Car News

  • Insight: how BMW is reinventing its design and going upmarket Saturday 21st October 2017
    BMW’s luxury product portfolio will initially comprise the 7 Series, i8 and i8 Roadster
    The German firm is aiming to reach a fresh audience with revamped styling and a new luxury line

    BMW is reinventing its design philosophy and shifting upmarket with new, distinctly flavoured luxury models. Richard Bremner investigates Bayerische Motoren Werke.

    The spelling out of the BMW name in full, and the use of a black and silver roundel (rather than the famous blue and white propeller logo), are among the more subtle indicators of a significant change of direction for the Munich-based manufacturer. 

    A new design language is emerging for both the interiors and exteriors of its cars. The brand is going to stretch itself further upmarket. And it’s presenting itself in new ways. That’s for the mainstream BMWs, for the electrified i-brand cars and for the newly designated luxury models, whose print, TV and online presentation will be accompanied by that BMW name in full, and the black and silver badge. 

    At the recent Frankfurt motor show, where this new signage could be seen above a display of special 7 Series saloons (one yacht-inspired exploratory version of which has wooden floor mats...), BMW also rolled out its handsome 8 Series concept, the rather less elegant X7 show car and an electric i Vision Dynamics saloon with a twin kidney grille of rather startling proportions. 

    Indeed, the grilles of all three concepts vary substantially in shape, texture, proportion and form, and are all further clues to BMW’s change of tack. Which is a lot more substantial even than the reshaping and recolouring of BMW’s most famous visual signatures, as the company’s product management and design chiefs explain. 

    “There are a couple of things that happened in parallel in the BMW Group,” says BMW Group design boss Adrian van Hooydonk, who explains the genesis of this shift. 

    “First, expanding at the top end of our range is something that we’ve been wanting to do for a while. We believe that there’s room to do so – actually our customers are asking for more products at the top end – and almost at the same time as we were plotting new cars like the 8 Series and the X7, we realised that when we came to 2018, we would hit a wave of new products, including the Z4 and a couple of other cars. 

    “In fact, six or seven new BMWs will be rolled out in the next year-and-a-half or so. I’ve been with this company a while and we’ve done a lot of product in the past, but I would say that we’ve never done so many new cars for one particular brand in such a short period of time.” 

    With such a rich array of new models under development, the company reckoned that this was “an opportunity, because if you can roll six cars in one-and-a-half years, you can pretty much transform the brand,” says van Hooydonk. “We also felt that it was the right time because we felt quite happy with the design up until now. But you have to keep moving. You don’t want to become a sitting duck.” 

    Not allowing BMW to become a sitting duck is also a motivation for BMW’s product management and brand chief Hildegard Wortmann. “I think it’s important when you have such a strong brand that you keep it fresh all the time, that you keep it original, that you keep it on the edge,” she says. To that end, Wortmann, a brand expert with experience at both Unilever and Calvin Klein before she joined BMW in 1998, has overseen a three-pronged reorientation of the way BMW presents itself to the world. And with her contribution to the product development process, she has been involved with the substance of the new cars too. 

    Those three prongs are the mainstream BMWs, the i-brand cars and the newly designated luxury Bayerische Motoren Werke models. 

    BMW enthusiasts might notice that people now appear in some of the company’s ads, and that the tone of its messaging, which cuts across social media as well, alters according to the model. Wortmann cites “the latest [advertising] campaign on the 1 Series – it’s completely digital, dealing with the topic of drones, doing competitions and installations with drones. This freshening up is keeping the brand up to date, making it modern. The challenge is to do different interpretations with each and every car, depending on the different segments, and the different target audiences.”

    With the i models, she adds, “you’ll see a much fresher approach with more digital, more multimedia and more emotion. It’s a strong statement of attitude.” BMW’s luxury models – the existing 7 Series, and the forthcoming X7 and 8 Series Coupé – will be represented using a strategy borrowed from the fashion world, “by going back to our roots and using the full name, like Alexander McQueen”, says Wortmann. The McQueen fashion house and others spell the brand’s name out for its high-end lines, and use initials for the more affordable products.

    The visual character of the cars themselves will change too, says van Hooydonk, for “this new chapter in our form language. Pretty quickly, we came to the conclusion that it should be something that is cleaner, where we are trying to achieve a lot with fewer elements, and fewer lines. 

    “But the lines that we do have should be crisper, sharper and more precise. We believe that this will fit very well with these new top-end products. When you reduce the form language, the details matter more. In the luxury segment, where often more is more, we are offering luxury in a very modern way.” 

    The new design language isn’t only about simplifying and refining shapes. BMW is keen to develop more individual identities within its range, as those striking new grilles indicate. “In the next vehicle generation, we want to separate each and every model. They have very different types of competitors that could be from totally different brands. The industry has changed in that sense,” says van Hooydonk. 

    “For the luxury cars, it is always a good idea to separate them from the next car up – that’s something that we will do. If you look at the 8 Series, I believe it deserves that name. Like the previous 8 Series, it’s a car that’s not a saloon-derived coupé.” 

    With a new design language under development and that wave of new models for 2018, van Hooydonk and the marketing team reckoned that BMW should also reassess its corporate identity. That process was led by Wortmann, who says: “You saw the first outing at the Frankfurt notor show with the fully written ‘Bayerische Motoren Werke’ in the black and white logo, at least in print. We feel that it’s more elegant and sophisticated. It fits with what we are trying to do with the form language.” 

    As might be expected, the design team has adopted a new interior approach too, “for the same reasons – there too we could clean up”, says van Hooydonk. “Cars will become more intelligent and that’s beginning to happen now. It means you have to tell the car less what it needs to do and what you want from it. So you will need fewer buttons. 

    “The buttons that we do still have are neatly grouped in a couple of islands in the centre console or in the dashboard in the Z4, 8 Series and X7 concept cars. The cockpits are going to go towards digital and always include a head-up display, and the way you operate the vehicle will then become a mix between touch, some hard keys and voice control.” 

    That’s for the near-to-medium term, during which “the intelligence of vehicles will grow”, says van Hooydonk. “Before long, cars will be self-learning and, ultimately, will be able to drive autonomously. That opens up other possibilities because you can sit people in different ways in the car. We can expect to see a lot more development in the interior of cars in the next couple of years. With these concept cars, we’re also showing with the interior that when you reduce, it actually can be more luxurious and there is more space for exclusive materials.” 

    In 2018, then, we can expect this visual revolution to take off with some force. As Wortmann and van Hooydonk explain, these changes have been fired by both design and marketing. “If it pulls the brand a little bit further upmarket, that’s good,” reckons van Hooydonk. 

    Given the scope of this shift for BMW, the results could generate usefully more than that too. 

    Related stories: 

    BMW 7 Series review 

    BMW 6 Series review 

    BMW 5 Series review 

  • Tests of endurance: Ford GT vs racy rivals Saturday 21st October 2017
    Our Ford leads the pack, channelling its GT40 predecessor
    Is life on the road tolerable in a converted competition thoroughbred or a track-ready sports car? We find out

    Tuesday, 9.23am - Brooklands museum: It has just gone opening time at the oldest purpose-built motorsport circuit in the world and, in front of the century-old clubhouse, a small crowd is gathering.

    Early-bird visitors to Brooklands Museum are getting a look at an impromptu exhibit: a trio of modern motorsport-derived production cars whose designs and origins make them at once fundamentally alike but also fascinatingly different from each other. 

    Crazy cars that went from race track to road 

    There are three cars here – three. I can see all of them. Two of them have rear wings that look large enough to moonlight as ailerons on an Airbus A380. And yet it’s as if the very low, very wide, very yellow Ford GT is the only car anyone else can actually see. For a few minutes, people just nod and grin at it. Beards are stroked (Brooklands is heartland beard territory) and the Ford’s engine bay and cabin are peered into. 

    One or two people take an interest in the Radical RXC Turbo parked just a few feet away, but it’s a passing one only. The Porsche 911 GT3 RS – the car that sold out in a nanosecond two years ago, and is now changing hands for north of £200,000 on the second-hand market – might as well not be here at all. Such is the power of the original GT40’s legend, and of the arresting impact of the design of the new GT, it seems. 

    We’re all set to take that legend on a short tour of British roads. These cars are about to set out on a 200-mile convoy intended to reveal just how usable they are in the real world. Starting here, and taking in Silverstone circuit in Northamptonshire, Donington Park circuit in Derbyshire and then some favourite roads on the edge of the Peak District, our journey should rack up a modern Formula 1 race distance in the space of 36 hours. 

    On the way, there will be motorway, A-road and B-road; traffic queues, potholes and speed bumps; high kerbstones and narrow car parks; and, I’m very much hoping, a bit of proper British weather. So exactly how will that kind of trip be negotiated by a ‘prototype’-style modern Le Mans racer for the road, a road-converted GTE-class competition machine and a sports car with very serious circuit abilities? What kind of road-going existence are you in for in each of them – and would you be crazy to contemplate it? 

    Right now, I’m wondering myself. This was, needless to say, not muggins’ idea, and when it all goes wrong and I’m left waiting for a recovery truck by the side of the A43, I shall lay the blame entirely on Matthew James Prior. Right now, he’s probably engaged in something much more sensible. Sensible people don’t normally set out on road trips unless they’re confident they’ll arrive at their destination – and I’ve already heard tales from colleagues about early GT test cars breaking down several times in the same day. 

    I’ve experienced first-hand how fragile the Radical RXC can be: the last time I drove one, I started out with all seven forward gears present and correct and ended up with three. If we make the full 200 miles in all three of these cars by teatime tomorrow, I’ll have reason to question my main reservation about them: reliability. And I sincerely hope that proves to be the case. 

    Tuesday, 11.23am - Oxford Services, M40:

    When regular Autocar group test driver and all-round top bloke Nick Stafford “needs a brew”, he explains, “I really need a brew”. Which must be true if he’s willing to take on a Starbucks ‘drive-thru’ in a Radical RXC. He’s causing a bit of a stir (preceded by milk and two sugars – badoomtish). You wouldn’t imagine he could reach far enough upwards from the driver’s seat to hand over his loyalty card, let alone find somewhere in the car to put his drink - but guess what? The Radical’s got a cupholder. 

    More importantly, Nick’s not tearing his hair out or desperately making alternative onwards travel plans having driven it this far. 

    “It’s fine,” he says, “once you get used to the seat. And the doors. And the clutch. And the noise. Not that I’d have one. If you can afford one of these, you can afford a BMW X5 and a trailer.” As ever, it’s impossible to argue with the common sense of this man. 

    My passage from Brooklands has been spent in the obvious place: the dayglo Ford. The GT’s cabin is wonderful despite its cheaper touches and it’s perfectly comfy for two, as photographer Stan Papior will attest. So far, it hasn’t missed a beat. I’ll admit to watching the various temperature gauges on its TFT instrument screen pretty closely as we rounded the M25 and climbed up past High Wycombe, but I needn’t have. 

    The GT’s steering is weighty but honest and judiciously paced; easy to gel with. The car’s engine is fairly noisy and a bit plain-sounding but seriously potent, and the gearbox remarkably smooth and well- mannered. Select the GT’s ‘normal’ drive mode, put its dampers into ‘comfort’ and it’s also so much more compliant-riding than you imagine it’ll be. The biggest obstacles to enjoying the car on the road are, in fact, nothing to do with noise, hyper- responsiveness or any kind of highly strung temperament. This is a wide car within which the driver sits on the left, so it’s hard to place instinctively on UK roads: simple as that. 

    We leave the GT for a few minutes to grab some lunch-to-go, and find it has attracted some company once again when we return. A group of squaddies want a look inside and few minutes for selfies. These lads aren’t really petrolheads – you wonder how much they’d care about a Lamborghini or a McLaren – but they’ve come all the way over to the far corner of the car park for the Ford. None of them have guns but all of them have large, obvious tattoos, and they get what they’re after – and thanked for their public service – before our convoy rolls on. 

    Tuesday, 2.36pm - ‘CAR PARK 50’, SILVERSTONE CIRCUIT:

    You might think a cavalcade like this would be let in anywhere, particularly at a motorsport circuit – but not here and not today. There’s a Ferrari ‘Corse Clienti’ one-make event going on at Silverstone and, though I’ve asked permission in advance to come in and pose a few static photographs, the man on the main gate’s not budging. “You can use an outer car park but I can’t let you into the paddock,” he says. 

    Maybe he knows his Le Mans racing history and how poorly Ferrari aficionados may take to an uninvited successor to the GT40 stealing their limelight. Or perhaps it’s just that Ferrari has paid a five-figure sum to be here and we haven’t. 

    I took the chance to swap from the Ford to the 911 GT3 RS on the way here, expecting to find the Porsche several times better-mannered and easier to drive. It’s certainly smaller, easier to place and easier to see out of, but quieter? Nope. 

    The RS’s engine, transmission and rear axle could make enough racket, between them, to test the effectiveness of the world’s best foam earplugs. There’s a combination of factors in play here: the 911’s rearward weight bias means it needs unusually wide rear tyres and unusually firm rear suspension settings. When you ramp both up to ‘RS’ levels, take out all the sound insulation and add this car’s gravelly, sabre-edged engine and lightning- rod half-cage into the mix, you get noise. A lot of noise, of many kinds. The Ford GT’s suspension gets noisy when you hit sharp edges and the like, reminding you a bit of the ride in a Lotus Elise: the 911 GT3 RS’s ride is noisy all the time. 

    And you embrace that noise in the Porsche because it comes packaged with such a vivid, hair-raising driving experience full of feedback, drama, grip, poise, handling adjustability, revs and speed. The GT3 RS is all the track machine that anyone, except perhaps Tom Kristensen or Max Verstappen, really needs – it’s utterly brilliant. And if this exercise was intended to find out how much you need to spend, and how far you need to go down the line towards driving a competition car with numberplates, before finding a car to excite in equal measure on both road and track – well, the GT3 RS would be its winner. But then it’s also worth remembering how few people buy cars like this as a result of any rational decision-making process. For a great many, the fact that the Porsche is the obvious choice might also make it the last car they’d buy. For others, a 911 – any 911 – just wouldn’t be special enough. 

    We line up our trio on the far side of Silverstone’s vast expanse of empty car park tarmac with a view of the circuit’s wing-shaped new paddock complex in the background. And then, just as I’m belting in and getting ready for my first stint in the Radical, a few raindrops begin sploshing onto its stickered windscreen. Oh good. 

    The process of stepping over the RXC’s wide sidepod, dropping into its Corbeau bucket seat, squeezing your thighs under its Alcantara steering wheel and doing up your six- point harness is several times more complicated and difficult than even getting into the carbonfibre-tubbed Ford. Then you’ve got to remember the start-up routine, close the gullwing door without inadvertently punching yourself in the head (I failed with that on my first attempt) and pull away. I stall the car four times before I successfully get the racing clutch out, and twice more before we hit the A43. I also realise I’ve failed to close the driver’s door properly when it swings open above me at 50mph; queue another frenzied grab and another punch in the head. 

    My word, this thing’s noisy. Being in it reminds you of watching endurance racing in-car video footage, except that the gear whine in here is dialled up beyond 80 decibels, I’d estimate. That heavy, troubling clutch doesn’t bother you once the car’s above walking pace, though, and the car’s seat and driving position is certainly comfy and roomy enough to spend a few hours at the wheel. 

    The rawness and physicality of the Radical’s driving experience would wear you out soon enough, though, I reckon. The car’s steering is very heavy indeed, and the Radical’s suspension settings make it tramline and bump-steer much more than either of its road- trip buddies. Its ride is respectable as long as the surface you’re on is decent, though it’s both short and somewhat unforgivingly firm over typical B-roads, making the RXC skip and deflect. 

    The car’s accelerative pace is readily apparent when you’re brave enough to dig into the pedal travel but, on cold tyres and in traffic, it’s a car you drive with a necessarily large dose of circumspection. 

    On just the right road, on just the right day, with nothing else around, you’d have a ball driving it. Most of the time, I suspect you’d simply be getting to or from a circuit – where you’d have an absolute riot. But on-road journeys in a Radical RXC would need to be carefully planned to avoid bumpier stretches. You’d have to avoid tighter junctions and car parks too (the car’s turning circle must be approaching 15 metres), as well as sleeping policemen (the limited ground clearance is always in the back of your mind). And bad weather – God, you’d want to avoid that. Dunlop Direzza cut slick tyres and no anti-lock make you very aware of the distance to the car in front when it’s raining because the RXC’s brakes feel like they’d be very easy to lock in the wet. 

    After a diversion off the M1 to avoid some built-up traffic, the convoy stops for fuel. Somebody asks me if I want anything: coffee, water, sweets etc. “Honestly,” comes my ref lex-like reply, “I’d quite like to get out.” What a jessie. But the truth is, both the Ford and the Porsche spoil you for a car like this. 

    Wednesday, 9.56am - DONINGTON PARK CIRCUIT:

    The dew was clinging so seductively to the Ford GT’s waxed haunches in the morning sunshine earlier on, before we left our B&B, that I must have spent a good ten minutes just staring at it – willing myself not to imagine it in Gulf colours and failing miserably in saving myself from falling completely under its spell. It gets past your normal defences, this car, as much for what it is as what it does. 

    An hour or so later, we’ve just about managed to get the Radical’s front splitter up the gravel slope to the Redgate corner viewing area at Donington for a photo. The yellow Ford is parked highest up, quite plainly in view of anyone contesting what looks like a practice session for a Mini Challenge race on track. Not long after we’ve parked, one Mini driver away on his own loses it in a pretty odd, innocuous place on the way out of the corner. Did he look up and get a visor full of yellow distraction? I like to think so. 

    When you bring cars like this to places like Donington, you’d be amazed who you meet. We’re not standing around long when a fairly short, lean-looking bloke with a broad Belfast accent pitches up. You can tell he’s a racing driver – but then the paddock’s full of them. 

    This guy’s Steven Kane, works driver for the Bentley M-Sport Blancpain GT racing team – and he’s getting an advanced look at the boss’s next car. Turns out Malcolm Wilson, who runs the Bentley team but also fields Ford Fiestas in the World Rally Championship, is one of the lucky few getting a new GT this year. With Wilson’s independently run Fiestas topping the WRC, perhaps Ford has offered him a GT as a thank you. From here, it’s only 40 miles or so up to the Ringinglow Road running west out of Sheffield up into the Peak District, where we’re due to wrap up our race-car rideabout. I’ve got the pick of the trio for the drive up there, and if I was being serious about how much fun I might get out of the miles, I’d probably pick the Porsche. But I’ve driven the Porsche plenty, on several occasions over the last two years: and the GT’s calling my name again. 

    It’s the sense of occasion you get from this car that marks it out, and its usability that really surprises you – because it if was as compromised as the Radical on the road, you’d probably only want to wrap it up and admire it all day. That fixed seat and those sliding pedals; the steering wheel you can pull so close to your chest; the cool, tactile, anodised metallic knobs and switches you use to switch drive modes and select gear... so much about the car reminds you that it’s a purpose-built racing car that happens to have been rather cleverly and thoroughly converted for the road, but not fundamentally altered in the process. The sense of purpose the Ford GT has is totally beguiling and completely unmatched in my experience, but it’s allowed to be because it’s so easy to enjoy. 

    The Peak District’s moorside roads do feel a touch narrower in the Ford than they might in the other two cars here, and I’m spending longer clattering the catseyes than I’d like, which I’ll blame on left-hand drive. Still, every corner’s a joy; every short, well-sighted straight a chance to drink in the savagery of that turbo V6 again, and to savour it. 

    The road’s busy with cyclists and walkers as we knock off the final photographs of the trip. Many of the latter are probably wondering if that odd sound they can hear is the mating call of a rare reed warbler. In fact, it’s just the “psst-psst-psst” of someone trying to find reverse for the umpteenth time on the pneumatically actuated gearbox of a Radical RXC. 

    Still, we’re here; nothing’s broken, everyone’s sane. And I’m delighted to say my worst fears were unfounded. There have plenty of truths made plain on our way, but very few genuine trials to endure – and so perhaps we’ve proven that even the most extreme track car can be used on the road, for the right journey. 

    All that remains is to go home – part of the way, at least, in Ford’s awesome star of our show. On the way back through the city’s suburbs, a cheery Sheffielder smiles through the car’s open side window and asks what lottery numbers I put on. She’s onto something, because the GT certainly makes you feel like a winner – albeit not quite the kind of winner she was suggesting. 

    Related stories: 

    Ford GT review 

    Radical RXC Turbo review 

    Porsche 911 GT3 RS review

  • Promoted: The people behind Ford's performance - Dave Pericak Friday 20th October 2017
    Director of Ford Performance Dave Pericak gives in an insight into taking Ford back to Le Mans

    American Dave Pericak has spent much of his life at Ford, working his way up to act as Chief Engineer on the Ford Mustang. In 2014, he became Director of Ford Performance, blending responsibility for racing programmes alongside road cars such as the Focus RS, the Mustang GT and the Ford GT. He tells us about his love of Ford, and taking the brand back to Le Mans.

    What was the first Ford you drove?

