Never has a Stella been so significant. No, not a pint of Belgium's finest enjoyed at 6am in the airport to kick-start the holiday of a lifetime but rather Stellantis's new STLA (pronounced Stella, geddit?) architecture.
It's going to underpin 2 million cars per year from the many and diverse brands within the Stellantis stable, and the first of them is the third-generation Peugeot 3008.
Given that the current 3008 has been a phenomenal success for Peugeot since its 2017 launch, selling 1.3 million times in 130 countries, the pressure is on for the new one to not just keep that run of form going but also to ensure sound fundamentals for so many other models to come.
The STLA Medium architecture (there are also Small, Large and Frame ones in the works for other sizes of car) has been designed for EVs first and foremost, then adapted to house ICE and plug-in hybrid powertrains, rather than the other way around.
But the differences are such that it could almost be considered an EV-native architecture. To that end, STLA Medium chief engineer Hervé Scheidegger says that "everything has been chosen around the battery" and the battery has been used for lots of secondary functions, including rigidity. One focus has been to simply make it as big as possible, and indeed a 98kWh battery is offered in the e-3008 for up to 700km of range. A 73kWh pack is standard, and it can be charged from 20-80% in 20 minutes at a rate of 160kW.
STLA Medium is designed for cars between 4.3m and 4.9m long and with wheelbases of 2.7-2.9m. At just over 4.5m long and with a wheelbase of 2.7m, the new 3008 is towards the more compact end of the spectrum, yet it still sits in the heart of that ever-growing 4.5m- to 4.7m-long family crossover class and is marginally larger than its predecessor.
The 3008 is now in its third generation, and in each of those it has taken on a different form. It started as an MPV, became a crossover and is now, according to Peugeot, a fastback. Parked side by side with its predecessor, it looks a positive and stylish evolution: smart, premium and excellently proportioned. It has way more visual presence than the supposedly posher Audi Q4 E-tron, which looks increasingly dated.
Quietness and a good ride while cruising are its best attributes.
Performance can be punchy if needed but handling lacks flair.
From launch, e-3008 buyers will get a front-mounted single motor with 207bhp, along with the 73kWh battery for a 525km range. About 10 months later, a version will arrive with a 227bhp motor and the 98kWh battery for the 700km range, as will a dualmotor, four-wheel-drive variant with 316bhp and the 73kWh battery.
Also available from launch will be a 1.2-litre mild-hybrid petrol, then a petrol-engined plug-in hybrid will follow at a similar time to the other additions to the e-3008 line-up.
The exterior overhaul is one thing, the interior overhaul quite another. The e-3008 has an interior of real style and very high levels of perceived quality. There's no chrome and minimal leather, rather lots of nice fabrics and aluminium trim. It's also one of the best uses of interior lighting I've seen, with the fabrics on the dash backlit and the colours changing depending on which of the driving modes (Eco, Normal or Sport) is selected. It isn't at all gimmicky and is a key part of the interior's quality look and feel.
The word "allure" is used by Peugeot in every other sentence to describe the car and the brand, and while that's laying it on a bit thick, I get what they mean.
The technology is new inside, too. Peugeot's i-Cockpit layout -- basically a small steering wheel that can block your view of the driver's display if you don't have the wheel on your lap -- has now evolved into the Panoramic i-Cockpit. This keeps a small wheel, but the displays are moved to the top of the dashboard so you can see it unobstructed -- although shorter drivers might find that its high mounting obscures their view of some of the road.
The Panoramic i-Cockpit includes a 21-inch display that seamlessly blends two screens: one for the driver on the left and a touchscreen on the right for infotainment. The screen lacks a bit of grace and jars against the quality of other materials and the graphics on it need an update. The new Renault Scenic is much slicker visually with its on-screen display.
There are no physical buttons to go with the touchscreen but instead a row of large digital "toggles" that you can customise based on what you want (call Gran, or turn your heated steering wheel on). These do work well and are clear and easy to use. Other manufacturers should take note instead of sticking everything on the big touchscreen.
However, the touchscreen itself didn't work on my test car. It was a pre-production car with changes still to be made, so I'm not going to haul Peugeot over the coals for this. Yet it does leave a significant question about the car unanswered, especially with the usefulness and usability of touchscreens under scrutiny more than ever before, given how many significant functions they are increasingly being packed with.
The e-3008 is easy to get comfy in, the seats are great and a good driving position is easy to find.
Rear passengers can also enjoy plenty of leg room and in particular head room (the doors are "normal" in size despite the sleeker profile, thanks to some design trickery), although perhaps not as much of the former as in the Scenic.
At 520 litres, the boot capacity is 25 litres down on the Scenic's but a big and wide space with a flat floor. That's the same as in the previous 3008 too, again despite the more rakish roofline.
3008 is slightly larger than before and has a longer wheelbase.
The front passenger will enjoy the most space of all, because from here the dashboard feels a long way in front of you.
What's more, Peugeot claims the voice control system is clever enough to tell which side of the car commands are coming from, so from their airy throne, the front passenger will also be able to adjust the likes of their side of the climate control through speech alone.
A word that our editor-at-large Matt Prior believes is underused in the car-reviewing business sprung to mind throughout my time in the e-3008: fine. "Fine" can sound negative, but it's not meant to be. To drive, the e-3008 is fine, like a 16C day when you can leave your umbrella at home and perhaps wear just one layer when the Sun comes out from behind the light clouds.
Its most memorable dynamic trait is its refinement. It's a very quiet car and soothing to drive. There is some motor whine under acceleration, but other than that it's all very peaceful.
It rides well too, at least on smooth roads -- something to which its sheer heft contributes. It weighs in at well over 2 tonnes: the STLA Medium isn't a light architecture, and unsurprisingly so when you consider it's required to underpin large Jeeps with off-road needs.
That weight in turn blunts the handling. It's all very predictable, with body roll well contained but not in any way exciting or involving. The steering isn't as quick as the e-308 hatchback's but has perhaps been dulled a bit too much. I come back to "fine" again: it's all safe, stable and predictable, which is what many buyers will accept and expect anyway. Still, a bit more flair wouldn't have gone amiss. This was all in the standard car in the higher of the two trim levels, GT, and therefore riding on 20in alloys. You also need to make the big financial leap from Allure for that Panoramic i-Cockpit, otherwise you get two separate 10-inch screens.
Indicated range on a full charge in our test car was 475km. I did get a brief go on a circuit in an early dual-motor version, which -- perhaps unsurprisingly given that it had received virtually no meaningful changes other than an extra 60kg and some software changes -- revealed it to be much like the standard car, just with better acceleration and a quicker response to the inputs of your right foot.
This circuit visit also, thanks to a tightly laid-out arrangement of cones, allowed us to sample the excellent 10.6m turning circle, which will be a boon in urban driving and when parking.
We're seeing more and more cars like this: full of rational attributes, with interiors of increased quality and desirability (but not always increased usability) and with a dynamic character that's objectively fine but a bit soulless. But that's not to put a downer on the e-3008 -- it's a very competent car that's desirable and should be nice to own.
It's an improvement on the previous 3008 and no better or worse than the Scenic -- but it is meaningfully more expensive, a good 10% at least like-for-like.
It would be irresponsible to give the e-3008 a star rating right now, given that we were unable to try the touchscreen (welcome to 2023), yet provided that works as we would expect it to (the software is largely the same as in the e-308), it makes a good case for one starting with a four. Autocar