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The Peugeot 508 RXH, Michael Owen And A Horse

David McCourt test-drives the new diesel hybrid in bizarre conditions

Written by . Published on May 1st 2012.

The Peugeot 508 RXH, Michael Owen And A Horse

FOR DECADES man has been asking a burning question; will there ever be a car built that can travel as fast as a horse?

But now, top heads at Peugeot believe they are finally ready to settle the debate once and for all – with the launch of its new full diesel hybrid, the 508 RXH.

“We weren’t at Manor House to discuss the tediousness of the link between a car and its press launch publicity stunt.”

They call it a ‘Hors-Series’ vehicle, which is a fancy way of saying they think it’s rather special. This new version of the existing 508 model has four wheel drive, 100 percent electric mode, and Peugeot’s Diesel Hybrid HDi engine – which reduces CO2 emissions by 35 per cent beyond most petrol hybrids.

The result of all this ozone layer love is that, because the 508 RXH only excretes 107g/km CO2, you get over 60 miles per gallon, and the taxman has to keep his grubby mitts away from your cash.

The tax breaks alone mean the 508 RXH has big potential in the fleet market, but all of this, of course, becomes completely trivial if the Peugeot can’t match a thoroughbred racehorse for speed.

To find the answer we went to Manor House Stables, co-owned by horseracing fanatic and occasional footballer, Michael Owen, in Cheshire.

The horses at Manor House are ‘thoroughbred hybrids’. Almost all thoroughbreds can be traced back to three founding sires; the Darley Arabian, the Godolphin, and the Byerly Turk, that were named after their respective owners, Thomas Darley, Lord Godolphin and Captain Robert Byerly.

Which is exactly like the 508 RXH, as it too can be described as a ‘thoroughbred hybrid’, apparently.

However, we weren’t at Manor House to discuss the tediousness of the link between a car and its press launch publicity stunt. We were here to have a race. Car vs Horse. Engineering vs Evolution (via selective breeding).

I paired up with co-driver Gavin, creator and editor of PetrolBlog, for a pre-race tour of the stables.

As we cruised through our adversaries barracks the car was almost silent in ZEV (100 percent electric) mode, and there was an air of coolness about the horses. Perhaps simply part of the mind games so prevalent in sport these days; the four-legged athletes remained calm and unfazed in the presence of an ordinarily distressing machine.

Peugeot 508 RXH at Manor House StablesPeugeot 508 RXH at Manor House Stables

Out on the racetrack the going was comfortably soft. It was clear that, in the rain and driving on muddy grass, we were going to need power running through all four wheels if we were stand any chance against the horse.

On the start line, I could feel the weight of pressure on my shoulders. The folk from Peugeot had sounded confident in the build up, but had they realised they’d put a novice, who’s car history starts and ends with a 1986 N reg Ford Fiesta, behind the wheel?

Here’s the result:

Incredibly, despite having the power of 200 horses, the 508 RXH finished second to just two.

Peugeot may be quick to blame the driver, but I say you can’t force evolution. Maybe one day a company will build the unthinkable, but for now, four legs is still king.

The Peugeot 508 RXH is available from May 2012 – prices start at £33,695.

You can follow David on Twitter @DavidPMcCourt

Special thanks to @MajorGav of PetrolBlog for the footage.

Manor House Stables, CheshireManor House Stables, Cheshire

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