    “It would have been my parents’ Ford Taurus, or my brothers’ Ford Maverick when they taught me to drive. We were a real Ford family. Loyalty to the ‘big three’ manufacturers is a generational thing in the US, and my Dad was a true blue-collar worker. So, the Ford brand really resonated with him.”

    What’s your favourite Ford performance car?

    “The Mustang Boss 302. It embodies everything about the muscle car era.”

    What’s your favourite on-screen appearance for a Ford?

    “Gone In 60 Seconds, with the Ford Mustang ‘Eleanor’. I love the original and the remake. I don’t watch many movies twice, but I’ve watched those plenty of times.”

    Ford Performance brought together experts from SVT, Ford Racing and Team RS into one division. Was that a big challenge?

    “It was a real culture shift, with the added complexity of working globally. But we all saw the benefits of working together, focused on the same goal. You need a diversity of skillsets and experiences to challenge each other, and to come up with the best solutions to create amazing cars. However, you also need that common vision. So, merging racing, performance, parts and accessories into Ford Performance was absolutely the right thing.”

    When designing a Ford Performance car, are big numbers such as speed or horsepower key, or is it about the whole driving experience

    “Cars have personalities. You can see whether people put passion and love into it, or treat it as a commodity. If you simply focus on horsepower, the rest of the car won’t exude that passion. We have a Ford Performance ‘DNA’ that we’ve tried to capture and write down, but some of it is simply down to feel and knowing whether a car is right or wrong behind the wheel. Everything has to work together, and deliver on the car’s promise. At Ford, there’s nothing we trade off – we have to hit every benchmark, without compromise. That’s what separates the legendary cars from the decent ones.”

    What was it like developing the Ford GT Le Mans car side-by- side with the road car?

    “Designing a road car and a race car side-by- side, from a clean sheet of paper, with a time frame of a couple of years to get on the grid at Le Mans – unless you’ve lived it, I can’t describe it. It’s tough. But, if you’re a car person, there’s no better project to be part of. It creates a special bond within your team. Plus, doing the race car and road car together allowed us to engineer them both with no deviations. At Ford, what we race is what we sell. That’s important.”

    What did you learn from the Ford GT that will filter down to the likes of Ford Mustang, or the Focus ST and RS?

    “We learned a lot about carbon fibre – new materials, and processes to make it feasible for mass-production road cars. Running an EcoBoost engine for 24 hours meant that we learned a lot about how our engines work, and we’ve changed some design practices because of that. We also developed tools for assessing and optimising aerodynamics. Perhaps the biggest thing was developing engineers on the Ford GT who will take their knowledge back to mainstream road car programmes.”

    How do the Ford Performance teams in the US and Europe collaborate?

    “The exhaust note of the Ford Focus RS was developed by the in collaboration between our US and European colleagues. The Focus RS’s drift mode is another good example of where the US engineers came in and added an idea. The European team scratched their heads a bit, and we had to work together to engineer it, but it has been a huge success.”

    What is your best memory from your three years at Ford Performance?

    “Standing at Le Mans in 2016 – 50 years after the original win in 1966 – with the entire Ford family, and giving them the Le Mans trophy. It’s not just one of highlights of my career, it’s one of highlights of my life.”

    Promoted: The people behind Ford's performance - Matthias Tonn

    Promoted: The Ford Mustang story

    Promoted: The RS Story

  • 2018 Mercedes-AMG GT R - Does AMG's 911 GT3 rival set a new benchmark? Friday 20th October 2017
    Can Affalterbach's newest supercar match the long-standing Porsche 911 GT3?

    The hardcore Mercedes-AMG GT R is aimed squarely at the Porsche 911 GT3. For now, it's the most focussed performance car Mercedes-AMG builds - more power, less weight and a stiffer chassis setup make it faster and more athletic than lesser AMG GTs.

    Mercedes-AMG GT R review 

    But how does it cope with a bumpy British B-road, and is it completely out of its depth in wet weather? We spent two days on the best roads in South Wales finding out.  

    Related stories: 

    Mercedes-AMG GT R review 

    Mercedes-AMG C63s review 

    Porsche 911 GT3 review 

  • Jaguar I-Pace: new spy pictures reveal production-spec test car Friday 20th October 2017
    Jaguar I-Pace spied testing in production form
    The Jaguar I-Pace has been spied testing in production form
    Jaguar's first electric car is expected to be revealed at the Geneva motor show; it will go on sale in 2018 as a rival to the Tesla Model X

    The production version of the Jaguar I-Pace is expected to be revealed at the Geneva motor show in March 2018.

    These latest spy pictures of the car using public charging points suggesting that development of the Tesla Model X rival is in the final stages.

    Although the car, seen testing in the UK near the Millbrook test facility by Autocar reader Marcus Baker, is heavily disguised, the fact that engineers are happy for it to be left in a public space, and the detailed nature of the camouflage, suggest that it is in near-production form and that the firm is happy to start ramping up public interest in the car.

    First drive of Jaguar I-Pace electric SUV concept

    The pictures suggest that the I-Pace will be near-identical to the concept car that was first revealed, and which has subsequently been run at official events in an 'official' swirled green livery that mimics the team's Formula E racing colours.

    The timing of the production reveal next March in Geneva, with deliveries to first customers expected in late summer, also ties in with the start of the I-Pace racing championship, which Jaguar has announced will run from the autumn of 2018 alongside the all-electric Formula E single-seater championship.

    Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy racing series to support Formula E

    Jaguar I-Pace - what we know so far

    Jaguar displayed a Photon Red I-Pace concept at the Geneva motor show in 2017, revealing one of the colours that'll be offered with the final model. It also confirmed that 350 deposits had been put down for the I-Pace electric SUV since it was first revealed in concept form at the 2016 Los Angeles motor show in November.

    The price of the production car is expected to be about 10-15% above that of an F-Pace of similar specification. Jaguar remains tight-lipped on precise details, but the I-Pace is expected to cost around £60,000.

    The I-Pace is billed by insiders as the most radical car in Jaguar's 81-year history and will vault the brand directly into Tesla territory, with the Model X a key rival.

    Read about the I-Pace's EV tech here

    Jaguar’s brief for its long-anticipated first electric vehicle was to “create a performance SUV that is spacious, sporty and usable”, but the final design isn’t just an electric version of the successful F-Pace SUV.

    Instead, the I-Pace exploits the packaging advantages of an electric powertrain to marry a sleek four-door bodystyle with generous cabin space, four-wheel drive capability and performance on a par with a rear-wheel-drive Jaguar F-Type R.

    Read about the I-Pace's EV tech here

    Jaguar’s brief for its long-anticipated first electric vehicle was to “create a performance SUV that is spacious, sporty and usable”, but the final design isn’t merely an electric version of the successful F-Pace SUV.

    Instead, the I-Pace exploits the packaging advantages of an electric powertrain to marry a sleek four-door bodystyle with generous cabin space, four-wheel drive capability and performance on a par with a rear-wheel-drive Jaguar F-Type R.

    NEW EV ARCHITECTURE

    The I-Pace uses a new, bespoke battery-electric vehicle architecture designed in-house. Jaguar says the electric architecture, informally referred to as the ‘electric skateboard’, is production ready.

    As with other Jaguars, the I-Pace’s architecture is aluminium-intensive. The housing of the battery pack is made from the material and forms an integral part of the car’s body structure.

    Read more about the design of the I-Pace here

    The I-Pace’s drive is provided by a pair of synchronous permanent magnet electric motors, one integrated into each axle and paired with a single-speed epicyclic transmission. The powertrain provides four-wheel drive, immediate response from a standstill and rapid torque distribution between the two axles.

    Each motor produces the equivalent of 197bhp, meaning the I-Pace concept has 395bhp and 516lb ft on tap. Jaguar’s claimed 0-60mph time for the car is 4.0sec.

    “Electric motors provide immediate response with no lag, no gearshifts and no interruptions,” said JLR vehicle line director Ian Hoban. “Their superior torque delivery compared to internal combustion engines transforms the driving experience.”

    The car’s maximum range on a fully charged battery is about 310 miles, as measured on the New European Driving Cycle.

    A 50kW direct current (DC) charging point - currently the most common type of public rapid charging system in the UK - can replenish the battery to 80% in 90 minutes and to 100% in just over two hours.

    Jaguar has future-proofed the electrical architecture to accept higher-capacity charging than 50kW DC when such charging points become commonplace. The charging socket is situated in the car’s front wing.

    Jaguar’s engineers designed and developed the motors in-house to achieve the compactness, efficiency and power density they desired. The motors have an outer diameter of 234mm, are 500mm long and weigh about 38kg. Permanent magnet motors were chosen in preference to the induction motors used by the likes of Tesla because the efficiency is fractionally better and the weight is lower.

    Power is stored in a 90kWh lithium ion battery pack. The battery uses 36 pouch cells selected for their energy density and thermal performance. They operate at a lower heat, so they can run at a high performance for longer than cylindrical cells.

    Jaguar said pouch cells offer excellent future development potential, especially in terms of energy density. This will enable greater range for a given size of battery, or deliver similar range to today but from a smaller, lighter pack.

    The pack is liquid-cooled using a dedicated two-mode cooling circuit. In moderate ambient temperatures, the battery improves efficiency by relying only on a radiator to remove the heat generated by the cells. At higher temperatures, a chiller linked to the vehicle’s main air conditioning system provides greater cooling capacity to keep the battery in optimum condition.

    DRIVING DYNAMICS

    Jaguar set out to ensure the concept version of the I-Pace can top its class in terms of ride, handling and refinement. The car uses the same double wishbone front suspension and integral link rear suspension that has already been proven in the F-Pace.

    Siting the battery pack low between the axles helps to lower the centre of gravity and reduce yaw inertia, and spreading the weight of the electric motors on to each axle has helped to enable a front-to-rear weight distribution of almost 50/50. The concept rides on 23in alloy wheels and bespoke 265/35 R23 tyres and uses electromechanical steering.

    “It’s a true Jaguar,” said Mike Cross, JLR's chief engineer of vehicle integrity. “This will be the first electric vehicle developed for enthusiasts who love driving.”

    The I-Pace’s four-wheel drive system is augmented by Jaguar’s familiar traction technologies, including All Surface Progress Control (ASPC) and Adaptive Surface Response (AdSR). The car will also have adjustable levels of regenerative braking force, making it possible to drive the I-Pace as a ‘one-pedal’ car in some conditions.

    CAB-FORWARD DESIGN

    Not having to accommodate an internal combustion engine or conventional transmission allowed Jaguar’s designers and engineers to rethink the vehicle’s overall proportions.

    Although an SUV design wasn’t a prerequisite at the very start of the electric vehicle project, it was a logical choice: the F-Pace is now the company’s best-selling model and Jaguar’s electric car needs to appeal particularly to the US market, where emissions regulations are tightening. Jaguar has even launched a button on its site to register interest in the I-Pace. 

    Even so, the I-Pace is an unconventional SUV, taking some of its styling cues from the stillborn hybrid C-X75 supercar. A cab-forward design, long wheelbase and short overhangs combine to maximise interior space for occupants, improve visibility and enhance driving dynamics.

    At 4680mm long, 1890mm wide and 1560mm tall, the I-Pace Concept is smaller in each dimension than the F-Pace, in particular its height. However, the most significant difference is in the wheelbase: Jaguar has pushed the electric car’s out to 2990mm, compared with the F-Pace’s 2874mm. Indeed, the I-Pace’s wheelbase is 30mm longer than the XF’s, too.

    To reduce drag, the door handles sit flush with the body surface and slide out when activated, and side skirts channel air more efficiently around the wheels. A lowset bonnet features a grille that bends back to channel air through a scoop similar to that of the C-X75, helping to reduce drag further. The drag coefficient is 0.29. By comparison, Tesla claims its Model X is the slipperiest SUV, with a Cd of 0.24.

    At the rear of the roof, a slender fixed spoiler reduces lift at higher speeds without generating drag. The dramatically sloping rear window has a hydrophobic glass coating that sheds water, negating the need for a rear windscreen wiper. The squared-off rear end and flared haunches accentuate the short rear overhang but also provide an aerodynamic benefit by encouraging air to cling to the vehicle for longer, stabilising airflow at speed.

    In place of exhaust pipes, there are rear vents that help to channel turbulent air from the rear wheel arches into the vehicle’s wake, as well as a rear diffuser. The tail-lights feature a ‘chicane line’ signature, a new Jaguar design element that replaces the more traditional E-Type-inspired roundel.

    FUTURISTIC INTERIOR

    The I-Pace Concept’s interior is a “clear statement of plans for the production version” of Jaguar’s electric vehicle, and some elements also reflect a design philosophy that will be transferred to other future models.

    The cabin takes advantage of the packaging of the electric architecture to maximise occupant space and offer a new minimalist cockpit design. The flat floor allows the driver and passengers to sit lower than in a conventional SUV. Slimline seats position the occupants’ hips lower in relation to their heels in what Jaguar calls its ‘Sports Command’ driving position. The aim of this is to offer a sports car’s sense of connection with the road even in higher-riding vehicles.

    A floating centre console  emphasises the car’s flat floor and the absence of a gear selector and transmission tunnel, and it has a stowage area for oddments underneath. The gears are selected via buttons integrated into the centre console’s metal struts.

    The absence of a transmission tunnel has also enabled Jaguar’s interior designers to incorporate an eight-litre stowage area between the front seats. There’s a 530-litre boot and an extra 28 litres of stowage under the bonnet.

    Jaguar says the I-Pace offers more rear passenger space than some full-sized SUVs and luxury saloons, despite having a smaller footprint than a conventional mid-sized SUV. There’s up to 71mm of knee room for rear passengers.

    The full-length panoramic glass roof features a lozenge-patterned ceramic print that becomes illuminated at night via an array of LED lights embedded in it.

    MORE TOUCHSCREENS

    The I-Pace Concept introduces a new cockpit design philosophy based around three display screens. The primary interface is a 12.0in TFT touchscreen, and the infotainment and climate functions are adjusted on a secondary 5.5in screen operated by two aluminium rotary controllers. Instrumentation is presented on a configurable 12.0in virtual cluster augmented by a colour head-up display.

    The cockpit also has a new three-spoke steering wheel, which features multi-function capacitive switches that react with haptic feedback when pressed.

    The infotainment system has been designed in-house and is built upon the same technology that powers the InControl Touch Pro system offered in Jaguar’s current models. Other technology present on Jaguar’s existing crop of production cars, such as a wi-fi hotspot and the ability to use apps from a connected smartphone or tablet via InControl Apps, also features.

    Jaguar’s interior designers have incorporated about a dozen special features into the cabin of the I-Pace. These include laser-etched detailing on the instrument panel surface that shows the GPS co-ordinates of the design studio in which the I-Pace Concept took shape, jaguar paw prints stitched into the seams of the seats and the outline of driving gloves etched into the pop-out tray on the passenger’s side of the dashboard.

    The exterior colours of the I-Pace Concept mirror those of the I-Type, Jaguar’s single-seat electric racing car currently competing in Formula E. The manufacturer says lessons it has learned about battery performance at high speeds on the track are being fed back into the road car division.

    Read more:

    Opinion: Why the Jaguar I-Pace needs to drive like a Jag

    Jaguar I-Pace: behind the design

  • Lotus Elise Cup 260: limited-run, race car-derived Porsche 718 Cayman GTS rival revealed Friday 20th October 2017
    Lotus Elise Cup 260 Lotus will build 30 examples of the 'ultimate' version of the Elise, the Cup 260, which has 44% more downforce than the Cup 250

    Lotus has revealed its latest special edition model, the Lotus Elise Cup 260, which it describes as the ‘ultimate' version of its sports car. Just 30 examples will be built.

    With 250bhp on tap from the 1.8-litre four-cylinder supercharged engine and a kerbweight of 902kg, the Elise Cup 260 can accelerate from 0-62mph in 4.2sec, on to a top speed of 151mph.

    It’s derived from the Elise Race 250, which is the most hardcore, non-road-legal version of the Elise, and comes after the 240bhp, 860kg Elise Cup 250

    Where it differs to the 250, however, is the increase in power and downforce. A 10bhp power hike may sound insignificant considering its extra 42kg over the Cup 250, but the Cup 260 produces an additional 44% of downforce, at 180kg.

    The lightweight carbonfibre components offered on the Cup 250 are standard on the Cup 260, as are the majority of options offered on the 250. That car was dubbed by Lotus 'the purest four-cylinder Lotus yet', and is slower to 60mph than the 260 by 0.1sec. 

    The Cup 260's 'advanced aerodynamics' includes louvred front wheel arch vents, a large rear wing developed from that of the Lotus 3-Eleven track day car and a redesigned front clam panel with wider apertures.

    The Cup 260 can be identified by a laurel wreath decal on its rear buttress and Union Flags on the ends of its rear wing. 

    Prices start at a Porsche 718 Cayman GTS-rivalling £59,500, but this could easily rise, with options including a £4000 titanium exhaust, a £3000 carbonfibre hardtop and a £400 two-speaker stereo with Bluetooth.

    Read more:

    860kg Lotus Elise Cup 250 revealed as ‘purest four-cylinder Lotus yet'

    Lotus CEO: sports car production stays in Norfolk; SUV could go elsewhere

    Chinese car maker Geely buys majority stake in Lotus

    UK low-volume car sector to skyrocket by 60% in ‘right’ Brexit conditions

  • Jaguar XF long-term test review: infotainment worth the money? Friday 20th October 2017
    Jaguar XF long-term test review With rivals providing a better infotainment experience for less, we discuss whether it's worth paying the extra

    Having been the custodian of our long-term XE last year, the larger cabin of the XF feels familiar.

    The same basic layout and fittings, the same plush materials and the same rotary gearknob rising majestically from the centre console. But what’s this? A digital screen in place of analogue dials? And upgraded infotainment? These I have to try. 

    JLR’s InControl Touch Pro set-up, on a 10.2in screen, is much easier to use than the 8.0in version fitted to our XE. It has the intuitive feel of a smartphone, is impressive graphically and responds quickly if you enter information such as a postcode. But it’s not as slick as BMW’s iDrive system, and while touch screens are becoming the norm, a rotary dial is easier on the move. 

    The upgraded infotainment set-up also unlocks Jaguar’s virtual instrument cluster. You can choose between three pre-set themes, which alter how the system looks and the information displayed, plus there’s a Map mode which – you guessed it – gives over most of the instrument panel to the satnav guidance and usefully puts it right in your field of vision. There’s an uprated Meridian sound system, too. 

    The cost of these extra features? Brace yourself: it’s £2095. On a car that’s already knocking on for £50,000 before options that is pretty steep, especially as Audi charges just £250 for its Virtual Cockpit on the A5 (it can’t yet be had on the A6). That said, I’d tick the option box anyway, because the overall experience is so much better than the standard one. 

    I managed to drive the XF as well as playing with all its toys. And, with just a sentence left to tell you about it, I’ll just say that, in my opinion, it’s better to drive quickly than anything else in this class.

    JAGUAR XF 3.0 TDV6 S

     

    Price £49,995 Price as tested £61,920 Economy 45.8mpg Faults None Expenses Four new tyres plus fitting £810, 10 litres of AdBlue £13.49 Mileage 18,357

     

    PREVIOUS REPORTS:

    Our XF is equipped with InControl Touch Pro (ICTP), the Big Mac of Jaguar Land Rover’s infotainment systems. To upgrade to it from the XF’s as-standard InControl Touch costs £1200. For that, you get a larger, 10.2in, letterbox-shaped touchscreen that acts as the hub for operating the sat-nav, uprated Meridian hi-fi and myriad connectivity options. 

    Even after 15,000 miles, I’m still discovering new things about ICTP. For example, if you’re following the sat-nav and get caught in a snarl-up, the car will text a revised time of arrival to a person at your destination, so they know not to put the kettle on just yet. 

    Mind you, I still miss a rotary controller of the kind offered by most of Jag’s rivals. You can ‘prod, pinch and swipe’ the XF’s screen as you would a smartphone, but using a supplementary dial would feel less distracting and more intuitive. The XF’s touchscreen sometimes needs a couple of pokes before it reacts. 

    ICTP offers live traffic updates, as opposed to conventional broadcast-based traffic information systems. For this, however, you need to equip the car with a micro SIM card and sign up for a data package. 

    SIM-only data packages are readily available from as little as £5 per month. But the price can vary wildly according to how much data you use – and that will depend on many factors, such as the type of sat-nav map view you prefer and whether you use the car as a wi-fi hotspot. 

    The live traffic function is generally useful, but our nation’s wireless capability appears flaky. The 3G signal occasionally falters and the screen says ‘live traffic not available’. 

    When it is working, the system remembers my regular routes and automatically suggests them if I start driving at a specific time of day. It will also add directions to a filling station if it works out I’m running low on diesel. It doesn’t provide a ‘low on Haribo’ warning, but we can’t have everything. 

