading into the Goodwood Festival of Speed this past weekend, insiders speculated that we'd have a new top time on our hands. The record for the English hill climb course has stood at 41.6 seconds since 1999 when Nick Heidfeld drove the McLaren MP4/13, but expectations were high that nine-time World Rally Championship superstar Sébastien Loeb would pilot his Peugeot 208 T16 - the same in which he set the record time at Pikes Peak last year - to knock Heidfeld and McLaren off the top of the leader board.
Well, Loeb did dominate the proceedings on Sunday, besting some serious machinery including a specially prepared Maserati MC12 (piloted by GT1 champ Michael Bartels), a McLaren F1 GTR Long-Tail (driven by former Indy champ Kenny Brack) and a Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 (by Jann Mardenborough, who had just won the Supercar run on Saturday). But while the Peugeot hill-climber may have a power-to-weight ratio to rival that of a modern F1 car and even more aggressive aero, Loeb's top time of 44.6 seconds wasn't enough to pip Heidfeld's record.
In fact it wasn't enough to land him in second place, either. Justin Law drove the Jaguar XJR8/9 up the hill in 44.19 seconds in 2008 and returned with a 44.4-second run the following year. You can bet that Loeb will be back at Goodwood again next summer, though, to try and find the extra three seconds needed to take the record, or at least an extra few tenths to land in second behind one of the fastest and most successful F1 cars ever made - a machine that won of nine out of sixteen races and both titles in the 2008 Formula One World Championship.
Though American hot hatch enthusiasts might more readily equate the letters GTI with Volkswagen, our European counterparts would equally associate them with Peugeot. In fact, it's been 30 years since the French automaker introduced the first 205 GTi, and to celebrate that milestone, it's released a new 30th Anniversary Edition of the latest 208 GTi.
Far more than a set of decals, the 208 GTi 30th Anniversary Edition packs an extra punch. Its 1.6-liter turbo four has been upgraded from 197 horsepower and 203 pound-feet of torque to a more prodigious 208 hp and 221 lb-ft. The extra muscle is channeled through the same six-speed manual and Torsen diff as the RCZ R - the two performance models having been tuned by Peugeot Sport, the racing division (once presided over, incidentally, by FIA president and former Ferrari chief Jean Todt) responsible for the Lion marque's rally and former Le Mans programs. As a result, the 208 GTi anniversary edition is quoted at a 0-62 time of 6.5 seconds.
To go with the added performance, Peugeot has also given the celebratory hot hatch a striking two-tone livery similar to those featured on the marque's recent concept cars: the front is done up in a matte black finish, while the back wears a glossy red. The two-tone treatment is complemented by matte black trim, red front brake calipers and an interior upgraded with red-stitched black Alcantara trim. The dropped suspension is mounted to 18-inch alloys packing upgraded Brembo brakes as well, adding up to a hot hatch that we only wish we could get our hands on Stateside. Set to be revealed at the Paris Motor Show in September, you can scope out the full details now in the press release below.
Peugeot might not loom large on our radar screen since it doesn't market in North America, but overseas (and counted together with its Citroën brand), the French automaker is a big player - the eighth largest in the world, in fact, ahead of Suzuki, Mazda, Mercedes, BMW and (crucially) its cross-town rival Renault.
The 508 is one of Peugeot's most vital products, positioned against (but selling in fewer numbers than) the Volkswagen Passat, Opel Insignia, Ford Mondeo and Skoda Superb. Naturally the company is keen to take on these major players (and further extend its lead over the likes of the Mazda6 and Toyota Avensis) in the European market and abroad, and to that end has revealed the revised model line you see here.
Available in sedan, wagon and RX soft-roader body-styles, the new 508 benefits from reshaped front- and rear-end styling with a new grille, lights and re-sculpted hood, bringing it more in line with the styling of the latest 308 hatchback. The more refined and upscale interior has been upgraded as well with new equipment including a seven-inch touchscreen, head-up display and blind-spot monitoring system.
The Ram ProMaster only introduced itself to US buyers - prognathous jaw first - last year, but it might quickly be the recipient of some plastic surgery. Above is the new face of the 2015 Fiat Ducato, which does duty as our ProMaster, the Citroën Jumper and the Peugeot Boxer and will be officially unveiled on May 12. Its face still slopes forward all the way to the bottom, but the distance and weight of the jutting chin has been greatly reduced by curving lines that more artfully integrate the new three-piece bumper with the sheetmetal. That bumper can be had in two colors, and the front end also gets new, sleeker headlights with LED DRLs.
Trims are named Classic, Tecno and Lounge, and all benefit from ESP, a new underride guard and an upgraded cockpit with touches like better seats, Bluetooth and a clipboard that can be affixed to the dash and is robust enough to hold smartphones and tablets. High-zoot options - which would give the ProMaster better fight against the Mercedes Sprinter if they carry over to our market - include lane departure assist.
The Ducato will come with choices of three roof heights, four lengths and eight capacity ratings. You'll find info on that and much more in the press releases from Fiat and Peugeot below, and we'll find out more about how the ProMaster will benefit in a few weeks.
Peugeot is no stranger to dirt-oriented motorsports, but with the 2008 DKR, the French automaker is striking out in a different direction than the rally stages of Europe. Instead, it has placed aim squarely on the notorious Dakar Rally, arguably one of the most grueling, demanding and dangerous (and longest) races on the planet.
