Believe it or not the title for this article isn’t just a play on words with reference to Peugeot retiring that epic gopper that has adorned the front of their cars for the past ten years.
Evolution and revolution run a lot deeper than that in these times of great change for a company with a lot of important and memorable history that is finally being called upon once again.
Peugeots UK division invited us to this years Goodwood Festival of Speed for a hot sunday of historical high octane motoring nirvana, and a good long chat about a brand that very much intends to reach for and reinterpret a glory- found only in its history books- for the modern motoring world to enjoy once more.
As of a couple of years ago, big plans were put into action for Peugeot as both a product and a brand to alter direction significantly. Few aspects of a car companies approach can exemplify a significant change in philosophy than a change in design language and few can be seen as both so big, and such a positive change, as the nipping of that mouth.
This area alone is in reality all you need focus on. Peugeot is tightening, refining and going up market. With a subtle, more premium looking nose: even such details as badge location, size and design are indicative of their intentions.
If we are to deconstruct Peugeots moves design wise it is best to take their star of Goodwood- the breathtaking Exalt concept- as the primary exhibit.
It is the embodiment of their new approach. Quality, performance, attention to detail and beauty through subtlety.
At first glance reactions are beyond positive. It exudes a presence that captivates ones gaze. The initial impression is that this is an impassioned design interns wet dream. The automotive artist and craftsman let loose with over two million euros.
As i’ve said, the car is utterly breathtaking. But what does it all mean?
It is, in spite of the Exalts dramatic appearance, the most important question. For both us and Peugeot. This car represents all of what they are trying to achieve with their own reinvention. As lines swoop out from the badge nestled neatly in the grill, echoes of the beautiful italian designed 406 coupe are impossible to ignore. A svelte and sleek design impossible to price at such an end of the marketplace.
It flaunts a simple yet intricate amalgamation of both sharp lines smooth arcs with the lines of the bonnet traveling up to the a pillar- but not before bold streaking vents deviate from the curve. Its my favourite detail on the car. Lines follow up even through the windscreen and course down the spine of the car and into its shoulders- all the more exaggerated in this flattering podium light as it dances across the bare steel.
On the interior we’re greeted by genuinely homely lashings of ebony wood- un fettled and without symmetry, it sits naturally and unpolished as reliable as a hardwood mantle in an old country cottage.
Contrast to this epic shapes glaze the cabin with the dials appearing modern, artful and informative. The theme of line travel from the badge nestled at the front continues through the interior too. This is a designers muse that flows with the passion and direction of a company thats recapturing its best.
On the performance front the past decade seems to be a bit of a grey area for Pug. Their products of recent years might lead you to ask why such a big appearance is being made at an event called “Festival of Speed” but if we defer to experiences over the past year of the brilliant 208 GTi and RCZ R we get the impression they really are pulling on the lineage strings.
For the first time since the legendary 205 T16 a Peugeot Sport badge has graced a car that might see public roads. The 208 GTi packs all the punch and more of its rivals whilst retaining the all important manual box and slick looks to top it off. It’s safe to say they’re bringing it right back and they aren’t finished yet.
Next year should see the muscle bound 308 R hit showrooms, with – we’re told – ‘at least 280BHP’ with an added wink. At Goodwood itself the fantastic 208 GTi 30 years edition was revealed as a celebration of all things fast Pug over the past 30 years- primarily the mythical 205 GTi. The Exalt is powered by the same 280bhp 1.6 found in the RCZ-R in conjunction with a hybrid drive systems that takes poke up to the 340BHP mark.
There came also a fantastic 700+ horsepower 208 T16 hill climb car and a little known driving god known as Sebastien Loeb. A team which took Peugeot up the Goodwood hill in an astonishing 44 seconds- and perilously close to the history books.
The exquisite new design language combined with a ramp up in quality and a regained lust for performance has made Peugeot a name worth getting excited about in the car world once again.
Renault- we await your response with baited breath. And Peugeot, keep up with the compelling work. And make a 208 R.
Carwitter Feature Writer – Ethan Jupp