    JAGUAR XF 3.0 TDV6 S

    Price £49,995 Price as tested £61,920 Economy 45.8mpg Faults None Expenses Four new tyres plus fitting £810, 10 litres of AdBlue £13.49 Mileage 15,244

     

    PREVIOUS REPORTS:

    It has been a busy time for our Jag, which was purloined by the road test team to go up against the new BMW 5 Series in a comparison test.

    The XF was returned to me with a new set of Pirelli P Zeros, which told me all I needed to know about how hard it had been pushed by the testers during the comparison.

    I was surprised by the amount of additional grip provided by the fresh tyres. The original set had been aging well when I handed the XF over to the testers, so without their intervention, there wouldn’t have been any need to consider replacements.

    Now, though, there’s a noticeable improvement in grip. The warmer weather and drier roads have helped the summer-biased rubber, too. In the winter, it was fairly easy to provoke a touch of wheelspin under acceleration from a standstill.

    The Jag also came back to me with a message on the instrument panel warning of a depleted level of AdBlue, the nitrogen oxide-reducing additive that’s becoming a common feature of large-capacity diesels.

    If you take out an official manufacturer’s service plan when you buy your Jaguar, you can choose to get a free refill of AdBlue from a main dealer. However, you have to book your visit in advance, so I decided to do it myself.

    I doubt a dealer would have emulated me by sprinkling AdBlue over the XF’s boot carpet like a woozy drunk taking aim at a urinal, so if you’re similarly clumsy you might be better off letting the experts do it.

    The AdBlue tank can be replenished via a filler neck located in the boot. The tank’s capacity is 17 litres, which,Jaguar suggests, should be good for between 5000 and 8000 miles, so I was surprised that we had surpassed well over 10,000 miles before seeing the message warning us that a refill was required.

    I suspect the relatively easy life I give the XF – a steady 43-mile trot on the M3 twice each working day is its main chore – might be helping to eke out the supply of AdBlue, as well as the rest of the XF’s consumables. If only I can keep the car away from those oversteer-addicted road testers for the foreseeable future…

    JAGUAR XF 3.0 TDV6 S

    Price £49,995 Price as tested £61,920 Economy 45.8mpg Faults None Expenses Four new tyres plus fitting £810, 10 litres of AdBlue £13.49 Mileage 12,955

    PREVIOUS REPORTS

    I’ve paired our XF to Jaguar’s InControl app and the Remote smartphone app. The latter monitors the car’s vital signs from afar (useful for those “did I remember to lock it?” moments); the former enables access to third-party apps via the multimedia screen. I’ll report back on their usefulness once I’ve lived with them for a while.

    PREVIOUS REPORTS

    It was a stray dog hair in the cabin that made me realise the XF had been put to good use.

    As I wound down for a break, I’d handed
 the key to resident road tester Alan Taylor-Jones, who needed a comfortable car in which to transport his family – including Sprocket the dog – around the country. 

    As payback, Alan agreed to deliver some observations on the XF, and I’m pleased that he returned as impressed as I have been with 
the XF’s ability as a comfortable consumer of miles, bar a couple of minor quibbles. 

    Wet roads provide a reminder of the V6’s fruitiness. Alan notes that when you are driving 
in Normal mode and squeeze the accelerator to pull away from a standstill, there’s a slight lag before the power is delivered, a trait that’s not uncommon in automatics. When the power does arrive, boy does it arrive in a hurry, and Alan reports that “it is possible to overwhelm the rear tyres when the road surface is greasy”.

    Over 6000 or so miles, I’ve learned to anticipate that slight lag, particularly when pulling out at busy junctions and roundabouts. Indeed, applying a large clog of accelerator from a standstill can
 be fun in the right circumstances, although perhaps not when elderly relatives are being ferried around. 

    Alan had to lower the folding rear seats during various trips. He reckons proper handles with which to fold the seats are “a nice idea” but feels pulling the handles should do more than merely release the seats from their lockings. “You still need to pull the seats down, which is annoying,” he says. 

    Overall, though, the Jaguar’s combination of comfort when you need it and decent performance if you want it really is a gift that keeps on giving.

    Price £49,995 Price as tested £61,920 Economy 41.6mpg Faults None Expenses None Mileage 7649


    PREVIOUS REPORTS:

    jumped at the offer of the Jaguar XF for a weekend, before realising what my Friday night had in store for me: yet another trip to Ikea.

    Plenty of questions were fired at the XF’s guardian, Matt Burt, all asking about the car’s practicality. From memory, the Jaguar didn’t have the rear space and access of many cars out there, not least my current long-termer, the very different Seat Ateca, but the Jaguar’s spec sheet lists the boot as being 30 litres larger than the Seat’s, at 540 litres.

    So, armed with a tape measure, I wandered over to our car park one lunchtime to scope the boot out for myself. I was quickly reminded how limiting the boot aperture is, and then there was the mystery of how to fold down the rear seats. Eventually, I gave in and read the manual, which directed me to two (almost hidden) yellow levers in the roof of the boot. Bear in mind, too, that while our XF has the 60/40-split rear seats as standard, that’s not the case on the car’s two lower trims; they cost £420 extra. That might not sit well with some buyers, but it’s a similar scenario with the BMW 5 Series.

    How did we fare at Ikea? It was a sedate spending spree, but the XF handled the job in fine style, easily swallowing a sizeable mirror and various household fripperies. RB

    JAGUAR XF 3.0 TDV6 S

    Price £49,995 Price as tested £61,920 Economy 41.6mpg Faults None Expenses None 

    Read our previous reports here:

    First report

    Family heritage

  • Lexus LC Friday 20th October 2017
    Lexus LC500 Futuristic Lexus LC coupé mixes the latest technology with an old-school atmospheric V8 Concept cars are endlessly frustrating. Often jaw-dropping in design, they embody the formidable creative potential of companies operating in one of the most competitive industries in the world.Invariably, however, the years-long transition from motor-show plinth to dealership car park causes their most exotic edges to be knocked off as the realities of safety legislation, supply-chain economics, takt-time travails and so on bite hard.All of which makes the new LC500 an unusually exciting prospect. It is, give or take, indistinguishable from the LF-LC concept whose rakish profile dropped jaws at the 2012 Detroit motor show and whose popularity convinced the suits at Lexus headquarters in Nagoya to go ahead with a production version.As such, it dramatically continues the brand’s determined efforts to shake off traces of the staid design language exemplified by its former flagship (£343,000 LFA supercar notwithstanding), the thoroughly uninspiring SC430.Razor sharp but well rounded, understated but confident, the front-engined, rear-driven LC is how modern Lexus wants to be perceived.     To help its cause, Lexus has fitted the LC500 with a naturally aspirated engine in the mould of the howling V10 in the 202mph LFA.The newcomer trades a couple of cylinders with its carbon-wrought forebear for slightly greater cubic capacity, and although its 5.0-litre V8 doesn’t quite spin to 9000rpm, you get to experience its feverish, wailing delivery for an outlay of just £76,595.Considering the quality of the car’s design and build, that is a modest price, but it also lands this GT-cum-sports-car in a dogfight with everything from the Porsche 911 to the Maserati GranTurismo.The LC500 is an ambitious project, then. It’s certain to land conquest sales on the appeal of its design alone, but the real challenge for Lexus is to back that up by matching the dynamic versatility of rivals from companies who have been in this game for far longer. (Remember, Toyota’s luxury subsidiary has been in existence for only 28 years.)Whether it has achieved that – and it would be some feat – will determine whether this is a car to be taken seriously by those who buy a car for the driving experience it offers, and not just its kerbside appeal.
  • How Dürheimer helped fuel Bentley's growth Friday 20th October 2017
    The British firm's new boss will have a tough task living up to his predecessor

    Even if it were somehow possible for WO Bentley to make a comeback at the eponymous company he founded 99 years ago next January, it would still be a matter of regret that 59-year-old Wolfgang Dürheimer, Bentley’s custodian in two stints totalling five years from 2011 to date, is leaving the company.

    Dürheimer’s regime has been unfailingly expansive, which has proved to be the ideal medicine given that he arrived at Crewe in the shadow of the 2008 financial crisis, when industry aficionados were predicting lean times everywhere and especially for luxury car manufacturers. Always immaculately dressed, Bentley’s tall CEO has shown an apparently effortless ability to encourage and lead, while setting tough targets he insists are met. 

    On Dürheimer’s watch, Bentley has successfully returned to racing with Continental GTs in the GT3 class. The move has helped to quell never-ending questions about Bentley repeating its outright Le Mans victory in 2003. The company has refreshed every one of its existing models, and successfully launched (and named) the initially controversial Bentayga SUV, still Crewe’s best-selling model, though marketing men must be hoping the (non-competing) all-new Conti GT will soon match or beat its sales.

    Running Bentley has been only one of three concurrent Volkswagen Group jobs Dürheimer has held down since 2011. He has also had a similar role at Bugatti (where he recently launched the Chiron hypercar) and has also run all VW Group motorsport activities. It is to an expanded version of this third role he is believed to be returning. Dürheimer was head of R&D at Porsche for 12 years before his UK assignment and, though there has been no discussion of his new role, he is tipped to be taking charge of Stuttgart’s return to Formula 1 in time for changes to the engine formula in 2020.

    Dürheimer’s Bentley UK career has had two distinct phases. The first was short: he arrived in 2011, rapidly overhauling model plans and setting lots of new targets, but by the end of 2012 he had departed back to Germany for a new job as head of Audi R&D. Details of what happened next are sketchy, but it is understood his view of Audi’s R&D priorities – especially on the electric car investment front – failed to match those of Audi traditionalists, now departed. His career seemed to be on a fatal backward path as he concentrated simply on motorsport. Apparently vindicated, however, Dürheimer returned to his three-pronged, high pressure Bentley-Bugatti-VW assignment in 2014.

    His replacement at Crewe is Adrian Hallmark, a well-experienced Brit who has made impressive successes of previous careers at Porsche Great Britain and Jaguar Land Rover. VW has, meanwhile, appointed a new chief of Bugatti. Both men will have large shoes to fill.

    Related stories 

    Bentley Continental GT review 

    Bentley Mulsanne review 

    Bentley Continental GT revealed  

  • Hallmark to replace Durheimer as Bentley boss Friday 20th October 2017
    Bentley boss Wolfgang Dürheimer to retire
    Bentley boss Wolfgang Dürheimer has announced he is retiring
    Dürheimer to retire, with Brit Adrian Hallmark taking over at Bentley; former Lamborghini boss Stephan Winkelmann to run Bugatti

    Jaguar Land Rover’s global strategy director Adrian Hallmark has been appointed chairman and CEO of Bentley, replacing Wolfgang Dürheimer.

    Dürheimer, 59, is retiring after his second stint in charge of the British firm, one of three roles he has held within the Volkswagen Group. Dürheimer will retain a role advising the VW Group on its motorsport projects.

    Opinion: How Dürheimer helped fuel Bentley's growth

    Hallmark, 55, was previously Bentley’s board member for sales, marketing and PR before moving to JLR. He has also worked for Porsche, Volkswagen and Saab. Hallmark will start his new role on 1 February 2018. Hallmark is understood to have left JLR on Thursday 5 October.

    During Dürheimer’s time at Bentley, he has pushed the growth of the brand, including the launch of the Bentayga SUV and a return to racing with the Continental GT3.

    VW Group boss Matthias Müller said: “Wolfgang Dürheimer has had an outstanding career and has launched some of the most important cars the group has ever created.”

    Bentley has also made three further appointments to its board. Werner Tietz moves over from Porsche to head up engineering, succeeding Rolf Frech. Chris Craft, Porsche GB’s managing director, will replace Andreas Offermann as sales and marketing chief. Astrid Fontaine, previously at Porsche North America, will head up people, digitisation and IT. Those appointments will take effect on 1 January 2018.

    Read more

    Opinion: How Dürheimer helped fuel Bentley's growth

    Exclusive interview: VW Group boss Müller on Dieselgate and future plans

  • Why Volkswagen's Pikes Peak entry is an inspired move Friday 20th October 2017
    Pikes Peak
    The 12.42-mile course rises to more than 14,000ft
    The hillclimb event allows electric cars to take on combustion-engined rivals on a level playing field (even if the course is anything but)

    Volkswagen's return to motorsport running an electric car at next year’s Pikes Peak International Hillclimb might seem like an odd move – but it’s actually an inspired one.

    For the uninitiated, the annual event is held every July on a 12.42-mile, 156-turn course that winds up the Colorado mountain. The course averages a gradient of 7.2% and features 4720ft of climbing, finishing at the 14,110ft summit of the mountain.

    Volkswagen confirms Pikes Peak entry for 2018

    First run in 1916, Pikes Peak has a rich history, but while there have been occasional manufacturer entries, it’s largely the preserve of privateers and enthusiastic amateurs. So why is Volkswagen going to the effort of creating an electric competition specifically for a somewhat niche one-off hillclimb? Wouldn't the firm be better off joining the massed ranks of manufacturers (including rivals Mercedes and BMW) joining Formula E? But here's the thing: Pikes Peak can do something for electric cars that Formula E can't: allow them to compete against combustion engine-powered rivals on a level playing field. In fact, they might even have an advantage.

    The single-run event format and course length means that battery life isn’t an issue for an EV, and the instant torque provided by electric motors will help given the many hairpins on the route place a premium on rapid acceleration. Plus, while naturally aspirated engines lose power when the air gets thinner at higher altitude, that isn’t a problem for an electric vehicle.

    In fact, electric vehicles already feature prominently at Pikes Peak. Rhys Millen won the event outright in 2015 in an electric eO PP03 machine powered by seven electric motors that combined to produce 1595bhp. The following year Millen finished second overall to Romain Dumas – who will drive Volkswagen’s car in 2018 – and set a new electric car hill record of 8min 57.118secs.

    That mark is way off the outright hill record of 8min 13.878secs, which was set by Sébastien Loeb in the mighty Peugeot 208 T16 Pikes Peak – essentially a Le Mans sportscar crammed into a rally car shell – in 2013. But, frankly, nobody has come close to that time since, largely because that Peugeot project was the last time a manufacturer put real effort into building a Pikes Peak car.

    When Loeb set his time, it seemed utterly untouchable. But Volkswagen has recent World Rally Championship experience, a not-inconsiderable budget, and has been investing heavily in the development of EV technology. There’s every reason to believe that Loeb’s record is suddenly under serious threat. 

    If Volkswagen could beat – heck, even get close – to Loeb’s time, it would be a brilliant showcase for its electric vehicle credentials.

    Read more

    Official: Volkswagen quits World Rally Championship

    Tesla Model S smashes production electric record at Pikes Peak

     

  • Maserati Levante S GranSport 2017 review Friday 20th October 2017
    Maserati Levante S GranSport Get ready to trade in your diesels: Maserati’s luxury SUV finally gets the engine it’s always needed It’s the new Maserati Levante – or rather the updated ‘2018’ version of a car that made us all wonder, only last year, if the introduction of a luxury SUV was still such a risk to the reputation of a European sports car maker. It’s time to get real. When that’s a risk so many are taking, how can it be?The Maserati Levante has already become the biggest-selling car that the Modena-based firm makes, reaching 25,000 owners around the world already in its 15-month existence in production – and for a company that only sold 32,000 cars in total in 2015. This car looks like becoming the bedrock of Maserati’s business for years into the future, just as the Cayenne and Macan now are for Porsche. As Maserati’s ex-CEO Harald Wester used to say: “The bigger risk would have been not to make it.”In light of that, keeping the Levante competitive with its rivals is clearly of paramount importance – and that’s not achieved by sitting on your hands. Which is why, only 18 months after the car was unveiled, we’re already seeing a model-year update. The revision mostly adds safety and convenience features, although there are changes to the car’s styling and trim range hierarchy as well.The engine range is unaltered – at least in a global sense. There’s a choice between 3.0-litre V6 twin-turbocharged petrol engines of either 345bhp or 424bhp, and a 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel with 271bhp. But whereas until now only the V6 diesel engine was available in right-hand drive markets like ours, Maserati has finally made the V6 turbo petrols available in right-hand drive as well. For now, Maserati UK will only offer the 424bhp Levante V6 S alongside the 271bhp diesel – but the less powerful petrol could also come in time.
  • Saying goodbye to an Australian icon Friday 20th October 2017
    The Commodore as it was will live on through the VXR8
    The demise of the Aussie-built Holden Commodore affects all motoring enthusiasts

    By the time you read this, it will have ripped the air of New South Wales apart: Bathurst, The Great Race, the 1000km highlight of the Australian Supercars Championship. 

    This is the last Bathurst that will exclusively feature V8-powered Supercars. As of next year, twin-turbocharged V6s will gradually proliferate the grid. 

    The end of car production in Australia: the final week 

    Now, I’ve banged on enough about Supercars already this year, so I won’t start again. Especially given that, in the form of the BTCC, the UK is hardly short of its own thrilling race series featuring cars that look like ones you can buy off the street. 

    Instead, what I want to ref lect on today is a big month for Australian motoring, and one which, mirrored here, might affect us all. Because more significant than any Antipodean racing changes is the fact that later this month production at Holden’s Adelaide plant will close and the last Commodore, the domestically produced Holden – GM’s indigenous Australian arm – will roll from the line. 

    The Commodore, which we know here as the Vauxhall VXR8, is one of the big, traditional Australian two. Holden versus Ford, Commodore versus Falcon. It defined Australian touring car racing, just as it defined the Australian car market, until imports opened up, Hyundais and Toyotas started rolling in and tastes veered towards something smaller, something cheaper, something less V8-ish. Falcon production finished last year and there was always an inevitability about this outcome too. 

    Does it matter? To anyone in this hemisphere, not so much, beyond the couple-of-dozen people a year who want a VXR8. After all, it didn’t even mean enough to most Australians for them to do anything about it. The Commodore’s break-even was said to be around 60,000 cars a year. Towards the end, Australians were only buying half that. Which is a shame, because it’s a good car. 

    In its place will come a new Commodore, though that will be based on the Insignia that we get over here. Now, I dare say Holden would like the number of Commodores it sells to increase, but it doesn’t think it will. And here’s the thing: even if it doesn’t, it doesn’t matter. Because even if you only sell 20,000 imported Insignias a year, badged as Commodores, then that’s 20,000 added to the volume of a car whose development cost has already pretty much been met, whose factories have been constructed, and it frees you from the burden of developing an entire bespoke model. 

    So you can sell fewer of them, and yet make more money. And that, then, is something that might affect all of us. We buy cars made specifically for the European market, perhaps because we like the cut of that car’s jib. 

    But making or optimising cars for specific markets is hard work and, more than that, it is expensive work. And if that case gets marginal, and if the car maker offering that vehicle to you doesn’t have a premium badge, and has a similarly sized model elsewhere where perhaps dynamics, interior quality and design aren’t so important as they are here? 

    Well, you can see which way things might go, and that’s towards offering products built for the world that perhaps don’t work quite as we’d like them to. So, like the sound of racing V8 engines, make the most of them while it lasts. 

    Related stories: 

    Vauxhall VXR8 GTS review

    Vauxhall VXR8 GTS-R review

  • Skoda US plans put on hold Friday 20th October 2017
    Skoda's entry the to the US has been delayed after taking the lead for a low-cost car project in India

    Skoda’s investigation into whether it should enter the US market has been delayed as a result of it taking the lead for VW Group’s low-cost car project in India.

    Skoda CEO Bernhard Maier had previously said that Skoda was actively assessing the opportunity of launching in the US, potentially taking the lead for sales in the wake of the VW Dieselgate scandal because of its relatively untarnished image in the region. He had indicated that the firm’s investigations would be complete by the end of this year.

    However, earlier this year the VW Group entered a co-operation with Tata Motors in order to co-develop a low-cost car for emerging markets. When cost targets weren’t hit, however, the partnership was dissolved, and Skoda’s bosses asked the lead the initiative.

    “We will need more time to work on the US plans now,” said Maier. “The Group has asked us to lead development of a platform with a strong focus on India and to investigate building that business sustainably and in a predictable manner.

    “That is a huge task, and we must always approach projects one step at a time. There is no hurry to rush into the US and no deadline to even decide if we should be looking to go there. There’s no need to make a decision right away.”

    At present, Skoda is said to be assessing whether the VW Group’s MQB A0 platform - as used on cars including the new VW Polo and Seat Ibiza - could form the basis for a low-cost vehicle, although Maier has hinted forging another joint venture is possible if it makes more sense financially. If it chooses to launch on its own platform, VW faces having to set up the entire manufacturing infrastructure in India.

    “It’s clear that without radical localisation and the related cost advantages, we will be unable to turn the MQB A0 platform into a competitive tool in India,” he told Reuters.

    The task is made harder because new, tougher crash and emissions regulations will come into effect in India from 2020 - the year the country is expected to become the world’s third largest car market, behind China and the USA.

    Once established in India, insiders expect the low-cost car to be launched in South America and the Middle East. Concurrently, the VW Group is developing a low-cost car for sale in China with its partners there, which is expected to launch in 2019.