The race has been dominated the past few years by the X-Raid team and its wildly modified Mini Countryman rally cars. Peugeot is aiming to change that, teaming with Red Bull (arch-rival of X-Raid's main sponsor, Monster Energy) and parking two-time World Rally champion Carlos Sainz in the driver's seat.
Like the Countryman, the 2008 has very, very little in common with its road-going cousin. For one, it's rear-wheel drive, unlike the production, front-drive 2008 (and the four-wheel-drive Countryman). Peugeot's reasoning, as we explained on our original post on the dune-busting racer was that larger tires could be fitted - 37-inch Michelins - while suspension travel could be increased substantially.
Peugeot might not market in the United States - although according to our compatriots at Edmunds, that may be about to change - but don't think that it doesn't export out of Europe. In fact, together with its Citroën subsidiary, Peugeot SA is among the top ten automakers in the world. China is one of its most vital markets, one where it consistently turns a profit. And reflecting the importance of the Chinese market, Peugeot has rolled in to the Beijing Motor Show with several new debuts.
Aside from launching the new 2008 crossover and RCZ R in China for the first time - to say nothing of the new Citroëns debuting at the same show - Peugeot has created the Exalt concept sedan for the Beijing expo and also revealed its new 408 sedan. Slotting, as you might have guessed, in between the 308 hatchback and the 508 flagship, the 408 is a C-segment sedan designed specifically for the Chinese market but will, like its predecessor, likely find its way into other developing markets like Russia and South America in the near future as well.
Built as part of a joint venture with DongFeng, the new 408 rides on a 107-inch wheelbase to make it marginally longer than the model it replaces. Power comes from a 1.6-liter turbo four with direct injection and stop/start ignition, full LED headlamps, automatic parking system, blind-spot detection and more. It also moves the lion badge from the hood onto the grille, marking what could be a new trend for the French brand. Designed as the first car for a 30-year-old urban dweller, the new 408 promises to give Peugeot an even bigger slice of a pie that's estimated at 1.4 million vehicles strong each year. Read more in the press release below.
The Mini All4 Racing team has dominated the Dakar Rally in recent years, with wins in 2012, 2013 and 2014. In this year's event, its drivers stood atop all three steps on the podium, and it had seven cars in the top ten. However, Mini's superiority is getting a big challenge in 2015 because Peugeot is returning to the rally with Red Bull as its sponsor. The team's weapon of choice is the new Peugeot 2008 DKR piloted by Dakar veterans Carlos Sainz and Cyril Despres.
Peugeot is not a neophyte to the event, having scored wins from '87 to '90, and it's taking its return seriously. While the DKR is called a 2008, it bares only a passing resemblance to the road car. The team handed off a list of demands to the engineering department, specifying things like the dimensions, cabin space and approach angles. What the designers came up with is one mean-looking machine. It has super-wide fenders covering up 37-inch Michelin tires, practically no overhangs, a lifted suspension and two doors. The creators admit the look only draws inspiration from the standard car.
The powertrain remains the DKR's biggest secret at the moment. Thought the team has revealed that it's using two-wheel drive because it allows them to run more suspension travel and bigger tires. Scroll down to watch the team's reveal video for the car and read more details about it.
The other day we brought you the first image and initial details of Peugeot's new concept car. Now the French automaker has presented the show car in full, revealing an innovative take on the automobile using a variety of unusual materials.
Picking up where the show-stopping Onyx concept left off two years ago, the Exalt concept adopts a similar approach, but applied to a four-door form. The elegantly muscular body stretches almost 15 and a half feet (4.7 meters) long but just 51 inches (1.31 meters) high, riding square on 20-inch wheels. But it's what that bodywork is made of that sets it apart. The bare metal panels that form most of the vehicle's surface are beaten into shape by hand just as they once were, while the back portion is covered in a unique sharkskin-like textile.
Inside it's all bare metal with aged leather trim that's clamped (not cut), with surfaces covered in a wool-based woven material, offset by ebony wood trim, basalt fiber (that's said to be more environmentally friendly than carbon) and 3D-printed inserts that hide the speakers. Everything's controlled by programmable toggle switches, and there's even an air filtration system that disinfects the cabin's surfaces when the vehicle is stationary and unoccupied.
Think of Peugeot and you're more likely to conjure up images of a budget hatchback than an evocative sports car, but the French marque has been known to produce some rather tempting forms, from the RCZ to its Onyx concept from 2012. Now, it looks poised to do it again with the Exalt concept seen here.
Previewed ahead of its full reveal later this week, the Exalt concept adopts a svelte two-door form rendered in a combination of bare metal and a sharkskin textile, adopting what looks like a similar two-tone front-to-back color scheme to the 308 R hot hatch concept revealed at the Frankfurt Motor Show last year. Its interior, meanwhile, is decked out in wool, leather and ebony and comes equipped with such features as Peugeot's i-Cockpit system, black lighting and Pure Blue air purifier.
The final bit of information that the Lion marque is willing to reveal at this point is that the Exalt packs a gasoline version of its HYbrid4 gas-electric system with 340 horsepower on tap. We'll have to wait another couple of days to find out more, but the concept is tipped to debut live at the Beijing Motor Show later this month.