    Related stories: 

    Skoda Octavia vRS review 

    Skoda Superb

    Skoda Fabia

  • UK car industry needs tariff-free access to Europe, warns RMI chief Thursday 19th October 2017
    UK car industry needs tariff-free access to Europe, warns RMI chief Peter Johnson, chairman of the Retail Motor Industry Federation, says a trade deal is the only way the industry can thrive

    The car industry's future health is in jeopardy until tariff-free access to the European Union is secured, Peter Johnson, chairman of the Retail Motor Industry Federation (RMI), has warned.

    Highlighting the implications of no agreement being reached following Brexit, Johnson said: “The UK’s automotive sector is a global leader and the future state and success of the industry could be jeopardised if a trade deal is not secured to allow tariff-free access to the European single market, following our vote to leave the EU.

    “It is now essential that the Government makes a commitment to outline a clear negotiating position in order to ensure our industry has what it needs to secure its future success."

    The RMI represents businesses that provide motor industry services and support to motorists across the UK. Its mission is to lobby for “higher standards of operation for the benefit of both consumers and the sector as a whole".

    Johnson added: “It is vital that the Government encourages both economic and consumer confidence and enables investment in order for the retail motor industry to progress and thrive in a stable environment."

    His words echo those of Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders chairman Mike Hawes, who has repeatedly called on the Government to establish stable terms during a transition period while Brexit plans are negotiated.

    UK car sales fell in September for the first time in six years, with industry leaders blaming business and political uncertainty, as well as confusion over future air quality plans.

  • New Audi A7 revealed with major tech and refinement upgrades Thursday 19th October 2017
    New Audi A7 revealed with major tech and refinement upgrades Audi's rival to the Mercedes-Benz CLS gets a significant update, with fuel-saving technology and rear-wheel steer

    The second-generation Audi A7 has been unveiled ahead of its public debut at the Los Angeles motor show in November.

    Sporting a sharp new exterior design, the luxury liftback is due to reach the UK during the first quarter of 2018. It comes with a 48V electric system, new engines with mild-hybrid properties for added fuel savings, as well as a steel and aluminium body structure. The BMW 6 Series Gran Turismo and Mercedes-Benz CLS rival gets a reworked chassis featuring four-wheel steering and a raft of digital interior functions as part of an engineering overhaul. 

    2018 Audi A8 reveal 

    Along with the latest A8, the 2018 A7 represents somewhat of a new start for Audi, following the fallout from parent company Volkswagen’s Dieselgate scandal. Initially approved for production by Audi boss Rupert Stadler in 2014, the A7 has been developed under three research and development chiefs: Ulrich Hackenberg, Stefan Knirsch and Peter Mertens.

    Audi says the A7 has been refined to offer outstanding long-distance-cruise traits, and also says its reveamped interior will boost its appeal. And with just one model planned for production from the outset, the A7 55 TFSI pictured here officially for the first time, it also appears Audi is taking steps to ensure top-notch quality during the initial build phase.

    Stylistically, the new A7 continues the theme established with the first-generation model in 2010, but with tauter surfacing and crisper forms. The five-door layout remains; the cabin doors are once again frameless, while the large tailgate hinges from above the rear window to provide unimpeded access to the luggage compartment. 

    The front end is dominated by the latest evolution of Audi’s single-frame grille, as seen on the recent A8. It is set within a heavily structured front bumper and is bookmarked by angular headlights sporting distinctive LED graphics in one of three designs, which taper back within the leading part of the front wings.

    Further back, there are pronounced front wheel arches, a relative shallow six-window glasshouse, heavy swage lines within the lower sections of the doors and a roofline that slopes heavily towards the rear – all in keeping with the original A7.

    At the rear, Audi has provided its latest model with an active spoiler element. Integrated into the trailing edge of the tailgate, it deploys at speeds above 75mph to increase downforce on the rear axle for added high-speed stability. The most dominant styling feature is the full width tail-lights treatment: each tail-light receives 13 individual elements, joined by an illuminated light bar that stretches across the rear of the boot lid.

    Audi will offer the new A7 with an optional S line styling package from the outset of UK sales. It features a high-gloss-black treatment on the grille insert, front air ducts, sills and rear diffuser.

    At 4969mm in length, 1908mm in width and 1422mm in height, the new Audi is 14mm shorter, 3mm wider and 2mm higher than the first-generation A7. Based around the latest evolution of Audi’s MLB platform, it also adopts a wheelbase that is 13mm longer than its predecessor at 2923mm, providing it with a larger footprint that will be shared with the new A6 due in 2018.

    The interior of the A7 follows the lead of the latest A8. There is a 12.3in digital instrument display, combined with a 10.1in Multi-Media Infotainment display integrated within the centre of the dashboard facia and an 8.6in display unit mounted lower down at the base of the centre console – both offering standard touch control, with haptic and acoustic feedback qualities.

    The adoption of touch-sensitive displays for all the major functions provides the dashboard with a clean and uncluttered look devoid of traditional manual controls. The stubby gearlever, meanwhile, is designed to allow the driver to rest their wrist on the horizontal handle to ease the touch operation of the air conditioning and other functions, according to Audi.

    Up front, new seats are claimed to offer added levels of comfort, with buyers able to specify multi-adjustable, customised contour seats with both ventilation and massage functions. The rear can be configured with two individual seats or a two-plus-one layout. Despite the 14mm reduction in the length of the exterior, Audi claims improvements in packaging have liberated an added 21mm of length within the interior and, with it, increased rear leg room.

    The 535-litre boot capacity of the original A7 has been retained, although Audi says the luggage compartment has been redesigned for improved utilisation of space. The rear liftback is manually operated, although buyers can choose an optional foot-operated sensor.

    Options include Matrix LED headlamps with laser projector units, a head-up display unit, voice control, four sound systems including a Bang & Olufsen unit offering 3D surround-sound, remote parking pilot and, from 2018 onwards, remote garage pilot. The remote garage pilot autonomously manoeuvres the A7 into and out of parking spaces or a garage without the need for a driver to be behind the steering wheel.

    That technology is among a number of autonomous driving functions. The new A7 can feature up to five radar sensors, five cameras, 12 ultrasonic sensors and a laser scanner. They are networked by a so-called zFas central driver assistance controller. In total, the new car features 39 driver assistant systems, both as standard and optional.

    The second-generation A7 will be launched with just a single engine, although others, including both four and six-cylinder petrol and diesel units, are planned to be added to the line-up as production of the four-door ramps up at Audi’s plant in Neckarsulm, Germany.

    The turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 petrol unit comes as standard with a new belt drive alternator, lithium ion battery and 48V electric architecture to provide it with mild hybrid properties. At speeds between 34mph and 99mph, the car can coast with the combustion process idled for added fuel savings on extended periods of trailing throttle.

    It also uses a stop/start function that shuts down the engine below 14mph as you roll up to traffic lights. In combination with a front camera, the engine is then restarted as soon as the car ahead begins to move or, alternatively, when the driver activates the throttle.

    The successor to the earlier supercharged 3.0-litres V6 offered in the first-generation A7 produces 335bhp and 369lb ft of torque. Drive is channeled through a standard seven-speed S-tronic dual-clutch gearbox and the latest iteration of Audi’s quattro four-wheel-drive system that only activates the rear wheels when it detects added traction is required.

    The new engine provides the initial A7 55 TFSI model with a claimed 0-62mph time of 5.3sec and electronically limited top speed of 155mph, with fuel consumption and emissions put at 41.5mpg and 154g/km respectively.

    Audi is already talking up the dynamic qualities of the new A7, which follows the trend towards the adoption of four-wheel steering – or dynamic-all-wheel-steering, as Audi prefers to call it.

    At speeds below 37mph, the rear wheels steer in the opposite direction to those at the front in a bid to imbue the new Audi with added low-speed manoeuvrability and a claimed 1.1m reduction in the turning circle compared with its predecessor. Above 37mph, the rear wheels steer in the same direction as those at the front, which Audi says contributes to increased straight-line stability and improves high-speed lane-change properties.

    In other changes, Audi says the suspension has been developed from scratch and claims it offers greater levels of feedback. Buyers can choose between four set-ups: conventional steel springs, a sport suspension that lowers the ride height by 10mm, electronically controlled damping and a self-leveling air suspension.

    Related stories: 

    Audi A7 review 

    Audi A8 review 

    2018 Audi A8 reveal 

  • Mercedes-AMG G65 Final Edition revealed as V12 SUV’s swansong Thursday 19th October 2017
    Mercedes-AMG G65 Final Edition revealed as V12 SUV’s swansong Aptly limited to just 65 examples worldwide, the Final Edition costs from £278,000 in Germany

    Mercedes-Benz has revealed the Final Edition of the G65 AMG sports SUV, limited to just 65 units worldwide. 

    Costing from around £278,000 in Germany, the G65 Final Edition is more than three times the price of the entry-level G350d and double the price of the AMG G63.

    It’s marked out on the outside by bronze trim, wheels and details, including 21in wheels finished in bronze. Inside, there’s exclusive Final Edition lettering on the grab handles and the bronze theme continues across the interior. 

    It’s the second of two recent special-edition G-Class cars to launch before the next-generation G comes along and the latest in a string of outlandish G-Class-based models, including the G500 4x4², G63 6x6 and Maybach G650 Landaulet.

    Under the bonnet is the same V12 as in the standard G65, producing 621bhp and 737lb ft. It’s likely that the special edition will be offered in left-hand drive only, meaning the only examples to make it to the UK will be brought here by buyers. 

    Read more:

    Mercedes-Benz G-Class review

    Mercedes-Maybach G650 Landaulet arrives as swansong to current G-Class

    2019 Mercedes GLB to face Audi Q3 with G-Class styling

  • Jaguar XF Sportbrake TDV6 2017 review Thursday 19th October 2017
    Jaguar XF Sportbrake TDV6 The handsome Jaguar XF Sportbrake exhibits all the hallmarks that makes the saloon great, and with the silky smooth diesel V6 makes it a compelling choice This is our second opportunity to drive Jaguar’s latest XF Sportbrake, the rather handsome estate variant of Jaguar’s current executive-class saloon.Last time around, we drove it with the 237bhp 2.0-litre diesel powerplant, which is mated exclusively to all-wheel drive. Here, we’re adding the 3.0-litre V6 diesel to that and the only petrol XF variant, the 2.0-litre 247bhp four-cylinder from the same Ingenium engine family as the diesel, both as rear-drive variants.By calling this car Sportbrake, you might think the design team have been cut a little slack to prioritise style over practicality, but the important estatey numbers are pretty good. Boot volume with the rear seats up is 565 litres rather than the saloon’s 540, and with the seats down it raises to 1700 litres, which puts it on a par with the BMW 5 Series Touring, if not the vast Mercedes-Benz E-Class wagon. This time around, too, as well as flat sides to the interior of the boot, the rear seats have been tweaked to allow the floor to be flat when folded. The kind of thing that’s more useful, as a rule, than an additional five litres here or there.Otherwise, things in the Sportbrake are as they are in the XF saloon. It’s a predominantly aluminium-structured car, with double-wishbones at the front and an integral link set-up at the rear. Unlike the saloon, the Sportbrake comes with air-springs at the rear to keep the body level under loads, which can be whichever fridge or dog you throw in the boot or up to 2000kg pulled via the towbar.
  • Promoted: The 2017 Skoda Superb – Nina’s story Thursday 19th October 2017
    In the second of our ‘Driven By Something Different’ series, we learn how Nina balances being a mother to three, while fundraising through running

    Meet Nina: a mother of three children, who balances her home life and her career with a passion for fundraising through long-distance running.

    Nina first joined her husband in a marathon in order to raise money and give something back to the organisations that helped their eldest daughter, Olivia, through a rare liver condition.

    Since then, Nina has been inspired to go to new extremes in her fund-raising efforts, and is now looking to combine her love of swimming and running as she competes in a Half Ironman.

    That’s why the Skoda Superb is the perfect car in which Nina can take on her passion for the outdoors. After all, it was named ‘Best estate car’ and ‘Best executive car less than £25,000’ in the 2017 What Car? Car of the Year Awards.

    Available as a stylish hatch or a spacious estate with a wide selection of fuel-efficient engines – and now with a dynamic new SportLine trim – the Skoda Superb range offers you a wealth of choice.

    Whether you’re after the latest in-car technologies – such as wireless smartphone charging and hands-free phone calls – if you want safety and convenience features such as adaptive cruise control, park assist, blind spot detection and lane assist, or if you’re after up to 1,950 litres of load volume in the Estate, with plenty of clever storage solutions, there’s almost certainly a Skoda Superb that’s perfect for you.

    For more information on the new Skoda Superb, click here.

    Watch Jack and Alice's story in the Skoda Octavia, click here.

  • Volkswagen confirms Pikes Peak entry with electric racer Thursday 19th October 2017
    For the first time since 1987, Volkswagen will compete at the 12.4-mile hill climb in Colorado – this time with electric power

    Volkswagen has set its sights on the legendary Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in 2018 with the development of a contemporary electric-powered race car, the German company’s head of research and development, Frank Welsch, has confirmed.

    Pictured here in a darkened image issued by Volkswagen, the four-wheel-drive car is being developed by Volkswagen Motorsport in co-operation with its technical development operations in Wolfsburg, Germany.

    The 2018 Pikes Peak entry is being used by Volkswagen to highlight its push to become a leading manufacturer of electric-powered production models following the diesel emissions scandal.

    “The Pikes Peak Hill Climb is one of the world’s most renowned car races. It poses an enormous challenge and excellently suited to proving the capabilities of upcoming technologies,” said Welsch. “The extreme stress test on Pikes Peak will give us important findings that will benefit future development and it will showcase our produces and their technologies."  

    To be equipped with what Welsch described as “innovative battery and drive technology”, the car is set to be driven at next year’s event by the 2014, 2016 and 2017 overall victor, Romain Dumas, according to insiders with knowledge of Volkswagen's plans.

    The head of Volkswagen Motorsport, Sven Smeets, describes the Pikes Peak challenge as an “important milestone in the company’s new motorsport orientation”. The prototype is the first electric race car to be developed by Volkswagen Motorsport.

    The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is run over a course of 12.4 miles in an ascent from 1440 metres to a summit of 4300 metres above sea level. The current electric car prototype class record of 8min 57.118sec is held by Rhys Millen in a Toyota-sponsored prototype in 2016.

    In this year’s Pikes Peak, Dumas drove a 600bhp turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder Honda-powered Norma MXX RD Limited race car to victory in a time of 9min 05.672sec.

    Volkswagen last competed at Pikes Peak in 1987 with a 652bhp twin-engined Golf sporting a 1.8-litre engine up front and at the rear. 

    Related stories: 

    Volkswagen Golf R review 

    Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport S review

    VWG axe Audi A3 three-door and Scirrocco in UK

  • Nissan suspends all vehicle production in Japan Thursday 19th October 2017
    Nissan Japan
    Nissan has suspended production at all of its plants in Japan
    Japanese firm closes plants due to failures in final vehicle inspections; issue does not affect UK production

    Nissan has suspended vehicle production at all of its plants in Japan while it investigates failings in the vehicle inspection process.

    The dramatic move, which will involve shutting every Nissan and Nissan Shatai plant in the country for at least two weeks, stems from the firm’s early investigations into vehicle inspection failures discovered by the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transportation (MLIT) in September.

    The MLIT notified Nissan on 18 September that checks at the final inspection stage were being carried out by technicians not properly registered to perform them. Nissan took corrective measures to address the issue, but an October investigation found technicians not registered to do final inspections conducting them at plants in Oppama, Tochigi and Kyushu.

    Nissan has shut down production so that it can adjust its final vehicle inspection lines to match the configuration submitted to MLIT and in a release said that it will also separate the final inspection process from other parts of vehicle production. 

    The company has also started a process of reinspecting vehicles that were affected. It will re-examine the 34,000 vehicles produced between the initial MLIT notification and the present, and is considering a recall of potentially affected vehicles – a number that could reportedly top more than a million.

    The issues relate to only Nissan’s Japan plants and for vehicles sold in the Japanese market.

  • Volkswagen T-Roc 2.0 TDI 2017 review Thursday 19th October 2017
    Volkswagen T-Roc TDI Volkswagen's new compact crossover has the looks, the engineering and the build quality to be a resounding success, but not with this diesel engine The diesel version of Volkswagen’s new compact crossover, and essentially a smaller and funkier sibling for the Tiguan.As tends to be the case these days the T-Roc has been designed to combine the contradictory design traits of an SUV and a small coupé, sitting tall but with a low roofline and narrow glasshouse. As the model that has effectively replaced the slow-selling Scirocco in the corporate hierarchy, it gives a clear indication of the shifting preferences of aspirational buyers. It’s not long since a car in this segment would, given a choice of fuel type, be overwhelmingly chosen with diesel engines. But times have changed and Volkswagen reckons that just one in five of the T-Rocs sold in the UK will pack one of three available diesel engines, with that low figure driven by the fact that a whopping three quarters of T-Roc sales are likely to be made to private buyers rather than fleets.The trio of TDI engines are all familiar from elsewhere in the Volkswagen clan, and have power outputs that exactly match those of the three petrol engines. Base spec will be a 1.6-litre engine with 113bhp, and which will be available exclusively with front-wheel drive and a manual gearbox. Above that Volkswagen’s long-serving 2.0-litre unit is available in both 148bhp and 187bhp states of tune. The less-powerful iteration is offered with either front- or all-wheel drive and with the choice of manual or DSG. The full-fat version comes exclusively with the part-time 4Motion all-wheel-drive system and the twin-clutch automatic 'box. Our test car was a 148bhp TDI 4Motion with the DSG and in Europe-specific Designline spec, which will be close to SE-L in the UK.Pricing hasn’t been confirmed for diesel versions yet, but Volkswagen assures us that it will be competitive given the generous standard kit, which will include two-zone climate control, radar cruise control and a suite of active safety systems. 
  • Government to make EV chargers mandatory at large petrol stations and motorway services Thursday 19th October 2017
    Government to make EV chargers mandatory at petrol stations and motorway services New bill edges Britain closer to the EV tipping point and introduces framework for autonomous car insurance

    The Government has introduced a bill to make electric vehicle (EV) charging points mandatory at all large petrol stations and motorway services. 

    Introduced by transport minister John Hayes, the Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill will lead to multiple charge points being installed at each of the UK’s motorway service stations, as well as at many of the 8500 other filling stations up and down the country. 

    Currently, there are more than 11,500 public EV charging points in the UK. This move will nearly double the country’s charging infrastructure, which has been a major barrier to the uptake of EVs. 

    The bill also addresses the major concern surrounding insurance for autonomous cars. It states that the insurer is liable for any damage caused if the car is insured and driving itself. If not insured, and the accident is caused by the car when driving itself, the owner is liable for the damage. Owners will also be liable for accidents if they have modified the software of their car or failed to install important updates.

    The bill outlines a £1.2 billion investment in the EV and autonomous vehicle industry, including charge points for cars parked on the street, suggesting that the streetlamp-based chargers pitched in recent years are likely to get the go-ahead. 

    Hayes said: “This bill will aid the construction of greater infrastructure to support the growing demand for automated and electric vehicles as we embrace this technology and move into the future.”

    James Dalton, director of general insurance policy at the Association of British Insurers, said: “Insurers wholeheartedly support the development of automated vehicles because they have the potential to significantly reduce the large number of road accidents caused by driver error.

    "We support the approach the Government has taken in the bill because this will give the industry time to prepare for the commercial rollout of fully automated driving technology.”

    Read more:

    The road that charges your electric car

    Shell Recharge electric car service launches first in UK forecourts

    First all-EV car showroom opens in Milton Keynes

    Home EV chargepoint booking service announce

  • BMW 5 Series M550i 2017 review Thursday 19th October 2017
    BMW M550i The all-paw M550i is a fast, effortless mile-muncher, but there's a reason why it won't be sold in the UK The not-quite M5, sharing its bigger brother’s combination of a twin-turbocharged V8 engine and all-wheel drive, but with less power and less performance.The M550i is one of BMW’s M Performance products, but neither it or its diesel-powered M550d sibling will be sold in the UK, the official logic being that there isn’t enough space between the 540i xDrive and the full-fat M5.While unable to match the raw firepower of the 600hp M5, the M550i’s 4.4-litre V8 produces an entirely respectable 456hp and – thanks to the magic of all-wheel drive and the weight saving made to this generation of 5 Series – dispatches the 0-62mph dash in a claimed 4.0sec, which is faster than the last-generation F10 M5 could manage. An eight-speed automatic transmission is standard, along with a rear-biased all-wheel drive system, although one that lacks the M5’s ability to turn itself rear-drive only.
  • 2018 Audi A7 Sportback to be revealed today Thursday 19th October 2017
    2018 Audi A7 Sportback to be revealed on Thursday as design tech fest New luxury liftback model will get Audi's most advanced Virtual Cockpit system

    Audi will pull the covers off its next A7 Sportback later today, revealing the model's striking lighting technology and advanced cabin infotainment for the first time.

    The Sportback, which has just been previewed in new images after several months of development testing over the summer, will feature new sliding LED lighting at the front and rear, as well as a clean cabin design inspired by the Audi Prologue concept.

    As shown by the spotted development cars, the upcoming A7's liftback tail is familiar, but the preview images show sharper details that appear far closer to the concept than any current production model.

    Audi designers have been tasked with giving the new model a far more striking appearance than its more inconspicuous predecessor to emphasise the vastly advanced technology featured inside.

    To fight off the challenge from rivals such as the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class (both of which have been used as benchmarks for the new A7), Audi will introduce its latest Virtual Cockpit technology with the A7. This will see enhanced digital features integrated into a more cleanly designed dashboard.

    Like the 2017 A8 that has just been revealed, the next A7 models will be underpinned by Audi’s MLB Evo platform, which enables a broad selection of powertrain options. The A8 offers a fully autonomous driverless mode, using Audi's piloted driver technology. A version of this technology is expected to feature in top-of-the-range A7s.

    Initially, the S7 will be the most potent Sportback available. It will use a twin-turbocharged V6 engine with more than 450bhp, which should enable the car to hit 62mph from rest in around 4.5sec.

    To signify its power, the S7 will feature a slightly more aggressive exterior design than the regular A7, with a quad-exit exhaust system and 10-spoke wheels - as featured on the development car below.

    Below the S7, the bulk of the A7 range will use a familiar line-up of turbocharged petrol and diesel engines in four-cylinder and six-cylinder layouts. Hybrid and plug-in hybrid powertrains will form the basis of the most efficient combustion-engined models and the absence of tailpipes on development cars spotted earlier in the year support claims that an all-electric version is under development, too.

    Arriving later (likely in 2018) will be the A7's crowning model, the RS7. That car will sit above the S7 and is likely to come with a twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 engine producing more than 600bhp - at least 46bhp more than the current version.

  • Dacia to sell electric cars when conditions allow Thursday 19th October 2017
    Brand boss says that when customers and legislation demand electric cars, it will respond

    Dacia is ready to sell electrified cars as soon as customers and legislation demand them, according to brand boss Jean-Christophe Kugler.

    Noting that “the situation is moving fast”, Kugler said Dacia would be able to adapt better than some rivals because of its place in the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, which is already launching second-generation electric cars and which has several hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles either on sale or under development.

    Although such a move would likely require Dacia to adopt a new platform strategy, Kugler said the firm was able to react to changing requirements relatively nimbly.

    “The advantage of being in a big industrial group is that we can move fast, because the technology we require already exists,” he said. “Even in this changing situation, we are able to plan several years ahead - and for some situations we can update our plans even at six to 12 months’ notice.

    “As a group, we see this change as a big opportunity, and I don’t think Dacia needs to think any differently to that.”

    Kugler also highlighted that diesel sales for the Duster, Lodgy and Logan were still resilient “because owners tend to drive a lot of miles” but acknowledged that Sandero sales were increasingly petrol derivatives.

    Related stories: 

    Dacia Duster review 

    Dacia Sandero review 

    Dacia Logan review

  • Porsche Mission E to get advanced autonomous technology and active aerodynamics Thursday 19th October 2017
    Porsche Mission E testing with advanced autonomous technology and active aerodynamics Porsche's all-electric rival to the Tesla Model S is scheduled to go on sale in less than three years; new spy shots suggest development is on track

    The Porsche Mission E has been spotted again wearing near-production bodywork - and it suggests the final car will look largely unchanged from the concept it is inspired by, and receive autonomous technology and active aerodynamics.

    Photographed on the Nürburgring, the car can be seen sporting exhaust tailpipes, but these are fake and fitted to conceal the car's identity. More notable is the panel of autonomous sensors in the nose, nestled between what appear to be two sets of louvres in the lower grille. Although in the closed position, it's clear that these can be opened to allow battery and brake cooling. 

    Previous Mission E sightings, shown in the gallery, were of a Panamera-based chassis mule testing in the Arctic Circle. The development for the car is being headed by Stefan Weckbach, who previously led product strategy and more recently was responsible for the development of the Boxster.

    The future Tesla Model S rival sits on one of three new electric car platforms being developed within Porsche's parent company, the Volkswagen Group. This J1 structure is described as being different in construction to the C-BEV platform planned to underpin sister company Audi’s forthcoming production version of its E-tron quattro SUV concept.

    ​“The J1 has a low floor, while the C-BEV is constructed differently with a higher floor that suits an SUV,” said company chairman Oliver Blume.

    Despite the differences in their construction, Blume also confirmed that the production versions of the Mission E and E-tron will feature similar lithium ion battery technology.

    The Mission E's battery pack is capable of providing the car with a range of more than 330 miles. In combination with two electric motors, the sleek four-door promises 590bhp and a 0-62mph time of just 3.5sec. The production car will stick with the 800V charging system used on the Mission E concept.

    Details remain scarce, but Porsche is rumoured to be working with Japanese electronics company Hitachi on the system, which Blume describes as the key to providing the batteries of the production Mission E with an 80% charge in just 15 minutes.

    ​Blume also confirmed that Porsche plans for the Mission E to have Level 4 autonomous driving technology (self-driving in nearly all situations, with driver attention not required), but denied that it would allow fully autonomous driving over longer distances. “There are situations in traffic jams where you will be able to read a newspaper, but our customers take pleasure from driving and this will remain,” he said.

    Additionally, Porsche is working on providing the Mission E with software that will allow over-the-air updates such as those pioneered by Tesla with its Model S. “It will be possible to work with over-the-air options,” said Blume. “It isn’t decided yet, but it could be possible to charge up with more power. For example, when you have 400bhp, it could be possible to upgrade to 450bhp."

    Blume’s comments indicate that Porsche is planning the Mission E as a complete line-up of models with differing performance levels similar to the strategy undertaken with its current 718 Boxster/Cayman911, Panamera, Macan and Cayenne ranges.

  • BMW planning more driver-focused GTS and CSL models Thursday 19th October 2017
    Company bosses weighing up what they believe could be a growing market for increasingly driver-focused cars

    More hardcore versions of the BMW M2 are under development, with company bosses weighing up what they believe could be a growing market for a suite of increasingly driver-focused CSL or GTS versions of their cars.

    Recent spy pictures suggest that BMW is already testing an M2 CSL on the road. Insiders suggest BMW will use a detuned version of the S55 turbocharged 3.0-litre straight-six petrol engine from the M3 and M4 rather than a highly strung version of the M2’s older N55 unit, due to the increased reliability and improved responses the newer technology enables.

    Drive will still be sent exclusively to the rear wheels through a six-speed manual or seven-speed DCT dual-clutch automatic gearbox. Despite the performance benefits offered by the latter, BMW M vice president Dirk Hacker confirmed to Autocar that market demand for driver-focused cars will ensure the manual remains an option.

    “The M2 is tracking at 40-50% above our expectation in terms of sales, with almost half of buyers specifying a manual,” he told Autocar. “Demand for cars like the M2, which is probably our purest M product today, has surprised us, and that opens opportunities for building more extreme cars, in the vein of GTS and CSL heritage models.

    “Any car that has true heritage to motorsport is an opportunity for us. New markets are always opening for those cars and that will increase, so long as we keep building cars that are sufficiently special.”

    Sources suggest that the M2 CSL will arrive after the standard model’s facelift, which is due to go on sale next year. Instead, it is likely to go on sale 12 to 18 months later, as the M2 approaches runout.

    The choice of the CSL moniker is also relevant. It was first used on a homologation special version of the CS, the 3.0 CSL, in 1972. The L was added to designate the car's lighter weight. It suggests that the GTS name, which is currently in use on the M4, will be reserved for faster but potentially bulkier versions of larger, more powerful cars.

    The development of more enthusiast focused cars is believed to be being driven by increasing customer demand among traditional M car buyers; while M sales continue to grow significantly, much of the increased demand is coming from new markets or from widening the appeal of the cars with, for instance, broader dynamic capabilities.

    To this end, Hacker confirmed the M2 is likely to be the last M car offered with a manual gearbox, saying: “I like manual very much, but the take up rate from customers on cars other than the M2 is just going down. The fact is that a double clutch gearbox delivers better performance and efficiency.”

    However, he did hint that the next generation M3 and M4 may not have to follow the M5 in using a four-wheel-drive system. “We will increase the power of these cars, but we don’t want to increase the weight,” he said. “We’ll use four-wheel drive where we need it.”

    Hacker also ruled out ever making a front-wheel drive M car, saying: “You have to be able to feel the car with through the steering and the throttle. Today, there is no solution for front-wheel-drive.”

    Related stories: 

    BMW M2 CLS on the horizon 

    BMW M4 GTS review 

    BMW M2 review 

  • Volvo V90 long-term review Thursday 19th October 2017
    Volvo V90 The Volvo V90 is a big estate ploughing its own furrow. We’re about to see if it is refreshing or misguided

    Why we're running it: To discover if Volvo is still the master of the big estate car

    Month 1 - Month 2 Specs

    Life with a Volvo V90: Month 2

    Is the Volvo V90 a cliché? – 27 September 2017

    How many Volvo clichés can you cram into a short update?

    Ikea was ticked off, although the coat hangers I bought hardly troubled the boot. A round of golf, with two sets of clubs in the back.

    Small dogs enjoyed it en route to a walk, as did I on a weekend away by the coast.

    Result? Eight hundred of the most easy-going and relaxing miles I’ve covered in a long while. Mark Tisshaw

    Mileage: 5897

    Navigating the way to family holiday bliss – 01 September 2017

    You don’t have to spend long commuting in a car as commodious and comfortable as our Volvo V90 before a holiday with the family in rural South Wales starts to seem like a very fine idea.

    If you’re anything like me, it takes about a fortnight. (The commuting, that is. Two weeks in a Pembrokeshire chalet with my kids would feel like the Hundred Years’ War.)

    So off we went, the singularly obliging V90’s boot having swallowed bags, cases, toys, a pushchair, beach equipment and food for the week.

    Only when I unloaded it at the other end did I realise quite how much clobber had gone in.

    Still, there wasn’t quite enough room for everything in the 560-litre boot. As the pictures show, the kids sat out the 160-mile journey with a couple of items of their parents’ holiday entertainment cradled snugly under the armrest between them.

    I was also decidedly uncomfortable about having to stack a few things at window level in order to get them in – at which point I instantly regretted failing to order the V90 with some kind of load-bay partition. There’s one on the options list and, plainly, it would have been £300 well spent.

    But I also wonder if I’d have even needed such a thing in the Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate (640-litre boot) that we’ve recently added to our long-term test fleet, or in a Skoda Superb Estate (660 litres). The fact that the V90’s boot isn’t quite the largest on the market says plenty about where Volvo’s at these days: it would rather make a very handsome and desirable product that’s within touching distance of the class lead on practicality than obsess about making the very biggest.

    It’s a philosophy that has created a great car, but not exactly the car that some may have expected to find.

    One optional extra I didn’t regret having on the way to South Wales was the Volvo’s adaptively damped Four-C suspension with its self-levelling air-spring rear axle. It made the car ride and handle almost as if the 200kg of kids and stuff weighing down on its rear wheels wasn’t there at all. Heavily loaded, the V90’s torquey four-pot diesel engine still felt pretty assured, too, leaving plenty of grunt for easy motorway overtaking; although the automatic gearbox’s tendency to hesitate before easing the car into motion was somehow all the more evident.

    The holiday was one of the first occasions I’ve had to put a long, multi-legged route into the car’s navigation system – and it really impressed me. The screen’s mapping definition and detail aren’t outstanding, granted, but its usability really is.

    Regular destinations pop up instantly for reselection when you fire it up, and once your journey is programmed and the system is hooked up to the data connection on your phone, its performance gets even better.

    Moving the map around and zooming the scale are very easy using swipe and pinch inputs. That makes adapting a set route particularly easy – and I reckon that’s the mark of a really mature system, because who follows the sat-nav blindly without first checking it isn’t about to send you on a truly disastrous route?

    You want to buy into the process; approve what’s about to happen to you. And the V90’s system is designed for that. There’s a drop-down graphic to summarise your route inset on the map, via which you can instantly zoom to any given point. If you want to set a waypoint, you just find the point you want on the map and press and hold with your fingertip.

    And you get to filter the traffic disruptions you want to avoid from the ones you’re better off suffering in very simply on a list, rather than having it plot a new heading with every traffic update.

    I suspect I’ll be writing about the Sensus Connect infotainment again before we’re much older, because every time I delve deeper into its capabilities, I’m more taken with what it can do.

    Mileage: 3966

    Back to the top

    Life with a Volvo V90: Month 1

    Welcoming the Volvo V90 to our fleet – 09 August 2017

    Apparently, it makes me quite unlike most buyers of modern luxury and premium-branded cars, but I’m not the kind of driver who likes to configure his driving experience too much.

    Drive modes are all well and good while the novelty of your latest motor is still present and gleaming, but before too long, I reckon you just pick the one you like best and stick with it.

    Beyond that, my preference would always be simply to know that my new car is configured – for steering weight and ride tuning and pedal response and everything else that’s deemed fair game for ‘configuring’ these days – exactly as the experts who developed it think it works best.

    The Bentley Bentayga has a ‘Bentley’ driving mode for this very reason and, predictably, it’s the best of the lot.

    My rather lovely new Volvo V90 does not, regrettably, have a ‘Volvo’ driving mode – but, luckily enough, albeit in a broader sense, I know it’s a V90 as its maker would have it.

    And by ‘maker’, I mean Volvo senior vice president of design and 2017 Autocar Award winner Thomas Ingenlath.

    Maple Brown metallic paint, blond nappa leather, 20in alloy wheels and tinted rear glass: one of Ingenlath’s very favourite trim combinations for the big estate car, it turns out.

    Ingenlath, who has now taken up a new role as head of Volvo’s Polestar performance arm, wasn’t exactly a delivery driver. The man who led the design team responsible for the V90 happened to be in town to collect his Autocar Award and he was good enough to tell me what he liked about the car in this particular guise.

    “There aren’t many car brands who would even attempt a colour like this in the modern market,” he told me.

    “We are lucky that our customers don’t expect us to conform in quite the same ways as the German brands. I think the brown looks really great. It brings out the surface detail quite clearly but discreetly and the blond leather lightens the cabin and complements the walnut inlay well.”

    I certainly like the end result myself. The V90 may be the best-looking estate car on the road at the moment. I love its chiselled, angular surfaces; I love the ‘Thor’s hammer’ headlights and the L-shaped rear clusters; I love its full-sized proportions; and I particularly love the fact that it’s not another modern, curvy ‘shooting brake’ or ‘sport turismo’.

    Volvo’s designers were bold enough to keep the roof line long and straight, so you know exactly what you’re looking at the instant you lay eyes on the car – like it or lump it.

    Suffice it to say, I like it; whatever that may suggest about my age, my character, my politics or my stage of life.

     

     

    The Volvo brand’s image has changed a lot over the past decade or so, but old perceptions still linger and I’ve lost count of the number of friends (most of them well under 40, I should add) who’ve raised an eyebrow when told I’d be driving a V90 for a few months – and then checked if I was wearing suspiciously comfortable footwear.

    But that’s both a blessing and a curse for Volvo, because I think people are very pleasantly surprised when they see the car. Not enough to be excited by it, perhaps, but certainly intrigued.

    It intrigues me to find out just how much better this functional, pragmatic, comfortable and convenient modern Volvo can make my daily life, which could have been made for it.

    I am a father of two kids young enough to both still be in fairly bulky child seats and in need of a roomy second row. Those children often come with enough paraphernalia to fill a 560-litre boot without trying too hard. And I have a 106-mile each-way commute from home to the office, most of which is on busy motorway and so stands to be made much more tolerable by the kind of semi-autonomous lane keeping and adaptive cruise control functions that our test car has as standard.

    Volvo’s Drive Pilot Assist system will be getting a thorough workout over the coming months. Expect to read about it a fair bit.

    The opportunity to get to know Volvo’s Sensus Connect portrait-style 9.0in touchscreen infotainment system will also be welcome. I’m a critic of touchscreens because I don’t always find them easy to get on with at arm’s length in a moving vehicle. But I hope I’ll feel differently in three months’ time.

    I also hope the V90’s four-pot diesel engine will still seem satisfying enough for its £45k asking price – for which plenty of rivals would be available with a six-cylinder – when this exercise is over.

    As for driver appeal, I have realistic hopes. Having group tested the S90 last year and road tested the V90 earlier this year, I know there are more engaging rivals – and I can’t imagine too many V90 buyers will much care.

    As I see it, the Volvo should earn its place with competent handling but moreover with distinguishing refinement, comfort, high-speed stability and ease of use. That’s what I’ll be looking for from it – and if I don’t get any of it, expect to read a fair bit about that as well.

    Second opinion

    The big, glitzy wheels feel rather like diamond earrings on a tree surgeon.

    I say that because the V90’s size and sheer Volvo-ness make it a terrific flytrap for neglected household chores. Consequently, my weekend was spent showing it off to no-one save for staff at the local tip.

    Nic Cackett 

    Volvo V90 D5 PowerPulse Inscription AWD specification

    Specs: Price New £45,615; Price as tested £58,865; Options Xenium Pack – includes sunroof, 360-degree cameras, Park Assist Pilot (£1750), Intellisafe Surround Pack (£600), Winter Pack – includes heated steering wheel and washer nozzles, headlight cleaning system (£525), smartphone integration (£300), Sensus Connect infotainment with Bowers & Wilkins audio (£3000), Volvo OnCall (£550), CD player (£100), four-zone climate control with cooled glovebox (£550), head-up display (£1000), dark tinted windows (£400), keyless drive with hands-free tailgate (£575), Active Four-C adaptive suspension (£1500), 20in alloy wheels (£1700), metallic paint (£700)

    Test Data: Engine 1969cc, turbocharged diesel; Power 228bhp at 4000rpm; Torque 354lb ft at 1750-2250rpm; Top speed 145mph; 0-62mph 7.2sec; Claimed fuel economy 57.6mpg; Test fuel economy 39.6mpg; CO2 129g/km; Faults None; Expenses None

    Back to the top

  • Throwback Thursday 1989: the switchover to unleaded petrol Thursday 19th October 2017
    Throwback Thursday 1989: the switchover to unleaded petrol Three decades ago, concerns about the shocking effects of lead upon public health prompted a rethink about the type of fuel we used to power our cars

    “Unleaded fuel is now an inevitability – sooner or later, we will all be filling our cars with it,” Autocar wrote in its 11 January 1989 issue.

    “For environmentalists – indeed, anyone even mildly green-conscious – the widespread use of unleaded cannot come enough.”

    Petrol infused with Tetraethyllead was introduced in the early 1920s, having been found to reduce engine knocking. “It’s a convenient way of preventing pre-ignition,” our article explained, “or pinking – the metallic rattling sound from the engine when it is under load in a high gear. Pre-ignition doesn’t just sound nasty – if allowed to continue, it will burn out the pistons. Lead, too, has advantages; it lubricates the moving part of the upper cylinder.

    "Leaded petrol reached a peak during the war, when the fighter aircraft engines needed maximum power and efficiency. Levels stayed high throughout the 1950s and 1960s, and lead’s importance increased with the growth in high-compression engines.”

    By the start of the 1970s, the standard level stood at 0.84g per litre of petrol, steadily coming down to 0.40g/l by 1986, when a change in the law slashed it to 0.15g/l. Unleaded petrol is allowed to contain up to 0.013g/l.

    “Lead is an extremely nasty pollutant – it can cause brain damage, particularly in children,” we said back in 1989, when the UK was pumping 3000 tonnes of the stuff into the atmosphere annually.

    Indeed, studies had proven that raised lead levels in children's blood had a direct link with brain damage, hypertension and learning disorders and that children who lived near motorways and town centres had a far higher likelihood of developing these illnesses.

    A 1985 study in the US estimated that leaded petrol caused one million cases of hypertension per year and more than 5000 deaths from heart attacks, strokes, and other diseases related to blood pressure – and that was just for men aged between 40 and 59.

    Something had to change, and fast.

    Japan was the first country to introduce unleaded petrol in April 1972, and to ban leaded petrol, in 1986. In June of that year, unleaded petrol went on sale in the UK, and by 1988, it was available in 11% of filling stations. The first car to go on sale in the UK with an unleaded-only diet was the Toyota Celica GT-Four in 1987.

    Meanwhile, the EU’s predecessor, the EEC, set new legislation for car emissions to make catalytic converters – which allowed engines to run only on unleaded – effectively essential by October 1993. This became known as the Euro 1 standard.

    In the face of this new unleaded petrol, motorists were naturally worried – after all, lead was there for a reason.

    “Around two-thirds of the 22 million cars and light commercial vehicles can accept unleaded fuel, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders,” we explained at the time.

    “There are, however, engines which simply cannot run on unleaded fuel. These are mostly older designs, with inlet and exhaust valves directed on a cast-iron cylinder head – and the lead is needed to lubricate the valves and valve-seats. Without it, they would deteriorate through corrosion and burning. To a lesser extent, very high-compression, highly tuned engines can’t be easily weaned of leaded fuel, either.

    “In addition, there are power units that need modification in order to run on unleaded. A franchised dealer will tell you whether your car can be converted economically – or refer to the relevant Department of Transport booklet or a chart produced by CLEAR (the Campaign for Lead-Free Air).

    “All that needs to be done is for the ignition timing to be retarded by a few degrees, thus causing combustion to occur fractionally earlier. Most dealers will charge £10-£20. On the other hand, dealers of prestige makes might charge up to £80 for turning an ignition chip around.

    “Catalyst power units, though, are a different matter; these cannot accept leaded fuel under any circumstances, and damage will result unless unleaded is used."

    So, how easy would the switchover be?

    Autocar explained: “After what must be regarded as a period of complacency, a lot of Rover Group cars cannot take unleaded – among them all Metros bar the 1.3GS, about half the Montego range, and all Maestros and Rover 216s. However, current valve-seat development will ensure that all models built after this spring will be able to accept it, with the exception of the MG Metro Turbo and Maestro Turbo.

    “Virtually all existing Fords can run on unleaded but, apart from the new 1.8-litre Sierra, they will need to be adjusted. Just the Escort RS Turbo will require leaded.

    “The V12 cars will soon be factory-set for unleaded; fortunately for Land Rover, the Range Rover’s all-aluminium V8 needs no re-engineering before it can be retimed for unleaded.”

    Catalytic converters are universal now, but they were almost unknown to the British public in 1989.

    “Contrary to widely held opinion, an engine tuned to run on unleaded fuel and an engine with a catalyst are not the same. Have your car retuned to use unleaded, and it won’t pump lead into the atmosphere, but it will continue to emit carbon monoxide, unburned petrol hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides (NOx) – all poisonous. These gases produce smog and contribute significantly to the acid rain that is having such a dire effect on European forests. A catalyst engine, in contrast, produces an exhaust that’s free of these pollutants.

    “When pioneered by the Americans in the late 1960s, catalysts were downright crude – and proved inefficient, lacking in power and thirsty. However, much has happened to them since. Today, ‘clean’ engines are much more efficient. Virtually all catalyst Porsche models have identical power to their non-catalyst counterparts.

    “The modern catalyst is a stainless-steel box measuring about 12inx9in and containing a mineral combination over which the exhaust gases pass. Although compacted, the metals actually have a surface area as big as a football pitch. And the chemical reaction to the minerals reduces the gases to harmless CO2 and water vapour.

    “Because lead pollutes the minerals, just one tankful of leaded petrol would be enough to wreck a catalyst. With unleaded fuel, the normal life is thought to be around 50,000 miles. A catalyst for a small-engined car adds £200-plus to the asking price.”

    So, how quick was the UK to take up unleaded?

    Well, despite its growing prominence, in 1988 the fuel type took just 0.4% of sales. So the Government introduced a tax structure that ensured unleaded petrol would always be cheaper than leaded, with the difference beginning at around 6p per gallon.

    “The oil industry has invested something like £400 million in making unleaded petrol available,” said Ian Berwick, director general of the UK Petroleum Industry Association, back in 1989. “So it’s disappointing that sales are increasing so slowly. They reached almost 2% last November, but that’s still low."

    A spokeswoman for CLEAR said: “We’d give the Government about four out of 10 for effort. It’s just not selling the public a desire for a better environment by using the obvious means – TV advertising. It should be doing for unleaded what it did for seatbelts.

    “Car manufacturers have been lead-footed, if you’ll excuse the pun. They’ve had enough warning about unleaded fuel being made mandatory. Instead, they’ve tried to extend the life of existing engines.”

    Autocar concluded thus: “At present, you’ll probably end up losing very slightly on running costs with unleaded fuel. It’s a little cheaper, though this saving will be offset by the cost of re-tuning. But what price a clear conscience and, with it, a clearer atmosphere? The decision is yours.”

    Thankfully, we chose correctly – a CLEAR survey in the early 1990s found that 90% of people would be prepared to pay more for lead-free fuel and were extremely reluctant to use leaded. 

    Leaded petrol was finally banned under EU law in 2000. Lead Replacement Petrol was introduced, but was withdrawn three years later, when it was taking less than 3% of petrol sales; today, bottled lead replacement additive can be bought for classic cars.

  • Autocar magazine 18 October - out now Thursday 19th October 2017
    Autocar magazine 18 October - out now This week: BMW X3 driven, Volvo’s Aston Martin rival, T-Roc, 6 Series GT review and Seat Arona driven and much more

    We’ve got some rather huge drives for you this week in Autocar, most notably our cover star, the BMW X3. It’s got competition flying in from all angles, so can it climb to the top of the pile? 

    Sticking to the SUV theme are the Volkswagen T-Roc and Seat Arona, but if an SUV isn’t your cup of tea, we’ve also driven the BMW 6 Series GT, and have a full road test of the Lexus LC

    There’s a showdown between the Honda Civic Type R and the original NSX in a clash of the Type R brand's greats on its 25th birthday, and we've got big news of a new Leon-sized full EV from Seat

    Also in this issue

     

    We’ve taken a Dacia Sandero all the way to Africa, and have two special features on 1000mph cars - one from the ‘official’ Bloodhound land speed record attempt, the other executed on a shoestring. 

    Fancy a bit of fun? We’ve rounded up the best hot hatches you can get for £2000 or less. Gird your wallet.

    At the other end of the scale, Lotus has just released the Evora GT430 - a £112,000, harder, faster, lighter version of the Evora. And we’ve had a go in it. 

    Our cars

    It’s a big one - in every sense of the word: the Land Rover Discovery has landed in our long-term fleet. Time to say hello. 

    We see if seven in a Skoda is a squeeze or a breeze, and the Mercedes-Benz E220d estate gets compared to Don Bradman.

    Deals

    Fancy driving something nobody else you know will have? James Ruppert takes you through how to get a lot of obscure car for little money. 

    Our used buying guide covers a rather special Nissan - the 300ZX

    Where to buy

    Never miss an issue – subscribe to Autocar magazine today.

    Autocar magazine is available through all good newsagents. You can also buy one-off copies of Autocar magazine from Newsstand, delivered to your door the morning after.

    Digital copies can be downloaded from Zinio and the Apple iTunes store.

  • Kia Stonic 1.0 T-GDI 2 2017 UK review Wednesday 18th October 2017
    Kia Stonic Handsome entrant into the bulging small crossover market has a strong engine and agile handling, but isn’t as comfortable or complete as rivals The Kia Stonic is a supermini-sized crossover here for the general delectation of a European car-buying public currently preoccupied with both compact SUVs and downsizing – and therefore arguably doubly ready to embrace it.Perhaps we should call it another supermini-sized crossover. This segment is expected to double in size from its 2016 level by 2020, and that’s why we’re seeing all-new models from Hyundai, Citroën, Seat and MG pile into it all of a sudden in addition to Kia. All of them are offering cars alongside the likes of the Renault Captur, Peugeot 2008, Nissan Juke, Mazda CX-3, Vauxhall Crossland X and Fiat 500X that are already on sale. The water in the shallow end of the junior soft-roader market’s swimming pool is evidently rather lovely at present. You wonder, frankly, how many more paddlers it can take.Sharing its platform with Kia’s Rio supermini, the Stonic has the same wheelbase as the Rio but it’s slightly wider and longer in the rear overhang, as well as having a slightly “jacked-up” ride height and an even higher-rising roofline. Still, the most meaningful differences between this car and a typical supermini are quite slight: 42mm on ground clearance and 70mm on overall height. A Dacia Sandero Stepway enjoys almost the same advantage over a regular Sandero in terms of ride height, while a bog-standard, dead-ordinary Nissan Pulsar family five-door is precisely as tall overall.Since there’s no option of four-wheel drive in the Stonic either and no engine more powerful than the 118bhp 1.0-litre turbo three-pot of our test vehicle, this is a car that plainly wears its SUV garb quite loosely. But that’s increasingly common in cars of this class. Customers shopping for a ‘B-segment SUV’, we are told, aren’t necessarily after ruggedness or capability, but are looking instead for a ‘right-sized’ hatchback – having ruled out a Golf-sized conventional five-door as more car than they need. They want the convenience of a fairly high driver seat, and the improved visibility that grants, as well as a good-sized boot – in a package that’s still lighter and more economical than the average family hatchback. They also like the alternative design appeal of the modern crossover; or at least, they like the idea of not owning another ordinary five-door family hatchback exactly like their last car.
  • Volkswagen to enter Pikes Peak with electric prototype Wednesday 18th October 2017
    Volkswagen to make motorsport return with electric prototype German brand set to make motorsport comeback with all-electric assault on hillclimb

    Volkswagen is gearing up for a return to motorsport at the Pikes Peak International Hillclimb with an all-electric prototype competition car.

    The German brand has released a series of teaser images showing the car’s dome-like roofline and large, fixed rear wing, suggesting it will be a bespoke racing machine rather than being based on a road model. This has been followed by a number of tweets looking at Volkswagen's Pikes Peak history, labelled '#UnfinishedBusiness.' 

    The Pikes Peak Hillclimb is an annual event that takes place on the 12.42-mile, 156-turn road that runs up the Colorado mountain. The course features 5720ft of elevation, averaging a 7.2% gradient, and finishes at the 14,110ft mountain summit.

    The outright course record is 8min 13.878secs, set by Sebastien Loeb in a Peugeot 208 T16 Pikes Peak special in 2013. That car featured much of the running gear of the Peugeot 908 Le Mans sports car fitted into the shell of a rally car.

    The event is well suited to electric cars because its relatively short distance removes any battery life issues and, unlike regular engines, electric cars don't suffer a drop in performance in the reduced atmosphere at high elevation. Rhys Millen won the event outright in an electric e0 PP03 machine in 2015, and set the current hill record for electric cars when he finished second overall a year later, completing the climb in 8min 57.118secs. Frenchman Roman Dumas, driving a Honda-powered Norma M20 RD Limited, has won the event for the last two years.

    The teaser images released by Volkswagen show no intakes or grilles visible, hinting the car is likely to be electrically powered. This would certainly align with the Volkswagen Group’s latest motorsport movements, in which it has ramped up its investment in electric technology.

    Alongside its push for electric in its road car division, group brands Audi and Porsche have both ceased their investment in the World Endurance Championship (WEC). The former upped its concentration on Formula E with a factory outfit this year, while the latter is due to enter the electric series from 2019.

    Volkswagen departed the World Rally Championship (WRC) at the end of last year, leaving its motorsport arm without an entry in top-level motorsport.

    Volkswagen’s increasingly electric focus comes after the brand’s image was left in tatters following the Dieselgate emissions cheating scandal. The brand has since shifted its resources to green technologies, with its ID hatchback, scheduled for launch in 2020, to be its first purpose-built electric model.

  • BTCC to host special 60-mile race at Snetterton in 2018 Wednesday 18th October 2017
    Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship will celebrate its 60th anniversary with extended double-points event at Norfolk track

    The Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) will mark its 60th anniversary with a special double-length race at Snetterton next summer.

    The third race at the Norfolk circuit on Sunday 29 July will be an extended 60-mile contest, with all cars competing without any success ballast and with double championship points on offer.

    There will be a separate qualifying session on Saturday 28 July for this showpiece race, with all cars qualifying at their base weights. Qualifying for the other two races will take place separately, with success ballast applied to frontrunning competitors as normal.

    The BTCC traditionally uses Snetterton’s 2.9689-mile ‘300’ circuit layout, so a 60-mile event would comprise approximately 20 laps, in contrast to the 12-lap contests that were scheduled at this year’s visit to the track.

    The 2018 season will still comprise 30 races across ten weekends, with all other races following the regular format, as per recent seasons.

    Snetterton – also well known for the BTCC night race in the 1990s and 2000s – has long been a staple of the summer calendar for race fans.

    Alan Gow, BTCC series director, said: “We are delighted to confirm this special extended race as part of the BTCC’s diamond jubilee celebrations. There will also be a number of additional activitiesthroughout 2018 to celebrate our 60th anniversary, to be revealed over the next few months.

    “We believe this 60-mile race, roughly double the distance of a normal BTCC encounter, will add a further sporting twist to what will be a fantastic and memorable season. I am sure our loyal teams, drivers, venues, officials, sponsors, partners, marshals and of course fans will share in this excitement, making the Snetterton race weekend an unmissable event in 2018.”

    The BTCC - originally known as the British Saloon Car Championship – began in 1958. The inaugural title was won by Jack Sears in an Austin A105.

    Snetterton, a former RAF airfield, was visited by BSCC competitors in the first season, albeit for a non-championship event held on a different circuit layout.

     

  • Hyundai Kona 1.0 T-GDi Premium SE 2017 review Wednesday 18th October 2017
    Hyundai Kona Hyundai's funky-looking Kona crossover with a peppy three-cylinder engine makes all the right noises for the car to be a success in a crowded segment Hyundai’s compact crossover – which has been a significant absentee from the brand's range – will now provide a direct alternative to the Vauxhall Mokka X, Renault Captur, Nissan Juke and plenty of other rivals in this fast-populating segment, not least the Stonic from sister brand Kia.It rides on all-new platform architecture – unlike the Rio-based Stonic, curiously – provisioned for a full-time four-wheel-drive option and the underfloor space to accommodate a sizeable battery pack for an electric version. That motive force arrives next year, along with two brand new diesel units of 116bhp and 134bhp. The engine line-up for now runs to a 118bhp 1.0 turbo triple and a four-cylinder 175bhp 1.6 turbo, both petrol.The 1.0 litre will account for the bulk of UK sales and comes with a six-speed manual gearbox driving the front wheels. The 1.6 is limited to the higher trim levels and can be ordered with on-demand four-wheel drive, complete with differential lock and electronic hill-descent control; the 4x4 version comes with a seven-speed dual clutch automatic. This all-wheel-drive Kona also has a multi-link rear axle, the 1.0’s rear end suspended by a coil-sprung torsion-beam axle.Electronics and connectivity feature heavily on the Kona menu. There are 5.0in, 7.0in and 8.0in infotainment displays according to trim level, the base option including Bluetooth. The larger touchscreens provide a reversing camera, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, while the 8in one has navigation and seven years' free subscription to real-time traffic, weather and speed camera location updates.Other features include head-up display and LED headlight options, a Krell sound system, an inductive charge phone pad and two levels of electronic safety systems that include forward collision assist with pedestrian protection, lane-keeping assist, blindspot monitoring, rear cross-traffic assist and so on.More immediately obvious than these features is a colour palette far brighter than Hyundai’s usual offering, these shades set off by a contrast colour roof. Inside, the upholstery stitching and various decor elements complement the exterior hue, with this theme optionally – and a little startlingly – extending to the seatbelts.
  • McLaren P15 confirmed as the brand's most extreme supercar yet Wednesday 18th October 2017
    The P15 should weigh 250kg less than the P1
    Stripped-out, lightweight, track-focused Ultimate Series model due next summer

    McLaren has confirmed that it will launch its most extreme, track-focused road car yet next year.

    Referred to internally as the P15, the forthcoming Ultimate Series model, scooped by Autocar earlier this year, is being developed with a hard focus on track driving – so much so that the Woking-based manufacturer admits that it will sacrifice daily usability in order to maximise performance. 

    McLaren hyper-GT three-seat development mule

    The two-seater is due to make its public debut at the Geneva motor show in March, sporting what McLaren calls a “brutal” design representing the “purest expression” of its form-follows-function styling. 

    Autocar understands the 675LT development car that has been spotted testing at the Nürburgring in recent weeks is a mule for the P15, offering insight into the advanced aerodynamic layout of the final production car.

    The mule’s bodywork features large intakes on the nose that are designed to channel air out of openings on the bonnet and direct it around the car’s windscreen. Such a system will be employed by the P15, meaning it ditches a front boot in favour of aerodynamic efficiency. The mule also wears a large rear wing, held in place by two centrally mounted swan neck arms. A source revealed that the mounting arms will be fixed so the wing can’t fold away into the rear deck, but it was suggested that the wing itself could rotate in a similar way to the drag reduction system fitted to Formula 1 cars. 

    It is understood that the P15 will forgo a hybrid drivetrain, as used by the P1, for a lighter, combustion engine-only set- up. The engine will be based on the M840T turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 used by the 720S but will feature upgraded internals and a bespoke turbocharger set-up to boost power far beyond the 710bhp offered by the 720S Super Series model. A mooted figure of around 789bhp would give the P15’s V8 a 62bhp advantage over the 3.8-litre combustion engine featured in the hybrid P1’s drivetrain. 

    The P15 will be built around McLaren’s Monocage II one-piece carbonfibre tub and is set to be the company’s most pared-back road model to date. It will have a race-inspired interior with seats adapted from motorsport and little in the way of passenger comforts. The P15 is expected to weigh less than 1300kg – considerably lighter than the 1547kg P1 and enough to ensure that its power-to-weight ratio will eclipse that model’s figure of 647bhp per tonne. 

    McLaren is expected to produce 500 examples of the P15, each of which has already been allocated for a price of around £840,000 in the UK. 

    Customers will be invited to a private showing of the car before the end of this year. The name will also be confirmed in 2017. First deliveries are due in the summer of next year, close to when the next Ultimate Series model, the three-seater codenamed BP23, is due to be revealed.

    Related content: 

    McLaren P1 review

    McLaren 720S review 

    McLaren hyper-GT three-seat development mule

  • 2017 Tokyo motor show - preview Wednesday 18th October 2017
    2017 Tokyo motor show - preview The biennial Tokyo motor show opens its doors on 27 October; latest additions - Toyota Fine Comfort Ride concept, Mitsubishi Electric Emirai 4

    The Tokyo motor show is regarded as one of the most diverse in the industry, encompassing the best of Japan’s native car makers as well as its idiosyncratic car culture, with wild tuning cars, boxy kei cars and more. 

    This is the year of the 45th Tokyo motor show, and the closer we get to the show, the more confirmed entries there are. Keep an eye out for new announcements as they hit the press. 

    2017 Tokyo motor show - the cars:

    Daihatsu DN range

    Daihatsu will present no fewer than five cars at the Tokyo motor show, including a dinky four-door coupé, the DN Compagno, small SUV, the DN Trec, larger, three-row SUV in the DN Multisix, 660cc, petrol-powered U-Space, and the DN Pro Cargo concept, which is powered by electric, and is claimed to be a versatile load-lugger, suitable for a variety of uses, from wheelchair-accessible vehicle, to small mobile cafe. 

    Honda Sports EV

    Honda's doing a Volkswagen with its electric concepts, and is revealing the Sports EV - closely related to the Frankfurt show-stealing Urban EV a few weeks ago - in Tokyo. It's another virginal white concept, with retro styling cues carried over from its Urban EV sibling. Unlike the Urban EV, Honda hasn't announced a production date for the Sports EV...

    Honda Urban EV

    ...although the Urban EV is being wheeled out at Tokyo for a second bite of the motor show cherry.

    Lexus concept

    Alongside its other models, including the new LS, Lexus will showcase a new concept car at the Tokyo motor show, which the brand is keeping tight-lipped about until the show's doors open to the press on 25 October. Lexus' last concept was the UX, revealed at the Paris motor show in 2016. Given the current electric, autonomous and SUV trends, it's likely that the concept will be an electric, autonomous SUV. 

    Lexus RX

    Lexus is tipped to bring seven-seat versions of units RX SUV to Tokyo, named the RX 350L and RX 450hL. The three-row SUV will act as a rival to the Range Rover and upcoming BMW X7, with the same engine range as the standard five-seat RX. 

    Mazda 'design vision model' 

    Neither of Mazda's concepts yet have names, but the design vision model, as Mazda describes it, shows the brand's future styling direction, continuing its 'Kodo' design language, on a dramatic, four-door coupé. It follows the similarly rakish RX Vision concept of the last Tokyo motor show in 2015. 

    Mazda 'product concept'

    The product concept, despite not being pinned to previewing any specific model, is an unmistakable signpost as to what to expect from the next 3. It's a five-door hatchback, powered by Mazda's cutting-edge Skyactiv-X compression ignition technology, and styling draws inspiration from the new CX-5

    Mitsubishi e-Evolution

    Mitsubishi is reviving the Evolution name on an unfamiliar car; instead of a rally-honed sports saloon, the e-Evolution is a low-riding coupé-SUV, with electric four-wheel drive and advanced autonomous systems. It’s not yet confirmed for production, but Mitsubishi says the car would be its flagship should it hit the roads.

    Mitsubishi Electric Emirai 4

    Odd one, this one; it's not Mitsubishi as we know it, but the brand's electrics and tech subsidiary, Mitsubishi Electric. The car might not make production as-is, rather being a test and display bed for human machine interface tech shown inside. 

    Nissan electric SUV

    The Nissan Leaf has been the Japanese car maker’s sole electric vehicle since launch, but now the second-generation EV has arrived, Nissan is planning to broaden its electric-powered range with an SUV. Although Nissan revealed the Terra electric SUV concept back in 2012, Nissan says that this is not the car for Tokyo this year. 

    Nissan Leaf Nismo concept

    Nissan will continue its EV assault with a concept to preview the upcoming Nissan Leaf Nismo - a racier version of the best-selling EV - which it's bringing to the Tokyo show later in the month. 

    Subaru Viziv Performance concept

    Subaru’s Tokyo-bound concept is an aggressive, box-arched performance saloon, with the angular face of the Impreza up front and a ducktail spoiler at the rear. Subaru hasn’t yet revealed any details of the car, so look out on show day for full specs. 

    Suzuki e-Survivor concept

    And now for something completely different. Alongside the new Jimny, Suzuki will also show its e-Survivor concept, designed to be the future of the small off-roader. It has an electric motor for each wheel, huge ground clearance, two seats, an open roof and considerable off-road potential. 

    Toyota Fine-Comfort Ride concept

    Bet you can't guess what this is being pitched against - Toyota's going outlandish, with its Fine-Comfort Ride concept, which is said to propose "a new form of the premium saloon in a low-carbon society". You guessed it - the Mercedes-Benz S-Class is in its sights, with a wheelbase 30cm longer than Mercedes' saloon, and a focus upon comfort inside.

    Toyota GR HV Sports concept

    If Toyota made all the sports cars which it produced concepts for, it'd be a very sports car-heavy brand. The GR HV is a hybrid sports car based on the GT86, with rear-wheel drive, and a bizarre automatic gearbox, with manual gear lever. 

    Toyota TJ Cruiser concept

    Alongside the GR HV Sports in Tokyo will be a Tj Cruiser concept (pictured above). This hybrid model hints at the brand’s future SUV design direction with retro styling, chunky dimensions and a modular interior.

    Toyota Crown concept

    Not one for us; a Toyota Crown concept will also be on show, offering a glimpse of the next-generation Japan-focused model with Internet of Things connectivity, as well as the next-generation Century, another domestic market offering.

    Toyota Century

    Range-toppers don't get much more different than this - Toyota will also bring its next-generation Century - a luxurious rival to the Mercedes-Benz S-Class to the show. It's got a V12 under the bonnet, and styling straight out of a graphic novel.

     

     

  • Life with a 1974 Lancia Fulvia 3 1.3S: driving this classic back from Italy Wednesday 18th October 2017
    1974 Lancia Fulvia 3 1.3S We travel to Naples to buy a pale blue classic Italian coupé and then drive it from the Netherlands to home in Edinburgh

    I’d been pining after a classic, underpowered Italian coupé for some time.

    But prices for decent UK cars were steadily rising out of reach, so I looked towards the Continent for more choice and better value, both being more important to me than right-hand drive. Yet even across the sea, prices for good Lancia Beta Volumexes (yes, some do exist), Alfa Romeo 105/115-series coupés and even tidy Alfa Romeo Alfasud Sprints were becoming unreasonable. But then an extremely handsome, pale blue Lancia Fulvia Coupé appeared in the classifieds, listed for sale not far from Naples. It was pictured glowing in the bright South Italian sunlight, framed by green grass and mountains – an exotic scene guaranteed to hypnotise a northern European enduring another watery September.

    This model was a 1974 3 1.3S – so one of the later cars – and priced a little over budget, but still very reasonably for what looked like a smart example. I’d always fancied a Fulvia Coupé for its looks, engineering, interesting V4 engine and racing pedigree (it was rallying’s final front-wheel-drive world-beater), but had assumed good ones were too rare and too expensive. Desperate to be proved wrong, I made contact with the seller, a young-ish man named Cesare, via an Italian-speaking friend. Cesare didn’t speak English, and my single term of Italian at university didn’t cover the ins and outs of buying a second-hand car, so we proceeded by text message in Italian with Google Translate doing the heavy lifting.

    Cesare sent snaps of documents old and new, including certification by Automotoclub Storico Italiano, the arbiter of classic car provenance in Italy. With some questions answered and a video tour of the car, a price was agreed subject to the Fulvia being as described and me taking a test drive. A few days later, I was on a plane.

    I once travelled on a rattling Cross Country train to buy a filthy Ford Puma from what might once have been a slaughterhouse, just outside Blackburn. This trip wasn’t like that. A patchy flight schedule between home in Edinburgh and Naples left a couple of spare days before seeing the car, but the Amalfi Coast makes for an agreeable waiting room. Sights were seen, pizza and seafood eaten and la dolce vita generally lived. If the beauty and style of the locals hadn’t made me feel like a gammy crow crashing a fancy pigeon parade, I might just have stayed.

    The big day dawned – or at least tried to, as a Biblical thunderstorm descended first thing and stayed all day. This wasn’t the near-invisible British rain that stealthily saturates you over several minutes, but the huge, grape-like Mediterranean rain that instantly soaks and then leaves you warm but mildly concussed.

    We pressed inland regardless, driving about an hour east of Salerno. The rain kept coming, and so did the red flags. Cesare had already specified that he would accept cash only, and now rather than giving us an address, he wanted to meet on a motorway sliproad from where we’d drive in convoy to meet the Fulvia. With little choice, we agreed. Soon, an old green Volkswagen Bora waiting by the Autostrada pulled out and led us up hills and along lanes until we reached a secluded farmhouse.

    We needn’t have worried – Cesare greeted us warmly, as did his father and an Italian-American relative of theirs, Gerry, who had been drafted in for translation duties. Gerry was a Chicagoan with a vintage accent and a sturdy yet cheery disposition that could have seen him deposited here as the Allies swept north in 1944.

    The Fulvia was there, gleaming in the open garage between a Ferrari 208 GT4 and a Fiat Nuova 500 L, while a well-used Fiat Panda 4x4 Sisley and an Alfa Romeo Giulia Nuova Super project car sat across the courtyard. Evidently, these people were kindred spirits.

    The Lancia’s Agnano Blue paintwork had been replenished 12 years earlier and was holding up very well, while the cream leather upholstery was tidy in the front and pristine in the back. The hazy instrument glasses would be easy enough to replace, while the wood-effect dashboard and some headliner tidying would be more involved. All common enough issues in old Fulvias, though, and none serious.

    We scoured the bodywork for rust or repairs – outside, inside and underneath – and found no trace of either. The repaint had been exacting, while the underseal was ancient but seemed to have done its job. Despite the continuing downpour, a test drive threw up no surprises, either, so with smiles all-round, hands were shaken. The formalities could wait, though: we were ushered inside, where Cesare’s mum had laid on food, espresso and home-made limoncello, and we ate, drank and talked cars some more. It was an occasion more than a transaction – if only all used car purchases were so.

    Quite sensibly, transfers of car ownership in Italy take place at privately run local agencies for the equivalent of the DVLA. Various fees were charged in the process, prompting Gerry to momentarily channel Jackie Mason: “They tax everything over here, you know – hey, you wanna make love, they tax you!” Perhaps an explanation at last for Italy’s enormous tax gap.

    The agent counted my cash before passing it on, a receipt was issued and new ownership documents raised. Cesare’s sister nipped in to say goodbye to the car and his father made me promise to look after it. That much I could do.

    The original plan had been to drive the Fulvia home, but time constraints and logistical hurdles had made that untenable. As luck would have it, a large car-transportation company was located nearby, and we agreed a price to move the car to IJmuiden port near Amsterdam, where I would collect it in a few weeks. We left the Fulvia’s keys with the transporters, Gerry said his farewells then confidently strode off and got into the wrong car, and after a couple of sodden snaps with me next to the Lancia, Cesare gave it a final, loving tap and all was done.

    After what felt like three weeks’ worth of Christmas Eves, the transporter driver called to say he’d be delivering the car the following day. Following a last-minute flight from Glasgow to Amsterdam (the novelty of booking a one-way ticket endures as one of the great joys of buying a used car), I found myself in the surprisingly plush Hotel Augusta in IJmuiden, yards from the DFDS ferry terminal for Newcastle. The transporter eventually arrived at 2am, and in the thick, dark haar, my little Fulvia was unloaded and parked up under the hotel’s glowing canopy. It was all very surreal – had Carlos the Jackal appeared from the shadows, he wouldn’t have seemed out of place.

    The Newcastle ferry was fully booked for three days, but an early-morning call to DFDS blessedly turned up a last-minute cancellation on the 478-cabin Princess Seaways for that afternoon. I then spent a while with the hotel’s owners, who’d taken an interest in the Lancia and showed me their own eclectic collection of motors: a Nuova 500, Triumph TR4, Toyota FJ Cruiser, US-spec Volvo 244 GL saloon and an evocative, coachbuilt Beardmore taxi.

    The Fulvia was running fine, but a temperamental lock left my passport stranded in the boot as the columns of cars slid past me and onto the ferry. There’s a knack, of course, as I inevitably discovered, but I’d have preferred that discovery to have been made more quickly and in less fraught circumstances.

    The ferry was a revelation to me – a large, comfortable hotel in which you lay your head down in one country and wake up in another, and your car comes, too. Obvious, perhaps, but experiencing such as easy link between northern Britain and continental Europe has led to the plotting of future trips already.

    The morning arrival in Newcastle brought sunshine and a chance, at last, to drive the Fulvia properly. First, to Tynemouth for breakfast by the sea, then inland, across the border at Carter Bar and a stop-off in my hometown of Hawick on the way to Edinburgh. It’s a great route in even the dreariest of cars, so I’d been looking forward to it.

    The Fulvia behaved impeccably. I knew of the intense engineering in these cars and the mechanical quality that made them so expensive when new – the car duly delivered and I was hammering along the back roads in no time. The gearing is very short and you’re in fifth before you know it, but with 1298cc making just 90.7 metric horsepower at 6000rpm, I’ve no complaints about that. The 13deg V4 is loud and perhaps not running as sweetly as it should, but the timing and twin Solex carburettors will be seen to in due course. In the meantime, throttle response is still good and drivetrain vibration limited. The long-throw, dogleg gearbox is sweet and the all-round disc brakes almost shockingly effective for such an old car.

    Once on the move, the unassisted steering is fingertip-light; you guide the Fulvia through corners with the same delicacy and restraint as you would a period Lotus Elan. Unsurprisingly, the 84lb ft being channelled to the front wheels doesn’t trouble steering purity, either. The 15in Melber alloys look great, but their tyres have some age-related cracks and their extra width means the arches rub during compressions with two aboard, so I might revert to the painted steel 14-inches that also came as part of the deal and put some new rubber on them. As far as I pushed the elderly tyres, though, cornering grip was good. And there’s a happy combination of body control and ride comfort on offer, despite the incongruously old-hat leaf springs and live rear axle – the car weighs just 970kg unladen, after all.

    I dare say a chastised Renault Kangoo could be driven almost as quickly, but the rally-bred Fulvia was designed for these helter-skelter back roads and comes alive here. It’s willing where many modern cars would be either passive or reluctant, and its noise, controls and all-round mechanical transparency fully occupy your senses where others would isolate them.

    I reached home in Edinburgh in fading light, and after a continent's worth of grime was removed with a wash, the Fulvia was back to its elegant best before being put away. The likes of thee and me are lucky to find delight in cars, and I count myself even luckier to have found this one. I hope the ownership proves as much fun as the purchase.

    Next up is a trip to former Fulvia rallyist and renowned Lancia-whisperer Neil Jeffrey at Car Craft in Broxburn to prepare the car for its first MOT and for a tutorial in tuning a single-head, narrow-angle V4.

    More content:

  • LEVC TX London black cab now testing on the capital's roads Wednesday 18th October 2017
    LEVC TX London black cab now testing on capital's roads Up to 90% of buyers expected to opt for £177 per week finance deal; range-extender black cab is capable of zero-emissions driving

    The LEVC TX, a taxi capable of zero-emissions driving, is now being tested on the capital's roads where a final validation of its setup will be made.

    The model is already available for order, priced from £55,599. First deliveries are due before the end of the year.

    LEVC, the Geely-owned firm formerly known as the London Taxi Company, is offering its latest model with a finance plan that charges drivers £177 per week over a five-year period. LEVC said the outgoing TX4 model cost £167 per week over a four-year period. LEVC says it has focused on weekly lease costs rather than an outright purchase price because that is how 94% of taxi drivers fund their vehicles. The TX will be sold with its battery so that no additional lease charges are incurred.

    LEVC claimed that its new model will cost drivers about £50 per week in fuel, based on an average of about 115 miles per working day. The weekly estimate is £100 less than the outgoing 2.7-litre diesel-powered TX4 can achieve.

    The new electrified taxi arrives ahead of new-for-2018 legislation from Transport for London (TfL) that dictates all new cabs must be capable of zero-emissions driving for at least 30 miles. The LEVC TX is powered by an advanced battery electric powertrain with a 1.3-litre petrol generator, a system that its maker calls 'eCity'.

    This range-extender technology gives the TX a range of more than 400 miles and it can run for more than 70 miles on electric power only. It can charge its depleted battery to almost full in 20 minutes via a rapid charger, in two hours with a fast charger and in about eight to ten hours on a trickle charger.

    LEVC will service the taxis for free during the first three years or 90,000 miles of their lives. It will also provide a full manufacturer warranty and free roadside assistance for the first three years or 120,000 miles.

    LEVC commercial director Richard Gordon said: “I am delighted to announce such a competitive package for the new electric TX. Market leading in every way, this is a truly outstanding new vehicle that will revolutionise the taxi trade in London from an emissions perspective, for passenger comfort, experience and enjoyment, and importantly for the drivers.”

    Exclusive: first ride in new London Black Cab up Goodwood hill

    A disguised TX prototype ran at this year's Goodwood Festival of Speed. In a subsequent interview with Autocar, Geely's design team explained how they incorporated the iconic London black cab look, most notably from the FX4 and TX4, into the new vehicle.

    "The biggest 'gulp moment' of my career was being asked to redesign the Volvo sportswagon - it was like taking care of the Swedish crown jewels - but this job is right up there," said Geely's executive vice-president of design, Peter Horbury. "You know criticism will come on projects like that - and this is another one in the same vein.

    "The starting point was to meet the requirements of such a vehicle - the turning circle, the powertrain, the driver's space and then carrying capacity. In truth, what we were then left with was a square box. To get the shape, we then required to meet our aesthetic goals was always going to be a challenge, but we pulled and pushed the engineers and gradually we were able to create a car that is a modern interpretation of what has gone before. My take on retro design is that you shouldn't repeat what has gone before but you can offer up nods that remind people of it. That's what we've done.

    "You also have to remember that this is a vehicle that will typically have a 15 to 20-year life. It doesn't get replaced after seven years like a conventional car, so we had to avoid creating something that would age quickly. If you look at some of the extreme car designs today, ones that grab and shock you, they don't tend to age well. We wanted a look that will stand the test of time and, if that has meant toning it down at times, then that's what we've done. This car must look relevant 20 years down the line."

    The TX is made using aluminium bonding, which LEVC says reduces the weight of the car to the point that it offsets the weight of the battery while maintaining vehicle strength. No overall vehicle weight has been given, however.

    Inside, LEVC says that the TX has a more premium feel than its predecessor, with less vibration and noise in the passenger area, plus charging points for mobile phones and wi-fi. There is seating for six passengers. A retractable integrated ramp also makes access for passengers in wheelchairs quicker and easier in a new forward-facing position.

    LEVC CEO Chris Gubbey said: “From our heritage as the manufacturer of the iconic London taxi, we have unparalleled insight into the needs of commercial operators. Drawing on the best of British design and engineering, as well as technical expertise from our sister company Volvo, our products will help transform city living and provide taxi drivers with an average weekly fuel saving of £100 compared with our outgoing diesel model.”

    The rebranding of the firm from the London Taxi Company to the London Electric Vehicle Company (LEVC) was motivated by the firm’s desire to expand its sales beyond the UK and its portfolio beyond taxis. To that end, an order for more than 250 TXs has been taken for the Netherlands and an electric light commercial vehicle is already in development.

    By the end of 2020, TfL wants to have 9000 taxis on the city’s streets that are capable of zero emissions. LEVC is hoping that this will encourage local councils to invest in improved charging infrastructure.

    New LEVC TX taxi - key design points with David Ancona, Design director and general manager at Geely Design Barcelona

    "I actually learnt to drive in an FX3 taxi - it was in the family - so a little bit of this project is in my blood. We started on the project in 2013 and the biggest challenges were to meet all of the requirements - from interior space to packaging the powertrain to the turning circle - without ending up with a box on wheels.

    “By pushing the engineers for a few millimetres here and there, we managed to achieve that; it is amazing how pulling in some bodywork 5mm and pushing some other sections out by the same amount can make such a difference.

    "Externally, the face of the car was probably the hardest part. Partly, that was because it is an all-new vehicle and the requirements kept changing as other parts of the project developed. You'd settle on a bonnet angle, for instance, and then the engineers would find a very good reason to repackage the powertrain.

    “But we also wanted to ensure we had a contemporary look to the car - one with plenty of character but which wouldn't date quickly. It's relatively easy to do aggressive or cute or whatever, but getting the balance right here was very tricky. You'll see the nods to our past in the round lights, the grille design and the placement of the badging, but nothing too much. The goal was to create a car that conveys it is serious, reliable and friendly. No doubt the world will let us know if we’ve done that.

    “There are some key features that helped resolve the design. The round headlights at the front, with the circular LEDs running around the exterior that also act as the indicator flasher, are a nice touch. There are very strong horizontal lines down the side to reduce the visual height of the vehicle and then the continuous glass structure which serves to stretch the car out. The panoramic roof is a very nice touch as well - what a great way to take in the views.

    “Just as important were the practicality aspects of the design. The rear-hinged rear door, for instance, puts an end to that ridiculous dance you had to do from telling the driver where you wanted to go to getting in - or when you tried to pay when you got out. They open 90deg, of course, which is a huge practicality benefit, and the onboard ramp aids access.

    “Nor is it just about the passengers - although creating space for six of them was challenging enough when we knew we couldn’t widen the vehicle width with mirrors. We’ve spent a lot of time making more room and a better space for the driver. It’s their office, and for long amounts of time, so that was just as important.”

  • Toyota reveals hydrogen-powered Mercedes S-Class rival Wednesday 18th October 2017
    Toyota Fine-Comfort Ride shows how a zero-emissions luxury car of the future could look
    Toyota Fine-Comfort Ride shows how a zero-emissions luxury car of the future could look
    Toyota Fine-Comfort Ride shows how a zero-emissions luxury car of the future could look

    A new six-seat hydrogen-powered Toyota concept will be revealed at the Tokyo motor show.

    Called the Toyota Fine-Comfort Ride, it is said to propose "a new form of the premium saloon in a low-carbon society".

    The concept's wheelbase is 30cm longer than that of a Mercedes-Benz S-Class, despite the fact that its overall length is around 40cm shorter. 

    This is possible, Toyota says, because of the car's hydrogen fuel cell powertrain, which has allowed it to push the cabin dimensions across the full length and width of the vehicle, with the wheels close to each corner each containing an electric motor. At its widest, the car is around two metres in width - around 11cm more than the S-Class.

    The Fine-Comfort Ride’s body is shaped to be aerodynamically efficient and it runs with a unique cover along its underside to dampen any noise from the road or tyres. On the Japanese test cycle, the car is said by Toyota to have a range of 620 miles (1000km) between refills.

    Inside, as the car’s name suggests, the focus is on comfort. The seats can be adjusted according to posture (including a fully reclined sleeping position), the numerous digital displays and projection screens are built around occupants and the seat layout can be altered to aid conversation or create personal spaces. Notably, the rearmost seats are in a sofa-like bench configuration, while the front two rows are made up of individual seats.

    As with current hydrogen-powered vehicles, including the Toyota Mirai, Toyota says the Fine-Comfort Ride can be refuelled in around three minutes.

  • Aston Martin Vanquish to become hardcore V12 supercar in 2018 Wednesday 18th October 2017
    Aston Martin Vanquish to become hardcore V12 supercar in 2018 Hot on the heels of the upcoming V8 Vantage, the Vanquish will feature in Aston's model blitz as a harder, faster V12 model

    Aston Martin is developing the most hardcore incarnation of the Vanquish yet seen in a bid to push the grand tourer model towards the realms of supercardom.

    The rear-driven model will be launched in 2018, after the upcoming new V8 Vantage, with a higher performance focus than its grand tourer forebears. Much of this boost will come from the turbocharged 5.2-litre V12 engine under the bonnet, which will be ramped up so it produces considerably more than the 600bhp offered by the V12 DB11.

    This will edge the next Vanquish away from traditional luxury rivals such as the Bentley Continental GT (itself soon to be replaced) and towards sharper performance offerings such as the Ferrari 812 Superfast.

    Aston Martin engineers have been using a DB11 mule to test the next Vanquish's underpinnings for several months but, since the start of October, their tests at the Nürburgring have included the fitment of new bodywork.

    As shown by the pictures, the front lights are more curved and softer in their design than those of the DB11. But the car's front bumper features openings, hinting at the car's added pace. At the rear of the mule, sleek tail-lights are hidden by covers.

    A lip spoiler has also been fitted, suggesting the final car's bodywork will generate significantly more downforce than the DB11 can offer. The car also sits on 10-spoke wheels, which look larger than the 20in ones fitted to the DB11, ahead of big diameter vented discs with six-piston calipers.

    The Vanquish will use its own version of the DB11's structure, which will also underpin the next Vantage. Due to its harder focus, the Vanquish's underpinnings will be the most aggressive of the trio, as illustrated by the spotted development car, which clearly sits lower and corners with less bodyroll than the DB11.

    Andy Palmer, Aston Martin's CEO, has emphasised the progress made with the new structure, telling Autocar that the cars it is spawning will help the brand shed "perceptions of old technology, old platforms and the question of whether we can survive as an independent manufacturer".

    Aston Martin has been busy at work with its new range of upcoming cars, most of which are being developed under the body of sibling models. The most recent example is the V8 Vantage, which is due for launch later this year. It has recently been seen with production bodywork, but sightings earlier this year were of a 'cut and shut' DB11 mule.

    The company's decision to shift the Vanquish into supercar territory is part of a line-up blitz, where Aston Martin will also launch a mid-engined rival to the Ferrari 488 GTB and McLaren 720S in 2021Also planned is the DBX SUV in 2019, to be built at Aston Martin’s new factory in St Athan, Wales, and two Lagonda models: likely a saloon in 2020, followed by an SUV in 2022.

    The new cars will sit beneath the brand's halo model, the Valkyrie hypercar.

    More content:

  • New Jaguar XK: design boss wants 2+2 GT to return Wednesday 18th October 2017
    New four-seat sports GT would be based on the F-Type platform
    Ian Callum wants Jaguar to develop a new model to sit alongside next-generation F-Type, and confirms design work has begun

    Jaguar 2+2 GT is back on the cards, and would sit alongside the brand’s next-generation F-Type if it makes production. 

    Jaguar design director Ian Callum told Autocar at Pebble Beach: “I want a two-seater [the F-Type] and a 2+2. We’re working on something now. There’s nothing approved, but we instigate in design – that’s what we do.” 

    Discussing the idea further at the Frankfurt motor show last month, Callum said he believed Jaguar could add an XK-like model to its range and would “like to get back to both”. To that end, Callum has some “quite different ideas... as to how to carry four people quickly around the world” with their luggage, suggesting if the XK were reborn, it would be as a true four-seat sporting grand tourer. The XK was discontinued in 2014 due to flagging sales. “The XK being dropped was much to my frustration,” said Callum. 

    If a new 2+2 gets the go-ahead, it would be built alongside the next-generation F-Type at Jaguar’s Castle Bromwich plant. The car would use an updated version of the F-Type platform (which itself is a modified version of the original XK platform) and adopt Jaguar’s Ingenium engines. These would include the entry-level four-cylinder 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol unit with 296bhp and the upcoming straight-six powertrains in various states of tune. The latter engines would replace the Ford-sourced V6s, as found in the current F-Type. 

    The model, which would not be introduced until at least 2021, would get hot iterations including an R and the range- topping SVR. The F-Type SVR uses a 5.0-litre V8 with 572bhp that hits 0-62mph in 3.7sec, although the extra weight of a four-seater would increase this time slightly. 

    Development of the second- generation F-Type, expected in 2019, is also under way, confirmed Callum. 

    He described the sports car market as “a fickle one” and said: “On the whole, market share is dropping all the time. That’s why we keep to the high end with our sports cars.” 

    When asked whether Jaguar would consider a partnership to make its sports cars more viable, in a similar way to BMW and Toyota with its respective Z4 and Supra models, Callum said: “I had a few ideas about partnerships but they didn’t happen. Partnerships are the answer, I think. But we will be doing our own thing with the F-Type.” 

    Callum added that the F-Type is fundamental to Jaguar. “It’s the heart of the brand. I regularly have the conversation about how Jag needs a sports car. I mean, if it wasn’t making money – and it does, by the way – it’s what it’s doing for the brand that matters. It’s aspirational.” While Callum’s hopes for an XK replacement continue, Jaguar did in fact design a next-generation XK that would be on sale now – had the success of the F-Type in the eyes of the marketing department not killed it. 

    Callum confirmed that having both an F-Type and an XK in the Jaguar range was “always the plan”. He added: “The F-Type was never meant to kill the XK.” 

    However, with design work on the XK complete, and the F-Type launched in 2013, Callum said marketers at Jaguar believed the XK was no longer needed. The F-Type, they thought, filled the role of a sporting, performance Jaguar in the range and engineering work on the XK never commenced.

    Related stories: 

    Jaguar XK review 

    Jaguar F-Type SVR review 

    Jaguar F-Type V6 review 

  • Shell Recharge electric car service launches first in UK forecourts Wednesday 18th October 2017
    Shell Recharge electric car service launches first in UK forecourts
    Shell is introducing a new Shell Recharge service in the UK
    Rapid chargers that can top up most EVs to 80% in 30mins are being rolled out in Britain

    Shell Recharge is the name given to a new forecourt-based electric car charging system being rolled out by fuel supplier Shell - which lands as plug-in car sales continue to surge.

    The company has chosen Britain as the first market to offer its new service, after UK registrations of plug-ins last month increased by 36% compared with September 2016.

    Shell will introduce 50kW fast chargers that can top up the batteries of most EVs to 80% in about 30mins, allowing users to drive in and connect their EV or plug-in hybrid vehicle without any pre-arrangement.

    The brand is offering the service at its Holloway, Whyteleafe and Derby forecourts first, before rolling out more recharge stations in London and Reading ahead of the year’s end.

    The company’s new service comes soon after it signed an agreement to purchase NewMotion, one of Europe’s largest EV charging providers. The brand is working with Transport for London to boost the presence of chargers in the city, as part of Mayor Sadiq Khan’s plans to encourage a speedier uptake of electric vehicles.

    The capital’s deputy mayor of environment and energy, Shirley Rodrigues, said: “With sales of diesel cars declining, it's vital to have charging points for electric vehicles in service stations, car parks and on our streets.

    “As the mayor moves towards making London's transport system zero-emission by 2050, TfL is working with boroughs to increase charging infrastructure across our city.”

    In an attempt to cut the city’s growing air-quality problem, London will from 23 October introduce its toxicity charge (T-charge), which bans all cars that don’t meet the Euro 4 standard from the city centre.

    Oxford is pushing to go further with a full ban on combustion engine cars, although that ruling, which has been proposed by Oxford City Council to start from 2020, has yet to pass a public consultation.

    More content:

  • Porsche 718 Cayman GTS and Boxster GTS revealed with 361bhp Tuesday 17th October 2017
    Porsche 718 Cayman GTS and Boxster GTS revealed with 361bhp Most focused version of mid-engined pairing gets extra power and sharper chassis

    You are looking at Porsche’s new mid-engined 718 GTS models, which land as the most driver-focused variants of Stuttgart’s current Cayman and Boxster line-ups.

    Revealed here in a series of official photographs ahead of a planned public debut at the upcoming Los Angeles motor show in late November, the new roadster and coupé pairing’s boxer engine receives a new intake system and changes to its turbocharger. Power output duly climbs by 15bhp beyond the less heavily tuned version of the engine used by the 718 Boxster S and 718 Cayman S at 361bhp.

    This provides the new 718 Boxster GTS with 35bhp more and the new 718 Cayman GTS with 25bhp more than their predecessor models launched in 2014, both of which ran the same naturally aspirated 3.5-litre flat six-cylinder but with respective outputs of 325bhp and 335bhp. Torque is also up 37lb ft over the old Boxster GTS and Cayman GTS at 317lb ft on a band of revs between 1900 and 5000rpm.

    The increased reserves are channelled through a standard six-speed manual gearbox or optional seven-speed dual clutch automatic via a mechanical rear differential and electronically controlled torque vectoring function to the rear wheels.

    In combination with the dual clutch automatic gearbox, which features a launch control function, and standard Sport Chrono Package, Porsche claims the new 718 Boxster GTS and 718 Cayman GTS are capable of reaching 62mph from standstill in 4.1sec and a top speed of 180mph – a respective 0.2sec quicker and 4mph faster than predecessor models.

    The adoption of a smaller capacity engine with forced induction has allowed Porsche to boost performance without any significant change in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions over the old Boxster GTS and Cayman GTS at 34.4mpg and 186g/km.

    Distinguishing the new 718 Boxster GTS and 718 Cayman GTS from their less powerful siblings are a series of subtle styling changes, including a lightly altered front bumper, black tinted headlights and tail-lights, a more prominent diffuser element within the rear bumper and centrally mounted black tailpipes as part of a standard sport exhaust system. There are also black GTS badges at the base of the doors, standard 20in alloy wheels painted in a black satin finish and a 10mm reduction in ride height as part of the chassis changes brought on by the adoption of Porsche’s Active Suspension Management system as standard equipment.

    Inside, the new GTS models feature additional Alcantara accents within the seats, steering wheel, centre console and armrests. Together with Porsche’s Sport Chrono Package, the new top-of-the-line Boxster and Cayman models also receive a Porsche Track Precision App, which enables the driver to record, display and analyse data on their smartphone.

    Orders for the new 718 GTS pairing are being taken now, with first deliveries due in mid-December. Prices start at £59,866 for the 718 Cayman GTS, while the drop-top 718 Boxster GTS commands £61,727.

    Both cars represent the sharpest offering in their respective line-ups at this stage, but recent history suggests a featherweight 718 Boxster Spyder is on the cards, while Porsche has already talked openly about the 718 Cayman GT4. That car is due to stick with a six-cylinder engine like its predecessor, rather than adopt a higher performance version of the turbocharged flat-four.

    Additional reporting by Sam Sheehan

    More content:

  • Citroën C3 Aircross UK 2017 review Tuesday 17th October 2017
    Citroën C3 Aircross The Citroen C3 Aircross has got funky looks and a charming interior, but it's another small SUV, and another dynamic miss. Numb steering is just one thing keeping it from class best If ever there was a car that demonstrates changing trends in the car industry, it’s the Citroën C3 Aircross. In its past life, it was the C3 Picasso: a characterful small MPV. But seeing as nobody really buys MPVs any more, Citroën replaced it with a small SUV: the C3 Aircross. The C3 Aircross joins an ever-growing number of small SUVs like the Kia Stonic, Seat Arona, Vauxhall Crossland X and, of course, the genre-defining Nissan Juke. It’s also another that begins to blur the lines between high-riding hatch and SUV, such is often the subtlety of the niche.The C3 Aircross joins the Peugeot 3008 and Vauxhall Crossland X as the PSA Group’s most style-oriented small SUV, with the Crossland X looking relatively staid and the Peugeot 3008 comparatively grown up next to the quirky, colourful Aircross. 
  • China's copycat cars are reducing Land Rover’s use of concepts Tuesday 17th October 2017
    Land Rover sued Landwind over Evoque copycat
    Imitations are proving hard to ignore for some manufacturers

    Land Rover design boss Gerry McGovern has revealed that the firm is nervous about creating concept cars in case the designs are copied. 

    The company famously sued Chinese firm Landwind over its X7 model that echoed the Range Rover Evoque. McGovern said past experiences had made the company think twice about previewing upcoming designs.

    History of the Chinese copycat car: picture gallery

    “We’re nervous about showing show cars a couple of years out as you can be copied just like that,” McGovern said last week in London at the reveal of the revised Range Rover. He added that there was a need to protect the huge investments that go into the development of new cars, which are anywhere between £500 million and £1 billion, depending on the project. 

    Land Rover has not shown as many concepts as other brands in recent years. In 2014, it used the Discovery Vision to preview the new family of Discovery models, including the flagship fifth-generation Discovery itself. 

    It also started the process of replacing the Defender with the 2011 DC100 concept, a model that will now have no bearing on the production car due in 2019. A second, more accurate concept version of the Defender would appear unlikely based on McGovern’s comments, backed up by the fact that there was no concept version of the recent Range Rover Velar, the most recent example of an all-new Land Rover model.

    The Velar is what McGovern calls a “white space vehicle” – meaning it creates its own segments – and he added that the Range Rover brand had “elasticity”, in that “it can stretch” into creating more white space products. “There is so much equity in the brand,” he said. 

    Copycat cars of the Shanghai motor show

    Revisions to the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport have included plug-in hybrid technology coming to Jaguar Land Rover for the first time. Range Rover vehicle line director Nick Collins confirmed that the petrol-electric system used was adaptable to other models and now “goes on the bookshelf for the future”. 

    Related stories

    Land Rover Discovery review 

    Land Rover Discovery SVX revealed 

    Copycat cars of the Shanghai motor show

  • This is why Polestar 1 won't come in right-hand drive Tuesday 17th October 2017
    After an explanation from Polestar's British COO, we're willing to forgive…

    The final teaser video for the Polestar 1 contained a list of pronouncements about what the car, and Volvo’s new performance brand, weren’t going to do.

    Among the list: no smoke and mirrors. No buzzwords. No middle ground. No overpromising. No compromises.

    Turns out they missed one. No right-hand drive.

    All-new Polestar 1 revealed 

    That’s right: Polestar’s stylish-looking hot hybrid halo car will, at least initially, be only available with the steering wheel on the left. Which isn’t great news for us Brits, among others. You’ll still be able to buy – sorry, take out a subscription for - the Polestar 1 in the UK, of course, but you’ll have to make do with the steering wheel on the wrong side.

    Parochial? Maybe a little. But the UK has been a disproportionately strong market for Grand Tourers like the Polestar 1 and was cited as one of the brand’s major markets. Is not offering a version suited to each market, well, a bit of a compromise?

    It was left to Polestar’s British COO, Jonathan Goodman, to explain. And, admirably, his answer contained no smoke and mirrors, and no overpromising. It also contained, we would like to add, no bulls***.

    “It’s an engineering cost, that’s the honest answer,” he said. “You’re not going to get me to sit here and say it’s the right thing to do - it would be a bit strange coming from an Englishman to say I don’t think we should have [right-hand drive].

    “We’re building 500 cars a year [initially], so we’ve got to be realistic about how we do that. It’s not excluded the future - one of the things we want to do is put pressure to see if we can get more production volume, which is a possibility. That will depend on opportunities in the future.”

    Goodman added that the Polestar 2 and 3 – which will feature five-figure annual production runs - will both come with right-hand drive from the start.

    It’s an honest answer – which included no overpromising - and a fair one. At this time, Polestar still numbers just 100 employees and construction has yet to start on its production facility in Chendgu, China. Pushing through a right-hand conversion with limited resources could result in a compromised product. It’s just a shame that, if the Polestar 1 delivers on the promise it shows, anyone buying one in Britain will have to make a compromise to do so.

    Related stories: 

    All-new Polestar 1 revealed 

    Will Polestar's subscription service work?

    Polestar to take on Tesla with Model 3 rival and SUV 

  • UK low-volume car sector to skyrocket by 60% in ‘right’ Brexit conditions Tuesday 17th October 2017
    Aston Martin Valkyrie
    The Aston Martin Valkyrie will be one of Britain's fastest hypercars
    Progress in Britain’s fast-expanding car sector could be halted if trade deals aren’t made

    The UK’s specialist and low-volume vehicle industry has surged in value by 52% in five years – but experts warn a bad Brexit deal could put the brakes on progress.

    Output of Britain’s low-volume car makers, which collectively employ 11,250 people, has grown by 25% since 2012, increasing the sector’s contribution to the economy to £3.2 billion.

    Figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders (SMMT) show that a continuation of this could see annual production reach 52,000 vehicles in 2020, a growth of 60% on today.

    But SMMT CEO Mike Hawes has highlighted the sensitivity of Britain’s low-volume sector during Brexit negotiations, stating that a good deal for trade will be vital to prevent one of Britain’s greatest industries from being held back.

    “Our specialist car manufacturing sector is one of the UK’s global success stories – making world-leading products and pioneering next-generation technologies that benefit everyone,” he said.

    “For this to continue, we need certainty on Britain’s future trading relationships, including customs plans, market access, regulations governing the design, production and approval of vehicles, and rules around movement of skilled workers.”

    Britain’s low-volume car manufacturers – comprising supercar makers such as McLaren, luxury companies such as Rolls-Royce, the recently relaunched TVR and sports car brands including Lotus – have pushed the sector’s exports to represent 65% of sales. Meanwhile, 30% of components used in the sector’s cars are sourced from the European Union.

    “This event isn’t just about telling the world about the importance of our sector, it’s about doing what we can to educate the politicians about what we’ll need in the future," John Chasey, operations director at TVR said. "We want the car we create to be compliant in as many regions as possible, but if some of the derogations that provide the structure are lost in the Great Repeal Bill, it’ll get a lot more difficult."

    Hawes, whose organisation represents the UK car industry, has called on the Government to set out the best regulations to ensure trade barriers and tariffs aren’t introduced.

    “This will provide the assurance the sector needs to remain competitive and make investment decisions that enable it to continue to develop innovative, exciting and desirable products that are the envy of the world,” Hawes explained.

    Simon Wood, chief technical expert at Lotus Cars added that regulators will also have to consider legislation around autonomous vehicles. He said “I don’t have any fear for our industry from the effects of hybridisation or electrification at all. The bigger threat could be autonomous driving, and how the legislation that promotes it is framed. If road systems were only configured for autonomous that’d be pretty bad."

    McLaren has cemented itself as one of the UK’s low-volume car sector success stories. The brand celebrated a record-breaking 2016 when sales reached 3286 units. The Woking car maker made £9.2 million, a rise of 70% on the previous year.

    The brand's vehicle line director, Andy Palmer, believes the road ahead also represents opportunity. He said “These challenges we face are something we haven’t seen before. The challenge to provide something very different for the future is huge. That makes our industry an amazingly exciting place to be. Bring it on!"

    In addition, the industry has just seen the rebirth of TVR, which is building a production facility in Wales and plans to launch the Griffith sports car. Aston Martin is also rapidly increasing its assets with a new Welsh plant and is producing a 1000bhp hypercar called the Valkyrie as a new halo model.

    Additional reporting by Steve Cropley

    More content:

    Car servicing costs to rise by 10% if no Brexit deal is made

    Lotus CEO: sports car production stays in Norfolk

  • Jaguar XE with 100mm longer wheelbase confirmed for China Tuesday 17th October 2017
    Jaguar XE with 100mm longer wheelbase confirmed for China Chery Jaguar Land Rover’s latest model will offer more rear cabin space for Chinese executives who prefer to be chauffeured

    Jaguar is launching a new long-wheelbase model called the XEL into the Chinese market, where rear passenger legroom remains a priority in the executive saloon segment.

    Chery Jaguar Land Rover, the partnership that produces JLR products for China, will build the model, which has a wheelbase 100mm longer than the regular XE. That extends the wheelbase to 2935mm, and the XEL provides rear passengers with additional features including an optional massage function, four-way lumbar adjustment and window blinds.

    The XEL will be revealed in the metal at the Guangzhou motor show in November. When it goes on sale, it will be offered with JLR’s 2.0-litre four-cylinder Ingenium turbocharged petrol engine in either 197bhp or 247bhp form.

    As with the XFL, which is the long-wheelbase version of the XF produced for China, there are no plans to bring the XEL to Europe. China’s demand for saloons offering larger rear legroom is driven by the popularity for chauffeurs there and such is the scale of the market that Jaguar offers a third long wheelbase variant, the XJL.

    Another major brand producing long wheelbase variants in China is Volvo. The Swedish brand launched the Volvo S90 Excellence last year with additional technical features and a rear passenger section that's unique to the model.

    More content:

  • Mitsubishi Electric Emirai 4 gets next-gen human machine interface tech Tuesday 17th October 2017
    Mitsubishi Electric Emirai 4 gets next-gen human machine interface tech Japanese tech specialist will demonstrate systems due to make production in the coming years

    Mitsubishi Electric, the specialist technology division of Mitsubishi, will demonstrate advanced human machine interface technology at next week’s Tokyo motor show.

    The systems, which will be integrated into road cars in the coming years, allow passengers to interact with an onboard computer and gain information via augmented reality.

    Mitsubishi Electric will use a concept called Emirai 4, an electric and autonomous-capable vehicle, to illustrate the tech. The car uses a head-up display to superimpose a computer-generated image onto the view ahead. This can enhance road features such as white lines and road markings to improve visibility for the driver.

    Additionally, the concept offers a 360deg view of its surroundings with objects shown in 3D, rather than 2D like current production car systems.

    Lighting technology has also been integrated so passing cars are alerted with an illumination projected from the door when a passenger is exiting the vehicle. Mitsubishi Electric is also one of several brands experimenting with driver monitoring technology that can adjust climate control settings to reduce fatigue.

    The system featured in the Emirai 4 can boost safety by enhancing autonomous control if a driver is detected to have reduced concentration.

    All of these safety-boosting features are being produced by Mitsubishi Electric, which can sell its systems to the wider automotive market. Mitsubishi Motors, the car brand, is now part of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, so won’t necessarily be first in line (or in line at all) to use the tech.

    Mitsubishi Motors is investing in driverless technology and will show its e-Evolution, an SUV concept with artificial intelligence, at the Tokyo motor show to illustrate its progress in the field.

    The automotive brand joined Renault and Nissan to form the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance earlier this year. Mitsubishi Motors' push for electric and driverless tech is part of the wider group's £8.9 billion investment into these areas. 

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